Part 2 on Writing Novels and Feeling Inept and Unworthy and Despite All That Continuing to Write: Jo-Ann Mapson
When I signed off last time, I was at the crucial juncture of looking at my writing as being one of two things: OK or not OK. I’m sure this sounds limiting, but after decades of writing I’ve learned this is only sphere in which to operate. Anything else will mess you up. Just the other day I took my Tony Lamas to a shoe repair place that made me stop in my tracks. Why? It was another world. One guy at the counter was about 500 years old and wearing an oxygen thingy that went into his nose. I was surrounded by hundreds of pairs of shoes. It was dark in there; there were so many shoes. The counter guy who waited on me was like a dad. Middle aged, Latino, and smartly dressed. I was embarrassed to show him that my boots had holes in the soles.
“These are very nice boots,” he said.
Of course then they seemed to me to be doggone incredibly nice boots that just had unfortunately developed a few holes that once fixed would be even cooler boots. Immediately I started to think about what great taste I had in boots, and began planning to take them out on the town as soon as they were fixed. The boot buyer in me was overwhelmed with her ability to find perfect boots, possibly even classic boots, when what I should have been paying attention to was how much it was going to cost to fix them. I never did ask. Now whatever the boots cost, I have to grin and bear it and write a check.
And you know what? The little universe I’d just entered would make a great story. I should have been taking notes. Listening to conversations filled with talk of shoes, and the biker guy in front of me in line, whatever he was saying. But no, I was overcome with, “My gosh I have great taste in boots, don’t I? Let’s see. What else about me is great? Maybe I should stop off at Party Town and pick up some crepe paper and horns and spend all day having a party for myself.”
No, I needed to go home and write, so I did.
The way to write a novel is to show up every day in front of your computer and sit there. Put your hands on the keyboard and see what happens. If nothing does, read over whatever you wrote the day before and tinker a little with it. Writers need to warm up just like athletes. If you can’t think of one thing to write, try one of these starters:
Mary (insert your narrator’s name here) regretted…..
Five things Clarence remembered:
Words will arrive. They might be not so great words, but if you read my initial blog entry, you will know that you have
Something to work with
What writing is like
And that is all you need. Now some days this will feel like extruding chicken, other days you’ll sit there and look at the blinking cursor with a savage kind of anger at whomever invented this fresh hell that is a word processing program and computer. Think then, of manual typewriters without automatic correction. Or pens that had to be dipped in ink to write a single letter. I promise there will also be days that are filled with that writer’s high when ideas flow right out of your fingertips as if they are pure energy. Or you will look up from your screen and realize three hours have passed. That is the best it gets, folks. The writing process is that simple and that exacting.
Writing can be lonely. It kind of has to be. For the novel length story to release itself you pretty much have pay complete attention. It isn’t that you want to be antisocial, but that you are practicing your craft. My younger brother is a musician. When he plays gigs, inevitably someone comes up to him during the band’s break and says, “I would give my soul to play like that.” He always smiles and says, “Good, because that’s what you have to do.” The same is true of writing. You have to give yourself to the process, spend less time with social events, and you have to do this by yourself.
By James Jowers, George Eastman House
Which isn’t a smooth entrance into talking about the writer stuff no one wants to address: namely, depression, discouragement, alcohol/drug problems, etc. By now I’ve probably alienated some of you, but you know what? I’ve taught creative writing for 20+ years and seen the gamut of problems. Even experienced a few myself. It’s taxing on the psyche to look deeply into things and it has an effect if you do it every day. Read William Styron’s book, Darkness Visible. Yes, some days you are white hot and racking up the pages, but imagine this: Styron had a 27-year-long period where he couldn’t finish a novel. Before you succumb to playing solitaire on the computer or reading Twitter messages, think of William Styron and get yourself back into the chair.
Good Reasons for Depression:
Ta ta for now,
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