How Not To Write A Book 

            I can only think of things to write in the middle of the night. I’m also reasonably sure that I will remember them the next day, so I don’t bother to drag myself out of bed to write these illuminating ideas down. You know what happens.  I forget.  The next morning I can almost think of it. I can only remember that it was brilliant, but not what it was.  Oh well. It will come to me later.  But it never does.  No big loss.  The next few days I view as a recoup period for my unknown creative genius.  Then it happens again.  I wake up knowing the meaning of life or something equally important to share with others.  Go through the same process, have the same results, and the cycle goes on.

            How long has this been happening to me anyway? Has this ever happened to you? I hope so.  Misery loves company.  Uh oh.  I am resorting to clichés.

            I’d love to experience writer’s block - hard to do if you never get started.  I have great thoughts in my head, but always at the strangest times and places. Okay, you know about the middle of the night episodes, but this also occurs while standing in checkout lines at stores and while pumping gas.  No pen handy and my memory, well, let’s just say I have many other good qualities. How the literary world suffers from my lack of luck.

            Brilliance never comes to me while staring at a nice, clean, blank piece of paper or my computer screen. But then, you can’t push creativity. Sometimes I can’t help but think that the true writers of the world beamed down from Writer’s Planet, composed a masterpiece or two, returned home, and are now residing there, looking down at all of us, sticking their tongues out and saying, “top that!”

            You’ve dealt with guilt trips.  Writers deal with intimidation trips.  I apparently thrive on intimidation trips.  I expose myself to them daily, purposely!  I am forever browsing through bookstores and libraries, staring at volumes and volumes of published works.  I have a reading addiction.  I think there should be a support group for my illness.  But what really makes me ill is some of the garbage that has been published. Where do these people come from? And how do they get published?

            What hasn’t been written about? I can’t think of a single thing.  And I’ve tried.  But usually when I start on that train of thought I drift off from topic to topic and “come to” when I realize I am trying to figure out a way to plagiarize Virginia Woolf and get away with it.  That train of thought is an exercise in futility, but sometimes that’s the only exercise I get, so I go with it.  Next thing you know I’m published (in my mind), it’s a bestseller and I am negotiating movie rights and anxious for my next college reunion so I can act casual and gloat.  Then the phone rings and reality sets back in slowly.  You can only let go of such a daydream gradually.  Otherwise, it’s a bit too much like coitus interruptus.

            So you say something stupid to your friend, like, “I’ve decided to write a book” or “I’m really going to sit down and finish that novel I started back in college several decades ago” or something equally as committing and then spend the next six months wishing this “so-called” friend would quit asking you how the writing is going.  You make a few stabs now and then while you wait for time to pass and everyone to forget.

            How do they do it? How do those published authors of today’s fiction and (no applause – just throw money) those who actually write something that makes the best seller's list and eventually turns up on the Monday night movie?  How do they do it? Was it luck? What sign are they?

            The problem is getting started, and not getting side-tracked, and not getting discouraged.  The reason, of course, that it is so difficult getting started is because you’re afraid you can’t finish it, or worse yet, afraid that you can’t even write the middle.  And that’s what it really boils down to now, isn’t it?  The dreaded middle.

            Sitting down and starting a story with a nag, constant as a migraine, bearing in the back of your mind, telling you, “ok, go ahead.  Start that bullshit. Write something ILLUMINATING.  You won’t get halfway through before you realize you can’t finish it.  You’re bogged down. Put it away with the rest of your great starts.”  Intimidation.  Self-intimidation. I think I have just discovered a whole new concept.  Should I write about it? Self-intimidation.  Is that even possible?

            So….how does one get started? I do starts just fine.

AN EXAMPLE:

                With car keys in hand, he made a combination side-kick skip every third step he took,      sending crunchy leaves flying over the curb and into the street as he made his way to his car.

 

What do you know from this one sentence? You know he’s male and over sixteen, since he can drive.  You know it’s fall and he’s got energy.  Is he happy? Mad?  In a hurry? Rich? Poor? In love?

        She watched him come up the street towards the car and wondered what she ever saw in him.  Oh well, time has a way of taking care of these things.  She’d already decided to play this scene out.  She never had been the type to avoid reality or her responsibility in ending a relationship when she had to.  It was a real shame too.  There were a lot of things about Jake that she really liked. But the cons outweighed the pros. He was more a liability than an asset.  She had always lived by that one hard fast rule – whatever works.

 

Is this woman cold, calculating, materialistic, selfish?  Or is she realistic, in pursuit of happiness as is her inalienable right, refusing along the way to discard her goal just to keep from hurting someone else?  And what about Jake?  Has he any idea the direction her thinking is going? Just what is the story on these two?

            In a novel, you read on from this point to find out because it interests you, intrigues you, pulls you into it out of simple curiosity, or, you simply yawn and put it down.  It is that latter group of people who intimidate potentially good, and I do mean good, not great, not Shakespeare, but good solid writers, from writing.  The fear of failure flourishes in potential writers.  I won’t point any fingers, but you know who you are. I have no more to say on that line of thought or on Jake or the unnamed woman.

            You can spend years telling yourself that “someday” you’re going to write a book, but someday never comes. Or you can spend years writing, rewriting, dreaming, changing, expanding, compressing, embellishing, and most of all, simply enjoying your own personal piece of art.  Whether it is ever published or not is one thing.  But never to have been ambitious enough to even to it for your own personal satisfaction and sense of accomplishment is almost a crime.  And I have a nearly finished, but not yet finished, novel of my own to prove it.

            Writing is like quitting smoking.  If it’s what you really want to do, you just have to do it. 

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