What’s It All About, Alfie? It Being this Writing Thingamabob!
When I was little, I named my pet guinea pig after this song, even though I’m not sure I’d even heard it. Something about the title…
And it’s what came into my mind today, when I was thinking about this post. I spent part of the morning working on my WIP, alternating with popping on and off of Facebook to whine about working on that WIP. I’ve been reading an old favorite: Jean Webster’s Dear Enemy, and smiling & laughing on just about every page. Basically, I was feeling jealous of the “they” out there who are working on light, funny stories, with true heart, and wondering how much longer I was going to commit to digging deep into figuring out the dark, grim one I’m working on.
Yeah, whine, whine, whine. Instead of, you know, gratitude that I HAVE this awesome story idea to work on, that’s pushing me to explore my craft, my values, and my understanding of human nature & personality dynamics.
So instead of whining, I thought I’d look a little more closely at what’s going on with me today, and see if any of it sounded familiar to you guys, and check out what you do about it!
Okay, yes, I took three yoga classes in three days, which perhaps has made me a little extra tired. And I came back to my WIP after three weeks off to deal with my husband’s broken bones (healing well!) and my own NF deadline. And the days of this week have been pretty chopped up into small pieces, pretty much interspersed with me getting into a car to drive somewhere, getting out at that somewhere, getting back in, driving home, and a little later, getting back into that car. Which never does wonders for my mental state.
But…separate from that: the book. I think one of the big things getting to me is the time that this story is taking me to write. Longer than anything I’ve ever actually come close to finishing, so that question of Will/Can I ever finish does loom large on certain days. I have a weird brain that sees books I’ve read and books I’m writing as typeset fonts on physical pages, and this book looks light and sparse with short chapters, short paragraphs, and lots of white space. Which is cool, except that the physical reality of this book is, currently, long chapters, long paragraphs and yawning amounts of space covered with text. So…how long is it going to take me to make the reality fit the vision?
And the question always arises: Do I chuck this and pick up something else. I could revise that light, funny MG mystery that’s in the drawer (I know, bad idea!). I could do some plotting on the urban fantasy idea that’s been sitting in a file for a bit. I could take a look at that MG novel idea that has a little boy I am SO in love with. I could go back and spend a lot of time on the picture books. Lots of choices that would feel like real reasons to put this book aside.
But then I open that file, and I spent five minutes, and the questions I’m trying to answer catch me up again and shout at me and get my juices flowing. Even if I don’t get very far in answering them. The feeling of slog has that one sharp, bite of Yes! mixed in.
Backing up that Yes! is the strong feeling that there is a craft learning-curve involved here for me. A big one. Which is, of course, tied to the fact of how long this book is taking to write. And the almost-certainty that if I fool myself into letting this go, all I’m going to face are more story ideas that need me to learn that missing part of the craft.
So there you have it. Not sure if I succeeded in keeping the whine out of this post, but I do think I’ve come back again to the fact that the best thing for me to do is push on. Push on and push away thoughts of the calendar.
How do you handle this struggle: this battle between the I-Want-to-Finish and I-Want-to-Write-THIS-Story? Do you put things away for a while and work on other ideas? Do you play lots of loud music that shuts up that evil counting-down-egg-timer monster? Do you have a mantra taped to your computer?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you haven’t tuned into Debbi Michiko Florence’s posts on her Year of Writing, check them out here. They’re a good sanity check and reminder that this is a problem other writers face, that we’re not alone in the battle.