This is one of those posts about how frustrating writing can be. It’s also about how rewarding it can be. It’s also a chance to quote Morrissey. In other words: I’m covering all my bases.
About a month ago I was on a roll. I was behind the keyboard for three or four hours every day, just knocking a short story out. The story was interesting, the characters alive, and most importantly I was writing in a voice I really liked. It felt like me. I was confident, excited and strong.
I’d written 35-pages and over lunch with a friend explained that I would finish a first-draft later that day. After lunch, with his Good luck! still ringing in my ears, I opened my laptop and read over what I’d written. I got to the end and realized, There is nothing the least bit interesting about this story.
It took me a couple days to put my-self together, days during which I was hounded sharply by the thoughts that nag anyone who’s trying to make something interesting. They’re not good thoughts.
One advantage of getting older is that you learn how to keep your head above your own waters. I ran a lot, made sure I ate well, didn’t drink much, tried not to over-think things.
Eventually I re-opened my writing program. Began another story. Went through the usual mix: grew excited, wrote a lot, grew doubtful, ignored the doubts, stuck with the story and finally finished it. A first draft is presently being read by a couple friends kind enough to give me their time and thoughts.
While waiting for their feedback I opened the first story, the one whose failure had taken me under heavy as a stone. As I read it through I remembered why I was so excited about it before. Thoughts rose up about how to salvage it, or at least portions of it.
I’s open on my laptop now. It eyes me, and like an impatient child awaiting my attention shifts its weight from leg to leg and grumbles for me to turn to it.
I don’t know how much of it will get used. An idea planted here, a paragraph relocated there, a phrase that may grow into something completely different from what I originally intended.
I’m not sure that I can convincingly explain why someone would enjoy such a maddening undertaking. How can I call this two-steps-forward/ two-steps-back shuffle rewarding?
Even though it seems like a cop-out for a writer, sometimes when you get stuck facing the wall of the inexplicable, it’s best just to invoke the Moz:
Now my heart is full.
And I just can’t explain.
So I won’t even try to.