April isn’t the cruelest month for me! I officially feel way way better. And along with the increase in my mood has come a concomitant increase in productivity. Shockingly, I’m 25k words into a novel (it’s working title is Sequential Events) that I think I might actually finish. I don’t have the mystical mind-to-keyboard connection with this novel that I had with Enter Title Here, but I do feel like this one might be good.
I suppose there are writers who can produce good work when they’re depressed, but I have no idea how they do it. For me, the moment I started being able to enjoy life again, I also started being able to visualize this book.
However, a good mood is not sufficient. I’ve been trying to write another book since September 1st. According to my records I’ve spent 316 hours and 131 writing days on the attempt to figure out what I ought to write about, and I’ve only just sort of come up with it (maybe…there’s still a chance that the book will fall apart). I honestly don’t know what I could’ve done to come up with it faster.
I recently read this Lynda Barry book What It Is? which is about starting with an image and attempting to work without self-consciousness. The book talks about writing in the same way that children draw pictures: you draw a line, and then another line, and then you get a sense of what it is, and you keep adding lines, more or less by instinct, until you’ve got it.
So I started to do that, and it did help. I got a short story out of it. And one of her exercises led me to a chapter that I though was going to be the opening chapter of a novel. But when I kept writing that novel, I got really wrapped up in an entirely different chapter, and anyway…I don’t know.
My point is, I don’t know that you can just power through and write a book. People talk about how they have more ideas than they know what to do with. That’s not me. I can generate ideas by the job lot, but I know exactly what to do with them–most of them are just idle notions that should never be turned into real stories. Finding an idea that can sustain my interest is extremely rare. And I don’t have a set way of getting to that point. I mostly just flail around until something happens. But sometimes that means months of flailing. And then, of course, I write the book in a few weeks. For instance, I fully expect to be done w/ this book by May 15th (at the latest).
When I’m really working on a book, it doesn’t feel like something I’m creating. It feels like something that’s flowing out from some unconscious place. I think of that as ‘inspiration.’ And I don’t know what can be done to make that inspiration come.
I think some things can kill it. For instance, if you don’t get into the habit of writing, then you’re unlikely to be able to channel the inspiration when it does hit. If you’re too self-critical then your sense of inspiration can become afraid to throw ideas out there. And if you’re not self-critical enough, then you can spend way too long pursuing ideas that aren’t very good. But mostly it’s just about waiting…