I find myself with an odd surplus of blog ideas at the moment. I was musing this morning about how good erotica is a story about a person’s (or several) sex life. This can be just as important and interesting and meaningful as, say, the story of a person’s career in Physical Therapy, or their experience in visiting a foreign country. The second thought I had, after reading Jenn LeBlanc tweet about how she’s starting to hate the book she’s editing, was to post about the fact that many writers do go through a stage when they hate what they’re writing. But like a music teacher who endures the horrific sounds coming from their beginner students, the teacher continues to work amidst those horrible sounds because they know that, eventually, some of those students will eventually produce beautiful music. Another great blog post would be about folks like me who moved away from Colorado and desperately want to get back.
But what’s most on my mind right now is tower-building. Oh, that’s right… I want to establish some scientific details regarding the Skytower and Space Elevator in my story. Fortunately, I’m staying with Dan & Geri, good friends from college. Geri is a writing partner and beta/proofreader for me. Dan is my primary scientific consultant. And he works for free!
But that’s not the kind of tower I’m contemplating at the moment.
Imagine your job is to stack a series of complicated objects onto a tray, and then carefully take that tray on a journey through a large office building. As you go, some of the objects will be taken off, and others added on. But it’s a precarious balance all the way through.
Now imagine that every time you have the objects arranged, and are about to pick up the tray, someone comes along and knocks it all over. They don’t mean to, they simply don’t understand how delicate the structure is. But you have to start over again.
After this happens a few times, someone comes by and asks “Why haven’t you made your rounds yet?”
Sure enough, you haven’t actually accomplished anything. You’ve worked, but you have nothing to show for it.
Writing a novel is like this. I have a gazillion details in my head, and even though I have notes and spreadsheets and post-its, my brain is still the central processing unit for it all. I don’t want to keep stopping to look up little details; I need to carry a lot of this in my head. If someone wants to put something else in my head, such as “Mommy, can I have a peanut-butter waffle?” or “Hi, I just wanted to share with you what your daughter did at school today…” I have to set the tray down. All the details I’d carefully constructed, by thinking, not typing or drawing or anything so concrete, fall to pieces.
All that work, and absolutely nothing to show for it.
Today is a good day. I miss my family terribly, but my friends are wonderful hosts and have made this difficult trip possible. Tomorrow is my last day down here, and today I’m alone in the house getting a lot of writing done. I have hardly any distractions other than the ones I create for myself.
In the last year, I have regained a lot of the brain cells I lost during infertility treatments, pregnancy, and mommyhood. A year ago, I could barely manage a simple game of chess, now I can do much more.
I can balance the tray.
Until someone knocks it over.
Now, which is the path to success? Do I find a way to keep people from knocking over that tower? It will be almost a year before my littlest goes to preschool, unless we find a large stash of money to pay for daycare/preschool out of pocket. There are writers who retreat to an office, just like a dayjob, and sit there and write. I would love that.
Or will this always be the situation? Do I need to train myself to hold the tray in place even while others are knocking it over? Perhaps. But I know the quality of writing I put out when I’m in “interruption mode” and it’s crappy.
Only time will tell. Maybe a year from now, I’ll have something else to report about how I found a way to write while still living my life.
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