The More Things Change… The More They SEEM the Same At First.

Two days ago a friend asked me if I enjoy writing.  I crossed the street before answering.  “I hate it passionately, and want to wring writing’s throat,” didn’t seem like the fully appropriate answer.

True, mind you, just not necessarily the whole story. 

The whole story…  *sigh* 

I feel like going Muse-hunting with a wicked elf blade.  I would of course only threaten it and then I would leap on the slimy bastard and shake it about.

I realize this sounds violent.  But it’s just comeuppance.  Oh heck, in reality it’s no Muse I seek to shake.  I don’t believe in muses.  I believe in myself, and it’s myself I want to shake.  And, I tell you, I have.  I have flung myself from one end of the couch to the other.  I have stormed from one end of the apartment to the other.  I have grumbled at myself and launched tirades at myself.  I have pulled my hair back and yanked it out.  I have gazed out my window at the Broadway pedestrians, at my neighbors and at the heavens, all the time trying to see into my story and into that skeleton that is craft.

But why this extra dash of frenetic anxiety?  Why the tense jaw?  (This last I can attest to, even if you can’t.)  I still write.  The story is moving forward.  I even noticed this week that my pace is more than acceptable.  From time to time the story even has the compelling feel of a pack of cards, dealt, loaded, and inevitably falling to play.

So why, why, why, is this the most anxious period for me?

I have concluded (temporarily, as all conclusions should footnote themselves) that it’s the place in the novel that seems to invest each moment with pressure to attain perfect allignment.

Before, I told the story.  I didn’t worry about deadlines.  Didn’t think “where in the arch am I?”  When I wrote 2 pages, when I wrote 10 pages…I felt good.  I felt I had done a good job.  I kept moving forward.  And when I jotted notes in my little notebook and then realized them in the manuscript, I felt a sense of fruition.  I kept moving forward, one step or ten at a time.

But in recent weeks, whether I write 2 pages or write 12, or delete 4 and write 10, I’m constantly feeling the tension of the future in each scene.  I’ll do the same thing–jot down notes and transfer them to the manuscript, but I’ll feel there’s more, more, more to write.  More than I’ve done, better than I’ve done, and it must work.   I’ll even have a flash of inspiration that I know betters the book, and even as I feel good making the change–my mind’s already on the whole, which I’m not yet grasping in my searching embrace.

So here I’ve been stressing that I’ve not found a balance of writing to research, or that I’m procrastinating or editing when I ought be writing, or that I’m researching when I ought be planning, doodling and thinking–but I’ve been doing all of that all along.  That is, every step of the way, I’ve been battling the same unknown, forging my technique on that exacting and unforgiving smithy that is experience.

What’s different now isn’t that I’m doing anything intrinsically worse..or less.  What’s different is that I’m feeling the ghost of the future pulling at me.  Like I see that figure through the mirror, darkly, but know I’m rushing to what I don’t know and I want to get there right. 

It’s not “the end in sight” as much as it is a murky sense of sight where before I was swimming in the dark and enjoying the sensation.  Now I see a shady image and am drawn to it, constantly finding it beyond my immediate grasp, and sensing the miles yet to go.  I’m exhausted not by what I’ve done, but by what is yet to be accomplished, yet to be tranversed.

So instead of inexplicably saying to my friend that I hate writing with the passion of a thousand misbegotten suns (and yet cut my sleep short by three hours each day to invest in it),  I held my silence till I crossed the street, and then I answered.  I said, “I love it.”

I walked into my dark apartment, and stood there in its shadows, hand on the light switch.  I imagined for a moment what if I stopped?  What if I stopped writing right now?  And my eyes stopped adjusting to the dark; they saw black and anathema gripped me.  Stop?  Stop and leave my characters forever fixed in their terrible predicaments?  No.  No way.  I owe it to A, and S, and M, and even D and D…  They have to get out, or at least rest in peace.  On the printed page.  Where every character born deserves to live, their struggles and goodness visible like the tombstone that is the book’s covers.

My.  As I write that I realize.  I’m afraid of burying my characters.  I’m afraid of the end, even as I feel the rush pull me there, and as I stress to craft it right… I’m heading where I can no longer rescue my characters.  Where, at least, I must put them away.

Grave? Monument? In Mtskheta, Georgia

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About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
This entry was posted in analyzing one's writing, challenges, characters, fiction, finding your own way, first drafts, mornings, muse, plot, scenes, writing, writing update and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The More Things Change… The More They SEEM the Same At First.

  1. THIS: “I walked into my dark apartment, and stood there in its shadows, hand on the light switch. I imagined for a moment what if I stopped? What if I stopped writing right now? And my eyes stopped adjusting to the dark; they saw black and anathema gripped me. Stop? Stop and leave my characters forever fixed in their terrible predicaments? No. No way. I owe it to A, and S, and M, and even D and D… They have to get out, or at least rest in peace.”

    That’s when you know you’re really a writer in your soul. When no matter how tough it is, the thought of not writing is unthinkable.

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