Is this the third act I see before me?

Zoikes, things are moving along now.  I’ve been moving into the third act and rounding out the second.  What required the break-through?  Unflagging pursuit, I reckon.

I reckon that just as growth is a sign of life, pursuit is one of the crucial characteristics of man.  Not for naught was “the pursuit of happiness” inserted into the American declaration of independence, into its self-definition and birth vows.  Because so long as we can pursue, we feel free.

Anyhow, writing is no easy slog, and the pursuit requires work, more work and then more; discipline, more discipline, and then still more in the face of a blank wall that looms immovable before us; and a bizarre concoction of faith, imagination, obstinacy and a self-wielded blindfold (to protect us from masterpieces past as well as from the red wet proof of our own blubbery weaknesses in the first draft).

Why on earth would anyone write, given the heavy bag of tools we must carry and wield, and the long duration of this exercise in self-torture?  I can only conclude that writers are crazy; if we’re not crazy before we start, certainly we lose our tenuous grip on sanity by the very act of pursuing our stories to their right end.

This is what writing is:  It’s giving birth to a child that will not come out easily, but keeps moving in the womb—and you yourself are both mother and midwife, and none of your bodily functions are happening by rote; you yourself must direct every step.  You need to tell each cell what hormones to release, you must refer to them by name and order and execute precisely the physiological action you need, and you must massage your own back for pain and accept whatever ripping is occasioned by the birth—all the while not knowing if your child will be healthy when he or she emerges.  That blood on the child and in it is all yours. 

That’s what writing is, I reckon.  But most times it feels more like taking a very big shit.  [Oops, late language warning.]

Which again highlights writers’ madness.  Imagine this discipline practiced each day for months—years—all for one good shit.  Man…  And all those folks before us who’ve scrunched their best effort into their best fertilizing literature. 

So even we beginning writers have something in common with our literary heroes—Oscar Wilde must have felt this way too; wanted to tear his hair out at his ineptitude.  Keats wondered if he’d ever live up to the star he was reaching for deep inside his gut.  Jane Austen cursed the difficulty of credibly getting Elizabeth back to Darcy.  Tolkien thumped a pillow damning his inability to get all the threads of his story to feel equally real.  JK Rowling struggled to hit that fine balance of humor and a sense of impending crisis.  Shakespeare groaned at the work required to make Romeo both convince of his love and also rhyme.  Joyce touched his words tentatively to feel if they fit right but still popped off the page with life.  Hardy struggled to not overdo foreshadowing.  Rilke froze when the words felt false, and gasped in relief when the flood of true words finally returned.  Wordsworth scribbled as fast as he could to capture an epiphany of wording only to see just one phrase really worked that time around.

Is writing not madness?  When Iris Murdoch was first afflicted with Alzheimer’s she took it for writer’s block.  Writing is madness, just as not writing becomes the same once a tale is started.

All mad.  But normalcy is just so plain boring.  What excitement is passion, that mad bent that is inspiration joined with dedication to the long slog that is realizing one’s idea—realizing it right.

The Portal Remains... In Ani, Turkey, the ancient Armenian capital

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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 fiction, finding your own way, first drafts, writing, writing update and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Is this the third act I see before me?

  1. J says:

    Well, I’m glad you finally admit what I have been telling you for years – in fact, I believe my very first sentence when I met you was “ARE YOU CRAZY???” Glad to see you are finally owning it 🙂

    • sputnitsa says:

      Actually, I think your first sentence was, “You’re joking–RIGHT????” By the way, your look of incredulity is very becoming, even if completely ill-suited to my comments of wisdom. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 Hahaha! 🙂

  2. “Writing is madness, just as not writing becomes the same once a tale is started.”

    Oh, how true! But all the same, I relish in that madness. I love that feeling you get when the story overtakes you. It’s such a unique feeling that’s hard to express to someone who doesn’t write.

    I liked what you said about Wordsworth, Keats, Shakespeare and so forth. I’d written a similar sort of post awhile back. Remembering that all writers (immortal greats all the way down to beginners) go through the same trials and tribulations is definitely encouraging.

    • sputnitsa says:

      I totally agree.

      One character is on the cusp of his grays for me. Does that make sense at all? He’s becoming more complex, more real. At least on the inside. On the outside, sadly, it’s up to me to depict him right. 🙂 There is a madness to fiction, to meshing fiction with the lifeblood of reality…making characters “real.” But as you say, what a delicious madness. 🙂

      Oh, I must find your post now 🙂 By the way, I love the biographies recently!! 🙂

  3. ralfast says:

    Third Acts are those places were I rush headlong into the finale, so yeah, it’s mad and then some.

    • sputnitsa says:

      Oh wow. Zoikes!

      I just got a magnet for my fridge with Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “Do one thing every day which scares you.” Each new phase of writing is so very…new, and each has its own particular journey… Yowza 🙂

  4. Hiya Sput,

    My post was, “Writers, We’re Not alone”.

    Oh, and your statement that your character is on the cusp of gray makes perfect sense. So happy for you that you’re reaching that point. Go Sput! 🙂

    • sputnitsa says:

      Ah! Thankee 🙂 And thanks for understanding my ill-wrought descriptions 🙂 🙂

      Have a great holiday, girl! May your new microjournal rock much and rock on and on for ya! 🙂

  5. p.s. And thank you! I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed the biographies. Reading about what people of the past went through- artists or not- inspires me very much.

  6. Luigi Fulk says:

    I was searching for photography when I found your site. Good post. Thank You.

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