Sunday, July 25, 2010

Writing on Paper

I hate writing for the same reason I love it: a writer is on her own. Sometimes I wish someone would come along and direct me--a little benevolent dictatorship can be a comforting thing-- but the creative process doesn't work like that. It doesn't respond to the whip hand of an overseer, the way (maybe) the body does. It's more like a soufflé that deflates if you open the oven door.

I felt totally deflated earlier this week. After two months of reading about communications, no fluffy yet substantive ideas were rising in my brain. In the middle of the night, I was even flirting with the idea of returning the publisher's advance--a pittance, believe me, but currently invested in commodities (that is, my groceries)--return it because I could not figure out how to start writing.
Every time I tried, it sounded like the deep, soporific tone of a documentary narrator:
"From the dawn of human communications, our ancestors strove to develop faster and more efficient means to convey information across long distances. Now, in the 21st century, we are living through a revolution in..."

So, I gave up. For three days in a row, I sat here in this Ethan Allen-style (ugly but comfortable) rocking-chair and consumed three seasons of 30 Rock, Tina Fey's brilliant updating of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
All 66 episodes.
That's 20 hours of TV within 72 hours: the mental equivalent of a lost weekend of brownie bingeing. The surge, the shock, the slump... and then click on "watch next episode" for the last time all over again. I finished watching the series at 2 a.m. and went to bed loathing myself, like you do after a binge.

My brain woke me up at 5 a.m., full of ideas about how to write the book. What was my problem? How could I have missed that any historical material that includes cannibalism, even tangentially, is offering you the best attention-grabbing opener you could want? Yes, it's a bit of a stretch, but metaphors are plenty stretchy.

That morning, I wrote up my ideas in a spiral-bound notebook. Do you ever write on paper? I pretty much stopped around 2003, except to my 85-year-old Auntie Vi, who doesn't like computers. I like the way e-writing looks like it's already publishable as soon as you type it onscreen. I edit my writing a lot, but the way newly written stuff looks finished makes me feel that what I'm writing is good.
That's been helpful for a writer like me, who's constantly running interference on herself.

But I guess I don't need, or want, this project to look finished right from the start. Because it's not going to be. I even suspect that the polished look might lure me into thinking I'm done, whereas I'm nowhere near. Looking at pages on which two-thirds of the writing is scratched out isn't putting me off, as it has in the past. It looks like a messy kitchen and broken eggshells. A work in progress.

8 comments:

ArtSparker said...

Heh, sometimes doing the wrong thing can work out right...

What is about creatives and self-loathing?

Margaret said...

Cannibalism:
it's like . . . making love.

( . . . says Bill - yeah; he's here in my house; stops by to make a sandwich every once in a while; always says it tastes like "making love".

"Bill. How does Turkey taste like making love?"
"Have you ever ridden a horse on the beach? I mean, right on the OCEAN!? And then tasted the most succulent scallops from THAT VERY OCEAN?!?! The incredible thing about Turkey is . . . "
Et cet.
You know.)

I hate writing for the same reason I love it

That's way messy.
(Me, too.)

I like when they show excerpts from the original manuscript towards the back of the book. X's and scribbles and circles everywhere;
just as messy as shaping wet clay, only the mess is more internalized, (which also makes it harder to clean up).

Anonymous said...

Yeah, internal bleeding and the like and what the heck IS/WAS the cannibalism reference thing--are ya thinkin' of opening your book with somethin' about cannibalism? I am so flippin' tired just now, after cooking all day and serving the newly-marrieds in the front under the Elm, I realize this post of yours reads kind of like how I think/talk...Why I get you and why some people say i don't talk logically and my speaking and writing are filled with "non-sequitors". well.. they're n-s's to the dull-witted and pedantic; not to the artsy-fartsy. hey, speaking of n-s's, my back's NOT HURTING at the moment and I made another organic salade nicoise today for the feast--with a much better grade of tuna--(stuff that's supposed to taste like some people's idea of love--p. c. reference or not!)! What's it about salade nic'se and communicating with you electronically, Frescadita? Are you including serendipity and astrology in your book along with cannibalism? From the politically incorrect annals of jokes I've heard once or twice and can still remember: [will have to tell this one to my hijo-in-law--(perhaps will attempt it in Spanish!)]
So, there were a couple cannibals sharing a meal at one of 'em's home--(some variation of salade nicoise, no doubt!). The guest says to his host, "Y'know, I never did like your mother-in-law.." His host replies, "That's okay. Just eat the noodles."
Hee-hee--ha-ha! Keep thinkin' and writin'...I know the book'll be intriguing!
Beddy-Bye! (veriword="nessesti")

Stefalala

Jennifer said...

I think it's pretty clear that your brain needed to basically check out for a while at a conscious level and let your subconscious chew on the topic for a while! I'm a big fan of letting ideas lie fallow for a bit--well, in theory. In practice of course I get desperate and try to force things. It never works. :P

Fresca said...

SPARKY: Self-loathing seems to be popular across the board, don't you think?

M'RET: I'm not keen on museums, but I can't resist exhibits of writers' manuscripts--to see Charlotte Bronte's handwriting was almost like meeting her. SOme of her DNA must have brushed onto the paper!

STEF: Well, I was just thinking of cannibalism as a metaphor for how we eat each other up in nonphysical ways---a sort of negative/mirror image of communication. Funny joke--I'd never heard it.

JENN:I'm sure you're right. My brain is like a Xerox machine I worked with once that would go haywire and unplugging it was the only thing that restored its sanity.

Clowncar said...

love that "messy kitchen and broken eggshells" image.

I'm hopelessly tethered to a computer for writing. love to drag those clauses around with the mouse, and have them follow like obedient dogs, til the sentence is just right.

Manfred Allseasons said...

Fresca... bingeing kills the pleasure, dont you think?

Everything I obsess about I have to eventually put aside forever...I'm looking at you, Croquet Mallet!

Fresca said...

CLOWN: Yup. Me too, usually--editing on the computer is one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World, right up there with novocaine.

MANFRED: Well, now, I've managed to binge on Captain Kirk for quite a while now and still come back for more, but yes, usually overeating leads to at least mild revulsion.

Ruined for croquet, eh? How sad...