I’ll repeat what I said the last time: It’s hard to write a novel. I start out by shrugging off the future embarrassment I’ll feel, having no idea that my thinking isn’t anything but terribly original and profound. And then I write and I write and I write. I get inspired and I write. I lose inspiration and I write. I stop writing and I feel ashamed. I lose the thread. Something is gumming up the works and I realize it’s been happening slow and certain all along like plaque in the arteries around the heart. I have an attack in my car halfway home late at night and I wonder, “Why am I doing this? What possesses me?” I imagine people with hairy wrists reading my words — perhaps a set of preliminary judges, cogs in a system of meting out prizes for literary works — and they glance at their glinting wristwatches and scratch at their bald heads and continue reading. Then some drool dribbles on page two when they find themselves falling asleep because they’ve read ten manuscripts already this morning and it’s thankless work. Something they have to do to get their name on a website somewhere. Something they have to do to further their own menial careers.
The utter futility evinced in this black fantasy is what keeps me from finishing my novel. The daily word count drops to zero because there are no ideas for an ending that won’t suck so much. It reflects the futility of existence itself. So I go out for a run in the pouring rain and learn the futility of a rain jacket and this combines with surging blood and endorphin release to give me an idea for an ending that doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s so perfect that I spontaneously smile, widen my stride, and nearly cry because holy shit, this is terribly original and profound.
The next day I write it. And in writing it, I feel giddy. I announce to close friends and loved ones that a draft of my novel is complete. I set it aside to gain some distance for a week or two before going back and revising it — the whole thing. Then I get depressed because I have no idea what to write about next. And because the character that has kept me company for about a year and a half is now imperfectly born and I am not faring well with the hormones, postpartum.
I need a new novel idea to pull me out of the inevitable depression that comes with finishing a draft of a novel and sending into the world where anything can happen to it. Where it will walk around outside of my body unprotected and vulnerable to the thoughts and opinions of anyone who reads it. Where it will be vulnerable to going unread and perhaps unloved.
But this gives me an idea of what to write about next: yearning. Longing in all its myriad manifestations. I am a creature of longing. I long for love and connectedness and success and sugar and caffeine and yesterday and tomorrow and more and better and next. The ultimate object of my longing is always some impossible thing. It has me somewhat excited. I’m slightly and temporarily distracted from my shame and embarrassment and angst because maybe this is it. Maybe I’m making something with these words. Some kind of invisible hand that will reach into the guts of people and give a pinch to a place so deep and so numb that it tickles. And then when they scratch the surface, they’ll find that the itch is chronic and it’s way down under the skin.
But this is too abstract still. I need a story to embody it. I need to start the cycle over again.
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