Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sputtering Right Along

One of the few advantages a soul-sucking day job has is that writing, slotted into coffee breaks and lunch hours, becomes the treat you lure yourself through the day with. One of the few disadvantages of control of your own time is that writing becomes work. It is sometimes necessary to play mental tricks on yourself in order to get yourself to do what you in your heart wants to do.

I feel as if I'm writing veeeerrrrryyyyy slooooowly, but I'm not making bad time considering what I'm doing right now. Yesterday was the Sunday on which Di declared her atheism. I was not at all sure why I felt she had to do this, beyond my knowing it was an important part of her character; but she's normally so careful about revealing her true self. And I was puzzled about how Len, the Lutheran, would react to it. In real life, I'm agnostic and most of the people I love best are one flavor of Christian or another, so I did have some basis in experience for writing the scene, but I had to figure out the why and how of the characters. For Hebe, too, because she's there; she's right in the middle of most of their scenes together and the relationship has to grow up around her, so to speak.

So I did a bunch of tell-not-show in the morning and did housework and computer games and magazine reading in the afternoon, and when I sat down this morning I had it all straight in my head, did the whole thing with four-part harmony and feeling, and then realized that I was at the crux point of the confrontation with the Caves, on the action of which many, many future logistical points will rest. I had thought I was going to get the two groups face-to-face and then stop, but when I tried to write it I could see how far away John Cave could be seen on Sheikh, and realized that Len couldn't be with Di and Hebe at the moment of confrontation, so I had to set that up and then I saw that the morning was almost gone and the next bit was going to be noodling in a notebook trying out various scenarios anyway. So it might easily take me till the end of the week to do this.

Which, as I said, feels slow. If I were still in the day job, I would have been able to write straight through the atheism conversation; but it would have taken me all week. My habit, at soul-sucking day jobs, was to write longhand during lunch hours and input text onto the computer at night; so I would be writing two or three paragraphs a day, at most, and doing first revisions in the evening. My backbrain would have all afternoon, evening, night, and morning to work on the next two or three paragraphs. The stopping and starting were built into the routine and felt like something imposed from the outside on a smoothly running operation that otherwise could have proceeded apace.

Now the stopping and starting is revealed as a part of the writing process, but it feels like my brain sputtering along at half-speed. Never mind that I write more wordage in a bad day than I used to get through in a week.

I may need to draw myself a little map of the confrontation site. I will certainly have to make lists of things that must happen and note their consequences later in the story. Everyone, from Len to Hebe's mule, must behave in accordance with the internal logic of their characters and situations, not for my convenience.

Fortunately, I can do a lot of this while sanitizing the kitchen.


  1. LOL! I for one neglect housework almost entirely and pace.

  2. I pace, too, during actual dedicated writing hours; but the insomnia gets worse if I don't have something tangible to show myself at the end of the day. And housework is ideal for writing time, providing the same movement factor as pacing while occupying the fussy consciousness enough that it leaves the backbrain alone to work.

    Agatha Christie used to write while washing the dishes, so I'm in good company.