As recent readers know, I finally just caved in and accepted the tattered hand-me-down mantle of Writing Person For Reals. I had the epiphany that it didn’t matter whether or not I’d found an agent for my current novel; what mattered is that real flesh and blood people had beaten it into me that I Had It–that my writing was what one beloved beta reader called “absorptive.” And that was all I ever wanted for the Reader’s experience–that for a little while, in even a little way, they could be Somewhere Else. That’s the first step, isn’t it?
So what does making something like that feel like? Well, to be honest, very rarely does the Inspiration Fairy drag you out of bed and make you write, and when she does (a friend in an APA once remarked that the Inspiration Fairy smokes cigars and wears hob-nailed boots) it’s often a tad on the self-indulgent side, screaming “Oh my GOD I’m NAKED over here editor PLEASE.” Instead, most of the world’s writing is done the old-fashioned way, which looks suspiciously like work.
As many have remarked, the first step is putting your butt in the chair. Then you open the file or the notebook. This is accompanied by a whiny sort of vagueness: You’d sort of rather be doing something else, and you may or may not know what it is, but right now there’s this blankness looking at you, tapping its foot.
For me, it is processed like mild pain: My fingers are clumsy and sluggish. I scrawl or tap out something inspired like, “Miranda rang the doorbell.” At that point, I don’t know why Miranda is dropping by, I just know that it’s at least remotely plausible that she might. And then I stare at it. Slog, slog, oh god I’m no sheeping good at this, another sentence. I stare at them and heave a sigh. Maybe two, remembering that I should practice good diaphragm breathing for choir anyway. My brain feels dull and far away, and the idea that this will ever be a novel is a possible symptom of incipient mania.
And that’s where the scariness starts to happen. Miranda, the wench, opens her mouth and says something–and Darjeeling says something snarky–and then they’re having a conversation, and the conversation is bringing new ideas into the piece of writing just like you thread a new piece of yarn into knitting–really; that’s the point of that metaphor: You watch your fingers as if they’re possessed of a sudden ability to type or make the pen work, and new colors appear before your eyes like magic.
Something way back in the distance snaps, and your hands start making words as fast as they can. You’re no longer at your desk or at Bucky’s, you’re in that crowded Victorian living room with Miranda, Darjeeling, and the intruder they turned into a garden gnome. Your deeply beloved child of your actual loins, who will care for you in your old age, stops by to say “Good morning,” and you grouse something curt at them, because dammit Darjeeling is saying something exciting, and you can’t wait to know what it is.
You feel sort of stoned. This is only aggravated by your caffeine intake. I exhort you to drink actual water for each cup of speed.
You take a break to obey Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice (“Fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches”) and hate your body for being so interrupty. Then you get back to it.
It is addictive.
For me, after about two-ish hours I can stop for at least a while; at that point, I admire my word count (especially for NaNoWriMo). Then I do at least a little of the other things in my life, knowing that again and again I’ll have that almost nauseating start-up, maybe in the same day.
Worth it–for me. Then after it’s DONE and I scream and do a bit of the hokey pokey, it’s time to edit. And that’s for you.