June 13th, 2007

spring

Notes on the Physicality of Writing

It feels as though THE MOON'S ACCOMPLICE has been slowly gestating for the past year and finally is ready to emerge a caterpillar, to be swathed in cocoon weavings of crits and revisions and reshaping, until some day it emerges as something. Preferably a large laser-eyed moth. Or a novel. 

I am churning out between 2k-4k a day, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel that signals an arrival at a skeletal-in-numerous-places first draft. I have an obsessive little spreadsheet with color-coded fields and target dates.  Currently I am four days ahead of schedule. I don't think I could keep this pace up indefinitely - I am neglecting all but the essentials, including my social life. I don't answer or return phone calls, despite the fact that I really should call my grandmother (instead of blogging). I begrudge every moment away from keyboard/notebook, time spent not working on the novel. I do seem to manage to get us dinner at night.

Ideas for other novels spring up frequently. I jot them down in a couple of sentences and keep going. The bright distracting butterflies of stories, as velourmane has termed them, have learned to leave me alone or else risk being pinned into the novel and becoming part of it.

The thing that has surprised me is the physicality of writing. It doesn't just flow effortlessly down the nerve fibers onto the page/screen, but there are physical actions involved in getting them there. In Stephen King's THE TOMMYKNOCKERS (surely his worst book), there is a magic typewriter that types whatever you're thinking and it seems more and more appealing. But I supect using it might be a bit like using a sewing machine for the first time, where the machine races along spewing OMGWTF WHY IS THIS TYPING WHATEVER I THINK I JUST WANT TO WRITE A STORY OKAY WHERE WE GO ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A FLY GOD THIS ISN'T WORKING, OKAY? JUST TAKE THE WIRES OUT OF MY BRAIN NOW THANKS. HELLO? HELLO?

At any rate, I can write hard for an hour and get 500-1000 words out, and have my back and arms grumbling about it, or I can write for 15 minutes, stretch for 5, write for 15, etc and get about half as much done. It's frustrating and I'm popping too many Advil to ease my back. Right now, though, all I really want to do is buckle down and get this out, and then worry about how to change my lifestyle for the better later.* 

Walking seems to help build up the sort of momentum that carries me through a productive session. So does driving, but it seems not so eco-groovy, and walking time buys me painless desk time, so it's a good trade-off. I keep seeing interesting things when walking: a sofa in the middle of the park, a heron five feet away, goldfinches chasing each other. It's funny how many plot points are ironed out by the end of a walk just by looking at and thinking about what I see.

And now my coffee is done, and I'm going to stretch and then go back into that other world.

*(And yes, Wayne, it doesn't help when I write on the couch using the laptop. :p)