When I wrote a month or so ago about “not writing a book,” I got such good advice. The most useful, I think, was the notion that if one does not have a passionate and burning desire to write a book, if one is not literallypossessed by an idea, it isn’t the right time. I’m sure there are exceptions if one churns out something formulaic, or has a contract to write the next book in an existing series, but neither of those scenarios fits my fledgling novelist status. I am starting fresh, my regrettably unpainted toenail inching towards the shark-infested waters.
So this morning, I had an idea. I knew it was a good one because I felt that whoosh of intense feeling, a heedless rush like a sip of brandy doing its fine work as I fought to maintain control and make order in my head. The fact that I couldn’t stop it, and that it lit me up without my consent and refused to be categorized, organized or otherwise domesticated was a sign that I was in the presence of a power outside my prim, intellectual garden. This was passion. This was it. (I think).
My first impulse was to blog about the general topic of the book. Just a sample, mind you, not the whole thing. I wanted approval, some kind of green light, thumbs-up, attention, encouragement and validation. The need for a pat on the head and a word of praise has always been my drug of choice. I thought maybe I would just write a little post, just to see if people liked it. I started to write, I was in the proverbial groove, and a voice (Moses? God? Barry White?) said “don’t spill it!” Seriously. I was just sitting at my desk typing and I heard a voice warning me that if I didn’t hold my vision close and let it grow, I would surely be letting it die of exposure. I had to protect my vision from my neurosis, which is harder work than a sane person might think.
Then there was this whole other issue about the autobiographical nature of my idea. Without a doubt, real live people would see themselves in my writing, or, worse yet, think that they did. Would I have to change everything to the point where it was no longer really the story I wanted to tell? Would I have to contact all living players and let them know my plans? Could I become ruthless and uninhibited, writing what I needed to write despite the ghost chorus in my head wailing “but you made it look like I…?” I have nothing awful to say about anybody, honestly, but I know that any version of life coming from my own experience will necessarily conflict with the memories and perceptions of other people.
I know I should just write the damned thing. Five hundred pages a day, an hour a day, some kind of reasonable, disciplined schedule for cranking it out without diluting it by writing blog posts or gutting it by trying to avoid hurt feelings. I am looking at my toe nervously, wondering if just a quick coat of blue sparkly polish would hasten the movement of sharks towards my sheltered area of the shore.