Friday, June 22, 2012

Air Head

Yes.  That would be me.  My thoughts have apparently flown the coop, leaving nothing behind but air.

I've been struggling this week to finish Part Five of the Imaginary Tale.  Well, I've actually been struggling for over a month, wrestling with various scenarios, discarding all of them.  On Sunday I sat down at the laptop, determined to get back to the story, because really, how long can Will and Eva survive in that Himalayan cave??

But wait.  Let me digress for a moment...

In writerly parlance, there are basically two types of writers. The methodical organizers with their outlines, chapter by chapter synopses, index cards, diagrams; then there are the pantsers.  Which would be me.  This means I write by the seat of my pants, though I find this term very derogatory and prefer to think of myself as a free-former.  I set my mind free, let the characters and situations drive the story, while I try to stay out of their way.  

When writing my first book, I had three blinding illuminations that changed the plot, went places I hadn't imagined, and made for an imminently better tale.  It's an amazing thing when a character takes over and writes the story for you, though you have to let it happen; you can't fight it, interfere, argue, try to wrest control.  You can only hang on for the ride...and type as fast as your fingers will go.  Being a conduit is an indescribable experience.

Odd really that I write this way.  I'm a very organized creature usually.  I put things back after using them, hang up my clothes, don't leave my shoes all over the place, always know where stuff is.  But I feel restricted, bound too tight, if I try to micro-manage the characters, over-think the plot.  When I start a story, I have a basic idea where I'm going with it, but am open to taking a different path when I need to.

So now, back to Part Five of the bloody frigging Imaginary Tale, and my is-there-an-echo-in-here? air head problem...

Unfortunately, some days no matter what pants you're wearing, it doesn't help with the plot.

Sunday afternoon.  I look at the blank white screen, fingers flexing, itching to get going.  It's Will's turn to tell his back story, but we left Part Four with Eva's horrible nightmare and Nick's grisly demise.  I have to explain things, delve deeper, though don't want to take too much of Will's space.  I crank out about 2K, leave it until Monday, thoughts swirling as I mull over what I've written. 

Monday I delete the whole damn thing.

Tuesday I try again, having clarified some stuff in my mind.  I want to post the story, but just don' it.  Strike out.

Spend Wednesday thinking of what to call Part Five.  Maybe if I can nail down those two small words, just two tiny, little words, it will cement the story elements for me.  I get nothing.

Yesterday I am so, so, compellingly sick and tired of this stinking worthless story, I consider plotting a massive avalanche, wiping out everyone in Nepal for at least a hundred miles in every direction.

I wish--desperately--that I still smoked.  I know I could find the words if I could just smoke them out of those dark, shadowy corners in my mind.  Instead, I procrastinate: I work outside in the scorching heat, I walk the dogs, I eat cookies, I have a nice cold, delicious Dos Equis, I paint my toenails fire engine red, I call my mother, I look up meaningless shit on the internet...and then I despair because I can't hear anything in my head except the long, low wail of a desolate wind blowing between my ears.

Late last night, I managed to finish Part Five. 

This morning, while I'm having breakfast, I read it.  I have to change a few things, and rewrite a paragraph or two, and I still need to find those two bloody words for the title.  Before I fall into the Slough of Despond, I close my writing program and get online to catch up on my Daily Fix blog reads.  And, as so often happens with those weird quirks life throws at us, Lynn has posted a story that speaks directly to me.  It's about refreshing the well, filling your mind with new thoughts.  It's a great post, about writing and rejuvenation. 

After breakfast, a shower, I take the boys to the park.  We're walking along, I'm thinking about how to refresh my well with new ideas.  As we cross the road at a busy juncture in the park--between the Harry Potter train, the bathrooms and the playground--the title for Part Five lights up in my head like Batman's beacon on a dark night in Gotham.  Not only does it fit the story, but it defines the week I've had trying to write it.  I stood in the road, grinning like a mad woman--and maybe for a second there I was.  Relentless, howling winds have been known to drive people nuts, you know.

So, this afternoon, with any luck at all, the gentle sound of splashing water as my well begins to fill will outweigh the hollow emptiness of that infernal wind that blew through my head, stealing my thoughts away.  And maybe I'll finally be able to hear what Will and Eva are trying to tell me...

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