Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Writer's Block? More Like Writer's Shutdown.
Remember when you had to write a paper for school, you knew what you were going to say but you just couldn't bring yourself to sit down and DO it? Welcome to my first non-fiction book's progress.
It started with an idea, which found an interested agent, who then proposed a different project first, a project that should have been pretty straightforward.
That's apparently not how I roll.
A simple collection of biographies has, instead, turned into a narrative in which I weave my own search for meaning into stories of people I've interviewed. They are people who inspire me, who challenge me; people whose stories hit a nerve, a nerve I sometimes didn't even recognize at the time.
My writer friends who've seen the initial rough drafts are encouraging; it's a compelling read when I'm strewn all over the pages. That's enough of a challenge for me right there to shut me down.
I'm fighting to remember that making myself the common thread that runs through these stories isn't a form of narcissism. All it does is give the reader someone to identify with, changing the book from a dry, objective textbook into a messy human story.
But every single time I even think about writing, I run up against a twelve foot tall Donna Reed sadly shaking her head over my unladylike willingness to talk about not only myself, but about my least shining moments.
She's so disappointed in me.
But come on, Donna! You felt trapped in that good girl role, too, didn't you? I've seen the studio photos. And when you put on a dark wig, you actually pulled it off.
Twelve foot tall Donna Reed does not concede the point. That, she informs me, was a job. But in real life, we're supposed to be perfect. Why would you parade your life in front of the world, trading the soft focus lens for harsh magnifier?
In practical terms, this is how it looks: I finish work for the day. KB, home from his two week southern sojourn, asks the usual question: what are you doing tonight?
"Oh," I mumble, "I don't know. Maybe I'll practice violin. Maybe I'll get my tax stuff together. Maybe I'll write."
The rest is unsaid: maybe I'll scan real estate ads. Maybe I'll look at dogs that need a new home. Maybe I'll read other peoples' blogs. Maybe I'll watch television. HGTV is pretty damned fascinating, you know.
I anticipate discomfort when I begin to write. It doesn't really happen; in fact, it's a pretty enjoyable undertaking. Once I start, I get sucked in pretty quickly.
But far too many days go by when I don't make myself start.
What, I wonder, is that all about?