Monday, January 27, 2014

Avoiding the Act of Sitting

A couple of years ago, a cable channel adapted Bag of Bones with Pierce Brosnan. I thought it wouldn't translate very well to the screen, and I was right. One of the most (unintentionally?) hilarious aspects was the depiction of the main character's writer's block. Brosnan sat at his desk and talked to himself, put his head in his hands, screamed, drank, etc.

Aside from the drinking, I don't know that I've ever done anything like this when I'm blocked. Usually the block is just there, in the back of my head, like the knowledge of death. And in its nudest form, it's as uncinematic as depression, because if a blocked writer forces himself to sit in the chair and stare at the empty page/screen, he will not scream or mutter or do anything, really. He will sit. And sit. And sit. Eventually he will write to relieve himself from the act of sitting. That's how it works.

Writing about how I'm not writing would have been quite boring, which is why I tried to write about it in a brief, amusing way. I wasn't blocked, exactly, but I was having trouble with the act of sitting. I drafted a post early last week about the problem with one of the two big story ideas I'm kicking around right now, which has to do with whether I should figure out character first or the epiphany first, and which has ended up being so chicken-and-egg-y that I can't even get started. But I'm leery about posting extensive details of ideas I haven't written yet, lest someone more talented and less scrupulous than I decide to write the same story. Besides, I did end up writing something last week.

I wrote just when I said I would, on Thursday afternoon in between classes, and then later when I couldn't sleep. It's short, under 2,500 words, and the idea is pretty one-note, and to be honest I think it might tip further toward erotica than lit, but at least I wrote. And got the idea out of my head. All weekend I almost started on one of the two big ideas, but instead I did homework and watched Darling and avoided cooking.

My classes this semester are still shaking out, but I'm taking at least two where we're reading a book a week. The third class might also be a book-a-week class, or it might be a theory-oriented class where we're reading what I'd call philosophy texts. In college, I was a philosophy major, and I did a lot better with my readings after a professor revealed the secret to philosophy texts: always read them twice. Just do it. Even if you think you understood them, even if you think you don't have time. That is the reading assignment for which you make time: reading them twice. So I've got that secret in my pocket, if that's the class I end up with.

All of the classes seem absorbing and worthwhile, but the workload is intimidating. Yet another excuse for avoiding the act of sitting. This week I want to get started on the big idea (the one without the chicken/egg problem), because dribs and drabs of it have been bursting out into my notes for weeks. This story is READY TO COME OUT. But I'm worried about its ambitions and fearful, as always, that I'll fuck it up. I guess moms are probably worried about the same things with their kids, but when it's time to go into labor, it's time to go into labor.


Anonymous said...

Re "time to go into labour" - when my mother was in labour with me and woke my dad up to take her to the hospital, he said, "Is it too late to change my mind?". So your metaphor makes me think that there are two forces in operation in the creative process here as elsewhere...

Katharine Coldiron said...

LOL. In How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran writes about how with her first baby, she was so scared of childbirth that her labor ended up being unnecessarily long and painful. Moments after delivering her second, she shouted "That was EASY! Why didn't anyone tell me it was so EASY!"