Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Drip, drip, drip

Like everyone and their brother, I am trying to write a novel. That's how I always say it: like everyone and their brother. Like it gets me off the hook. Don't expect too much, it says. I'm only dabbling. But I'm not dabbling. It's work, and I mean it.

I'm also not being strictly truthful when I say I'm writing a novel.  The truth is that I've started three, as well as a book of essays. These were my first efforts at writing a book, and I learned the hard way that starting is much easier than finishing. So there are these four books, scattered in bits and pieces on my computer and in journals, waiting to be worked on and finished.

I don't know where it comes from, this fear. Steven Pressfield, who has written as well about the creative process as anybody out there, says we're afraid of success. I'm not so sure.  It feels more like that shaky feeling you got when you liked a boy but didn't want to show it because he might not like you back. I feel wobbly, like if I show too much enthusiasm you all might point and chant, "Sharon's writing a nooooooovel! Sharon's writing a nooooooovel!" And then someone would push me off the jungle gym.

I'm only mentioning it now because I promised to post every day while Jennifer's sick. I can write about my family or books (my essays are about both), but the other big thing in my life is this project, this stack of journals, this list of files. My brain returns to it all day long. If I plan for it, I can make myself dream about it (This is the one thing missing from the many books on writing that I have read: manipulating your subconscious into resolving plot or character problems in your dreams. Many thanks to Beck for this excellent piece of advice).

I am stuck right now. I need a good solid weekend with a working printer (our kids sat on ours and broke it), an internet connection and a lot of coffee. Life with small children means I am unlikely to get it. I keep telling myself that next year, when all four of the kids will be in school, will be my productive year. That keeps me from getting too frustrated, even if it isn't actually true.

Rabbi Akiva began studying Torah well into adulthood, unlike most of his colleagues. He famously saw a rock which was being hollowed out by years of slowly dripping water. "Am I dumber than a rock?" he asked himself. Bit by bit, he could learn anything, like water shaping a rock, so he began to study.

Bit by bit, I tell myself, I can write anything. For now, I carry a pen and a journal in my purse, and I use any unoccupied moments to jot down sentences. It's not enough, but it's still words. Eventually, I hope, there will be enough of them.


  1. You are far braver than I am. I'm technically working on a novel, too. By "working on" it I mean "rolling it around over and over and OVER inside my head but not writing down a single world on paper because that's the point of no return." (Also, I don't know how the novel ends, and this drives the control freak in me CRAZY, because what if I invest tons of creative and emotional energy and it just fizzles and dies? I'm a firstborn and not a risk taker. Couldn't bear the fizzling and dying.)

    Whew. Evidently I had more to say on this than I realized, but I'm feeling much better after this little confessional. So thanks. :) (Write on!)

  2. Angela Roskop ErismanJanuary 10, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    I. LOVE. THIS.
    And I, myself, am encouraged in my own work.
    I wish I could somehow give you that weekend.

  3. Julia Child was 30 before she learned to boil water.

    Do what feeds you. It doesn't matter what the world thinks.


  4. I just finished reading a novel that started life as random blog posts that were eventually woven together into one story. You never know what will come of anything you manage to record in some way.

    Also, glad for more frequent posts from you!

  5. Just found your blog and am loving it. This one jumped out at me. I just finished my second novel (second in a series) and am publishing it along with the first in a couple of months. Your words described perfectly how I felt in the several long years it took me to write these two books while raising three small children. The fear. The despair. The plot-points resolving at the strangest times. Now I'm cycling through all those things again as I edit. It's a ride, for sure. Nice to meet someone else who is on it...and handling it so gracefully, too.