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.