Sunday, January 3, 2010

Learning to live with discomfort

Ah, here it is again. 2000 words today and I feel as if I've lost control of my novel. I have no idea anymore what it is I want to say and it feels derivative, as if I am rewriting Pictures of You. The plot seems a shambles and there seems way too much work to do and not enough time to do it. What kind of a novel is this? Why doesn't it get easier with each new book?

I've written about this life-saving John Irving quote before (and no matter what you think of Irving, you'll love the quote, I bet). He says if you don't feel you are on the edge of humiliating yourself, if you don't feel you've lost control, then you aren't digging deep enough. You aren't putting enough blood on the page. You aren't risking enough, and if you aren't risking, why write? Somehow this quote is something I cling to. It gives me permission to make a mess, to write pages that I know I will throw out, to risk failure before I find any success.

For me, too, what I cling to is that one obsessive idea that began this novel--this one thing I have felt compelled to write about. I can't yet find the right shape for it, but in writing, I know I will. If I can just burrow down, write more, live with the anxiety, I know I can.


Jeff Lyons said...


I love this quote... it is a life saver. It does give permission to be totally lost. I'm in the same mess with my novel. Completely in chaos. But I know one day all the madness will make sense. I only have to look to you as an example... if you can do it with so many novels then clearly there is light at the end of the tunnel... or is it a train?

J :)

Kittie Howard said...

It's not a train, it's light...just that light sometimes blinds for a moment...and the moment can seem longer than it actually is....

Gina Sorell said...

I know you can too!! xo