Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Writing in pieces and job history

Usually, when I write my novels, I write from the beginning to the end, but lately, I have begun writing in pieces. When I was 1/4 through Breathe, I felt so stuck I was hyperventilating just looking at the pages, but I kept hearing the voice of this new character in my head, so I wrote his scenes, which come at the very end of the novel. The coda to Breathe came early, too, and I wrote that one in a fever state. At the time, I had no idea what it was, or where these sections might fit in. But somewhere, around the 4th draft, I began to realize what those pieces meant, and the novel suddenly began to stretch its legs and ..well, breathe.

With this new novel (I still do not have the title I want), I'm also moving about. I thought this process might make me crazy, but it is ridiculously liberating. I like having all these mysterious puzzle pieces floating up to the surface. Sooner or later, I'm going to know just how they will all fit together. The best thing about this process is because I have done it this way before, I don't have all the angst about whether or not it will work. I'm just going to trust.

I was thinking how much I adore what I do with a passion, and feeling guilty about not working harder yesterday when a friend reminded me of how little work gets done at 9 to 5 jobs. Maybe it is different now, because of the economy, but I do remember how at my video company job, I would spend the first hour discussing my personal life with the art director sharing the office, then I'd do a little writing about movies, then we would take off three hours to go SEE a movie (paid for by the company), then we would have lunch, then talk more about our personal life, and then do..oh, about an hour of work. (Bruce is back and better than ever in the high octane thriller, Die Hard 14)

When I worked as a fashion writer for Macy's (this is very funny, considering I wear mostly black and I live in jeans and sneakers), most of my day was taken up with meetings. The buyers would come in with $5,000 dresses or blouses that sometimes I could talk them into letting me try on, and they would always raise their brows at my attire and my complicated earrings, but mostly we talked. While I wrote about expensive dresses, I often cut out photos of rings from the catalogs and wrapped them around my finger for my own amusement. I made up copy for friends' clothing to make them laugh (Sheared Genius! Corduroy goes to great lengths to make a new statement.) I hung out and in the down time, I worked on my novel and no one complained.

I was full-time freelance at Macy's and they loved me. I was full-time staff at the video company and they made my life a living hell. I was told never to tell anyone I was a novelist because they would know I was thinking about plot rather than selling videos. I was told my desk was too messy. I was told not to use titles like "stallion stories" because no one would know a stallion was a horse. I was told to "walk the halls" and ask everyone in marketing how their weekend was because I was perceived as not being a team player.

Well, that company is no longer. And I'm on my own team now.


Jeff Lyons said...


Great post. I envy you your process. I am so stifled by my own controlled and controlling writing that I am suffocating. I long to find the courage you have to just ... write.

I know, I know... just do it. Alas...


Caroline Leavitt said...

Oh cookie, I think I need to yell at you-- I'm still coming up from under but I will get to it. You gotta be fearless and give up control (except for the desire line--the want vs. need thing). Control shouldn't be an issue until the 6th draft or so!