My therapist says feelings aren’t wrong. Actions can be, but not feelings. My therapist allows me to email her. Yes, I’m very lucky to have her, and no. You can’t have her name. I’m a little possessive of her time.
Writing my thoughts is good for me, she says. I agree. And it’s not just about the delete button, either. Fiction is like Catholic confession, or, what I imagine it to be, not being a Catholic. There’s a priest in the dark. I’m in the dark. There’s a wall (thank God) between us, and a teeny little window through which he can see my eyelashes. I’m telling him things, but he doesn’t know who I am, so big deal, right? I get the story off my chest. He gives me homework. I leave unburdened. And blissfully unknown. I’m X.
Lately I’ve had that-thing-we’re-not-going-to-call-writer’s-block. Oh, I’ve been huddled in my lovely cave, working. I dutifully put my butt in the chair at 7AM every morning. I open my WIP file. I put words on the page. I read my words. I get confused. If my brain could be diagrammed, it would look like the Gordian knot. Or a plate of week-old haggus. I have 51K words in my full working draft and 17,686 (but who’s counting?) words in my cut scenes file. Does the number of cut words depress me? A little. Apparently, I’ve gotten a bit zealous about killing my darlings. Being a horror writer, that shouldn’t surprise anyone, least of all me.
What bums me out is the “waste” of time those words represent. I know. I know. No time spent writing is truly wasted. Maybe I can use them somewhere else. Maybe they got me where I needed to be, that without them I wouldn’t have the 50 K perfect (haha) words I have.
I think what I’m experiencing is a desire to be moving forward in this story and I don’t know how. I keep trying new outlines, new ways of fitting the whole narrative in my head. No matter what I do, my head is too small to hold everything. Anne Lamott* described it like trying to keep the arms of an octopus tucked into your own shaky arms. We’re all beauty queens holding our octopus babies, their little floppy, overlong tentacles slipping out and writhing, throwing us off balance and generally giving off a sadistic, Medusa vibe when what we were going for was Miss America and-she-keeps-a-solid-house, too. Throws the best parties. Have you seen her Pinterest page?
Yeah, so I’m back at it this morning, but I decided first, to let go on this space. A spontaneous writing warm-up. I LOVE reading fiction. Writing it is much harder. I used to think it was just stringing gramatically-correct, slightly poetic sentences together. Dang. Adulting seems always to be about facing a new, inconvenient truth. Sometimes my children remind me of this when they learn one. “You mean I have to pay X hundred in taxes for this car, on top of the (oh-my-gosh-it’s-so-high) price? And it doesn’t even have leather seats or automatic recline. That sort of minimalism shouldn’t be taxed,” says my son.
Yep, kid, I tell him, and nobody really cares about you, either. Except for your dad and me and a handful of other souls, everyone is out for their pound of flesh. The sooner you realize that, the better.
What a cynic I am. Every time I write, I devolve into this headspace where the world is not my oyster, unless the oyster is a colossal, man-eating one who thrusts out his muscle-tongue and gobbles me up. Slurp. My troubles are over. If the oyster would
It is at this point my teenage son, coming home from his 6 AM swim practice, was locked out of the house and needed a hand. Train of thought: derailed. Probably for the best. What I learned from this little freewriting moment is that my bent is toward oyster-monsters who will come for me and eat me if I don’t see them coming and shoot them first. This is what makes me a horror writer. I can always, always see something terrible, just around the corner. Even if it’s just sales tax.
I’m going to go now and look around the corner for the next thousand words I need to write. I feel encouraged for having written down my mind in this moment. By the time you read this, I’ll probably have slayed my oyster.
*Actually, what Anne Lamott said about octopi is this: Getting all your addictions under control is like trying to put an octopus to bed.
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott is one of my favorite books on the writing life.