So, Friday has rolled around again. Even though my life has changed completely over recent weeks, and I no longer have the same ‘working week’ that I used to have, my body is having a hard time keeping up with my brain; I am exhausted today. As well as that, though, I’m starting to wonder whether I’ve been a bit too enthusiastic, a little too early in play, about my new project – i.e. The Novel. I’ve managed to deplete my energy levels to the point where thinking is painful.
I have written nearly 40,000 words. My desk is covered in scribbled post-it notes. I have one full notebook and one partially full one glaring at me, accusing me of being a bad plotter. I have a print-out of my work to date covered in various colours of felt-tip pen (Revision 1 – purple; Revision 2-red; Revision 3-green). How do other people do this? I’m hoping that it’s a case of ‘learning on the job’, and that as time goes by it will get easier. I don’t find motivation a problem, but I do find getting past the fear a bit difficult – and, by ‘the fear’ I don’t even mean ‘will I succeed? Will anyone besides me ever read this? Can I do this?’, but I mean ‘am I doing this the right way? Does everyone feel like this at the beginning? Am I making stupid mistakes, that if I had a bit more common sense, I could avoid?’ However, I’ve lived enough at this point, and I’ve done enough long writing projects, to realise that peaks and troughs are inevitable, and I hope that experience will see me through.
It’s exciting at the beginning of a project like this, when your faith in your Big Idea is burnished and bright, and you start writing with all the enthusiasm of a small child faced with a colouring book. Then, the longer you scratch away at the idea, almost without you noticing, its sheen starts to dull. What seemed clever during the planning phase now seems silly, and you realise that no matter how detailed your plotting, you start running into difficulties when you factor in your characters, who bring to bear on your story their thought processes, personalities, aspirations, and all the rest of it. Characters – goshdarnit – they complicate things, with their quirks and their individuality, and your sudden realisations that ‘hang on, there’s no way that character would say/do something like that.’ I’ve done everything I was supposed to do and I’m still finding the process, right now, akin to being locked in a box. The biggest challenge, at the moment, is not in putting one word behind another, but in trying to keep the panic at bay.
But, as I said – it’s Friday. This weekend, I hope I’ll have a chance to replenish my energy levels, and come back to my work with renewed optimism. I hope that by keeping my faith in my idea alive (and remembering to take a rest, now and then) that I’ll manage to work myself through these thorny patches and come out the other side, bloodied and torn, but – hopefully – clutching the finished product.
And, of course, I hope your weekend is a time of relaxation for you, too. I know I can get very careless about allowing myself time to recuperate and recover, so I hope you’re cleverer than me, and that you’re going to make the most of your down-time. Have a good one, y’all.