Saturday, October 19, 2013

The perils of writing from life ...

I'm writing a novel that's heavily based on two emotionally turbulent times in my life: my childhood and my college years. It doesn't bother me that the writing brings up powerful memories. I kind of like that, actually. I also love that the childhood parts make me feel closer to my daughter; they remind me of just how sentient she is at her age. 

But there's a problem.

I just can't judge the writing about the college years. Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows? Not me. 

My memories bring up such strong feelings that when I re-read my writing about them, I can't tell if the memories or the writing are triggering my responses. 

Even worse: the novel also imagines a situation in which the heroine meets her college boyfriend again, years later, in an unexpected way. It's all so real in my imagination--I mean, the potential that I actually could meet my real ex again in an unexpected way, something I never imagined before writing this book--that I get downright anxious reviewing my own work. And, again, I can't tell if the writing is genuinely suspenseful and intriguing, or if I'm just wigging out inside my own head and emotions. 

Even worse worse: I'm getting so anxious and heart-pumpy that I can't bring myself to actually write the pivotal reunion scene. I've written about five deferrals now: they see each other, but an actual conversation has been delayed, and deferred, and interrupted, and ... you see where this is going. Writing a story that hits so close to home has proven difficult, in short. 

This will be a challenge for the writing group, it seems. They have superpowers. They can help! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Staying accountable, and keeping the dream alive

It's been almost six months since my last post. In that time, I finished neither my academic book nor my novel. This leaves me with a series of questions.

Am I a failure? 
No, no, no. I refuse to believe this. A [wo]man's reach should exceed her grasp, and I've finished about 70% of that academic book and maybe 1/4 of the novel. If I hadn't set absurdly unrealistic goals to start with, I might be feeling great about this progress right now, instead of beating myself up about it. 

Will I ever finish? 
Yes, yes, yes. YES. Yes. 

Will I be setting additional arbitrary deadlines?
Well, I probably shouldn't. But, yes. I will. 

I want to get a manuscript for the academic book to the publisher by year's end ... let's say January 7th to be kind to myself, as that's the first day of the next academic session.

 And, I promised a full draft of the novel to my writing group by mid-December (um, year's end ... a very busy year's end).  

Sabbatical is over, so I'm doing all of this writing while teaching and serving on way too many infuriatingly inefficient committees. So, it's now more important than ever (!!) to remind myself: 

1. I GET to write. I don't HAVE to write. This is a gift. This is a choice. The books could be a legacy. This is all worth it. 

2. No [wo]man is an island. My writerly friends are such inspirations. They are trucking along toward their goals (articles, dissertations, novels, memoirs). We are all in this together. 

Back to the grindstone. Whoosh!