Yesterday I was brooding for much of the day. It was the last day of a long weekend (Lebanon was on holiday for Eid Al Adha), and the fourth day in a row that I hadn’t written, and the internal pressure had really revved up. My story has been running all over the place like a capricious teenager, and I have been sitting and wondering how to pull it back on course, and asking it what it wants to be, and panicking over the self-inflicted deadline that will probably arrive before the plot reconfigures itself into a more promising shape. It’s been a bit paralyzing, honestly.
C suggested we go out last night to break up the schedule, and so we went to catch dinner and a movie. I reluctantly updated him on where the plot had veered off course, and it was hugely relieving to be able to think it through out loud and realize that there might just be a way forward.
Today I have to begin gutting much of what I’ve worked on and finding out what the essence of the story is and working from there, which feels both terrifying and exciting. Heavy on the terrifying. I am trying to force myself to take it slowly and sit in the ideation phase for as much time as I need without scurrying right into execution and finding that I have to scratch half of what I’ve written and redirect. What is the balance between the time spent mapping out the book and the time spent writing it? For me, the ideas are sluggish but the writing is quick. It’s probably different for everyone, but I’d love a good formula. So far, this story has taken me by surprise at almost every turn. It’s been fun, but I am exhausted from chasing it around, and I’d really like to return to the driver’s seat and decide where we’re going before we set out.
With that in mind, I am giving myself a week to let the story percolate. It feels extravagant and wasteful, but I have never tried it before and I am simply not ready to move forward until I have something stolid and dependable that will not run away from me the minute I let it out onto the page.
Wish me luck.
In the meantime, here’s what Walt Whitman has to say about it:
“I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess.”
― Walt Whitman,
And Amy Poehler:
“You just lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. This is what I know.” –Yes Please
And Steve Jobs:
“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”
― Steve Jobs