Writerlust

writerlust

Silk’s Post #71 — For a writer, nothing beats the feeling you get when you start on a new story. To riff on Paula’s great post last week, “Serial monogamy”, it’s like the rush of falling in love.

I call it Writerlust.

You’re vibrating inside with the thrill of possibility. Your endorphins kick in. You’re filled with energy and purpose. Ideas bubble up out of nowhere, and bits of dialogue play in your head. The world looks a little brighter. You feel a little smarter, a little cooler, a little more adventuresome, a little more confident. You wake up in the morning excited about spending the day with your hot, new muse. You hit the keyboard before the coffeemaker has even finished gurgling.

doris-dayI’m feeling the love right now. I had a chance to discuss my new book concept with my 5writer colleagues last week, and got a pretty strong thumbs-up. At least that’s how I heard it, because, in the immortal words of Doris Day, “Everybody Loves a Lover.” When you’re in Writerlust, your infatuation is contagious and everything sounds like an endorsement.

But I’ve been hurt before.

I’m no Romantic Advice columnist, but I’ve decided I should give myself a little talking-to. Just, you know, in case things don’t totally work out the way I hope. Just on the off chance that I actually cannot write my amazing new story in a month-long gush of boundless creativity, skimming across the surface of the Saggy Middle Swamp on magical writer’s feet towards an orgasmic climax that no agent or publisher will be able to resist. In one draft.

So … Notes to Self:

Enjoy your euphoria right now. Don’t let anything bring you down to Earth too soon – stuff like preparing your tax returns, or cleaning anything that’s been let go for a couple of years, or trying to fix the first draft mess of your last unpublished book, or making your first attempt at serving a turducken to dinner guests. Remember, euphoria is ephemeral (see how good you’re getting with those esoteric “e” words?).

hotel new hampshireTake this opportunity to become obsessed. You will need to survive the many dangers and deprivations of your writing journey on the fading memory of these fleeting feelings of Writerlust. So right now, while you’re thirsty to write, drink the Kool-Aid and commit yourself totally to the story you’re in love with. Take the sage advice of the madly successful writer John Irving in Hotel New Hampshire: “You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.”

Inoculate yourself against perfectionism. Okay, right now your book is perfect. That’s because you haven’t written it yet. It’s just a sexy mirage in your head. One morning, when you have 25,000 words on the page, you’ll wake up and look at your darling story and see what’s really lying there beside you in bed: something far less than perfect. It may snore. It may have bad breath. Or missing teeth. It may have packed on the weight in all the wrong places. You may wonder what you were thinking, bringing this thing home with you. But if you’ve inoculated yourself with the anti-perfectionism serum, everything will be okay. You’ll give your story a knowing look – full of love and sympathy – and get back to work, confident that you can get it in shape at rewrite time. A great story always cleans up nice.

Put on your chastity belt. While you’re living with the story you’ve said “I do” to, keep your roving eyes on the straight and narrow. No flirting with other new stories. No tearful calls to your old bookfriend in the middle of the night – the one abandoned in the bottom drawer that’s looking better and better compared to the new story you’re struggling with. No giving-in to aching desire when you read your favourite writer’s newest book and realize it’s better – way better – than the story you’re deeply involved with. Buckle up and be true to your sweetheart.

Remember that you can’t hurry love. Who could forget the sage words Mama said, as immortalized by The Supremes:

can't-hurry-love

You can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don’t come easy
It’s a game of give and take

When you’ve been living with this story that you’re marrying for months and months … and you just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel … and all your writer friends are already working on their query letters … and there are moths fluttering out of your file of agents who told you to send them a chapter (but not until the book is really, truly finished and it’s the best it can possibly be) … and on bad days you wonder why you ever fell in Writerlust with this story in the first place … well, just sing yourself this song. Don’t try to jump into bed with the first passing agent and allow yourself to suffer from premature evaluation.

Wise words to be sure. I will likely forget it all as my life with this new story stretches from days into weeks, and weeks into months … as my Writerlust heat cools and I encounter the tepid ennui of writer’s fatigue, and the cold sweats of writer’s block. So it’s a good thing I wrote it all down. Now I just have to remember take my own advice.

Writing a novel involves a long-term, committed relationship, not a one-night stand. It demands a huge chunk of your life, and there are times when every writer wonders whether it’s really worth the time, effort and angst.

The gurus advise us: Write what you really care about. I’d add: Follow your Writerlust. Make sure you’re all-in with both your head and your heart before you start.

fire-in-fictionThis goes beyond craft and technique. When agent/lecturer Don Maass titled his great 2009 book The Fire in Fictionhe didn’t just mean the fire on the page, he meant the fire inside the writer. I think that only a wild passion for your story at the outset will sustain you through 400 hard-won pages of writing that is capable of captivating a reader.

At least I hope so, because I’m deep in the embrace of a story I love and I’m going for it.

9 thoughts on “Writerlust

  1. I can feel your excitement! So if (not when) you hit the doldrums, just come back and read your own post. It got *me* excited for you! Oh and I loved ‘premature evaluation’. Chuckle.

    • Thanks Alison! My first book (that’s the one sitting in the bottom drawer right now) was very close to my heart, but I was totally lost when it came to story structure. (I’ll get back to it one day for sure.) But this is the first story I’ve started where I not only have strong feelings about the theme, but I also have a clear idea about story and structure. It’s the first time I feel like I’m writing something, well, significant. We shall see!

      • So maybe the other book was just a ‘starter’ book. like a ‘starter’ marriage so many of us have had. This time you and the book will figure out together how to work through the rocky times. 🙂

  2. Go for it Silk. Your story premise is awesome ( great to have insider info) and I’m holding you to keep you head on straight when agents rush forth and you don’t succumb to premature evaluation!

    • Thanks Karalee — yeah, with my lust theme I couldn’t resist a little word play and premature evaluation just sort of popped out, so to speak.

  3. Silk, I feel with conviction that this is the one. I have no idea how you got the inspiration for the plot, but I can’t imagine any agent or publisher turning this down. A killer plot (literal and real) written in your signature deft hand. You’ve come a long way, baby!

    • Helga, thanks for your constant support! This will be a challenge to write, but I will definitely give it my best. The whole point of our “outline challenge” was, I think, to find a way to plan our way through a whole book before starting to write. While I haven’t outlined (and don’t plan to), the challenge did force me to at least think through a complete plot and character arc, and that’s why I feel on more solid ground than with previous attempts. I know where I’m going … but I still have the chance to choose my route (and side trips) organically as I write. Hopefully, for me, this is a good balance of discipline and creative freedom. We’ll see!

  4. In regard to your 5 notes to self:
    Did you realize that, if you recaption #3 as “don’t let your attentions wander” (more accurate than the chastity belt metaphor), it reads very much like advice you’d give to newlyweds about how to make it through the one haul? I guess it’s scary, because writing a novel takes that kind of commitment. 😳

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