I may have lost the zest for this story-maybe-book. I open the document and, a mere 96 pages in, I feel unmotivated…and I wonder…am I done?
The urgency, or something, I felt when I started this has dissipated. And I find myself questioning, why waste words and time on something I don’t feel the urgency to tell? And since I know it was once there, where did it go? Can I blame it simply on writing being crowded out?
No, because I have written five short stories in the past four weeks, four of which were submissions for this online writing course I’m taking; another piece, more flash than story, in the past week or so, was a response to a writing prompt. In the introduction to that response I spoke about writing something else when you’re stuck on the thing you’re writing.
This time though, the other writing is not flowing over in to any of my works in progress – including the one that’s the subject of this post. They all called to me at the time I started them and at times since (one I workshopped pretty enthusiastically when I was at the Callaloo writers workshop in Rhode Island but that’s been a few years now). I know well, from experience, that you don’t write only when things call to you; you sit down and do the work, period. And that’s why I make myself open at least one of these WIPs every day and sit with it even though sometimes all I’m doing is shifting stuff around. I must say lately I’m not taking them around with me – when I’m driving or riding the bus or walking – like I do when the characters are still alive in there. I hope they’re not dead.
I have a feeling a change of scenery would do the writing good. In a sense, that’s what the course – an online writing course with participants from all over the world, sitting through lectures, doing readings, participating in discussions, writing, reading and critiquing each others work – is; a virtual change of scenery. I check in every day, I do the work, and it’s one of my favorite parts of each day. It ends soon.
I tell myself I wish I had the luxury of time and money to get away for a while, with nothing but any of these WIPs to draw my attention. I fear I am just making excuses, though. None of the books I’ve written were written in such spaces – except maybe The Boy from Willow Bend which I started while at the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute at University of Miami;, and, well, I remember returning invigorated from Breadloaf in Vermont and picking up Oh Gad! for what would be its final redrafting before re-submitting to one of the two agents who’d expressed interest in reading it; plus, I wrote With Grace the summer I facilitated the first Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing project and I snuck it in among the other pieces they were reading (keeping the author anonymous) just to get some honest feedback from young people – I didn’t even know it would be a book then. But really, every book – The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace, which is forthcoming – was written sometime between work and sleep, and having a life.
So, I know I can write in noise and chaos and with the absence of time.
In each of those instances, meeting the page was a joy. No that’s not true, I’m doing that thing that mothers do post labor where they block out the excruciatingly painful parts of the birthing experience, because for all the times that the writing flew, there was a time with each of those manuscripts, except maybe Musical Youth, when I hit a hump, sometimes a few of them, that I had to climb over. There are unfinished stories aplenty which remind me that I don’t always get over that hump. Is this one of those times?
Too early to call. (too soon?)
Honestly, though, I’m writing through it, but since I’m all about sharing the ups and downs of the writing life here, it’s worth sharing that sometimes the writing isn’t so much blocked as sluggish. As for how this turns out, the rest is still unwritten.
How’s your writing going?