I seem to have a great degree of restlessness as of late, which no amount of introspection seems to help decipher. My drift from the world of employment to corporate masters is nearly nine months old now, but that seems to have placed me not in a new place in life but in some purgatorial middle ground.
It is as if the expectation in the back of my mind has always been drifting from corporate writer to novelist with some vague intermission, only recently coming to the conclusion that act two may be further off and no one is even remotely flashing the lights in the lobby to queue its start.
The structure of writing, that actual lustful creating, was intoxicating, and its results still amuse me. I am still amazed the degree to which I like the end result. But it has been equally difficult to find such a groove for the editing. There seems to be no easy "write 2,000 words" edict to guide me, something to nail myself down and know when I have worked sufficiently for the day. There is also too much day in general.
Part of the issue seems to be the ways I approach editing as opposed to writing. Writing occurred the instant the shackles of sleep were discarded, in that hazy drift between dreaming and waking. Editing requires better use of my faculties, hence it must occur later, and it is always dangerous for procrastination to be inherent in any procedure of mine. The day becomes a series of doing "just one more thing" before the work of editing and, before you know it, sleep has occurred again, and the cycle repeats.
I think I need the confines of a deadline of sorts, such as the way I would use the lure of writing all 2,000 words before the first matinee of a movie to push me into the belly of the beast faster. I have generally been rising around 8 a.m. and going to bed after midnight, and somehow finding everything else in the world to do but the whole reason I am supposed to be home and without a job and income.
On some level, it has been deliberate. I pay great attention to my mood and regulate whether I will work on the book as a result. I think the mental state of the writer ends up on the page, and I want to refrain from poisoning something that already has a joyous spirit. The past few days, I worked on the book to great delight, but the mood didn’t favor me today.
I think one of the things that has to occur is to rid myself of the notion of the intermission. That I am in some middle ground between corporate slave and published author. It is restrictive, reductive, and ultimately binding in a way that has no positive outcome.
I have been applying for work again, all waiter and bartender sorts of jobs. I think it will help focus my mind as well as stop the all-out bleeding of my savings. Knowing I had a shift starting in five hours would add some gravitas to working on the novel. As I am finding with many things, I work best navigating through rules and restrictions. I have dropped out of two yoga programs in the past three months because they were too random, and I wanted a structured program that would lead to a budding practice as opposed to a regular class bill.
A lot of my delays are psychological, to be sure. I have been holding at 10-12 pounds from my goal for a few weeks now. This rewrite is the last step before some people around me will get to read my book. In many ways, I am close to crossing over into a new life of which I am apprehensive. It seems there was safety in anesthetized slumber, and there are still reluctant parts of me kicking and screaming to not have to die. Both they and I know that their death and my new life are inevitable, but the tug-of-war continues.
And so it goes, a good week of measured, focused dieting is followed by a day of insane binging for no reason, with me watching more than participating as it devolves (although, in its amusing way, being all of the excess eating is all just overindulgence of low-fat vegan food, not a Haagez Daas run). And the book seemingly requiring a joyous mental foundation for it to happen, and my letting everything else in my life blow up into over-examined focus that precludes that mood from taking root as easily as it otherwise might.
It is weird having to push through self-sabotage when, on the surface, I can imagine nothing more than wanting to achieve all of my goals, and being ecstatic at seeing them come closer.
Of course, the worst thing that could happen is if I get too good at altering my mental state. There is definitely something to be said about my having some little extra neurosis that makes me push through and quit making $90+K a year, and focus on a dying art form, for some murky undefined reasons. And, if the books all become therapy, there is the risk that the writing eventually becomes too unburdened, as the author sorts out all his or her issues.
It is always amusing when people tell me they are planning to work on their novels at some point, too. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be the same way. But, at some point, I crossed a line and it was no longer some vanity project, and seeing my name on the spine of a book, and being able to tell people I was an author. (Hell, if I get hired somewhere where I don’t know anyone in advance, I actually don’t plan to even mention I write). But now, it is so much more. There is also a middle state for the book where it became something to prove, to friends, family, former coworkers, as though there needed to be some big "See, I toldja so" after radically changing my life to do this.
But anymore, it is about text. How to take jumbles of words and shape an experience that will justify someone’s time investment reading this book. I am very conscious of the notion of an audience. I’m not writing a journal. I am writing a heartfelt, painful, wry, satirical story that cuts me too deep, exposes me too much, because that is the only way I can think to make it real. The more I stay on the surface of things, the more it is about no one. The more I dig into myself, my experience, my fears, and anything else I can squeeze onto the page, it can more easily resonate with a larger group of people. It is almost like a sacrificial purging and, in many ways, the chapter I’m closing in my life at present does dovetail with the issues in the book.
I almost wish I had more going on in my life to take the focus off of the book. Aside from that and the weight loss, I’m pretty much a blank slate aside from opinions on movies. I read an interview recently with Michael Pitt, who plays the Cobainesque star of the new Gus Van Sant movie, and in the piece, they interviewed one of his friends in New York City who never knew he was an actor until they saw him on TV one night. And this was after hanging out with him for a while. It sounded beautiful.
The notion of having a public life and something you disappeared into for yourself was intriguing. Without that, it is people asking me how the book is going, when this draft will be done, do I have an agent yet, any publisher lined up. And everyone means well, they do. But usually, when I’m out having conversations and such with people, that is one of the few times the book gets put on the backburner and isn’t my front-of-mind task, so the longer is stays there, the better. Of course, I will never say any of this. I answer all inquiries, because they are all asked with general interest and love, and I’m not really giving people anything else to work with conversation-wise.
But, as I was saying before, other people keep telling me they are going to work on their novels soon, as well. And, I can’t help but wonder whether they will. The person telling me that is either going to radically change or write something useless, and surface, and nothing that plumbs the depth of human experience. The desire to write a novel is just a seed, not a goal. If you plant it, and let it grow, it will take over. I think letting it take over is a good thing. It isn’t a pretty Bonsai tree. It is messy, shades parts of your life that rathered the sun, and grows at its own pace, uprooting anything else it needs to grow. Of course, if you really intend to write a book, planting the seed isn’t an option, just an eventuality. Just be prepared.
In a recent book outlining "78 Reasons Why Your Book Will Never be Published, and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might," which I read with abandon, as you might expect, the author says successful authors need a delicate balance between ego and insecurity to thrive. Too much ego, the book will suck. Too much insecurity, the book never gets finished. The balance also lends itself to the quality of the resulting book.
I know I have both, but I certainly hope the mix is right.