It may come as no small surprise to you (sarcasm) that I am currently in the middle of writing my first novel. I have, in fact, been in the middle of it for nearly three years now. To make that time frame even more groan-worthy than it already is, I am disappointed to admit that I have not written a single word of it in over six months. In those six months, my sense of self as a writer has been tossed around more than a tennis shoe in the dryer. Now, with my newly forged determination to place a more focused attention on my writing it would make sense to start work on my book again. One problem: I’m really nervous about that.Surprisingly enough, my determination and desire to finish Mountain Division has not waned over time. But, more than once my full attention has been drawn towards other arenas leaving my manuscript to flounder in the shallows until I eventually come back to retrieve it. The current… let’s say hiatus… has been the most time I’ve ever spent away from my novel. It has been even longer since I have done some serious work on it. A lot has changed for me in that time and that has caused one giant question to loom over me:
Am I still capable of finishing this book?
At first glance, the answer is obviously yes. I am physically capable of sitting down at a desk and writing. In fact, I am doing it now! Man! Halfway there. (I tend to get sarcastic when talking about things that make me nervous or uncomfortable.) I mentioned above that I am still as motivated to finish the book as the day I started it but something keeps giving me pause. I fear that the original idea for the book was such a product of who I was at the time of its inception and I am no longer that person.
Two years of college and one year in the professional world goes a long way in a person’s development. I am proud to say that I have evolved from the person I was three years ago. I mean, I wasn’t bad or anything; just an immature college kid who didn’t know any better. In many ways, I think that the immature college kid who didn’t know any better was vital to the idea of my book. Mountain Division is a post-modern(ish) story of self-discovery during a time of severe trial and change. Seems pretty standard for a novel if I remember my literature classes correctly. Here’s the kicker though: that time of severe trial and change is the zombie apocalypse.
Now don’t laugh! I’m dead serious (no pun intended, dammit) about this. As a huge fan of both serious, thought-provoking literature and brain-munching zombies I really wanted to figure out a way to make them compatible. One may argue that in recent pop culture, that slow transition of what was once a cult-like cultural phenomena of film into serious creative material is, or has, already happened. The most obvious example of which would be the adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novel series into the hit AMC television show of the same name. I’ll let the fanboys and girls debate on the message boards the literary or cinematic merits of The Walking Dead. Regardless of what they decide, I am really determined to make something of merit out of the two.
Like I said though, it would take a still somewhat naive literature student who also had a zombie fascination to think that it could be done. While I still think it can be done, I tend to question whether or not I have the ability to see that come to fruition. Don’t get me wrong. Deep down I know that I am still enough of the same person at my core to write a kick-ass novel that has some actual literary merit (yeesh that sounds cocky). But, as any writer will tell you, self-sabotage is a bitch.
If idiotic and subconscious attempts at procrastination weren’t enough, there is the very real knowledge that I left off at the cusp of an emotionally trying portion of the story. I tend to throw myself emotionally into my writing. Sometimes, it seems, dangerously so. I have on more than one occasion sat weeping at my laptop having just finished writing a scene completely incapable of doing anything for the rest of the day. The knowledge of what needed to come next in my story was one of the big reasons I decided to step away for a little bit. A fatal flaw now that I look back. I should have definitely tried to keep up my momentum, but at the time it seemed like the right decision. Now however, more than six months into my week-long break, I stand once again on the precipice of an emotional trip through a cheese grater not really wanting to dive in head first. It is much easier to jump on WordPress and bust out some blogs.
Hemingway actually never said, “Write drunk, edit sober.”Eventually I will work up the cahones to do it. I feel like that time is rushing at me like a freight train. My only hope is to time it just right and hitch a ride rather than be mowed down by it. Ultimately, I think it might be best to lock myself in a cheap hotel room, raid the mini bar, and pull a Hemingway (write drunk, edit sober for those of you without knowledge of cliché literary quotes). That way I can devoid myself of any distractions while simultaneously sparing my fiancé the horrifying experience of walking in on me completely breaking down again and again and again in front of a blank Microsoft Word document.
The good news is that writing through this seemed to have resolved – at least partially – the quiet cacophony of self-doubt that had been plaguing me. I know that I think I can (if that makes sense) and now I just have to muster up the courage to jump feet-first into that emotional meat grinder.
Until next time,
P.S. Do any of you other writers struggle with becoming so emotionally engaged in your writing? If so, how do you muster up the hutzbah to make it through tough scenes? I’d love to hear your thoughts and techniques!
P.P.S I totally promise that the next couple posts will be more fun and upbeat!