In my better moments
I finally got up the courage on Sunday night. I poured myself a beer, sat down at the dining room table, and read through all of it. Afterward, I wanted to stab myself in the eye. But that didn’t seem like it would make the manuscript any better, so I went to bed.
I woke up at five the next morning. While I lay there in the dark, thinking about the injustice of being awake at such an hour on my day off, I remembered how rough and horrible my drafts were, and then I started thinking about that instead, and then I started sweating. I finally got out of bed at 6:45, put on my bathrobe, sat down at my desk, and started to write. My drafts are still rough and horrible, and they will be for a while, until I know what to do with them. But for as long as I sat at my desk, I felt better. When I’m writing, when my fingers are moving over the keys and words are marching across the screen, I don’t worry. Physically, I can’t worry; there’s no space for it in my head. I wish I could remember that more easily, so that I could choose to write first, rather than worry.
REMEMBER THAT, MOLLY.
Then again, I won’t really have to remember, because I’ll be sitting at that desk for the majority of my waking hours between now and March 1, when my manuscript is due. I’m terrified. And, in my better moments, excited.
When I’m writing a lot, I like to read about writing. It makes me feel less crazy. Lately, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s On Writing, which I think one of you may have recommended to me? In any case, this passage on page 153 nails it.
Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind – they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death. . . .
I used to tell interviewers that I wrote every day except for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and my birthday. That was a lie. I told them that because if you agree to an interview you have to say something, and it plays better if it’s something at least half-clever. Also, I didn’t want to sound like a workaholic dweeb (just a workaholic, I guess). The truth is that when I’m writing, I write every day, workaholic dweeb or not. That includes Christmas, the Fourth, and my birthday (at my age you try to ignore your goddam birthday anyway). And when I’m not working, I’m not working at all, although during those periods of full stop I usually feel at loose ends with myself and have trouble sleeping. For me, not working is the real work.
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