Mar 11, 2009

It's all in my head

On Saturday I finally got the chance to go to lunch with my friend, Jason. We met a number of times last year up until I got too pregnant to risk the drive to DeKalb by myself. We met at Portillo's, ate lunch, and chatted for a really long time (we could have sat there for a few more hours, but I think we would have been missed in our respective homes).

The drive takes me almost two hours to go from my driveway to the front door of Portillo's (the drive through campus and around town is what adds an additional 20 minutes). Anyone who has taken that drive on 88 knows how rural and gorgeous the scenery is - farmland for miles and miles. Nothingness, yet absolute beauty. I started the drive by listening to a book on CD. Listening to another person talking relaxes me, yet keeps me awake. The strange thing was that I found my thoughts drifting away from that story and toward another one - one that I had been trying to write for a long time. I've had various characters in place, yet they changed a bit here and there...nothing particularly clear. No one that I was growing close to. It was the same for the plot. I've gone back and forth on a couple of ideas, but I always ended up asking myself the same question: Who cares? Who is going to care what happens to this person? I wasn't even that curious. But all of a sudden, on this long drive to DeKalb, things started to become more clear.  This woman I wanted to write about (she still doesn't have a name) started to develop a face with distinct features. She started to develop a personality and motivation. Then I started to picture another person, and the same thing happened with him. I became curious about them. It was all swirling around in my head and for the first time in a while, I was excited about writing again. My story, the one I've struggled with for so long, started to take shape.

It all felt so different than before. I actually felt like I had a beginning, a middle, and an end to my story. These characters were not the ones I initially started out with, and the story is nothing like what I had envisioned about a year ago. This is what amazed me. Somehow, this drive through rural Iowa and Illinois sparked something in me (it also might have something to do with the bad country music that was on the radio - not much good music through those parts).

So here I am with what I think is a pretty good story floating around in my head. I've managed to go four whole days without losing interest in the story or the characters. In fact, I'm more interested in them than ever. I have jotted down some notes and some questions that I know need to be answered. I just need to carve out some time to do more. That's the only hard part...when do I do this?

In the past couple of years I've begun to question whether or not I really want to write. I say I do, but if I really wanted to, wouldn't I find the time to get it done? Now I'm starting to think that maybe it wasn't a question of want, but more an issue of not having the right story to tell...


Jason said...

Having the right story to tell makes all the difference. One of my friends in my class says, "If you're bored when you're writing, nobody else is going to want to read it, either." So you have to start with something that excites you.

And then you have to actually do something about it. This is really the hardest step because it involves conquering fear, which is no mean feat. You know the fear I'm talking about. Maybe "conquering" isn't the right word--it's more like accepting it and then ignoring it as best you can. Let it be there, but make it sit in the corner and pout while you click on the keyboard.

The fear never really goes away, either; it just changes--mine now is, "Will any of this prove I've been listening to all the criticism and can learn and grow as a writer, or will everybody read this and think, 'Why the hell is he still doing this after all this time?'" So I sit there trying to make every sentence perfect before it's written. It's a fool's mission, but there I sit anyway. And then eventually I get into a rhythm (this can sometimes take days), and I just write what I want to and figure that people will feel about it whatever they feel about it--what matters is if, after I've finished and let it sit for a few days, whether I think it's good (or at least workable).

Is there a limit to how long comments can be? 'Cause this is basically like a blog entry responding to your blog entry, except I don't have a blog.

Tracy said...

You need a blog :-)

Thanks for all of your support...and for listening to me at Portillo's...and for being as neurotic as I am about writing. Yay crazy writers!!!

Jason said...

I think "crazy writers" is redundant. The ones that look like they have it all together are just better actors than we are.

Chocolate cake shake.