Last week I mentioned how I wanted to write unimportant, fanciful stories to distract myself. Recent events continued to bring me down on Friday evening, and having run out of other workable distractions, I sat before a blank word processing file and began an experiment with just two rules.
1. Write whatever the hell you want without worrying if anyone else would ever want to read it. (I repeated those first six words to myself loudly many times before I began.)
2. Trust that you’ve learned enough to do it well enough — no second guessing the basic structure if it feels right to you.
I was nervous. I began to tremble. Then words rained down onto the virtual paper. In torrents. At intervals, I broke into laughter. I wondered about that and remembered a comment I received last week saying that although I was writing about terrible frustrations, the way I expressed it had elements of humor. Maybe that’s an internal Schadenfreude at work, a need to rip the edge off the darkness by calling it out after hiding its pants. Comedians do that all the time. I’m no comedian, but my natural approach is peppered with humor. It’s a voice I’m comfortable with.
I gave myself the weekend to see what these new words wanted to be. They’ve decided to be a book. (An easier one than my science fiction/thriller/romance that will have to wait for life to let up on me so I can force its plot to make sense and remember all the persnickety details.)
I wrote the first chapter of this new project this weekend, approximately 4,821 words. Turns out it’s not fanciful or unimportant. It’s realistic. It’s a story for grown ups because my protagonist says what she wants to you, without a filter. I’m writing what I want, so it’s bending to my will, sometimes my subconscious will. What if … ? Where will …? How do … ? Why would … ? I have a lot of these answers for future chapters just floating around in the back of my mind, and since this first chapter has some really hard stuff in it that didn’t seem to hurt, I’ll bet that none of them hurt me to write. That’s a very interesting detail for me, especially concerning a much longer work.
I’ve read over what I’ve got so far, smoothed it some, done some editing and, overall, beginning this story has done what I wasn’t so sure it could do. It helped me feel a little better. Maybe because I followed the rules.
I’ve come down from the weekend’s high, not less excited about this story’s possibilities, but aware of the dangers of feeling good about something in a vacuum. A lot less sleep than I needed last night doesn’t help either, or the fact that my most trusted beta reader shouldn’t be reading this story. (Part of me wishes I hadn’t written a story she couldn’t read, even though it’s the one I had to write. I really need some reaction now.) I’ve also got that more pressing project to attend to for a while, but it’s nice to know I can escape to this new one if the walls close in a little too tight. Once my other project is completed, I can really let loose with this one, knowing that for the most part, it won’t give me a headache.
So finally, for anyone who might be curious: The story is about Summer who, at the moment, is twenty-four, stuck at her mother’s house with her new baby daughter, wanting to be a healthy family with her boyfriend and willing to do the work it takes to get the proverbial bats out of their belfry. She doesn’t get much cooperation from him, or guidance from the couples therapist they can afford, but she keeps trying. She tells her story, punctuating it with a sharp sense of the absurd that comes from a natural inclination to delve a little deeper, and with a sense of self on the verge of breaking free. A parenting misstep when her baby was very young, weighs on her as a reminder of her resolve. Although nothing awful happened, it caused a subtle but important shift in her thinking. It changed her focus, but not her voice. Summer tells you things she didn’t think she should say out loud when she first thought them. She’s not so sure about that now.