Here’s the thing. Why is it that whenever I start a new book I suddenly feel like a failure, like the worst writer in the world. That there is absolutely no way I can write another book. It’s crazy. I know there are stories inside of me, but there is just something extremely difficult about beginning a new project. It’s like my ideas are encased in some impenetrable fortress that I can’t break into. I get cranky and sullen and want to spend the day playing video games instead. But yet, like the call of the siren I am lured back to the keyboard or the yellow legal pad and a brand new Dixon Ticonderoga number two pencil and the urge to put words on paper or on screen rushes back with all the energy of a . . . bet you thought I was going to say a locomotive or tornado, no, like a slug. I sit and I wait for something to pop out of my brain and onto the page—something brilliant, something that will make people say, “WOW.” But no, I sit in silence, waiting for my muse, who for me is an odd little man in a three piece suit who smokes cigars and hurls insults at me, to show up and inspire me. This is not a great way to make a living.
But eventually, a thought ambles by like little foxes from a bramble bush and then another and then another and I do my best to grab them, wrestle them to he ground and make the ethereal concrete. This is when I spend most of my time lingering in that strange world somewhere between the imagination and the literal. It’s not always a happy place. This, I suppose is why so many writers turn to alcohol or insanity.
The funny thing is that I think my ideas are good ones. I play with them a while and then, quicker than they came, the ideas burst like balloons and fall flat to the ground and I have to start over. Or, I have two or three notions that I want to develop. Three very different ideas and I can’t decide which one to work on. This is where I am right now. I mean how do you decide? In my mind can set the ideas out there and see if one or the other or the other rises to the top but there must come a time when I say, “Enough. I choose you.” The trick is in staying committed until the writing is done. Writing that first exploratory draft where I search for a voice, character, plot, all that stuff that goes into making a novel. It’s hard. Characters come easy—most of the time—story takes a little longer and plot—well plot can take forever or so it seems.
So why do I do it? Why do I torture myself this way? Writing is like being adrift on the ocean sometimes, hoping and waiting for the next wave of words to ride you safely to shore. I do this because frankly it’s the only thing I do that when I’m doing it I don’t feel like I should be doing something else. So I will sit with my cranky, corpulent, old, muse and watch the smoke from his cigar swirl around and wait for it to swirl itself into an idea I can use. Writing is waiting sometimes. It’s hard.