Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Writing Jones

My name is Libby Hellmann, and I’m an addict.

There. I've admitted it. After years of denial, I can’t evade, lie, or talk my way out of it any longer. Nor can I get away with being “just a little bit addicted.” I’m one of the people I've always pitied. I have the writing jones.

The discovery was painful. And recent. Just the other day, in fact. See, I never subscribed to the theory that people could be addicted to writing. I thought those who claimed to be were pretentious and showy. Which, of course, couldn’t be me. I hate to write. It's the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. When it comes to my daily page count, I am an expert procrastinator. (My latest diversion is Sudoku. I’m still on the easy level, but I’m getting better.) So how could I be addicted?

Then I came to the end of my current WIP. I began it last January, and throughout the year I focused on the end date. How great it was going to feel. How satisfying to actually complete a draft in less than a year -- I am not one of those two or three book a year geniuses. I promised myself a rowdy celebration. A mental vacation. Lots of socializing and partying and staying out late. ‘Tis the season and all that.

So I finished. And promptly went into a funk. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I started moping. Staying in bed. Hiding under the covers. Eating too much chocolate. I couldn’t figure out why. Then it came. For almost 12 months the WIP (as yet untitled) was the major focus of my life, requiring most of my intellectual energy. Now it’s over and it’s time to move on.

But to what? What comes next?

I should have known. I usually get restless when I’m within 50 pages of the end. I slow down and take my time. I used to think it was because I’m blocked, or that I needed extra time to pull together all the threads. But I now see I was fooling myself. I slow down because if I’m not writing something, what am I? Just an empty vessel filling air and space. I need to be writing -- all the time. I need to be vested in characters, settings, plots, twists. I need to write.

And here’s the kicker – or the really crazy part. I don’t even get high from the process. I usually come to the keyboard feeling scared or irritated or unequal to the task. Indeed, I want to shoot people who say words flow out of them like some swift running river. Who say once they get going, they can't stop. I can always stop. I start my writing day with half-baked thoughts tumbling around my brain and hope that one or two will make sense eight hours later.

Yet I keep coming back for more. Am I a masochist?
Addicted to pain and suffering? Please tell me I’m not. Please.

At any rate, the good news is that I brainstormed a short story (thank you Barb) the other day, and I’m ready to roll. It’s kind of a prequel to the novel I just finished. So I’m mining familiar territory.

And I have my fix.

All words of caution, wisdom, or empathy will be accepted.


JD Rhoades said...

All words of caution, wisdom, or empathy will be accepted.

Got no words to offer, baby, 'cause I've got the same monkey on my back. I hate it, and I love it, and I can't not do it.

Anonymous said...
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Brian Els said...

Don't forget to experience life and then put those experiences in your writing. Good memories will make the writing easier.

Mike Dennis said...

You're not a masochist, Libby. Nor are you addicted to pain and suffering. You're a writer. And it all goes with the territory. We all walk those same streets, and yes, even those who say words just flow out of them feel the same anxieties.

If it were easy...

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.