The Writing Life – Starting Over


This is the part I hate.
I’ve just finished a project, it’s polished and as perfect as I can make it. I can read it over and say “Ooo, that’s good.” If I find a place that needs tweaking, I can fill in a paragraph, or even a page or whole scene at light speed, because I have such a strong sense of the work as a whole (not because of any miracle of skill, but just because I’ve been living with the thing for anywhere from a month to a year). Then, I run the final spell check, make sure I’ve spelled the editor’s name right on the cover letter/e-mail, and off it goes.
Then I tidy up my desk, put the research books on the shelf, maybe catch up on some long overdue housework.
And then the next day comes, and I have to start over. A new idea, a new project, a blank screen.
Suddenly, everything goes from almost intuitive ease to a slog. No matter how well I’ve outlined (if I’ve outlined at all), there’s this huge blank in my brain about these people and this world that’s got to be filled in one slow word at a time.
Not only that, but those slow words are klunky. Every time. I go from being able to turn a pretty good phrase, set a good scene to barely being able to put two words together, never mind put two paragraphs together. It’s that blank. A finished project has a solid support structure to hang things on. A new story, those first words, which will probably be thrown out (a reality that does not make putting them on the page any easier, let me tell you), they ARE the support structure; the first nuts and bolts for a scaffolding on which a whole world will be built.
But I think what’s worst is the uncertainty. No matter how many times I do it (and I’ve done it a lot), going from that feeling of knowing EXACTLY what I’m doing and where I’m standing to the middle of the unknown and having to find my way out.
So I fumble, and I procrastinate and I whine. My house is never cleaner than when I’m starting a new project. But I still sit at the computer every day (okay, okay ALMOST every day) and I type out those shaky words, and tighten them up, and rearrange them, and add onto them, or cut them away, slowly and painfully. Because that’s the only way to build the world and find out where I am.