Since Friday, I’ve been in Morro Bay, California, on our annual mother-daughter artist’s retreat, in which I try to write and Scarlett paints and draws. On the one hand, we’ve been having a great time. On the other hand, as I’ve noted in the past, going on a writer’s retreat doesn’t always result in getting everything done you hoped for.
The truth is, I’ve been struggling with the rewrite of my WIP that was indicated by my last bit of agent feedback. I know I have to revise again, but it’s the very last thing I want to do. I’d rather do anything, whether it’s walk on the beach, make sandwiches and tea, take a nap, or ride bikes across town, than revise. And now, thanks to using my best discipline, I’m on page 144 out of 320 pages and I’m sick of it.
Sick of it.
Sick of it.
This book is awful! I think to myself. Awful. What did I ever see in it?
I read Alexander Chee’s essay, 100 Things about Writing a Novel, and it helps. The novel wants to be written. It’s not a thing, it’s a character in your life. It’s like a lover you’ve had a fight with. It argues, it cajoles. It takes up more of your time than you wanted to give. It is an interloper, an interruption.
It will not be shut up. You have to finish it or you will not have any peace. You can go walk on the beach but that will not get it written any faster, it will just keep you from writing for the time you were on the beach.
Writer biographies I read talk about this: the taking of time you don’t want to take. The discipline to write when you don’t want to. Hemingway dealt with this, it’s why he said you should always stop somewhere when you know what happens next so that you can start again the next day.
Yet in the end Hemingway was brought to despair by writer’s block.
I write a poem about horses. I submit some shorts I wrote last year to literary magazines. I look at the novel itself. It rises like Morro Rock in front of me. I believe it can be finished. I must show up to the computer. I can do this.