What I've Got

What I've Got

March 19, 2014

I’ve been in a writing rut. I don’t know where I’m going next and that scares me. I dare to click on the Current Writing folder on my desktop.  Here’s what I’ve got.

1. A sci-fi story I started over a year ago. The first half is completed and painstakingly revised; it surprises me with its fluidity and macabre ambiance and vivid characterizations. I like it.

But I have absolutely no idea how to finish it.

I’ve taken notes, done character sketches, read for inspiration, taken more notes, attacked it head-on, reread the opening to see if any direction would suggest itself, and taken more notes.

But I have absolutely no idea how to finish it.

2. A sequence of found poems based on my readings of local history, especially the Biographical and Historical Record of Jay and Blackford Counties, Indiana (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1887). A nearby library had scanned it, so I could read this fascinating combination of the chronicles of ordinary people, history of the Midwest, and ethnocentric /racist Manifest Destiny propaganda.

Some of the sentences are laborious and contrived; others are stunningly beautiful—thus, the idiosyncratic energy and strangeness irresistible for found poetry.

I envisioned a dozen poems. I wrote three. One is pretty good.

I reread passages, mined them somewhat desperately, looked for other sources, looked up the hours of the Blackford County Historical Society (Sundays from 2-4 PM) which happens to be on my street and which, I’m told, houses an abundance of gems for those with eyes to see. And yet every Sunday something else comes up. Bottom line: I have yet to make it to this place I imagined could save my writing year.

3. A children’s book I started a few years ago, and for which I have thirty or so pages of handwritten notes and several scenes, including a great opener.

I have absolutely no interest in the story anymore. I don’t know why I did then or why I don’t now.

4. A scene from a part-epistolary Young Adult novel with a female protagonist.

I have absolutely no interest in the story anymore. I don’t know why I did then or why I don’t now.

5. The Big Novel. Well, a killer title, a few notes, and the very beginning of the opening scene of The Big Novel. The one I do want to write, if not right now. The one that will tip its hat to my heroes and the canonical names fit to provide the emotional and intellectual oeuvre for such a Big Novel. The Big Novel, of course, will deliver the fullest and richest articulation of my go-to themes through fresh and vivid language and the profound, organic unfolding of an unforgettable story.

This book, it probably goes without saying, scares the hell out of me. I can’t begin to muster the courage to work on it. It’s too Big. It’s too Profound. I’m not up to it. At least not yet. At least not right here, right now, and that’s the crux.

So that’s what I’ve got—and it ain’t much.

Yet, tomorrow, I will write.

I have no idea what I’ll write. But I found five things that I won’t write. And there is something else I’ve got, a sixth thing in my possession: plenty of blank paper. So I will try to get out of my way and write the words that come. You should, too. Ora et labora. Amen.


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