I ran into Matt from my writing class at the Coffee Table yesterday.
“Hey, what’s going on?” he said.
“Oh, not much,” I said. Then after a long pause, it all came rushing out: “Actually, I started a new novel last week. I hadn’t planned to, but it had sort of been building up, I guess. I didn’t want to start anything until I knew for sure the other novel was finished. I had this plan to take a nice long break and maybe do a little research, but I don’t know, it just happened. And it’s fun.”
“And now you feel like you’re cheating on your other book?” Matt sympathized. He just started a new novel too, and we learned in class later that night that even our teacher had stumbled into a new project while in the midst of another. It was like Cheaters Anonymous, and it was very cathartic to learn I was not the only fallen one.
I can be a little anal about my writing routine sometimes. It’s not always good for me, but it’s a more productive addiction than booze. But I was determined, with Big Project Number Three (and I still reserve the right for it to become Discarded Project Number 79), to be all organic and shit. I would let the novel speak to me, slowly, over the course of a few months. I would do some method-writing by going out and living the subject matter. I would begin writing when I was tanned, rested and thoroughly outlined. Well, maybe not tanned.
But I think I was too anal about my non-anal-ness. A) The novel had already been forming during those months of slow, painful, boring editing on Big Project Number Two, and B) letting loose and going with the flow and all that new age stuff, for me, is just writing the damn thing. I love the blank page. It’s the already-crappily-written page I fear.
I also have to remember that, while my love of making it up as I go along seems to be a constant, the process of writing Big Project Number Three won’t be any more like Big Project Number Two than Two was like One. I’m a different writer now—one who understands outlining and rewriting, even if she hasn’t completely mastered them.
If someone had told me, when I started Big Project Number Two, that no more than three scenes from draft one would make it into draft three, I probably would have said, “Fuck that” and abandoned it for haiku. I’m a big believer in not knowing what the future holds. People always say, “Live like this might be your last day on earth,” but can you imagine what a disaster that would be? No one would ever go to work or meet new people, and we’d all be 300-pound alcoholics.
So maybe this thing will be a novel that closely resembles what I’ve outlined (and right now I have to tell myself it will be), or maybe it will a completely different kind of novel. Maybe it will be a screenplay (although I doubt it), or maybe it will be the thing that takes up space on my hard drive. I’m going to try really hard to be cool with any of those outcomes. ‘Cause I’m all Zen like that. Right?