Thursday, May 31, 2007

what walter, AK and farhana know

On the way back from lunch today, I was thinking about how Farhana is secretly in love with Bashah, but how she can’t help but admire his fiancée, Georgine, partly because she snagged Bashah, but also because she wears sparkly clothes and gossips a lot and seems as confident as a movie star.

I’d been feeling estranged from my writing lately, probably because I hadn’t been doing much of it. The time I’d been devoting to my novel consisted of reading tiny little snippets of a somewhat dry history book. In other words, not writing.

I don’t know why this is such a big revelation: that not-writing does not feel like writing. I was whining to AK on Saturday about feeling disengaged from writing while being dropped into a world of fantastic writers who were writing fantastic things (which is basically what my trip to New York consisted of).

“Why don’t you just try writing—anything—just to see where it goes?” she said.

“I sort of thought I was past all that,” I said. “It’s dumb, but I thought, Now I’m a real writer. I work on projects, not just silly little freewrites.

And yet, I would have advised anyone experiencing a crabby relationship to her own creativity to do just that.

“Actually,” said AK, flatteringly, “I think that’s the mark of a more mature writer—to be able to discover things while writing and not need a defined direction.”

So I took her advice, and I’m also trying to take Walter Mosely’s advice, which is to write at least an hour and a half each day so that your project (or your silly little freewrite) stays in your head during your off hours. Actually, I’m practicing a lite version of Walter Mosely’s advice, but I’ve managed to write three days out of the past four, which is a huge improvement over where I was.

As a result, I’m starting to feel like myself again, meaning that I’m starting to feel like my characters. Farhana and Bashah and Georgine are second and third string characters who inhabit the part of my novel that needs the most fleshing out. I’m not planning on including a section from Farhana’s point of view, but by knowing what her point of view is, hopefully I’ll save her from just standing around cooking dinner. And by continuing to read up on Malaysia, hopefully I’ll know what that dinner actually is.

7 comments:

Claire said...

Is Mosley's book worth a read?

Cheryl said...

I cheated a little by linking to it--I actually only read an excerpt from the book in Poets & Writers Magazine, which was good, but I didn't feel compelled to run out and read the whole book. I'm not that into How To Write A Novel books, partly because I've taken a lot of classes that offer the same basic advice, partly because I'd always rather read an actual novel. That said, I do recommend Jane Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel.

Claire said...

Thanks. I reckon it's actually less the how-to that interests me than the how-I-do-it. E.g., I rather enjoyed Stephen King's On Writing which is part autobio, part style preferences.

thelastnoel said...

Yeah, I know what you're going through. I've been THINKING about writing. It feels like this is what needs to happen for me right now. I feel the need to absorb information. Just absorb. I know it's not writing but it's what I need at the moment.

Cheryl said...

I just wish my brain were a little more absorbent.

Ryan said...

I recommend taking a vacation. About one weeek per month usually does the trick.

Cheryl said...

Could you tell my boss that?