I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Trying to write is more accurate. I have the requisite sheaf of poetry filled with teenaged angst. In my twenties I finished a few short stories. In my thirties I was a regular contributor to my employer’s newsletter. But I always really wanted to write novels. A novel.
Throughout these years I had this misguided notion that before I even put my pen to the blank page I needed this big important concept, and a basic but complete story line. Yes, pen to page, literally. This was years before anyone imagined we would be keyboarding blogs on our laps between commercial breaks of summer reruns.
It was only after I got over this terrible misconception that I began to write in earnest. In the meantime I made lots of notes, virtually every idea that popped into my head for a story, a scene, a character, a bit of dialogue – whatever. And whatever I wrote, I kept. Thank you, Linda Jaeys, who taught me a writer should NEVER throw anything out. Notes scribbled on the backs of bills, on pages torn out of coil notebooks, on sticky post-its. Never on napkins or toilet paper though.
Eventually, ideas seemed to group themselves of their own accord around some vague central concept. Nothing you could call a story line. Eventually a few of these wobbly groupings began to solidify, and a working title attached itself. At this point I removed those notes to its own file.
I continue this practice even now. Something pops into my head, and I think, where would that fit? If it fits with something I already have on file I slot it in there. Four files have grown to the thickness of small manuscripts. Though in fact there might be only a few lines on a page. Current Events is one of these.
I am not a disciplined, organized person. Which means I don’t necessarily work on one of those project files. The last novel I completed – you know, the one with the dairy cows that received four complimentary rejections – came out of nowhere. You could say that was a distraction. A fresh idea that came out of a more recent experience and a place I knew well as a child. And yet that was the one I chose to work on. No, I didn’t really choose. It was my writerly mind latching onto something new. Once started though, the ideas kept coming for that one project, keeping me working on it. That is really the deciding factor as to what I work on – what ideas are popping up for which project at any given moment.
Although I had been amassing notes in the Current Events file since as far back as 1986, you could call it another distraction. I really only got serious about it because I kept getting bogged down with work on one of the other novel files. Well, to be honest ... that, and because my grant applications for that one kept getting refused.
Current Events has had better luck with funding. It follows that it will have a better chance of being completed. Nothing like a commitment and a deadline to focus my attention. And okay, so maybe the writerly mind can be bought. As flaky as I may sound, what with all these distractions and lack of discipline, I have never shirked on a commitment or missed a deadline. Though I may procrastinate right up to a shrieking halt with the proverbial ink still wet. The current (no pun intended) commitment is to complete a first draft within the next year. And here I am finding yet another way to procrastinate. I wonder if I shouldn’t have applied for a grant to write a blog?