Wednesday, February 17, 2010

That writing thing

I'm about 6,000 words into my novel, which will actually be a novella, around 30,000 words, so I'm maybe 1/5th of the way through. Honestly? Except for that time when I wrote a bunch of stuff in January that was off track and threw it all out, it's been going pretty swell. You know what it feels like? It feels like all the other times I was trying to write it, I was paddling a canoe upstream, and then I let the current turn the canoe around, and now it feels like I'm canoeing with the current.

What happened? If I had a brain without holes in it, I'd tell you how many years I've been trying to write this novel, but I don't, so I can't. Maybe since 2002? But I think the part of getting it right started last year, when I went back to the Valley, in April. That gave me the stuff that ended up informing a lot of this book. And then I wrote a non-fiction essay about that experience, and then I published that, and then, for a long time after that, I would go back, and I would read that piece online, like I was trying to get at something.

What I knew by that point was that whatever I was interested in was in that piece, and that when I was writing about it, the one true thing that really interested me in it, that writing would sing. And it did. And when I saw what that was, and where that was, I finally got to a point where I could say: That is the place I need to be. That is what I know. It is what I love. Because to write about something really, really well, you have to really, really love it or really, really hate it, and once you get there, and you see that, you can kind of let go of it, and then, and only then, can you write about it, or at least that was true for me.

The temptation is to self-flagellate for not getting it earlier. The weird thing is that this writing is in some ways a lot like what I wrote like in graduate school -- or, perhaps more significantly -- what I wrote like before my father died. It feels more like me, or more like the me I thought I'd be, before things got off track.

It doesn't seem to need a lot of revising. Maybe I'll be done by this April. Or maybe I won't. It feels like when you've crested the summit, and you're trundling down the other side, and you feel gravity take hold of you, and you wonder how long it will be before you reach the river.