Mayday

It is a Saturday morning, and even after allergy meds in the mouth, nose, and lungs, I am still hacky, but I’m alive.  I’m working off the couch today – I always keep the MacBook at the desk, but with the new MBP and its nifty keyboard and unibody silver, I feel some need to sit on the couch and try to click away at this.  So I’ve got one cat on the cushion next to me, the other curled up on the chaise on the other side of me.  And I’m writing.  Well, not writing.

What the hell am I supposed to be writing?  I realized the other day that I have been working on my “next book” for nine years.  And I think it would have been faster to transfer zero of my files to this laptop and start from scratch.  I am in this weird no-man’s-land, where I have a thousand just-started projects I have given up on, none of them in my “voice” or really challenging me.  And I really need to give up on all of them and move forward.

Here’s what’s up on blocks right now:

  • About 50,000 words of a novel that takes place in the late 80s in Elkhart.
  • About 90,000 words of a  collection of short stories / novel taking place in Bloomington in the 90s.
  • About 75,000 words of a novel called “Zombie Fever” that’s hopelessly stuck, although it has brief spurts of genius.
  • This idea of making another journal book using the 800,00 words from this site, somehow warmed over into something printed.

My big thing is this: it’s easy for me to start banging out something about my thoughts and experiences and past, some essay about Indiana or the one that got away or whatever else.  But I also don’t feel like it’s that exciting.  I mean, there are a million Raymond Chandlers out there, and every year, the MFA programs of the world turn out a few thousand more.  I feel like I can do that writing, but I don’t feel like it’s totally me.  I feel like the writing that I did in Rumored to Exist is a lot closer to my voice, and I should be doing more like that.

So I should quit whining and write that book.  But the idea for the book, the plot, the settings, the structure – it just isn’t coming to me.  I sometimes get these great ideas for a plot, usually after I watch some movie that’s unique or creative, and I start taking notes, and then two days into it, I realize “I just essentially wrote an outline for The Matrix, except instead of the main character being Keanu Reeves, he’s a depressed tech writer who can’t get dates.”  I feel like Rumored’s biggest problem was that it didn’t have a solid end-to-end plot, but any time I start laying out a plot, I choke.  I need to figure out some compromise between the two, and until I do, I’m completely paralyzed.

I always hear about these professional sports guys who go to psychiatrists that specialize in helping players relearn their anxieties at the plate or whatever and sometimes wish I could find one like that for writers.  Of course, given that the league minimum salary is more than four times what I make and MLB’s health plan and amount of free time in the off-season is also a bit more generous, I have a few limitations there.

Oh, the twittering thing was a false alarm.  I had some fun but then realized I was spending all of my time thinking of one-liners, and twitter’s basically the popularity contest I’m trying to avoid.  Right now, here is my only goal: I have a shelf right now that has all of my books on it, all of my printed, published books.  I want to finish filling that shelf, then move on to the next one.  I need to write books that I can read, that I would like on that shelf.  I don’t care if anyone else reads them, or likes them – I just need them done, and there.

Still love the new Mac, by the way.  I thought I would hate this new buttonless glass trackpad, but once I figured out all of the shortcuts, I love it.

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