One of my favorite phrases is “Oblivion is bliss.” I’m starting to love it more and more as I plod through my second novel.
I always read from published authors that it’s just as hard to write their fifth novel as it was to write their first … and in some cases even harder. When I first sat down to start writing a novel, I had no expectations. I just wanted to see if I could do it, if I could carry a story through a few hundred pages and have it make some sense to someone other than me. I’m midway through my second novel and, well, this sucks and I can’t figure out why.
I’ve proven to myself that I can do this. My characters are telling me where they want to go. I don’t think my writing is that bad once I can get myself into the fictive dream. I’m ignoring the querying part until after the holidays so that can’t be the distraction.
Then what the *bleep* is it?
Zen master Ray Bradbury explains it perfectly in his collection of essays on writing and the creative process, “Zen in the Art of Writing.” I’m not writing with gusto. In the first essay in the book, The Joy of Writing, he explains that writers and artists who create with gusto create big, and are completely unafraid.
That’s exactly where I was with Phoenix when I wrote the first draft. I had no expectations other than to actually finish it so I could join the elite few who have completed a novel. Now I’m trying to join that even eliter (is that a word?) few who have published and in doing so, I’ve discovered that I’m human, mortal, that my writing career could die a young death. And that’s killed my gusto.
While spending time with the family yesterday, talk turned to the differences between my sister and me as babies. We are so much alike – we look alike, sound alike and too often we end up dressing alike. But, my mom was telling the story of how as a toddler I met life with zest. I took in everything that came my way, I was fearless to a fault, and if I was ever separated from her at the grocery store, she had to get them to barricade the doors because I was on my way out into the world. My sister, on the other hand, was much more cautious, if she got lost, you just had to listen for the screaming child to find her.
For the next few months while I try to finish my second MS, I’m going to channel that toddler that would take off running down the canned goods aisle the minute mommy turned her back and the novice novel writer that just wanted to see if she can do it. I’m not worried about failing, because I’ve already succeeded where so many people have said, “One day …”
So next time you are hit with doubt and worry over your writing, just ask yourself what you would write if failure wasn’t on the table.
P.S. A special thank you to Linda Cassidy Lewis for her postings a few months ago about Bradbury’s book. This book should have a subtitle – Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul.