I have been writing a novel for 8 years, at least, possibly 9. This depresses me if I think about it too long. This is a project that I have great passion for and I think the premise is fun. But the execution seems too hopeless at times. I feel as though I’ve been handed an amazing vision without the tools to properly articulate it. I’ve been writing since middle school, that was when I realized that I had a gift for adjectives. I remember the first paragraph my teacher ever complimented me on. I was supposed to make a very factual paragraph about the end of summer camp interesting by adding adjectives and scene description. I was pretty good, other than my use of the word unelated, which as it turns out isn’t technically a word.
Since then I’ve been doing a lot of puttering. Wanting to give my mother a present helped me focus to create my Advent devotional. My new found interest in Lent inspired me to start writing my Lenten devotional. But I find myself struggling to move forward with the project, the readings are more personally convicting than I anticipated and I have doubts based on the limited success of my first devotional. I’ve had requests for a dancer’s or artist’s devotional as well, which as of now is just banging around in my head like paperclips and rubber bands in the back of the junk drawer.
My novel is like an old friend I look forward to seeing but yet dread talking to. Some people are a lot of work. We love them, but being with them is draining. They expect much of us, and while we are always glad to have seen them, we dread each visit because we know what it will cost us. My writing costs me something. I gives back to me as well, but mostly it takes from me without mercy. This novel, this growing collection words that spans pages and word documents, both massive and yet miniscule compared to where it needs to be. The road I must walk seems long, wining and often impossible. Sitting down at my computer feels like setting out across a desert in search of an oasis I know of only by legend. I want to believe it is there, but with each step I am held back by fear and doubt.
I used to believe that to write was an act of hubris, to believe that anything I might offer the world was meaningful or useful seemed all too arrogant. The truth is that I am a simple woman of ideas and words, who knows little of popular demand, social media networking or search engine optimization. I can’t think about what kind of writing will sell or what market needs it, at least not while I’m writing. I can only form the ideas that come to me, the way an artist applies paint to canvas, just to see how it looks, perhaps not intending to paint this particular work, but somehow finds it along the way. That slow process of finding has been true of much of my work.
But this novel is different, I knew I wanted to write a book about ballet dancers. I was inspired to Stephanie Grace Whitson in her duet A Garden in Paris and a Hilltop in Tuscany. The way she shifts perspective from character to character, and the way Robin and Rosamunde Pilcher let you see through each character’s eyes. Starburst showed me how this can be overdone, in the same way that Shell Seekers and September let me see how it can be done best. All have inspired me in format and tune. This is not an idea I just fell upon and began to write. The opening introduction just spilled out on paper one day. But, the rest has needed careful planning which is where I get stuck. I have 1/3 through and I can’t seem to find my pace. I think I know where I want my characters to end up, I thought I knew from the beginning. But now I am not so sure. I feel as though I’ve gone from leading a charge to wandering around and my characters are looking at me asking, “where is the map, you didn’t bring us in here without a plan did you?” So I must construct a chart and draw my way out.