Monday, April 06, 2009

Sing Me the Writerly Blues

I've been feeling "out of it" for the past three weeks. Occasionally, a flurry of activity or excitement (like submissions going out or hearing that my story is now an opera) will distract me and I'll begin to think that I'm feeling better and that this depression-like-feeling is lifting. A few days later the feeling returns.

It's a feeling of being generally useless. It's inspired by grading student papers, by not grading student papers, by reading, by watching TV, by sitting at the keyboard and pulling 500 words out and feeling like there are no more to follow it. It's doubled by scanning the backlists of writers I enjoy. She kicks out how many books a year! no way! Not human.

I've come up with a couple theories of how I can break this feeling. That I can go out and take walks (very The Writer's Way of me) and that I can give myself an hour a day of story-writing-time. Except it's not the time that's the issue. I can find plenty of that to spare on all sorts of idleness.

I've said before that I cannot wait for this semester of grad school to be over, and I really, really mean it. There's only 20 days of it left.

I want, really, really want to write novels this summer. I attempted NaNoWriMo and JanNo and failed at both because of coursework. I just don't have enough time in the regular semester to devote the energy to a novel. Not even that it's the time (the time I can find) it's the energy that the novel takes. The thinking through and piecing together and really getting to know the characters I'm writing about -- that all takes mental energy or focus. And with so much coursework my focus shifts elsewhere several times a day and I get writerly-ADHD. I write (consistently) 500 word blocks of stories. At 500 words my mind blanks and wants, begs, throws a tantrum until I go on to something else.

I just don't know what to do with myself other than whine and wait out the next three weeks. However, it's going to be a scary three weeks: I've started to doubt my novel-ing ability given the novel-agony of the past few months. I just want a big ol' juicy project to really sink my teeth into. I like my short stories, yes, but I want to fall in love with my characters and that really doesn't happen for me in 10-30 pages worth of story. I know my short story characters but I do not care about them one way or another.

Short stories, in my humble opinion, are about craft and concept. They should be insanely well written and they should be intriguing. They should make the reader go hmm.

Novels are about storytelling. They are about finding people you would want take an eight hour car trip with and then doing so. Novels, no matter the genre, are about pure fantasy. A fantasy so real that as readers (and writers) we begin to love and hate the characters like they are people, like they are real, like they matter.

Those are the worlds I want to build. And I am terrified that as I gain the time to write at the end of this month, that I will not be able to be that storyteller.

Highly Recommended