Today I started writing another novel.
It took a long time. In addition to actually typing some words, I did the following activities:
- I ate a Japanese cinnamon flavored mini Kit Kat, an extra peanut butter cup, and way too much cranberry sauce.
- I pet the dog. More than once.
- I spent time on Craigslist.
- I spent a little time emailing before throwing up my hands in despair at how far behind I am.
- I did laundry.
- I played Minesweeper.
- I emptied the trash can in my study.
- I took the dog to the park.
- I worried about the novel.
- I worried about things having nothing to do with the novel.
-I worried about other things having nothing to do with the novel.
- I practiced music.
- I played Solitaire.
- I thought about texting people and then didn’t get around to it because if they texted back, that would be the end to any pretense of productivity.
- I wandered around the house.
- I rinsed out a glass jar of jelly.
- I looked at the clock a lot.
Really, it’s a miracle I squeezed a thousand words out of my brain somewhere in the middle of all that activity, the majority of which was based around me not wanting to start the new novel.
It’s not that the actual writing is so unpleasant. I like writing. Even when it’s difficult, it’s still generally very satisfying. But even so, there’s a certain amount of resistance that I have to push through at the start of any new project. And I expect that resistance to continue for at least another week or two.
I’ve become very good at Solitaire, let me tell you.
The beginning is hard because I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know my characters very well, and my outline is full of vague comments like “They come up with a plan” (Fabulous! Now if only I knew what the plan was) and “She does something awesome” (if only I knew what awesome thing she could do) and “She’s given an important assignment” (but who knows what that might be). I don’t feel comfortable in my world. I can’t remember everything I’ve thought about it, and as soon as I commit sentences, I realize all the things I haven’t figured out yet. And then I realize all the things I know that I have to make sure the reader knows too, even though it would be so much easier to just breeze past those bits.
Beginnings are like that in general, aren’t they? We don’t know what to expect when we start something new. There’s no routine to fall back on, fewer tested assumptions to use as mental shortcuts. It’s scary because we don’t know if we’ll be any good, or if we’ll like whatever new thing we’re starting, or if we’ll be somehow screw things up because we don’t know any better yet. They’re uncomfortable and uncertain.
But beginnings are also a time of great promise. We don’t know what to expect so maybe amazing things will happen. It’s exciting to strike out and start something new. It lets us learn more about ourselves and more about the world around us.
So tomorrow when I sit down and begin the whole lengthy push-a-thousand-words-out-of-my-head process again, that’s what I’m going to try to think about. That even though I’m uncomfortable, maybe amazing things will happen.
I hope they happen for you too.