The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's a Dirty Job...

By Antonios Maltezos

I have my new laptop, using it as we speak, and I have to say… I think there’s something wrong with it. I’ve had it for over a week now, and the novel-in-uhem-progress that I transferred over with all the rest of the files still hasn’t jumped out at me. That was my reason for wanting this laptop contraption in the first place. I figured a novel-in-uhem-progress I could carry around with me was a novel as good as written. But there seems to be something missing still, something I can’t quite put my finger on.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the bowl thinking of my poor wretched main character, and suddenly I’m looking around for something to write with, anything, an eyeliner pencil, but to no avail since we’ve never been big on make-up in this family. By the time I get out of the can, my brilliant idea is all but gone, flushed away, you might say, to the mighty St. Lawrence. Even if I do make it to a pencil in time, the lead is usually broken and the erasure is chewed off (thanks, Effy!). I figured a laptop would solve this problem, but that hasn't been the case.

I could easily blame it on life and call it a distraction, family, work, TV, but then that would make me an abomination, a machine, dead, and who wants that? Maybe I just can’t do it. If that’s the truth, then admitting it would make my life so much more pleasant, simple, simplified, and that would make me a week-end warrior, a dullard, dead. I’d work, and work, one eye on the bank account and the other on the investments (ha!). We’d be inviting strangers over for supper and pretending to have a good time.

Maybe it’s not the laptop, but the simple fact that I haven’t committed yet. I wrote a 750 word flash this week where I should have been getting reacquainted with my novel’s main character. I should have been reviewing what’s been written already, spurring on my imagination to come up with the details that’ll make this a good book to read. I wrote the flash piece with a heavy cloud of guilt hanging over my head. Even though I enjoyed the writing, I felt like I was wasting my time, spinning my wheels, aging prematurely because I know my time must be now. It must be, right. It is. 750 words – all that picky editing. Why? Personally, and I’m no psychoanalyst, but I think it goes back to my lack of confidence. Never try, never fail. I need to feel commited. I want it for myself, to see me giving myself a chance to succeed, or fail even. Hi, I’m Antonios, and I’m worth it. Damnit!

But all is not lost. My files transfer was successful. I know who my main character is and what he’s up to, and who he’ll meet along the way. That’s not the problem. It’s the discipline involved with this whole novel writing thing I have to get a hold on.

Discipline. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing this blog? When I get a short story or flash idea, I should jump up and down on one leg, rub my belly and pat the top of my head. I should cancel the cable. I should stop eating, bathing, reading the morning paper. I should lie and tell my boss I broke my arm, and that I’ll be seeing him next month, God willing.

Or maybe I should just reread what I’ve written already, figure out where it is I want to go with this guy, focus in on the moments in his life leading directly to the end I’ve envisioned, have fun there, spend some time, add some colour, some sound. How would this guy say get on with it, Bub. I ain’t got all day. Maybe he’d just say it and get it over with. Let’s go! It’s not like I’m being plagued by other novel ideas. There’s only this one at the moment afflicting me like a malady, and that’s because all the other crap I’ve ever written has led me here. I can’t leap frog over this novel, so I’ll just have to get it done. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck. I know a lot of you are living this same time of your lives.

8 Comments:

Blogger Chumplet said...

That laptop will be surgically attached to you before you know it. Take it somewhere nice. Maybe a riverside on a warm fall day. It will speak to you, and your characters will come alive.

And you'll be far, far away from the internet.

Would it be crass to say that I've taken mine to the can?

Put some music on it and plug your headphones into it. Let it take you to the places you want to be.

Sat Oct 06, 03:01:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Thanks, Chumplet. I know you've written a couple novels already, so you know what you're talking about.

Sat Oct 06, 03:16:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I'm frustrated right along with you...somehow it feels better knowing that I'm not alone. At least you know where your character is headed :)

Sat Oct 06, 04:31:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

I may know where my character is headed, Jen, but he's a long way off yet. Good to hear you're working on a novel, Jen!

Sat Oct 06, 08:59:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

Hey Tony - this was a great post. Like Jen said, it made me feel less alone. I've got 5 of the darn things in progress and if anybody thinks I'm not going to start number 6 during NaNo, well...that would be the smart thing to do. But I can't miss out on NaNo. NaNo way!

Sat Oct 06, 10:10:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Hey, Mel. I'm going to ignore Nano. It'd a cruel game for the majority of participants, and for the rest... well, since when was banging out a novel-like thing in a month a choice thing to do?!? Nano-nonsense, I say. Sorry.

Sun Oct 07, 08:43:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Yes, Tony, I too can empathise with your struggle.

I have to say, in defense of NaNo, that had I not done it last year, I'd have 40,000 fewer words in my first novel attempt. Plus, b/c of NaNo, I learned to write through my inner naysayers and discipline-devils. Sure, the likelihood of great works of art may not evolve from a NaNo attempt, but there is value to it, and to the concept of a (however bad) first draft of something one can push forward with thereafter.

Sadly I doubt I'll be NaNo'ing this year, as I have other commitments I can't sacrifice. I know I will do it again, though.

Tue Oct 09, 01:13:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

I understand, Tamara. 40,000 words is quite an accomplishment, but what about the huge numbers of people who get just a couple thousand words out of the deal (me), or false starts and nothing more (me)? I'm going to modify my opinion of NaNo, here, to make sure I speak only for myself. I can't stand the disappointment of not reaching a goal by a deadline. I've had too much of that in my life and I don't need the stress. But 40,000 words is really impressive. Had I written that in a month, I'd probably be singing a different tune right now.

Tue Oct 09, 10:00:00 am GMT-4  

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