Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What It's Really Like

What it's really like to write a book is something I've been discovering over the past few years. On a good day, I wake up and start to write before I've had my coffee, before I have any awareness of the outside world. I might be deep into making a connection, revising a passage, introducing a new thought--and before I know it, an hour or two has passed. Then I can allow myself a break. Then I do my sit-ups and my stretches, I finally make that coffee and a bite of breakfast, I pet the cats, I kiss my husband good morning, and then I go back to the book. I keep at it for another two or three hours, and when it's over, I feel like I've accomplished something.

I had a day like that on Sunday, when after weeks of struggle, I finally made what felt like a breakthrough. My struggle involves recovery from the first major edit I've received from my literary agents. They are accomplished professionals, very good at what they do--with many published books to prove it--but man oh man, did they ever kick my ass. I've got a lot of rewriting to do. The recent breakthrough revealed itself to me on Sunday morning, when it felt like I had finally found the right tone of voice to tell my story. I was healing from the edits and the writing was stronger for it--that's the beauty of a tough edit. So Sunday was a good day, and when I finally stopped writing, I felt virtuous and peaceful.

But that's a good day. On a bad day, like the Saturday just before that blissful Sunday, I felt like a no-talent wreck, hopelessly dithering about as I tried to tell my very stupid story. I stared at the blank screen and cringed. Why even bother to try to find the words? No one cares about me. I'm a nobody and I've got nothing to say. The words aren't coming out right because my non-story shouldn't be told.

Sorry. Am I boring you? This is the typical writer's lament, isn't it? I know I've read it before in novels, in books about writing, in magazines, in magazines about writing....it's always the same lament. But now I know what it really feels like, which is an addiction. On Sunday, life was sunny and bright because I thought I was in control of it, but on Saturday, my addiction showed me who was really in charge. The cycle continues because you keep crawling back to it, convinced that this time you'll win.

All this to explain why my blog has been silent of late. I've been wrestling with my
real writing project, which is the book. The book the book the book. For all my complaining, I can think of no greater honor and privilege than writing a book. And when this one is written and published, I hope to punish myself again by writing and publishing a second one.


Anonymous said...

Great post Joyce,

I was recently talking to a very successful writer who told me that despite having been produced and popular for over twenty years now, each piece she produces takes her to hell and back and every time she believes she's not going to make this one work. she says it's like you have to earn it to make your writing good.


Anonymous said...

Hello. I like your blog and the theme of the wild women throughout history. One important correction: Eberhardt was not a Jew. That is an old myth about her (I guess it supposedly makes her more exotic, although why I don't know!) that has been completely debunked in the definitive biography of Eberhardt, written by Edmonde Charles-Roux, in two volumes: Un Désir d'Orient (1988) and Nomade j'étais (1995).
I am translating Eberhardt's complete works.

Joyce Hanson said...

Thank you. I stand corrected. In reviewing your notes, I see that there may have been a Jewish family connection, but not directly linked to Isabelle E.