Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This Robot is Malfunctioning

Ron tried not to laugh at me this morning as I staggered into the dining room at 5:30 a.m. He's one of those early birds who contentedly munch cereal in the weak morning light.

I, on the other hand, lurch helplessly around the kitchen, toasting a Snapple and drinking a waffle. I glare at him before retreating to the home office.

"I hope this schedule is worth it," I say, "because it's shortening my life."

The scene inside the office wasn't any better. I'm at a tricky part in my novel, of course, and the hamster in my mind just wouldn't run on his wheel this morning. I've rewritten half my novel --45,300 words -- and now it's time to launch the second half.

So I sit there staring at two very scary words: BOOK THREE. The novel's first half was mostly rewriting; now I had to come up with all new stuff. My heroine is now trapped in a space station -- sort of a space-age Casablanca, crowded with people desperate to get out. She's lucky not to be dead, or at least trapped on Mercury. (My heroine would see little difference between the two.) The villain is following her, but she doesn't know it, and so is a newspaper reporter. Plus weird assassin robots are swarming everywhere, which is never a good thing, and many of the robots are malfunctioning, which makes it even worse.

Since I couldn't write the damn scene, I created lengthy treatises on my imaginary space station. Then I flipped through my writing books for a nice little pep talk. I found this lovely bit by Anne Lamott:

"So you sit down at, say, nine every morning or 10 every night. You turn on your computer and bring up the right file and you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child.

"Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind -- a scene, a locale, a character, whatever -- and try to quiet your mind so you can hear what the landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind. The other voices are banshees and drunken monkeys. they are the voices of anxiety, judgment, doom, guilt. Also, severe hypochondria.

"There may be a Nurse Ratched-like listing of things that must be done right this moment: foods that must come out of the freezer, appointments that must be canceled or made, hairs that must be tweezed. But you hold an imaginary gun at your head and make yourself stay at the desk. There is a vague pain at the base of your neck. It crosses your mind that you have meningitis.

"Then the phone rings and you look up at the ceiling with fury, summon every ounce of noblesse oblige and answer the call politely, with maybe just the merest hint of irritation. The caller asks if you’re working and you say yeah, because you are.

"Yet somehow in the face of all this, you clear a space for your writing voice, hacking away at the others with machetes, and you begin to compose sentences. You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story."


This passage reflects my experience, except for the part where she actually wrote something. I took Benny to daycare and went back to BOOK THREE. Dissatisfied, I went back to Book Two and started messing THAT up, until mercifully I had to stop for a phone call. I interviewed a very nice lady for a newspaper article -- you know, writing that actually earns money -- and now I'm wrtiing in my blog because I'm scared of my own novel. Wish me luck.

No comments: