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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the writer tries (again) to encourage himself

I slept better last night, thank you. And woke to a morning of frost. I had agreed to drive Kimmie down to the SeaBus terminal so she could attend a work seminar over at Metrotown, so we joined the cars creeping down the frosty streets in the twilight of early dawn.

Yesterday I felt too restless and distracted to get down properly to work, so I spent most of the day procuring a Dell laptop for my aunt and trying to set it up. Got to keep a watchful eye on the writer's universal tendency to seek alternative activities. "I'll just take care of this..." Yeah, right.

One contributing factor of distractibility was my feeling of disgust and boredom with my project, at least with the stage I seem to be stuck at. I'm disgusted with the fact that I can be stuck for so long at one point; I'm in a leg-hold trap and have not had the courage to chew my leg off rather than just let myself starve here. The story situation I'm working with, its features and motivations, all seem bland and colorless to me. Who cares? I think. Who cares?

You need to find what excites you. When you find that, then you jump on it--or at least start steering toward it. When that no longer excites you, you need to move on. Something else will excite you now. For we're each of us repositories of all the emotions, all the passions, and each one of these will have things that trigger it. In terms of behavioral science, these things are called releasers. The energies within us are set and primed; they just need the release of a particular stimulus. It's up to us to find the stimulus.

Ah well. I must remember Thomas Mann's observation that the quality of the finished work is independent of the mood of the writer while creating it. He found that the quality of the material he wrote while dissatisfied and depressed was almost indistinguishable from what he wrote while enthusiastic and optimistic. The finished work bears only the faintest traces of the state of mind of the writer while it was being composed.

The moral: keep at it, regardless of mood. Just as a good parent puts the welfare of the child first, so a good artist puts the "welfare" of the project first. Don't starve it, don't hate it; above all, don't abandon it.

Somehow I've got to make my way through the next scene, no matter how boring and mechanical it seems to me.


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