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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Thursday, August 28, 2008

late-night reading

The rain plops heavily outside again. A series of sirens has screamed by in the dark of morning.

I prepared for sleeplessness again last night, setting out my sweatpants and fleece top for easy access in the dark. It turned out I needed them: awake at 1:45, I rose again at about 2:30 to head downstairs to read. Might as well make the night productive. This time I opened The Lupercalia, a bound dissertation by a certain Alberta Mildred Franklin, written for her PhD at Columbia University in 1921. There was exactly one copy of this available via Abebooks. That was in Stockholm, Sweden. I bought it for just under 30 euros (including shipping).

I'm glad I did. I sat hunched over the coffee-table, highlighter in hand, flipping through the surprisingly well-made paper-bound document, and sipping a glass of cranberry juice. All quiet in the house; all quiet in the dark outside.

I read for just over an hour: wolf-cults in ancient Greece; wolf-cults in ancient Italy...

I felt fatigued but not especially sleepy. "So this is insomnia," I thought. I've never really had it before.

I crept back upstairs and back into bed. I mainly lay there, but did eventually drift in and out of a very light sleep. I know this because I had dreams. I noticed also the changes in the level of my consciousness as I lay in those hours. Thoughts and images would arise unbidden, spontaneously, and I knew that I was closer to sleep--and by then I had veered back to full wakefulness.

Now, I feel reasonably rested. I'll head on with the day, and see what it brings. One thing I can say: I'm excited by the ideas I'm researching and connecting. They may even be partly what is keeping me up nights.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

sleeping, reading

It's dark and rainy outside. Except for all the leaves on the shrubs and trees, it could be a November day. I like this kind of variety in the weather.

Yesterday I felt underslept after a semi-sleepless night. I'd got up at about 2:30 to come down to the living-room and read for an hour. Except for the lack of sleep, I kind of enjoy getting up in the middle of the night. All is quiet and dark, and there are no expectations on one at that time--it is truly your own time. Over two glasses of cranberry juice I read a book I bought at Chapters on the weekend: Caesar: The Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy. So far: excellent. I'm highlighting most of every page. Although the book is big, Goldsworthy wastes no time--every word tells. He's a very good writer of history.

Last night I took half a Sleep Aid, and slept very well. Indeed, I was greedy for more when the alarm went off at 5:30, but had to get up.

Now: on with the day. It is so dark out there it could almost be night, with the shrubs gleaming dully in the light of a full moon.

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Monday, August 25, 2008


When I was a teenager I was enthusiastic about chess. I'd always been fascinated by the game, and felt frustrated at age 6 or 7 when my father refused to teach it to me.

"You should learn checkers first," he said.

I was initiated into the game at age 8, I think, by my classmate Bill. I'm not sure whether he knew the game properly himself, but he got me started.

In 1972, when I was 13, the world was on fire over the apocalyptic (so the press would have had us think) world-championship match between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik. Incredible though it may seem, each game in the 24-game series was front-page news worldwide. Now my father taught me how to read chess notation, and we would examine the games together--some of my favorite memories.

Over the next few years I attended a few tournaments and collected several books on chess. One of these books contained a chapter discussing the introduction and use of the clock in chess tournaments. In case you don't know, a chess clock is a twin set of clocks that measure the amount of time each player has spent deliberating over moves. In tournament and club play they are required, and they are often used in casual games by serious players as well. Nowadays these clocks are digital, but in my day the clocks were regular dial-clocks, actuated by buttons protruding from the top of the case. You'd make a move, punch your button, and this would stop your clock while simultaneously restarting your opponent's.

The time limit, called the "time control", is established in advance, and can be whatever the event organizers decree (or casual players agree on). I remember the time control for the Fischer-Spassky match: each player had 2.5 hours for the first 40 moves of a game, then 1 hour for each 16 moves thereafter. This is a relatively long and open-ended time control. By contrast, "rapid transit" chess is played with just 5 minutes for each player to finish the whole game.

And what happens if you exceed your time limit? Simple: you lose. If you're about to deliver checkmate, and your flag drops, you lose.

As my book pointed out, the clock was a lifesaver for chess. Without clocks, chess games would be reduced to a "turtle-paced inanity".

That phrase stuck in my mind. Recently it rose to the surface again, but not regarding chess, which I haven't played for years, but in regard to--you guessed it--my opus in progress. Trying to nap after lunch, or lying awake in the dark of night, the words haunt me: "turtle-paced inanity".

True, this is hare-speak. The turtle's pace suits the turtle. For the Preacher in Ecclesiastes it's a matter of painful irony that the race is not always to the swift, but Aesop provided a reason for that apparent anomaly in his fable of the tortoise and the hare. Hares are cocky and goof off.

But maybe that's just turtle-speak. No doubt turtles (or tortoises) have copies of Aesop tucked in their shells: consoling words for when the hares are sopping up the glory.

Turtle-paced inanity. The phrase has a rhythm that invites chanting. I'd better resist that--if I can.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

welcome, stranger

In the 1970s or perhaps the early 1980s there was a British documentary TV series called The Infinite Search, in which the presenter (forget who he was) visited practitioners and authorities of the various major religions of the world. In one of the episodes he visited a Zen monastery in Japan and interviewed the abbot, who could speak English.

At some point the presenter asked the Zen master what spiritual advice he could give to the Western viewers of the show. The Zen master answered, "I think it is important to know thyself."

In the words of my friend Brad, who first described this interview to me, it was a masterful reply. The dictum "know thyself" was of course the famous motto of the oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece, so with those two words the Zen master bridged East and West in one go. The deceptive simplicity of the advice makes it like a Zen koan in the sense that the more you reflect on it, the more provocative and bottomless it becomes.

According to Buddhist doctrine, of course, there is no self to "know"--but understanding this is far from easy. For from the Buddhist point of view, even though things are not real, neither do they lack reality.

In East and West, we're enjoined to investigate this unreality called our self and get to know it. The biggest obstacle is the complacency of thinking that we already know. Once you admit that you don't know, you open the door to the greatest mystery we can find. To a greater or lesser extent, we're all strangers to ourselves. And how do we treat strangers?

I feel strongly that my work relates to this quest, but I'm darned if I could tell you how.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

free, classless, urbane

Rain falls through the cool air. In the night, when I removed one of my earplugs, I heard the drumbeat of drops falling on a plastic fitting of the downspout system outside.

It was another wakeful night after 2:25. I reckon I need to return to my sometime practice of getting up to read. I might as well use the time to push my project ahead in some small way.

As it was, my mind was busy in the dark, zipping over wide terrain, not all of it negative. My thoughts had an excited, energetic quality, which made me sure that sleep was not to be forthcoming.

When I got up, I made coffee and read a couple of pages more of Livy's History of Rome (a downloaded public-domain version translated by D. Spillan and published in 1879). Then, unsure what notes I wanted to type, I got an intuitive desire to fetch Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism from my bookshelf. I'm working at learning to trust these hunches, so I got the book and flipped to its conclusion, where I had last left off typing a couple of months ago. I was thrilled with what I found waiting for me there.

One thing that struck me was this quotation from Matthew Arnold:

Culture seeks to do away with classes.

Needless to say, this is no Marxist sentiment. Frye followed it with this gloss:

The ethical purpose of a liberal education is to liberate, which can only mean to make one capable of conceiving society as free, classless, and urbane.

I relived my feeling of amazement when I first read that sentence. It could easily form the thesis of a book or a series of books--or the basis of a lifetime of contemplation.

I don't think I can even say much about it. I will only note that I regard Frye, along with Joseph Campbell, as a key inspiration for me in affirming the value of the arts and of artists. Many people value art and artists, but these men have been among the most articulate, for me, in accounting for exactly why art is so important to the human enterprise, and therefore why artists matter.

For much of our lives, we are not too different from chickens in a laboratory, pecking at the green triangle or the yellow star to make corn drop into a trough. Our emancipation from that condition depends, first and foremost, on artists. In that spirit, I press on.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

restless mind

I woke at 2:15 and never did go back to sleep. Too much to think about.

I've commented before about the difference in mentality, in emotionality, between day and night. I notice very strongly how differently I think and feel about things, even when fully conscious (that is, not just in the twilight of near-dreaming). At night my thoughts are much more emotionally flavored; my feelings are much stronger and more raw.

In astrology this is accounted for by the fact that the night is ruled by the Moon, which also rules our feelings.

One of my thoughts was that this is probably our mental state as we approach--and perhaps go through--death. It is likely a "nighttime" rather than a "daytime" experience, and we should prepare ourselves accordingly.

By that I mean that we should attend to those things in life that cause us to lose sleep, for they will very likely be the things troubling us on our deathbed.

Not all of my thoughts were painful, of course. A lot of what was keeping me awake was thoughts of fun and amusement--following interesting lines of inquiry and memory. I thought about astrology, for instance, and tussled with some exciting aspects of my current research.

There's lots to do for a restless mind.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

what do I provide?

It was a hot night. This morning it is gray and cooler; a mild rain started to fall as I took out the recycling just now. Kimmie's garden around the patio out my window is as lush and green as it's ever been.

Something's been bothering me about my blog. Well, maybe more than one thing. But what I'm thinking of is its title, which refers to a "historical novel". For some time now I realize that what I am in fact writing is an epic. Like most epics, it is also historical--but the genre is distinct. So, strictly speaking, this blog does not document the genesis of a historical novel (a phrase that I grabbed quickly from the air anyway when I set up the blog as an experiment in 2005). For that, I actually feel a little bit bad now, a little bit fraudulent (but only a little bit!).

Are blogs passe?

Probably not. They are, after all, a new force in journalism in the most basic sense.

But when I read the book Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish, a text on web copywriting, I realized that she was right: people on the Web are seeking information. The task of a website, including a blog, is to provide this information as quickly, clearly, and easily as possible.

The information this blog is intended to provide is about the experience of writing a particular novel--and many issues ancillary to that. But many people land here in search of other things, such as the word-counts of certain novels or the significance of hermaphrodites in dreams. While I hope they regard whatever they find here as helpful, I'm not an authority on those topics (although my novel word-counts are probably as good as anyone's back-of-envelope calculations), and it bothers me a little bit that I might not be providing high-quality information on anything except, well, my opinions and my inner state generally.

It doesn't bother me too much (I'm offering up these words for free, after all--take 'em or leave 'em). But a fairly large part of me is keen on accuracy and integrity.

In a way, I'm surprised still to be writing this blog three years on. Mind you, I seldom write in my offline journal nowadays; so this is it. Such as it is, this is the document of my life. That is the information I'm providing, whether it's sought or not.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

the long stages of completion

My effort at this long and difficult project has fallen naturally into stages. I refer not to stages of completion, but stages of kinds of effort, or stages of emotional attitude--something like that.

There was a years-long gestation period before I regarded this book as begun. During that time I was searching for the story I wanted to write. I didn't know where or when the story would be located, or who its characters would be. But I was excited by certain ideas, certain trains of thought, and I knew that I wanted to write about those things.

I regard the actual beginning or birth of the project as having happened in 2002 while I was temporarily a monk at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton. If I look through my papers I may be able to come up with the exact date. It was probably about April. I discovered what I felt was the beginning of my story: the historical scene of the cremation of the decapitated corpse of Pompey the Great on a deserted beach in Egypt.

How excited I was. I would spend Saturday mornings--our open day at the Abbey--in the library, writing notes for my story. In fact, I couldn't resist starting to write the story itself, even though I knew that it was vastly premature to do so. I just had to do it--I was that excited by it.

When I returned home from the Abbey that August, ahead of schedule due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, I spent my days sitting in my foot-cast in the living-room, writing in my notes-binder and poring through research-books. Having begun with a handwritten process at the Abbey, where I had no computer, I continued in the same vein, and did not think about starting to type my notes on the PC. In part it this was also due to the fact that going up and down stairs was a bit inconvenient.

I wrote hundreds of pages of longhand notes before I started typing notes directly onto the computer. Those sunny days in the living-room were mainly wonderful, my mind restlessly pushing forward, solving problem after problem: historical contradictions, story problems.

The fiery passion of the beginning gradually died back to something more like glowing charcoals. With my outline still not really complete I decided to start writing my story, I think in 2004, because I was afraid of delaying any further. Working with history--actual historical events, not merely the backdrop of a period--forces constraints on the story and presents and severe story problems. My aim is to hug as closely to historical accuracy as possible, to take zero liberties. The resulting story is the trail of the struggle between fact and imagination.

I'm still going. I've settled into my pace for the long haul. As with running, my pace is a plodding one. I look out the kitchen window at the path on the boulevard and see young runners running smartly along it at a clip that, to me, looks like a sprint. I sigh and think, "That's not me."

I'm still waiting for the stage to arrive when I've locked on my story--when I know exactly what it is, and what it means. I'm still not there, and this I find frustrating at such a late date. My background reading is not slowing up; it might even be increasing. I have a load of new books set to arrive as my researches continue to carry me in still more directions.

It's like a boundary commission. I'm walking through wilderness with the aim of outlining a new territory. Someone's got to cover every meter of the border of the territory, no matter how large it is and no matter what kind of wild uncharted country it passes through. The space must be marked out.

I'm still engaged with that. My country is still coming to birth.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

at my post

Back (or still) at my post.

Ah, yes, my post: here at this computer, at this desk. I call it "desk", but in fact it is a white melamine Scandinavian-style kitchen-table that Kimmie bought in 1985 when she was still single and living in an apartment. We were going out together and I had not yet moved in with her. I scolded her at the time for having lugged the table up the apartment-building's stairs by herself. She should have got me to do that--or at least got me to help her. But Kimmie, born in the year of the horse, is accustomed to carrying loads and thinks nothing of it. (I'm year of the dog--a harmonious companion of the horse, according to the Chinese texts.)

When we bought this townhouse in 1987, we also bought a pine table and chairs to serve as our dining suite, then situated immediately by the living-room, indeed as part of the same space. The white table was moved to the kitchen to function as the everyday table at which we ate. In late 1989, when Warren and I were trying to come up with TV shows after our success with "What's Wrong with Neil?", we bought a PC together--an early number with a text-only, black-and-white screen--and set it up here in my office. I needed a table for it, so I executed a plan Kimmie and I had been talking about, and moved the Ikea dining-furniture into the carpeted space adjoining the kitchen, clearing the living-room space for other uses, and brought the white table downstairs.

Kimmie was irritated that I'd stolen the white table, but I pointed out that I needed a table, it was the perfect size and type for my needs, and with our new dining configuration there was nowhere to put the white table in any case. I wasn't about to buy a new table, only to store the white one in the windowless concrete space of our storage-room. She was actually delighted with the change in the upstairs configuration, so quickly got over her loss.

The old Packard-Bell computer I finally replaced in December 1998 with a Dell that had an actual color monitor and graphical user interface. (I'd touched my first computer mouse in 1996 when I worked as a mail clerk at an ICBC claim center.) Since then I've become reasonably proficient in using a personal computer.

But I still have the old white table that Kimmie bought when we were first going out. It's my post--I'm at it.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

write unto others

Yesterday I had my weekly lunch at my mother's house--a lovely quiet place in Cove Cliff. As usual, we talked about writing afterwards. Since she's working on a memoir, we looked at the opening sentences, paragraphs, and pages of a number of memoirs that she has. How successful have these writers been in launching their stories?

We agreed that the best opener was from A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca:

When I was a boy, my father always wore a pained expression and kept his head down, as if he couldn't shake what was bothering him.

The author opens up with a telling and well-observed fact that is important to his story. He expresses it simply and clearly, without resorting to tricks or come-ons. He has something significant to say, and is not embarrassed or coy about getting to the point. In this he treats his reader with respect, as an equal, as someone whose time and attention he does not want to waste. In this case I've also read the rest of the book, and Baca delivers the goods: a chilling tale of poverty, crime, and punishment that is all the more gripping because it's his own life-story.

One interesting problem, which I noticed for the first time yesterday, is that memoir-writers, in addition to falling prey to the usual flaws of gimmicky openers and window-dressing prologues, tend to overdo description. As I thought about it, I realized the cause.

The memoir-writer in some ways has the opposite difficulty of the fiction-writer: while the fiction-writer is often in the situation of trying to pump from a dry well--coming up with enough details to make a scene vivid--the memoir-writer has a superabundance of material to choose from. If you have a good memory, any scene from your life is full of details: the specific, life-giving touches that make an image real. It's hard to resist putting lots of these in. But too many details clutter and clog a story, just as too few make it seem dry and lifeless. In the case of memoir, the writer needs to show restraint, and choose only the most telling details for inclusion.

I suspect that one reason that this is hard to do is because there is a feeling that if a good image is not used, it is being wasted: left in one's memory as a private thing, and not shared with the world. Your precious memory will sink to oblivion, unredeemed.

Another possible cause is a feeling of insecurity about one's story. If the story is not strong and clear, it might be tempting to dally with description.

Probably a good discipline to adopt would be that suggested by Stephen King: to come up with three telling images of, say, your setting, and to use those and only those.

This is one area in which screenwriters may have an advantage. In a screenplay, the description has to be kept to a bare minimum. It is held in check by the rule that each page of script must correspond to one minute of finished film. Each eighth of a page is about 7 or 8 seconds of story-time. If you've spent that much space describing the subject of a shot, you're implying an 8-second shot--an eternity of film-time. So in a screenplay, the long, loving description has to be chopped down to a few punchy, suggestive words. I recall this example from a script, in which the hero, a hard-bitten cop I think, is introduced:

His face is a roadmap of places you don' t want to go.

In a script, the words have to evoke an image in the reader's mind, and also provide a handle for an actor to start building a performance on. In prose, of course, you have more leeway. But it might be good discipline to pretend you don't.

The duty of the writer is to offer the reader only the best, the choicest things. It's the Golden Rule: write unto others as thou wouldst be written unto.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

researching with a machete

Bit of a late start today, since we both drifted off after the alarm rang at 5:30. A hot night, and as usual now, trouble with staying asleep through it.

Even my basement office feels warm. But a soft cool breath of air comes through the window, along with the far-off sounds of impatiently accelerating motors.

I toil on at the chapter I'm currently numbering 32. No actual prose yet, but the notes documents are ballooning to dozens of pages. I'm not even exactly sure what I'm looking for, but I'll know when I find it. I'm working my way through images, objects, symbols. I'm still looking for my core images; at this late date I still have not found them, and that means I still don't know exactly what my story is about.

When you know exactly what you're writing about, your writing loses its arbitrary quality and takes on purpose. I know the feeling of arbitrariness well; many times I've had the feeling, while writing, that I'm just pulling any old thing out of the air to stick in my scene or my description. This is inevitable when you don't have a clear sense of the meaning of your story--and probably is a universal feature of first drafts. One of the greatest pleasures of doing a second draft is the feeling of confidence in removing material that you now know does not belong. This you can do because you now know what your story is about. The feeling of not really knowing--the feeling I have now, and have had for the past several years--is one of unease and anxiety, at least for me. You can only just keep going along, doing your best.

That said, I find the actual search for key images and ideas fun. Yesterday I was digging into Mount Etna in Sicily and Mount Parnassus in Greece--both said to be the place where the ark of Deucalion (the Greek Noah) came to rest after the Flood. Mount Parnassus is the peak that looms over Delphi with its oracle; it is sacred to Apollo and the Muses, among other things. Because the Muses were said to live there, the name Parnassus has been associated with artistic creation throughout Western history; references to it pop up in the work of artists like Nicolas Poussin and writers like Louisa May Alcott.

I prowl from my computer to my bookshelves, taking out copies of The Greek Myths by Robert Graves and A Dictionary of Symbols by J. E. Cirlot. I read Wikipedia articles, and paste parts of them into my research files. And I type my thoughts as I go, under today's dateline. I read through my earlier notes, highlighting potentially significant or usable ideas I find there.

In short: I'm still at the "machete" stage: cutting my way into the jungle of the unknown. Eventually it will be a highway and the journey will look easy.

But looks can be deceiving...

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

on (mis)guidance

A couple of days "off". We just passed the B.C. Day long weekend, and I extended that by a day yesterday, at least as far as posting to this blog goes. Now I'm back at it.

A writer, like any other artist, any other worker for that matter, needs to know how to go about the task. There seem to be three basic components to this knowledge: tools (alphabet, words, grammar); instruction (guidance from the experienced practitioner); and examples (existing written works).

In my experience, one needs to be careful about what instruction to accept. There are "experts" in the field who will steer you wrong--not intentionally, but simply because their advice is not appropriate for you. I think about reading advice articles by literary agents, in which some stressed the importance of "writing for the market"--that is, writing things that are similar to what is selling to publishers at the moment. This might be OK advice for certain kinds of writers, but it is poison for others, in my opinion. If you follow wrong advice, it's like following wrong directions to your destination: the more time you spend following it, the farther off course you are.

The lesson, as far as I'm concerned, is this. When it comes to advice, disregard the supposed authority of the dispenser of it, and pay attention to how the advice makes you feel. Does it inspire you? Do you get a "yes" feeling somewhere in your core? Is the person giving voice to a feeling you already had in you anyway? If so, then it's probably good advice for you, and you should take it.

On Saturday night Kimmie and I watched the movie Toy Story again (for, I think, the fourth time). On our new digital TV it was especially good. As with all high-quality movies, I enjoyed it more this time than on previous viewings. After the movie we watched a couple of the accompanying "special features", one of which was a gathering of the four main guys on the creative team, 10 years after the movie's release (which was in 1995). I felt a real kinship with these guys, and their experiences echoed some of my own from my television days.

Unlike live-action films, animated movies are not simply written; the original words are sketched out as pictures before the "story" is regarded as created. Preliminary animations are done of characters and scenes, to try things out. The animators in this case, working for Pixar, were making the movie for Disney. As they developed their script and characters, Disney executives would review the work and give them "notes" (industry term for feedback). The animators, most of whom were working on their first feature film, diligently tried to follow the advice they received. When the time came to screen a preliminary version of the show for the executives, the film fell flat. It was unfunny and uninvolving.

The executives realized that a drastic cure was needed: the filmmakers would have to go over to Disney, where they could be supervised more closely by the executives. The director, John Lasseter, realizing that this would be the death of their project, begged for two weeks in which he and his team could turn the show around on their own. The execs, realizing that this was impossible, indulged him.

The team worked frantically for two weeks. They were going to roll the dice, and this time, do it "our way". They still made use of the feedback they'd gotten so far, but used it critically, following only those tips that they really agreed with. This is what reminded me of working on The Odyssey. Warren and I developed our own policy with regard to network "notes": if a suggestion improved a script, write it in. If it made no difference to the script, write it in (humor them). But if we felt that a suggested change was for the worse, we would ignore it or, if necessary, fight back.

You can guess the outcome. In two weeks the Toy Story team delivered a much snappier, funnier, more original prototype, and earned the right to keep working on their movie in their own studio. The resulting movie of course was a major hit.

An artist in training needs guidance and teaching, but at the same time, an artist must be free of authority, which smothers creativity and originality. It's a difficult balance, I think--but it must be found.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

the artist as worrier

I still wake up in the middle of the night (at 3:50 this morning) and worry about my project (among other things). During the day I don't worry about it too much; I continue on with what I'm doing and let it take its course. But at night, lying passively in the dark, I worry.

What exactly do I worry about? I worry mainly that my idea is unworkable and that I'll lose inspiration with it and not finish it. Or that I will finish it but be unable to find anyone to publish it, forcing me to publish it myself. Thus the end of one Sisyphian task merges into the beginning of another.

I worry that I won't be able to solve my story problems, or to make my work cohere into something unified. That I won't be able to find what it is I'm truly trying to say, and thus won't be able to tell what belongs in my story and what doesn't.

I worry about how fast the years are going by now, and how little I seem to be able to get done each day, each year. They zip by like telephone poles on a train-ride. How many poles do I have left before the trip ends? How can I possibly be spending so much time on one project? What's wrong with me?

I sometimes feel at night the way I did as a boy in school, when I'd wake up and feel dread about some project that was coming due, and which I was procrastinating on finishing (or starting). In the day it didn't seem to bother me enough to get going on it, but at night I would have a knot of worry in my gut, knowing that the consequences of noncompletion would be unpleasant. I felt unfree.

Back then I didn't want to do their stupid assignments. I wanted to do my own projects, my own thing. But now I am doing my own project, my own thing--and still I lie awake at night, sweating it out.

Now, in the (underslept) light of day, I tell myself that this is the price of originality. If I were working on a "normal" project, that is, one that resembled other projects already out there, I would be able to plan its completion in a rational way. You're building a recognizable thing using a tested approach; you have a reasonable ETA for the whole thing. "This humorous vampire novel should take about eight months to write."

For this alien behemoth gestating in the uterus of my hard-drive, who knows.

I don't, and it worries me.

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