(*From “Let It Bleed“)
I began these Monday posts in January of last year. Since I’d left the legal world and wanted to return to writing, I thought it would be a reasonable way to shake off the dust and try to recapture my voice after endless edits of legal briefs, focus group reports, and case analyses.
I also wanted to see if my take on “stuff” could and would generate any interest from folks other than friends and family without a ton of publicity or spam. It seemed like a smart thing to do as I also worked on my ultimate goal: turn my original Matt Jacob mystery novels into reasonably priced e-books (more about this coming soon), create a site to sell the MJs as both downloadable PDFs and all the different e-book formats, and, of course, work on new ones.
Well, the books have been converted and the new website is just a kiss away. There are still a few tweaks left–and don’t hold me to it–but I believe it will be up and running in the next few weeks.
Lately one of my jobs has been to copy and transfer all my past posts over to the new site. Of course, I end up reading them–déjà vu all over again. Sort of fun to see the evolution of style and subject, and on the whole I was okay with the writing. I was pleased that about a thousand people have jumped onto the bus for the ride. But then a disquieting unease set in and a couple of uncomfortable concerns began to emerge.
Yeah, the Monday’s were a “pass” on my pass/fail life continuum, but they were also an ocean away from what it takes to create a good, honest novel. Could I still do it? This question gut-punched me and I began to doubt the entire endeavor. Began to do my old recluse thing, feel sorry for myself about everything rotten that’s happened this year (of course neglecting all the positives), feeling the pull of my bed and the oblivion of sleep.
Why not try to attack the concern rather than wallow in it? Unfortunately, that isn’t my strongest gene. But it is Sue’s. Who, along with her ongoing concern, sympathy, cheer-leading, and annoyance at my increasingly depressed behavior, sensibly said: “Okay you’re scared. On one hand, who can blame you? On the other, so fucking what? Just start. You’ve been talking about pushing the fourth book forward some years (a possible idea) to bridge it to the new ones. Glue yourself to your chair and begin with that. It might actually give you some idea of the reality of your fears–one way or another.”
I immediately rejected the idea finding one excuse after another. Until finally, “excused” out, I realized the obvious. Sue, as she has been so many times during our 30+ year relationship, was absolutely right.
Next morning I plunked my ass down and stared at a blank screen and found myself turning around looking at the old Kay-Pro stowed under my music table. The machine I used to write STILL AMONG THE LIVING. My way of avoiding that white void. Some people count paper clips, I stare at my stuff.
But sometimes that staring actually generates ideas. I’ve often said that “consciousness is the last stop of information-not the first.” Apparently the notion of pushing TIES THAT BLIND forward in time had been percolating beneath the angst that had engulfed me. Instead of stomach sink, I began to imagine my writing groove where I followed the images in my head and used my two fingers to write down the movie I was watching.
I swiveled my chair back toward the computer and began to fill the screen. The images, and words didn’t come easy that first day. But I’d set an amount of time to write and wasn’t gonna move until that time was up–all the while keeping Hemingway’s rules in mind. That is, never finish writing at the end of a sentence, paragraph, or chapter. The “unfinished” then makes it easier to pick up where you leave off. I also kept in mind a New Yorker cartoon I had pinned on the wall of someone hunched over a typewriter with the thought bubble saying “Not finished yet, not finished yet, not….”
But it wasn’t until the third or fourth day that my years of novel writing actually kicked in. Whenever I write I always start at the beginning of the book and edit my way to the place where I left off. And this time I really enjoyed the process.
So yes, I’ve begun reworking TIES with entirely new opening chapters in order to determine whether I want to push the book’s “time” forward or not. This writing hasn’t really resolved my anxiety, but it’s reduced it to a level that’s surprisingly comfortable. Actually, back to what I remember feeling each time I sat down to write a new book.
My head is back into fiction.
One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is
the belief that ones work is terribly important.
– Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)