Thursday, August 19, 2010

Marching orders

Despite all the good advice one can find about how to write a novel, and the self-talkings-to that occur at regular intervals, the business of getting the bus rolling toward a destination remains difficult. My problem throughout my scholarly writing career has been usually a lack of planning, an enthusiasm for substance over form, and a tendency to write myself into corners or corn filelds. For instance, I have this one paper that I think is probably pretty good, and informative and insightful, but I believe nobody will publish it until I completely write it into another form. Now I've taken that not so much as a reason to revise as a reason to abandon ship, mostly because I get so little personally out of writing to form, even when publication occurs. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't plan more and better for writing a novel, and keep the form and purpose and readership in mind as I do so, and as I write. It has also become apparent to me, as a novice novel-writer, that my narrative imagination is something like medieval maps, highly detailed at the local level, but tapering off into the distance, where one sees names like The Wastelands, or The Impassible Mountains. I don't really know what's going to happen next, or where it's going, except in the most vague sense, and I don't think this is enough to start driving the car down the highway, to return to my previous clich├ęd metaphor. The problem, for me, with planning -- which has meant doing the snowflake and other stuff -- is not that I mind doing it, or that it's not producing good results, but that I feel anxious that I will never really get "started." But my marching orders for the day are "stay the course," As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said (thank you,, "A plan without a goal is just a wish," which I think is not really apropos, but does get me further toward what I wanted to say. It is through the planning that my wish is transformed into a goal. The simple plan to "write a novel" was just a wish, like the ones related to weighing 180 pounds, driving a Porsche, and cleaning up my office.

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