Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank (computer screen) until the drops of blood form on your forehead.
Of course, when he wrote that it was a blank sheet of paper. But it still applies. I did it. Today. I finally finished the first draft of my tenth book, The Nature of Fog. It's the third Chloe James Mystery. But this post is not about the book. With the second draft to go and all the editing it will still be three or four weeks before it is live. This post is about another book. A book that I keep coming back to time and time again.
Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.
Let me explain. I have been having a very difficult time with this, my tenth book. This was somewhat new to me, because while writing is never easy, I've not ever been plagued with the urge to procrastinate that I have felt the past five months. I'd sit down at the computer and search for more news on the election. Or sewing. Or golf. Or new books to read, new places I want to move to, new recipes I want to cook. Anything, really, anything that could move me further away from finishing my book. And all the while a little voice in my head was asking:
" Sallee, what's up with that?"
And while I won't ever be as prolific as some of today's contemporary writers, I'd never
struggled so much with the feeling that I didn't want to write anymore.
I don't know what it was that urged me to re-read this book on Art and Fear. I'd read it the first time when I was painting. The second time when I convinced my book club to read it. And at least on other time before I just pulled it out a week ago. And within the first twenty pages I found at least one of the answers I was looking for. I had been feeling an empty sense that my work wasn't good enough. That, for some reason, I should just pack it in, because, afterall, I'm no Louise Penny or Martha Graham. And no matter how much I try. No matter how hard I work, I'll never measure up.
Then I saw it. The one sentence that grabbed me and shook me back to my senses:
Vision is always ahead of execution- and it should be.
What I intended to write is always going to be so much better than what I actually do manage to get down onto my computer. What I feel about a story is always going to be more touching than what I can ever say about it. What I see in life is always going to be bigger than whatever vision I can possibly share.
It is the nature of the beast. This thing we call art. But then I was reminded of what Jim Smyth, one of my painting teachers said so many years ago. The only way to get over the stalling, over the procrastination and the fear is to put as many paintings behind you as possible. Thank you, Jim. And thank you to the authors of Art and Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland. The only way I finished the first draft was to put butt in chair and keep writing. One word after another. One sentence after another. A scene, a chapter, a novel.
My new book will be out in a couple of weeks. If you choose to read it, I hope you find it worthy of your time. But what I feel good about is that I believe it was worthy of mine.