From The Domestic Goddess Series
[I am currently working on a story that deals with the Body and its place within the Self, and in order not to lose myself in the process I keep a small notebook on the side (of course) in which to go over what is happening from the perspective of my characters, record thoughts or insights they may have.]
Despite what some religions say, it seems inevitable that the Body outlives the Self -the I- over and over.
When the body grows old, it remains itself no matter how many limbs it loses, and no matter how many bacteria inhabit its cavities, how much turnover occurs within the cells, the body aims to replicate what it already knows and is. By the time the body dies, the I has dried up countless times and been replaced with a more vital version of itself, plumper, more current – perhaps on a daily basis. We learn so much, so quickly.
Among the constellation of things that we are, the body is possibly the most consistent, and this is perhaps why it upsets us so much that it cannot be impervious to the effects of living: if, despite its inconsistency, our body is the most consistent part we have, its inevitable mutations become terrifying reminders of the chaos we inhabit.
The hard thing for me isn’t so much starting something new as it is dealing with my tendency to behave like a squirrel, or a creature with a short attention span. No, maybe that’s not it. What I wan to talk about is that I scatter: myself, my focus, my writing.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a tendency to keep too many notebooks. I start new ones before filling old ones simply because I get drawn to their shiny new covers, the fact that they have a different format, a different feel. I scatter myself, too, as though I am lacking a foundation, and what I think I ought to be varies from one day to the next, making it difficult to get up in the morning and know what my focus will be.
When it comes to writing, let’s say the piece I’m working on at the moment, it’s not usually a matter of first-draft-second-draft-third-draft.
A first draft will usually be in one piece, short enough to hint at what it is I want to say.
The second draft is where the problem comes in: instead of reworking the story in a single file, collating all of my ideas, I will work on parts of the story in one file, then add potential scenes in another file, then leave the whole thing to rot in a corner for months, until, on some overcaffeinated train journey when I don’t have my laptop with me, I will start scribbling thoughts about the piece in my notebook.
I will vow to pick the piece back up as soon as I’ve gathered enough material, and I will continue collecting thoughts in my notebook until I’ve scattered the piece into as many different directions as possible.
Then, when the time in my schedules comes to actually work on the piece, i.e. stitch it together from a first draft blueprint and a bunch of disjointed notes, scenes, and ideas, I freeze up. I hide under my desk, hide in the folds of the internet, and I do anything I can to avoid having to sit down and go through the material I’ve amassed. I tell myself I will be overwhelmed if I have to face all of it. It’s a ridiculous time, and it happens every time a story needs to be reworked.
But it’s getting easier: this dance once took me several weeks to finish. Now, overcoming the fear seems to only take four or five days of whining, feeling sorry for myself for having to – the horror – read through my own thoughts and make something bigger out of them.
This gives me hope.
Maybe this is evidence of a growing trust in my creative process.
Maybe this signifies a loosening of the urge to measure up.