“Now I have lost a great deal of time. I have been remiss and lazy, my concentration have permitted to go under the line of effort. The point is that I am over half through with this book.”
John Steinbeck, “Working Days,” Entry #59, August 29, 1938
I’m with ya, Johnny.
I have been bad lately. Yes, work has been busy. Yes, I went to Bouchercon and conventions always mean I lose a few days. Yes, I’ve been behind in my homework for my current class.
But I’ve not put a single new word down on the novel in probably a week and a half. The book has been stuck at the illegal rave (happening in the forgotten bowels of the jail) for something like three weeks now. It took a while to get the right feel down for the scene, but since I got that done…putt-putt-putt.
Like Mr. Magoo putting down the street, completely unsure of where he’s going. Actually, I’d love to be Magoo. At least he was moving.
It’s not like I don’t know – in at least a general way – where the book is going. I know who’s up next on the death parade, I know what the next investigatory step is, I know what the next characterization step is. I just can’t find the time to get going again. And, of course, now that I’ve been stopped for so long, it’ll take me two days just to get back up to speed.
When I was in a writers’ group with Ed Bryant, I used to silently – and sometimes with full throat – tell the other writers they were idiots. I know, hard to believe. But every month the group would hear excuses from a vast majority of the group that they just “didn’t have time to write.”
I considered that bullshit. If you want to write, then you fucking find time for it. If you don’t want to write, then sit your ass down and watch reruns of The Bob Newhart Show.
I still consider that bullshit, even upon myself. I want to write, I want to get this book done and look at some other projects, and I’ve been blowing it off. I have become, God save me, one of those I yelled at. I have let apathy and laziness step in and become my current best friend.
There are a million reasons why. I could fill up every megabite of the Internet with reasons why this is so but they’re all bullshit. It comes down to do you want to write or not? If so, then do it. If not, piss off.
Andy DuFrense has a great line in Shawshank Redemption. It comes down to a choice, he says, get busy living or get busy dying.
Okay, writing a novel that might well never get published isn’t quite so dire as all that, but you get what I’m saying.
The act of writing has always been a joy to me. I’ve never had a problem with sitting in the chair for an hour or two and banging out new words. Put on some bombastic classical music or some angular bebop jazz and get the hell to it. Or slam on some Metallica or jangly blues and edit the crap outta something (no lyrics when I’m writing new…it just distracts me).
But lately, I just can’t bring myself to sit down. Actually, that’s not true. Lately, when I’m sitting down, I just can’t stay focused. There are a lot of dead fish swimming around in my head and I can’t see through their corpses to get Jace moving on to her next thing.
Steinbeck talks, in his quote above, about being lazy and remiss. I’m not sure I’m lazy, I’m getting lots of homework done, and I wrote a brand new short story when I got back from Bouchercon. But everything I’ve been doing is in short bursts. I believe that right now, my long-term concentration is as dead as McCain’s campaign, just as Steinbeck says in the second half of the quote.
But knowing and understanding the problems – even if I don’t expose them here – hasn’t done anything for my ability to deal with the problems, solve them, and move the fuck on.
I need to be more like ol’ Andy, I guess. “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Actually, Red has the better part of that line. “That’s goddamned right.”
Tee it up, Red, let’s get this fucking book done.