Sunday, January 07, 2007


I am a master tap dancer.

I have a first draft, right? A first draft I wrote with my eyes half closed, speeding along, afraid to look at what I was doing. And now that it’s come time to revise, I find that I am doing a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, a lot of studying… and not a whole lot of writing.

Mind you, my family has bought into this. My husband and my father are both asking me when I’ll be done. There’s an agent in New York – yes, that agent – who’s waiting for me to send it to her. And I am waiting on me, too. I am waiting to do what I have always wanted to do: write a book I would love to read.

So what’s the problem? Fear. I am afraid that while I am a good writer, even a great one, I am not a particularly good storyteller. I am afraid I never will be. I am afraid that writing a novel is beyond me, that it’s too complex, there are too many moving pieces. I have no idea how I finished the other three, except that none of them are in good shape. I feel like Sisyphus. Will I ever get one in a state where it doesn’t fail? Where I’m proud of it?

Most of all, I am afraid that I don’t see what other people see in my writing. And since I can’t tell the wheat from the chaff, I don’t know what to keep in Draft 2 and what to jettison.

Thisshows up in every main character I’ve ever written. I don’t understand them; I have no idea what drives them. They’re not nearly as real to me as my supporting cast. Heidi told me once to make them me, more me than I am, even. So far I haven’t managed it.

So the success I’ve had feels like a fluke, like the emperor’s new clothes. And instead of taking off my tap shoes and getting to work, I’m still shuffling off to Buffalo: reading about writing, instead of knuckling down and doing the work. Still letting my fear stop me.

I know what I need to do: get on a schedule and stick to it, so the muse will know when to show up. I know what I need to do: reread the damn thing, come up with an outline, figure out what I’m writing about (and for once and all, who I’m writing about, because Demeter is so much clearer to me than Persephone is), and start writing the stuff that needs to be written.

And writing this has made me realize what a ridiculous fear this is. Yeah, writing a novel is a lot of work. There are a lot of balls to keep in the air. But I’ve done it before, and I am learning my craft. And what’s the worst thing that can happen? Not writing, that’s what. Even the worst day writing is better than the best day not writing, simply on the neurosis factor alone. If I keep working on it, eventually I’ll get it. I just need to sit myself down and do the work. Not to be all Pollyanna, but damn. I do know how to belabor a fear.



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