‘Twas a glorious holiday weekend, spent almost totally alone and almost exclusively in my dark little office. Perhaps to most people, this sounds like a depressing way to enjoy a holiday, but for me it was absolutely perfect. Writers often don’t spend holidays the same way other folks do. While most people will likely have barbeques, take camping trips, or spend holidays like Labor Day with friends and family, all the writers I know planned to make use of that bonus day by getting some of our real work done. Among all the other getting-caught-up activities such as house-cleaning, Mona-exercising, bill-paying, etc. I finally, finally got caught up on my novel.
There are three chapters of my young adult novel that have been haunting me and tormenting me for the last month and a half. Every time I tried to chisel away at the revisions that needed to be made in order for me to move forward with new material, I only felt discouraged and soon gave up. But yesterday I finally, laboriously (heh.) prevailed. I can’t describe how good it feels to have that roadblock behind me, on my way again, writing new material instead of hacking away at the same 34 pages over and over.
But friends, it was an ugly process: I had research books propped up against my monitor, a vast expanse of butcher paper with my color-coded novel timeline messily unrolled and taped on the wall above me, two notebooks open to my late-night, illegible scribblings, printouts with Kelly’s somewhat legible comments, and several mugs of tea all spread across my overwhelmed Ikea desk. Poor Mona wouldn’t even lie down on her dog bed in the office, not so much because of the mess it seemed, but because of all the moaning, groaning, and sighing noises I was making every few minutes.
When describing my writing process to my mom several months ago, she asked me why it had to be so painful; she wondered if other writers might have an easier go with the actual putting-words-on-the-page experience. I then asked her if she’d ever seen the movie, Adaptation, which I think sums up my opinion on the matter in just two scenes. First, we see Meryl Streep, portraying New Yorker writer Susan Orlean, as she happily types away with her stylish glasses perched perfectly on her nose, a big smile on her face as the words flow effortlessly onto the page. Her desk and office are orderly and inviting, and in general she looks pretty damn happy and carefree, putting ideas onto the screen in actual, chronological order.
Then, we see Nicolas Cage as Charlie Kaufman, getting started on his own writing session. He is the embodiment of feelings of inadequacy, sexual frustration, and self-loathing as he sits as his little desk (which is really just a typewriter set on a chair) that looks barren yet also somehow messy. He struggles with typing even just one word. He bargains with himself about whether or not he should begin with a cup of coffee, or reward himself with one later. He sweats profusely, he paces furiously, he moans and groans. And when he finally does land on an idea that will lead him into the writing he so desperately needs to do, he spits rapidfire bits of an idea into a handheld tape recorder, all messy and out of order and interlaced with frequent throwaway digressions and “ums,” “whatevers,” “you knows,” and “likes”, all the while still sweating and pacing and looking like a big freak.
So I said to my mom in reference to these two types of writers, that I am the latter. There is very little about my writing sessions that feels or looks pleasant, attractive, enjoyable, tidy, or easy. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love it. Perhaps even, it is because of how hard I toil over every new paragraph or every scrap of revision that I love it so; after all, nothing worth having in this world is easy.
And when I go home tonight and walk into my office, I know it’ll feel good to step over scraps of paper and splayed-open books scattered across the floor. There is something comforting about having to move things around just to gain access to my keyboard. In my house, a clean office is an unused one; a happy, pretty, calm writing session is generally not a productive one. If I’m sweating, pacing, twirling the shit out of my hair, miserable and the thought of how long it’s going to take me to finish this one paragraph, then I know I’m doing alright.