Sunday, October 08, 2006

who am I if I'm not writing the novel?

Writing a novel is good, because for all the time you're writing it, you have a purpose, a reason to be in the world. What are you doing lately? someone will ask, and you'll say (modestly or with bravado, as fits your personality), I'm writing a novel. Or possibly you'll hide it, you'll answer this question with some nonsense about your job, or what you've planted in your garden. But even so, you'll know that the true answer is--I'm writing a novel--and the knowledge will give you strength. You'll feel the pleasure of your secret, you can see yourself as a spy in the house of literature (to paraphrase Anais Nin, which I feel guilty about doing, since I dislike her writing so much; but that is a good title).
But then you are not writing the novel, and you have to say much more boring things like, I'm taking some time off from writing, or I'm thinking about some short stories, and your listener will be able to sense your restlessness and dissatisfaction.
Virginia Woolf said that she always liked to have another project to turn to when she finished a book--in her case, it was to stave off a killing depression. I'm not so worried about that, but I did think I'd like to have a project in mind--what will I be working on when the novel is finally and truly done? I've set myself to think about this several times, and so far have no answer. I've toyed with past ideas, but nothing has stepped forward to say, "Write me." So I don't know. My idea files are full of wonderful stuff--titles, first sentences, vague ideas, bits of dialogue, as here
"My father got a speeding ticket the year before he died."
a story abt the guy down the street, his PTSD, his Vietnam history, his feud with sometimes other neighbors; his little dog; how he scraped and painted one side of his house per year, meticulously; how at the height of his feud he dressed in camo fatigues and spoke about doing reconnaissance, going in country, etc.
a story called "The Dream of Snow
Or a character named Aunt Babydoll.
But what I wish right now is that someone else would write about these things. And then I could read them.


Blogger The Scarlet Tree said...

Really! Don't get me wrong, but I barely get through reading a page of a book (any book) before I am itching to write something down. You are luckly to feel so focused on your novel. I keep jumping around of late, with al sorts of ideas - rather than just sticking to my novel

10/09/2006 12:32 AM  
Anonymous bloglily said...

Yes, I remember from Woolf's diaries how distressing it was for her whenever she finished something, and how important it was to have the next thing in mind. I'd trust your instinct that when there's something you really want to write, it'll be obvious to you. Having finished this novel, I suppose you have a pretty good idea of the work involved, so you're not so willing to go chasing after the first thing. (Maybe the second novel is a little like a second marriage!)

10/10/2006 1:16 AM  
Blogger Sean Santa said...

oh man, no more 'nam stories...



10/10/2006 9:38 AM  
Blogger Gina Ventre said...

I have a list of titles without stories and then when I go to title a story, I can't think of anything.

I agree with Sean.

10/11/2006 8:51 AM  
Blogger lucette said...

Sean and Gina--you have to allow us old people the pathetic little stories of our generation!

10/11/2006 9:09 AM  

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