How To Write
I’ve been writing a novel since the beginning of time. Okay, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but it sure feels like it. In actuality, I started it in 1999 or 2000 and have been working on it, on and off, for twelve years or so. It’s all kinda fuzzy.
And I’m only about 160 pages in, so take my advice with a single molecule of salt.
Start with a clean space. Spic and span. Not a grain of dust. Get out your Swiffer and, quite literally, go to town. Buy fresh flowers and spend six hours arranging them flawlessly. Run to Bed Bath & Beyond in your pajama bottoms and 2 XL tee. Peruse the Yankee Candle aisle, picking each jar up by its bottom (you don’t want to have to buy all that broken shit), and smell each fragrance until you find the one that matches your flower arrangement. Go home, take two Excedrin to rid yourself of the fume headache that likely ensued. Take a nap.
It’s not like I spent that whole eleven years writing every day. I spent twelve years getting my education. I spent a few years drinking Jim Beam and Jagermeister, mixed. I spent some time on tractors at Journey concerts. I’ve been busy.
Wake up from your nap and glance at your pristine writing space. Toddle to the kitchen and make a pot o’ Joe, fill up your largest mug, and go back and plant your ass in your chair. Turn on your computer and wait twelve minutes for it to fully start up. Admire your flowers. Smell them. Wipe the pollen dust from your nose. Open up your favorite word processor (if you happen to like WordPerfect I’ll try not to judge you.) Stare at the blank page. Slurp more coffee. Get up and pee.
But. Every. Single. Day. I think about my novel. I access my mental health every time I mourn for how lonely my characters must be; for how neglectful I’ve been of them. I bite my nails to the bloody nub worrying over whether they’ll still be there for me when I’m ready to write. I wonder if they’re growing up without me; if their personalities are changing - morphing so that I won’t even recognize them.
Sit your ass back in the chair and stare at the blank page. Poise your fingers over the keyboard. Crack your knuckles. Remember that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, shed a few tears of religious guilt from your childhood, and consider that black sludge that’s built up under the refrigerator grate. Head to the kitchen, fill up a bucket with warm water, a spurt of Dawn, and a shot of Clorox. Grab a metal spatula and attack that grime. Like really beat the living f*ck out of it.
There are times when I think that the reason I’m not working on my novel is that I’m waiting for information from the Universe.
No, I’m serious.
I was once stopped up like a skinny supermodel who, in the privacy of her own home, ate a four pound block of Swiss in the span of an hour. I hadn’t written for two years. Not a single, solitary word. I was in college at the time and I was taking a class called Women in Early Christianity. On a random Wednesday, mid-semester, my professor said something so profound I almost jumped out of my seat. It was perfectly aligned with the section of my book that I was stuck on. It was what I was waiting for. I’m sure of it. And I went home and wrote thirty pages that night.
Once you’ve showered because you’ve just cleaned up the nine years of oil dredge under your fridge, find your coziest pajamas, put your hair up in a clip (you don’t want that shit falling in your face when you write), and, once more, plant that ass. Scroll up and read the last paragraph you wrote a year and a half ago. Look down at your toes and notice that you haven’t had a pedicure for over a year. Turn your feet over and realize that the bottoms of your feet are as hard as your granite countertops. Head to the garage, posthaste, for a sander and some garden clippers. Give your appendages some attention for the next three hours. Take another shower so you don’t smell like toe scum. It’s time for dinner. Hoo-RAH! You’ve worked hard today and you’re starving.
And I haven’t written a lick since. Not. Notta. Nothing. You see, these characters who were wholly unexpected appeared during those last thirty pages and I’m just not sure they belong in my world. Sure, I’ve trusted the process when every other character showed up out of nowhere, but this was different. Sort of like adding a dragon at the end of your dystopian novel wherein every other living organism has died, including the fungi. Or, at least, that’s what my forty-six creative writing professors have told me over the past 20 years of creative writing courses. But… screw it. It’s my novel and I’ll have a proverbial dragon if I want to. I’ll just do it well. As soon as I actually start writing again. For sure. But, first, the laundry, my whites are atrocious.