(This post was originally written on 750words.com. It has been edited.)
Here’s an interesting experiment in writing while watching TV. A movie, actually, but if I can do this, then I can do my writing and not fall behind on my favourite shows. So the experiment isn’t going so well. I’m losing my train of thought. But the thing is, I don’t have anything in particular in mind to write right now. Some days I feel like I can write a couple of thousand words a day. Some days I don’t know if I can get out a couple of hundred. I’m so happy to get my days off early in the going. And to have the whole day at the end of the month.
Yep, trying to write and do something else at the same time isn’t going to work. I need to just shut the rest of the world off and write. It’s something I’ve never been very good at. My brain doesn’t work like that. It wants to be looking, reading, watching, hearing everything at once. I suffer from that affliction of fear of boredom. Fear of missing what’s out there in the world. I love that idea Frank Chimero had: if we could just stop producing for one year. Just one year, to give us all some time to catch up, to see what we want to see, read what we want to read, listen to what we want to listen without worrying that we’re missing ten other things in the meantime. The time I spend listening to one new album, not even an hour, there are ten new albums out that I want to hear. I’ll never catch up. It’s a physical impossibility.
But instead of rushing around to do everything, I want to spend more time with the things I love. I want my knowledge to be small and deep, not broad and shallow. A lot about a few things, rather than a little about everything. It’s what I’ve tried to do in the past. Read all the books on one topic, by one author. Watch only movies about one subject. For the most part, it actually works. Books, however, are a different story. I don’t know that I could pick one subject, one author.
Music’s easy–I could live the rest of my life listening only to Canadian artists. Hands down, I don’t even have to think about it. If I went through my collection right now, I don’t even imagine I’d have to delete that much. Less than half, for sure. I’d be sad to lose Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel and Sufjan Stevens, but I could do it, because there’s so much more Canadian music out there that I haven’t heard. I may have discovered it and want to listen, but I have got around to it. Sometimes, I’m just happy to stick with what I know and love.
But there’s always that moment, that moment of discovery. It’s the most amazing thing, when a piece of art catches you out of daily life, makes you sit up and listen. I want more moments like that. I want to create moments like that. I hope my novel is full of moments that surprise me. I kind of can’t wait for the writing part of this venture to start. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever, but I only signed up in October. I’ve had this story in my head for a long time, that’s true. Not this exact story, of course, because that’s been changing constantly. But my story about artists figuring themselves out. And now it’s finally going to get out of my head and down on paper, as it were.
I actually don’t think I’ll do much writing on paper. Maybe on my days off I’ll grab my clipboard and just ramble. Do some longhand that won’t be very good writing, but will be very good exercise. This is supposed to be my exercise. It is, and I think that’s why I put it off like I do. I don’t want to write my 750 words some days, but I force myself to do it. Sometimes, all I write about is writing, but at least it’s words on the page. I need to get words on the page if I want to get good words on the page. Ideally, I want great words on the page. For November, I’m aiming for something good. We’ll work on great later.
At the end of next month, I’m going to need a nice long break from the novel. Unless of course it all goes well and I fall in love with the characters and just want to keep writing stories about them. I don’t want to make my novel into a series, not officially. But I love what Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have done. Instead of a series based on the same characters, they’ve created a series based on the same structure and style. That’s pretty genius. If my novel were to become a series, I’d want it to be a TV series. That would be my preference. But that’s just daydreaming.