Saturday, February 9, 2013

Writing a book is like having cancer.

Never mind how the loss occurred.  Never mind that you had an external hard drive for back-up and were using a Google feature to store text off of your hard drive.  The thing to mind is your loss of the two hundred odd pages of manuscript you'd written.

Another thing to mind is how, after a week or two of what you considered shrewd, hopeful attempts to recover what you'd lost, you began a forced march toward Dr. Kubler-Ross's Fifth Stage which, although it related to death, could well relate to the final stage of loss, the stage of acceptance.

The final thing to mind is how, in this space, somewhere between 2009 and 2010, you began recasting the entire project under the lion's head logo of your blog site, rewriting the work to the point at which you'd lost it, then carrying it beyond that point to a place where you were as content with a completed first draft as you were able to be.

A number of revisions and a serious progression of edits and copyediting later, you reached that fifth stage of acceptance again.  You accepted the fact that your project was completed.  The only other thing you could do at the time was pose for the author's photo which appears on the back cover.  Then you waited until that moment when you could heft a printed, bound book in your hand.

You'd already done the next thing in the process of emotional and logical activity.  You'd asked yourself the existential question, "What next?"  You spoke it aloud, calling yourself by name.  "What next, Lowenkopf?"

Then you settled in to listen for the answer.

As most of your answers about such things tend to do, this one overwhelmed you.  You needed an index card to write down all the answers you got to your existential question.  The length and variety of your answer required you to write in a small scrawl in order to accommodate the details.  Once again, you were forced to the mathematics of computing the number of probable years of life you had in a statistical sense, against which you compared the list of projects, against which you arrived at a Zen-like conclusion that on a statistical basis, you'd probably not live long enough to finish all the works you'd listed.  To this calculus, you added the probability of encountering yet other projects of potential engagement-level interest to you, with the usual recognition that you stood a great chance of meeting death fifty percent happy to have so many interesting projects and fifty percent sad at not being able to get them all done.  You interpret this kind of dis-equilibrium to mean you'd die happy.

You have in fact begun another project.  Typical of you, you've cheated by starting two others as well, your excuse being your enthusiasm was so great that you did not wish to lose the sense of velocity and energy beginnings bring to you.  In some ways, you know yourself well.

Somewhere between wakefulness and sleep this morning, you decided to do for this first work in progress the equivalent of what you did with The Fiction Writers' Handbook. You decided to do your warm-ups for it here, even at times setting down notes or actual drafts for portions of the text.

Since the new project is to be about writing again, to get all your thoughts about writing out of the way in order to allow you closer access to the two novels, you need to address the issue for yourself of why another book on writing when there are already so many and indeed your latest is today number four on the Kindle nonfiction list.

Everyone seems to want to write a book about writing, a mystery, and a memoir.  Your two novels are indeed mysteries and you've blunted the sense of need to write a memoir by writing in a nostalgic way in these blog entries about your life at various times and in various places.

In a real sense, writing a book is like having cancer.  Every cancer is different.  Every book should be different.  Every writing process should be different if it is not to fall into the trap of being derivative.  When you realized your cancer was not like other cancers, you were able with sang froid that amazed you then to say in effect to the oncologist after your eleven hours in surgery, That's it.  No chemo, thank you.  No radiation, thank you.  Check-ups?  Okay, but no more invasions of the body as it is currently constituted.

Your writing process, although not patterned, is not like too many processes of other writers you know.  There are other editor-teachers with views on writing that more or less parallel yours, but they are not congruent.  You write to serve and describe your process.  You write to discover things.  Perhaps this one additional book, Lowenkopf on Fiction Writing,will teach you yet enough more to help you through these two novels that blink at you, sending you lights from distant stars.

Why another book on writing?  Because your writing self is evolving and as an editor and teacher, you believe every writer's self should be evolving, thus your new book on storytelling will show you how to get where you wish to be and what you believe you have to see and feel in order to perform at that level, and so you will in a real sense be giving away the store, showing how "it," the writing of story, is done, the better to write the stories you've grown to need to write.

Does this open the possibility of you needing to do yet another book on writing after you've had at the novels?

There is always a memoir, but then, isn't a book on writing a memoir of story?

You didn't answer the question.

Writers don't give direct answers to questions, they work toward discovery.

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