What Me, Flail?

I was thinking recently (which is always a good thing), during a particularly angsty moment with my MS, and asked myself: "What's with all the flailing?" Indeed, I'd spent the greater part of three days agonizing over revisions to Chapter Eight. I wrote, hacked, overwrote, back-spaced, streamlined, grimaced, and once actually cried over this handful of scenes as the days piled up. And each day, more terror struck (Back! Back, ye foul Chapter! Back, I say!!). So I did what I usually do in such times: I Avoided. The Manuscript. Strenuously.

So there I was, skimming over all the writer blogs I follow, keeping the snarling, tortured chapter at bay, and I came across this link (I can't remember on whose blog I found it), called As Soon As You Care, You Lose. It was remarkable if looked at in the context of aspiring novelists. Anyway, it struck me: If I flail so over ruined chapters, it must be because I'm not hungry, I'm starving to write this novel. And that's all wrong. There should be no flailing, not for a single manuscript. Not when there are so many novels to be written across one's career.

When I X'd out of the article, I looked back at the other writer blogs open in other tabs, and I wondered: would Peter Straub have spent so many hours blogging? Had the interwebz existed at the start of his career, would he have posted fretfully about writing, about the process, how hard it is, the odds of being published--would he compare rejections en masse, would he cheer so vigorously for people as they scrambled near the pinnacle, rejoicing as they received requests for partials, fulls?

Would King have? Proulx? Sontag? Mailer? Hell, Steele?

So how am I ever to become one of them if I agonize thus over a single manuscript --? Crikey, there are so many novels yet to be written. Am I going to carry on so each time? 

Paradigm shift, peeps. So I'm working to become a novelist. As a career. With a lot of books to go. I guess I'd better get to work.


Amy Jo | March 27, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Very sage advice. Thanks!

Shain Brown | March 27, 2010 at 6:41 PM

So, whats the outcome?

Lydia Kang | March 27, 2010 at 7:22 PM

Ah, but the agonizing also means you care about writing quality fiction. It's just finding that ability to function amidst the angst. I'm feeling that now, and then I stepped back for a moment, thinking--why do I feel like I have to fix this all right now? THIS WEEKEND? ANd then I chilled a little. And I feel better.
Rock on, Zoe!

Zoe C. Courtman | March 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Thanks for the comment, Amy! I'm working daily to try and figure this writing thing out in a way that doesn't drive me bananas! How's the process working for you?

Shain - outcome positive. No flailing. Just writing. Deadline looming - twas April 2, but I think it'll be closer to April 15 - and flailing will only gum up the works. So--onward!

Thanks for dropping by, Lydia. Someone else told me that, too, recently, so I guess I just take it as a sign that I care! And chillin' a bit definitely helped me, too. Got some new perspective! Looking forward to the blog chain where we can talk more about this stuff :)

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