Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Sometimes my characters wake me with their chatter. My job is to listen to those voices, only they don’t keep normal hours. I stow index cards and a pen in the bathroom so as not to wake my husband. Henry sighs in the morning when he finds my nocturnal scribblings. Many of my author, artist and composer friends share this affliction or blessing, depending on your point of view. The problem is you can’t control when inspiration will hit.
During the day, I always have a notebook in my bag. Snippets of conversation are game, so is the way a storm dropped snow mushrooms in a brook (thanks, Alida, for showing them to me.) I collect laughter and sorrow. I have a hard time answering the question: “How many hours a week do you work?”
I do try to keep normal hours and write while the kids are at school. I’m there for them when they come in the door and need to talk. Once they start homework, I catch up on email and blog comments. I read other people’s novels in the evenings. I try to get my story out of my mind so that I can sleep.
Still, sometimes my best writing comes from those crazy nights. This happens more frequently during revision. I need extra time to see the entire manuscript as a whole. The adrenaline flows, and I can visualize every word. I get into a zone, and I won’t stop until I finish the draft. I love writing and revision, but it is my vice.
On my desk is the perfect first chapter. At least it’s perfect until it’s time to revise again. In the mean time, I’m catching up on sleep. Perfection can only be a dream.
Groundhog Day (1993) with Bill Murray is not about writing a novel, but it captures the process.
For those of you suffering from a more debilitating form of insomnia, I recommend Insomniac by Gayle Greene. It’s a layman’s review of the disease and its treatments (there is no known cure) as well as a memoir of a woman’s struggle to live with chronic insomnia. Gayle interviewed doctors, researchers and insomniacs. She presents the complex information in a format that is both easy to understand and engaging to read. Insomniac was a New York Times "Editors' Choice" when it was released in paperback last summer. Gayle and I share an agent, which makes us agent sisters (according to Barrie Summy.)
Gayle's list of insomniac writers includes: Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Lamott, Vladimir Nabokov, Charles Dickens, "maybe even Shakespeare" and Joyce Carol Oats, who provided the jacket blurb: "Impassioned and fascinating."
The book opens with this W.C. Fields quotation: "The cure for insomnia? Get plenty of sleep."
Blog watch: dovegreyreader scribbles and 3 other UK book bloggers are hosting Not the TV Book Group with online discussion of selected novels. Cynthia@Catching Days is posting a series on “reading like a writer.” A fun new blog, Books in the City, lives up to its name. She Brews Good Ale cooks good food too: a multi course meal prepared entirely from local ingredients and paired with locally brewed beer, recipes included. sixtyfivewhatnow posted artsy rainy day photos.
Theater watch: excellent New York Times review of As You Like It, playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through March 13 and directed by Sam Mendes. I just figured out what I want for my birthday.
My Photos: sunset at Bailey Island, dawn from our back door, "snow mushrooms" in the woods behind our house, our mudroom entrance.