DEAR BRAIN: stop protecting me from finishing

DEAR DIARY:

I’m having trouble getting started after a day away, because of roofers hammering on the roof all day yesterday – and because I have to stop and think at a scene I thought was done.

It is easy to lose faith when it’s been a long slog, it seems I’m no closer to the end than I was three months ago (I honestly believed I’d be published by now), and I run into what turns out to be a minor rethinking in a scene that was hard to write.

It’s not the scene.

I think I know what to do, and it’s a minor set of corrections to make reality and fiction overlap somewhere in the middle. The rule is: if you’re going to use the real world, either do it accurately, or CHOOSE to do it differently.

I don’t know why it seems necessary to me to anchor this book in the real world and time – I think it has something to do with making the implausible seem eminently possible at the end.

It isn’t even a requirement – fiction does NOT have to make sense.

But I’ve chosen to anchor many parts in the real world (for my values of ‘real’), so it threw me when I thought I had done so, and Google Earth showed me I had not.

Why blame Google Earth?

Well, because there was a car trip in there (during which some serious thinking is going on), and it went from a slightly fuzzy place (Kary’s house) to a very real place where I’ve been myself, and which is the reason this part of the story got set in New Hampshire.

So I thought I was on solid ground and had planned this out – and that the hard part was giving a framework to the thinking going on, NOT the car trip it is inserted into.

(BTW, notice that I’m not mentioning WHICH trip I’m referring to – don’t want to spoil the magic if there is any.)

I think this is more symptomatic of FINISHING than of any small flaw in the plot or writing.

It’s the EXCUSE

The reason why this long effort can simply not be finished, ever.

And once I stop and write this, thus taking all these horrifying doubts from the inside of my brain, where I am incapable of sorting them out (CFS brain fog redux!) to the cold hard (okay, hot hard – it was over 100°F here yesterday – those poor roofers!) light of day, then I see its size (not so big) instead of its shadow (humongous), and I can think of getting back to work.

Steven Pressfield (Turning Pro and others) calls this ‘Resistance’ and reminds us that the apparent size of Resistance is related to the success possible just around the corner. As you get closer to your goal, the Resistance grows (because, I think, your self is trying to protect you from the negative consequences of success such as NOT having success or having success that is too big for your britches or whatever). So you won’t get hurt.

This is getting a little boring.

So I take all this garbage out of my head, put it on the page (thus proving I am NOT blocked, at least not in writing to you, Dear Diary), and can examine it dispassionately.

It’s just a small bump in the editing.

It is easily fixable.

When it’s fixed, the next bump will appear on the horizon, and I will deal with it.

And there will be more.

And then, just as in all the tasks before, from writing to cover to formatting to, well editing), it will be over.

The TO DO list is FINITE.

Thanks for listening, Dear Diary.

Love,

Alicia

PS Stories of similar will be commiserated with, encourgament  met with great approval, and will accept chocolate (virtual if that’s all you got)

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14 thoughts on “DEAR BRAIN: stop protecting me from finishing

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

    BTW, I find it really sweet that y’all don’t trust me. I think that bodes well for the story.

    But I wonder what I’ve done to deserve it (other than be a rank beginner!).

    I’m smiling – glad you care.

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  2. juliabarrett

    Editing, etc. seems to go on forever. No getting around it. However too much editing begets more editing. So watch yourself. And good luck.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      There are many kinds of editing. What you’re talking about is disimproving (ie, ruining) perfectly good storytelling by fiddling around with the sentences too much. This I will avoid.

      There is a certain amount of editing for clarity that must happen, if several people mention they had a hard time with a particular paragraph or description. Those I look at, and, if I agree, I change.

      And then there are actual typos – which must be removed. If possible, as soon as detected. If not, when possible.

      I don’t plan to change ANYTHING important in the plot; the things that happen and how they happen were put there, in order, for a reason. The characters and themes don’t change.

      So my editings in general are minor, but I don’t need to subject readers (even those kind readers who read along as I posted and never mentioned I’d used a particular word or phrase several times in a scene – must have been preoccupied with the story) to things I know I would fix if I knew about them: I have ways of knowing about them, and fix them I will.

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  3. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    I think I had a similar experience regarding the mismatch between between fiction and reality, along with a small dose of angst.

    When I started my novel, Fate’s Door, I hadn’t done much research. I tend to research as I write, rather than doing it ahead.

    My male lead is a prince in the 4th century BC from a city-state named Zakynthos. I suspected that his city-state would probably cause me writerly problems, because of a real island called different names, depending on the background of the person you are talking to.

    It might be Zycanthos or Zante or Zakynthos.

    The problem? My fictional city-state of Zakynthos is located on the real island of Lampedusa.

    I thought of changing the city-state’s name. And couldn’t see my way to it. Altairos is meant to come from Zakynthos. My Zakynthos. Every other historical facet in my novel tallies with the research I’ve done. I may have made an error, but I’ve done the best I could to make my fiction match reality. This Zakynthos deviation is the one place (aside from the magical fantasy elements) where the fiction and the reality do not match.

    I decided to handle the problem with an Author’s Note, in which I explain my one deliberate liberty with history and geography.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Excellent idea.

      I think I’ll handle anything not exactly real with a vague and general author’s note saying I took a few liberties where necessary; and even when I use the real name of something, no implications go along with it.

      Verisimilitude is NOT truth – truth is boring.

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  4. Lily White LeFevre

    Well i can’t figure out if what i’m afraid of is having to do over yet again or actually finishing, so…we’ll call it B and form a mutual support society! 🙂

    Seriously, glad to hear you are crossing the bumps one by one. And be glad you took the trip/google search that uncovered the flaw at this point, when it’s most fixable! (not that you can’t fix later BUT there will be more resistance to do so)

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I thought we were already IN a Mutual Support Society, Lily! Thanks for the support, BTW.

      Oh, I’m glad I found it. But it was having a disproportionate effect on progress, and I don’t believe (knock on wood) in writer’s block, so I take to the page to exorcize the demons, and, well, it being me and having my own blog, I put it out there so other people can either have a good laugh – or commiserate.

      It’s the Resistance and the angst and the circling thoughts in my head that are the problem, not the relatively tiny bump in a scene.

      To get over the angst, I also called up a local recording studio to continue my insane idea of doing the ‘read by author’ version of the audiobook, and discovered a lovely local experienced professional.

      I think editing, formatting, and graphics may be the limit for now of what I want to do completely on my own. Even though I probably couldn’t quite do it in my jammies (he’s 10-15 minutes from the house), and it would cost money, this may be one of those areas in which professional equipment and help save you a LOT in the long run. It would be enough that I did the reading.

      Hope your book is going well.

      Alicia

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      1. Lily White LeFevre

        Oh, we are! This suggestion was a chapter under the main society. LOL

        Your read by author idea isnt crazy. It’s the only way i can see myself doing audio right now, as i hate the way progessional readers read. I want…my mom reading, which is what i sound like now, more or less. Or maybe you’re just not alone in your kind of crazy?

        I’d much rather hear more about your book than talk about mine right now. Says it all, yeah? Mwah

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I nominate Lily for President of the local society arm.

          I have started with gathering audiobook info; when I’m done with ebook and POD, I’ll dig into it in earnest.

          And then I really, really want to get back to writing! I’m thinking audiobook could be read in chunks after the day’s writing. I found a nearby studio, and will report when I get more info.

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