The Writing Life (or, lack thereof)

I worry these days that my writing isn’t as good as it used to be, because all the choices I make seem to be poor ones. I’ll go through a story or a scene and realize that what I chose during the first pass was totally inappropriate. I keep thinking I’ve lost touch with the words, that there’s some kind of innate feeling for plot, character, structure, that went by the wayside. It’s made the last year of writing incredibly slow-going and difficult.

It wasn’t until tonight, as I went through and worked on the heroes story, that I realized what I was doing. There wasn’t anything different about the choices I made the first time through now than there was three years ago. The difference is, they’re *transparently wrong choices* now. As I go through and clean up the words, I’m seeing the errors – and where those errors will lead – a lot sooner than I would have a couple years ago. It’s like playing a chess game. You can see where this one wrong piece is going to get you somewhere you don’t want to go. So you go back, and back, and back, and figure out exactly where it’s going wrong. You fix that piece. You go forward. Then back, back, then forward.

It’s such a slow fucking process that it makes me feel retarded. I feel like I’m making stupid mistakes that I never used to make. But when I look back at my old fiction, I can see the same mistakes. The differences is, when I wrote them then I wasn’t aware of them. When I write a story very quickly – something incredibly inspired that I feel in my gut the whole way through – sometimes the emotional weight of it can mask some of the bullshit for me. That’s what those nice gut-punching writing sessions were like. Now, usually, my stories come out like this: bursts and spurts and lame-duck circling.

I feel like a completely broken writer because I can actually see where things are broken. It’s not that they weren’t broken before. It’s just that I can see it now. And it gets me stuck.

I’d call it a blessing, except that’s it’s slowed my writing down considerably, in no small part because it’s caused a total lack of confidence. I just sit here and look at all these broken pieces and I think, “How the hell do these fit together?”

I’m working through the writing funk slowly, but it’s torturous, and it’s been paralyzing me this last year. I started up regular writing times again this week, for the first time in… well, the first time since I had a book 1 deadline. I gave up regular writing times when I moved out of Steph and the Old Man’s place, and writing has been sporadic since then. Again, I don’t know if this is good or bad. There’s a big change going on in my writing life, and I don’t know if it’s for the best or not. I won’t know for awhile yet.

I can see broken things now. I just need to stop letting that paralyze me. Failure only really happens when you give up, and not writing much this last year has come perilously close to that. Sticking in the trenches… well, I don’t know. Sometimes you get to hop into another trench on down the line. You get to advance. But in the meantime, you’re keeping your head down a lot, and pissing in a bucket, and that does get old after awhile. I mean, when you start drinking your urine out of the bucket, do you figure you’ve been in long enough to quit? Or do you wait for dehydration to set in and just pray for rain?

I’m thinking I’ll dig a well.

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