Turns out, I’ve been really confused about writer’s block. I thought it happened mid-story when you no longer knew what to say. So you stared at a blank page and couldn’t come up with any more words. That’s not what it was for me.
Shortly after my last glowing report about having written so much on my novel there was no turning back, I fuh-roze. I never even got to the blank page anymore. I was half way through a chapter for which I knew exactly what was going to happen, and I couldn’t go on. I lost my nerve. I kept reading and reading other people’s books. I kept wishing I’d be published one day. I kept thinking about my book and liking the idea of it. But I became more and more sure that this was one dive I would never fully make.
Do you know the sheer chutzpah it takes to open a blank document and think you’ve got words to put on it that other people will care enough about to buy? It doesn’t matter how many books I’d read and thought, “Surely I can write something this good.” Now I was staring at my own laptop thinking, Where did all those people find the chutzpah? A guy in college once told me that he’d heard I used to be audacious. Used to be. Well, some time this summer I lost my audacity again.
The other night as we ate supper and Michael began talking about the stuff we were going to have to move from the back room while he renovates, I realized there is a very crucial story from my childhood that he has yet to hear. It’s about the time my parents were renovating, and a brick wall literally came flying into my sister’s bedroom and soot and sheet rock dust and plaster all hung in the house like a plague constricting my bronchial cord until I was a wheezy mess. Mom was doing laundry when the note flew under the door, “Dear Mom, I’m going to live with Grandma.”
The moral of the story is, Serenity doesn’t handle unsettled well. And also, she had asthma. Of course, there are evidently crucial stories from Michael’s childhood in which we learn that things once decided and begun are completed no matter what. And he dug in anyway. He closed off the work space, and I’ve just sort of been ignoring that part of the house like it doesn’t exist.
Then on Friday, I wondered aloud if I would get anything written on the novel this weekend. And he made a deal with me: Whenever he was working on the home makeover project, I would write. We shook on it. Figuratively. And the next day while he worked….I took a shower. And I read email. And I looked at my unfinished chapter. And I wrote a few words on it. And then iCarly was on and the boys were playing Monopoly weird and I kept interjecting the appropriate rules. (Drew pays ungodly amounts for the properties, just because he can.) And by the time Michael was done and showering, I’d written one hundred fifty seven words. Even he knew – that’s, like, a paragraph.
Then the next day, I tried again. And this time, I wrote. And I finished the whole chapter. And I felt like I had scaled Mount Freakin’ Everest or possibly orbited the earth. It’s like being unsettled shook me up just enough to do something about something. Like surviving the unfinished room proved to me I could survive an unfinished novel and actually move it forward. Michael would work on the family room and I would work on the novel and one day we’d have a comfortable new room and I would have a fully written book. Apparently unsettled works for me now.
And hopefully, I got my audacious back.