distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

The Downer Post

I don’t know how many posts I’ve deleted instead of publishing them this week. I’m in the part of the downward spiral where you try to explain it to yourself, to others, and then you see there’s no real reason for what you’re feeling, any excuse pathetic, but you’ve got all this motion going and even if you wanted to stop spiraling, you sort of can’t. I’m spinning too fast to make it stop.

I’m just down. Feeling frustrated at what a slow writer I am when I’m writing something that counts. I can bang out a work-for-hire manuscript with alarming speed, but when it comes to something that matters, something of my own? Let’s just say I’m lucky to get one paragraph every hour—and I only have two hours on weekdays in which to write. And how is it possible that I am still working on my outline for my novel, still? I can’t even call it an outline. It’s more a hybrid mishmash of Stuff That Happens in an abbreviated form, but with dialogue sometimes, and with chapter titles… It’s like a rehearsal novel. I’m all dressed up, acting out the writing of it, but I’m not writing it. I just wish I could really write it.

I may also be depressed because I’m having trouble with the last act. Usually middles are my poison, but this time, with this story, it’s the events just before the end. I know the end note; I just don’t know how to handle the big explosion.

(Not to mention the Stuff That’s Happening in my real life and how I want to run away to Mexico.)

But at least I have been reading. I’m in the middle of Unaccustomed Earth and while I usually get intensely turned off by hype and never want to read the books everyone tells me to read (Hi, Harry Potter), this book of short stories is really good. I’m liking it even better than her first one. Of course I can hype with the best of them… I am now texting my sister to tell her she must read Jesus’ Son… and don’t even get me started on Good Morning, Midnight.

This morning I will continue my rehearsal novel. In the blink of an eye the workday will be over. And tonight I’ll keep reading this book. Maybe talk to e about my outline—he’s my plot magician, my secret weapon; he’ll help me finesse my story. No reason to be down, hey!

HEY. Did you hear me? No reason to be down.

No reason.


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9 responses to “The Downer Post”

  1. No reason indeed, but it happens to everyone. You’re still plugging away, which is the important thing–at some point you’ll kick out of that spiral and start soaring back up.

    BTW, if you ever want/need anyone else to talk plots with, or to commiserate, or just to vent to, you know where I am. 🙂

  2. I know what you’re going through, seriously. I’ve been having a down writing week too and I keep qualifying it with, “I know I shouldn’t feel X way, because there’s no reason for it, but…” which isn’t helping at me improve my mood at all, I’ve discovered! So maybe the best thing for it is to let yourself have it, Nova, indulge. Don’t beat yourself up and ride it out until it passes, cause it will definitely pass. Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  3. “I can bang out a work-for-hire manuscript with alarming speed, but when it comes to something that matters, something of my own?”

    oh, i have been so there. when it comes to material that i don’t care about, it gets out the door in record time; when i give a damn, it’s a long, slow, painful slog, the bataan death march of writing.

    i guess the key is not to care, eh?

    if you’re having trouble with the penultimate part of your work, try the “bridge” method — imagine you’re just trying to get from one side of the river to the other with the most rudimentary materials like sticks, rocks, etc. on the other side, you can get steel, cranes, and real tools, but you have to figure out a simple way to get there first, then you can go back and build a sturdier bridge.

    in other words, write anything that makes the remotest sense, and let that be your pontoon bridge before you build a real one.

    i hope that made sense.

  4. Nova, everyone has down days, but maybe if you just read through some of your past posts you’ll be cheered by all you’ve accomplished (and by the excellent writing!). By the way, I really enjoyed Unaccustomed Earth when I read it recently. I posted about it here. (But you might want to wait to read the post until you’ve finished the book. No real plot spoilers, but you never know….)

  5. I try to see the down times as just part of the creative cycle. I try to have faith that some part of my brain is unraveling the knot my story has become. I also imagine it’s harder to write the story you care so much about as opposed to the stuff you are hired to write- you are more invested in it on every level. And I loved Unaccustomed Earth. Her stories remind me of Alice Munro- so rich and full of depth.

    Hang in there. And a paragraph in an hour is better than nothing at all. Way way better… and it’s keeping you connected to your story which is so important.

    One last tidbit of advice: don’t let what you don’t know (how to handle the “big explosion”) keep you from writing what you do know. Just write slowly and surely toward that ending you have in mind. If you need to tweak a scene here and there or move them around later to amp up the tension, you can always do that.

  6. Hey… I don’t know where that smiley face came from. I don’t do smiley faces. It was supposed to be an end parentheses. Weird… And it’s not even really smiling- it’s smirking.

  7. My theory is that down days are gestating days. Nothing is coming out on the paper because your subconscious in churning away, as in dreams. Especially when the writing matters, you need your subconscious to churn. While writing for hire, your subconscious goes on vacation, doesn’t interfere at all.

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