It’s my job


Ernie

Sad puppy dog eyes

Don’t be fooled by those eyes. This is the face of a tyrant.

It’s very hard to do much of anything when there is a puppy at my feet with a bucket on his head. It’s driving everyone crazy, most especially him, because the cone that stops him chewing on his stitches also stops him from entering a room in an eloquent and unobtrusive fashion – which is hard for a six month old puppy to do at the best of times. His banging and clashing jars the brain of anyone within earshot and makes it difficult to even contemplate working. And then there is a issue of him tail-gating. He likes to trot behind us, but when he has this bucket on his head all you can feel is the scrap of plastic against the back of your knees as he tries to keep up or get closer. Punishment for making him undergo this humiliation?

In his frustration Ernie has destroyed a chux cloth, his bed, some paper that I left carelessly in reach, several Christmas beetles, one rhinoceros beetle, a couple of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle I was working on, the edges of his bucket, the lattice work on the back veranda and very nearly everyone’s patience. My moments of working at the computer are haphazard and ephemeral. I constantly have to get up and check his whereabouts, check whether what he’s destroying is needed or wanted and check his stitches to make sure he hasn’t burst them in his careless frolicking around the living room. His presence is larger than any character’s presence at the moment, which says more to me about my enthusiasm than it does about this little monster called Ernie.

Every writer must face this obstacle when writing a lengthy piece such as a novel: call it boredom, restlessness or even apathy, when it hits it’s always a surprise. Six months ago you had this great idea for a story. You knew you could fill four hundred pages with gripping storytelling, authentic dialogue and a conclusion that would satisfy everyone. You couldn’t wait to get started and spent every waking moment thinking on it. Now any excuse is good enough to divert your attention: the dog, the dishes, lunch with friends, sleep, that movie everyone is talking about. What happened to that enthusiasm? Were you wrong about this story? If you’ve lost interest half way through then readers surely will too, since it will show in your work. For me, the best antidote to this dilemma is to go back and revisit my intentions for this particular story, the original idea and find what sparked my interest in the first place. Why did I want to write this in the first place? What did I like about the story and why did I have to tell it? Answering these questions requires rereading the first clumsy notes, and even remembering the moment when the spark first appeared. From this I can discern where I went wrong, why the spark has waned. For me it is a very simple case of losing faith in the original concept, which has caused me at times to contemplate abandoning the book all together. Fortunately I am a tenacious being; I won’t give up on something I have believed in so fervently for so long. The diversions will come and go, but the project must be done. It’s my job.

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About Sharon

Writer, bibliophile, dreamer and student of everything
This entry was posted in ME ON WRITING, The writing process and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to It’s my job

  1. Sommer Leigh says:

    Whenever this happens to me (and it has happened a handful of times. Who knows why?) I stop writing and go back to the beginning and read. I don’t even make changes as I read, I just read. And I invest as if I’m reading as if it is someone else’s book and I’m always blown away by certain passages that are so incredibly well written I sort of don’t believe they are mine. Or I discover that I *accidentally* created a moment that connects with another moment that happened in some weird place in my brain that saw it coming but I didn’t plan it. And it feels like a book and I pat myself on the back and when I get to the spot I’ve stopped at it is a whole bunch easier to start writing again.

    On a couple of occasions I know the distraction was because I knew there was something wrong with the story and I didn’t know what and I hated spending time working on it knowing that there was something wrong. And I needed the distractions until I could figure out what it was (although I didn’t want to think about it either, so this took a while) and then once I figured out what to change, I spent a lot of time changing it but I was able to move on.

    I think we all get there. Who knows why or what triggers it, but the energy and the momentum cannot last. Maybe we’re just built to be restless and angsty until the book comes out better for it.

  2. Linda says:

    Great post, Sharon. More than once while writing my almost completed (again) novel, I’ve had to fall back in love with it. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of writing and lose sight of the story. Good warning not to panic or give up, but to stop and remember why you started the book.

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