The words have been coming hard lately. I reach for them, and they just blow away.
Sometimes there's no "there" there.
Stories need tension and conflict to survive. Good sentences aren't enough to carry a novel. Strength isn't enough to win a wrestling match.
It's all about the execution.
I practice and practice these sentences, pulling out the equivalent of four sweaters' worth of sentence threads in frustration. I just can't get it right, and that's such an exquisite pain.
I could scream, but everyone would ask why.
I don't know how to explain the pain of havin gna idea but not the talent to get it just right.
I listen to music and wonder how the songwriter knew when to stop.
Of all the things I am, "writer" is such a small part. It barely makes a dent in our financial landscape, at least the extracurricular part. I'm not sure how such a small bit of what the world sees can be such a huge part of my struggle to be here on this planet. The messy paragraphs going nowhere sometimes wake me up at night. Entire plots for stories play out in my dreams, and I wake up thinking how I should write them down, but I don't, because I'm still fighting with the book that is in my now. I have no energy left over for the book that might be in a few years. When I'm fifty. When I'm sixty. When I'm nearly dead.
I know, in my heart of hearts, that more than a quarter million books are published each year. I know I will not be read by even the number of people who buy off-brand milk in one week.
If I were realistic, then, I would not torture myself about getting these sentences right.
But that's not how it works.
If we went through life looking at reality, no one would ever create anything new.
I was born, and I will die, and in the middle of it, I'll write some stuff. I don't have a good reason for that. At the age of forty, I get that now.
But I do it anyway, because it feels fucking good.
My girl and two of her besties are trying out for the school talent show tonight. They're singing Let It Go from Frozen -- the anthem of tween girls everywhere. They sound really good, and their routine rocks. I have no doubt they'll get in.
That doesn't mean there's no stage fright.
This morning, she asked me if I ever have stage fright. I told her of course, and we talked about the wonders of deep breathing.
After she got on the bus, I realized my worst stage fright these days no longer involves a physical stage. I really don't get on physical stages much any more. Every once in a while, I'll speak at a conference, but that's not really a performance, at least not in the way acting or singing or playing an instrument is.
My stage is a page, and I get nervous every time I work on a novel. Last night, I found myself in the grips of intense page fright while typing up my handwritten draft three revisions for PARKER CLEAVES. Sometimes the deep breathing works and sometimes it doesn't, and the anxiety threatens to spill over. Or it does, and I have to do my own deep breathing and I wait to feel better. Last night I had to walk away from the revisions because it was just too much.
And the thing about stage fright? No one can get rid of it for you. It's as intensely personal as the performance itself.