Monday, July 23, 2012

Hard-pressed for Inspiration

I've been staring at the screen for at least an hour. Maybe longer.
I lose any sense of time when I get into the mood to write. Even if I'm at work, going through piles of old software instructions. The repetitive motions of scratching out, underlining, circling, writing notes, questions and comments...

What page am I on? Only page thirteen? Should get a couple more pages done.

It's easy to forget how long I've stared at the words. I try to keep at least 12 hours between revisions. Otherwise the revisions blur together and I lose track of what engineer said what about which component and what was wrong with it and why it's where it is.

But I don't really want to talk about my job. I want to talk about the numbness of a blank mind staring at a blank page.

It's empty. A vast galaxy of white space. A canvas to which an artist such as myself can paint beautiful pictures and carve out wonderful stories. While I have some ideas for stories, the first thing I always want to do with a fresh page is create a fantastical setting. Like the first scene of a film that opens on a blue sky sparse with clouds and then pans down to a quaint home or cottage, or even a bustling apartment in a city. It's that first image and all of its quiet descriptions that set the tone for the first five minutes: how saturated the colors are, the shape of the clouds, the harshness of the light, whether there is wind or not and if there is, then whether the wind is coy and gentle or strong and unyielding.

"The soft glow of the dawning sun whispered through the space between the buildings and shyly crept into bedrooms."

But that's the only thought that I can think of right now. I usually get stuck when I write, and it's usually because I spend too much time thinking of appropriate and descriptive adjectives and interesting nouns than the topic of my though.

See? I just did it again.
I could have easily said "...too much time thinking of adjectives and nouns..."
But I didn't. It's not necessarily a problem, but it's not the answer. Tolkien was a big describer and I hated the long, drawn-out scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring with Old Man Willow. Does it really take two pages to describe a tree's roots? Apparantly.
Now, I'm not hating on Tolkien. I appreciate his intelligence and diligence in creating a coherent world with its own language, its own hierarchy of living creatures and the impending doom that resides in something so unassuming as a ring.

But I don't really want to talk about Tolkien's infamous LoTR trilogy.

Actually, I'm not quite sure what I want to talk about.
How about the fact that I have four notebooks at home, each containing segments of stories that will never be put together because I don't have the patience to write out such boring tidbits like Tolkien did with Old Man Willow? I'll admit it, I'm a little lazy. My hand takes too long writing out the words while my brain is already shooting off into the distance and by the time I realize there's a gap between the engine and the baggage car, the tracks are cracked and split and I cannot keep the connection. The thread holding my fragile story together is frayed, broken, unraveling at such speed and with such ferocity that the only way to live with myself at all is to abandon ship.
The parts of a story that I know need to be written -the aside to the stepmother about an assumed assassination on the king, a snippy quarrel between friends that result in the ultimate backstabbing, a monologue about the bitterness that sits in the protagonist's heart- I have little faith that these scenes will play out on paper the way they do in my head. I do what any self-medicating human does: I skip it.
Like a question on a test that I'm not completely sure about, I skip it and continue on my merry way. I know that when I come back to it, I still won't know the answer. Even if I guess, there's a chance that I'll be wrong. And the test -a.k.a. my story, for those who can't follow analogies- is incomplete. Forever haphazard in its existence and I am the one at fault.

Oh, I realize that I could curb my rebellious intention of deliberately leaving a certain chapter alone until it "solves itself " and say the lines aloud, base the pending actions and phrases on past experiences and curious glimpses into the possibility of the future that takes place with what-ifs... And yet it makes me queasy with blasphemy in making my characters act in such a desperate way that only echoes my own feelings: a desperate need to finish the scene. But such desperation often brings out the worst in me and when that happens, my characters reflect my uneasiness. They appear out-of-character when they really shouldn't and they start to say things that make me that much more frustrated.
I usually end up ripping the pages out of the notebook, because honestly, is it worth using up all of my good eraser trying to remove it all?

I used to write in pen. Then I realized that half of my pages were colored in like a spastic three-year old found a cross-word puzzle and assumed it was their coloring book.
An eraser is a writer's good friend.
The paper shredder is a writer's best friend.
And empty paper is the enemy.

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