Monday, April 04, 2005

Synopsis of a Writing Life

I've always wanted to write a book. The only two really major hang-ups in the whole process are:
a) I rarely write
b) I have no idea what to write about

As you can see, the two things play on and off each other, creating one massive cycle of non-writing, which I call, My Life.

I suppose you could say I always knew I was meant to be a writer. I've been a bit crotchety, reclusive, depressed and a hypochondriac since the day I was born (just ask my mom). I wrote my first story when I was six and my first poem at ten. While my older brother devoured book after book, upside down on the couch, his head on the floor and a popsicle in his mouth, I sat in my favorite tree and wrote awful rhymes and stories that never went anywhere but had alot of fun getting there (adjectives, adjectives). An ironic twist to all of this is that my brother is now a freelance writer, with a book contract. Apparently reading books helps one to write them. Who knew? But I have better teeth.

Around the age of ten, when I began writing regularly, I decided it was better kept to my self. If other people saw an awkward, uninteresting, disheveled little girl with run-away hair and throw-away clothes, all the better. It kept me undercover. This is why careers such as Actor and Spy and Superhero appeal to so many of us; who doesn't want to be the unassuming genius? Admit it, you'd rather be Clark Kent, nerdy glasses to boot, than that really successful, good-looking, charming, popular, talented and obscenely rich guy that you work with. It makes being you not just okay but superior; a study in martyrdom, as you carry the cross of average-ness for the sake of the world. So I wrote in secret and tried to imagine the way in which I would one day be "discovered" and how all of humanity would be blessed because of me.

Pretty early on in my writing career I realized that happy things weren't worth writing about; they lacked a dramatic edge. Who wants to read about butterflies and lazy, green fields when there are Rodents Of Unusual Size just beyond in the Fire Swamp? Unfortunately I wasn't able to invent anything quite so interesting as an R.O.U.S. Instead I wrote into my stories something called "Character development" which really just means that they were devoid of plot and action and heavy with sentences like, "She felt sad and alone as she looked at the dark, stormy sky and she wondered gloomily if anyone would ever love her." Later I wrote poems and prose at moments of Great Despair, which always included the words dark, lost, pain, and death.

It was around this time that I discovered books. I read "A separate Peace" and "The Odyssey" and some Aurthur Conan-Doyle for a high-school class. Then we were assigned, "Crime and Punishment" by Fyoder Dostoyevsky and I stopped writing. I spent the next 10 years reading.

Currently I find myself wanting to write. I've outgrown (mostly) my delusions of grandeur and my fascination with the darkness. I still use way too many flowery, descriptive, crowding, inappropriate, superfluous adjectives. But in spite of all that, here I am looking at the dark, stormy computer screen, wondering gloomily what to write.

9 comments:

Roo said...

Perhaps you should try some level of obstruction, or an unhelpful object to write about, such as a cardboard box? :)

How about coercing your audience into helping? Alternating paragraphs might be fun ...

Rachael said...

Andrew: Lol! Unhelpful indeed! The cardboard box didn't work. That story is the worst thing I've ever written.

And I'm sorry I never picked up on your idea of group-writing. I'm not sure story-writing is really my thing. But if you start me off with a good paragraph, I'll give it a shot! :)

Anonymous said...

You were assigned Crime and Punishment in high school? I'm impressed!

Rachael said...

Anonymous: It was an optional course and to be honest, Crime and Punishment left most of the class decidedly lost. But Bravo to the teacher for her effort! The class was significant for me.

laura said...

I never read C&P. I thought about it, but then saw these 28 letter names and at first I was like "okay, I'll make nick-names for them!" but I found out fast that didn't work. As much as I enjoy reading, I don't do enough of it. Honestly, most of the books of read as of late have been comics. I know it sounds a bit immature, but I love them. I love how they draw me into the author/artists world. It feels real to me, more so then than just the average fictional book.;)

Michael Ciani said...

Smarter? yes.
Better able to string together intellectually provocative thoughts? yes.
But better teeth than your older brother? Rubbish! I challenge you to a smileoff the next time I see you.

Rachael said...

lol. Actually, I just used the "better teeth" thing because it sounded good and because it should be the case, with all those kool-aid popsicles you ate. It is true that I have yet to get a cavity, but I grind my teeth, drink far more coffee than you and smoke far more cigarettes. So okay, you win. No contest.

It's all that peroxide you gargle with.

Rachael said...

Oh, and you're really too kind as regards the first two things. This past month I've felt unable to "string together" thoughts of any kind.

And as a writer, you are far more proficient and focused. I meander here and there the way I do with everything in life. Now if I could acquire some of that wonderful self-discipline of yours, perhaps I could go somewhere...

Michael Ciani said...

Now it is me that is laughing aloud. Me, proficient, focused or self-disciplined? I don't think so.
So far today I have brushed my teeth, gone to Mass, then walked through the Park all the way to the beach. I took the train home, then watched not 3, but FOUR hours of TiVo. (By the way, between the poetry slam in the Castro last night, and The L Word on TiVo today, I've decided once again that I must not be gay.) Oh, and I ate some ice cream. And I felt a lot of anxiety about the book that I have to write, the first 1/3 of which is due in about 9 weeks and which hasn't been started yet. And I also felt a good bit of pining for the people I love that are all at least 2,000 miles away from me now.
That's it for today. No writing, no job hunting, no weight lifting, no nothing. So don't hold me on too high of a pedestal.