So I had this idea for a novel last week. And I have spent every minute since trying to talk myself out of it.
Because this is what we writers do.
(I’m sure there are writers out there with confidence. I think my husband is one of them. Any others should not talk to me because I will feel inferior.)
I have never had any writing discipline. It’s very easy for successful writers (or non-writers) to say “you just have to write” or “write X words [or X hours] every day” but that just does not work for me. It never has, and it especially does not now that I have a small human who wants my attention 24/7. I write in fits and starts and I can’t get going until the story comes to me. Or no, not the story but a fragment, a moment, a little idea. The first sentence, sometimes.
Elizabeth Gilbert thinks that is normal. Go watch this video. It is about 20 minutes long and starts playing automatically (PET PEEVE) but go watch it anyway. Now. I will wait.
OK, are you back? Good. How great was the Tom Waits story? (See, you have to go watch it because there is a Tom Waits story.)
So my genius only gives me these fragments on very rare occasions.
I’m reminded, listening to Elizabeth Gilbert talk (oh man, I want to like make out with her or at least read everything she’s ever written), of something Stephen King said once. I think it was in Danse Macabre, his book about horror, but it’s been a while since I read that so I’m just going to paraphrase heavily. (Why does Command+F not work in books? WHY?) King says that talent is like a knife. We are all born with a knife. Some people have a big knife to start with, huge amounts of raw talent. Those people might sharpen their knives along the way or they might just rely on their heft. Other people are born with little pocket knives and have to hone them every day. Those people might sharpen their knives every day and turn out work that is just as good as the stuff the big knife talents turn out, but much more work. Of course, I reckon their stuff is less in need of editing.
In my opinion — if I may be totally egotistical here — I think my knife is pretty damn big, but it gets dull if I even look at an onion. And you guys, I put onions in everything. (I also take the metaphor too far.)
What on earth does this have to do with writing screenplays? Um, nothing, actually. Except that I have spent the past two-plus years working with a partner on these screenplays and therefore getting off scott-free in the first draft department. (Quick run-down of our writing process: massive outlining, done together; rough draft by Will; a pass by me to make it a first draft; feedback; revisions done by whoever feels like it, or both of us together.) And not only have I not had to be the one putting the first words to paper, but I have not had to write an outline on my own in, um, ever. (Actually, I have written two outlines on my own. And I abandoned both of those novels. COINCIDENCE?)
So I’ve got this idea, and if I ignore the loud voices telling me not to bother because it’s too derivative I am still stuck trying to write the outline on my own. And I keep stalling and closing the Word file with this vague idea that I will wait till I can discuss it with… oh, right. I don’t have a writing partner.