Tuesday, June 8, 2010

15 Minutes

With these posts, I'm timing myself on what I write. Word limits always seemed daunting to me because the problem I've always had writing was the damn backspace key. The word I haven't thought of yet always more appealing than the one I have just put down. So with these first few posts I've put on here so far, I've given myself 15 minutes to write them. No more, no less.

The experiment in doing this, I hope, will allow me to grow a bit more confident in my first word choice and not struggle so mightily in first getting something down on the processor.

For example, right now, I've been writing this story. I have no idea what's going on with it, which is also something against what I've always done when I write. I like a plan to follow, I can't help it. But this story, I'm just sort of going where it leads me in the 30 to 45 minutes I can write each morning on the bus before work. (On a side note, they shut down the in-house coffee shop were I snuck in a few extra minutes, so I need to find a place to reclaim them).

This story, while I think it's interesting in parts, but it will certainly need a lot of trimming once I get somewhere. If I get somewhere. I'm 16 or so pages into it, and I don't know what's going on. It's 16 pages of treading water. It's 16 pages of no direction, no momentum, no end in sight. It's some kind of character sketch I suppose, but I don't know exactly what I have. Whenever I think about ways to sort of, you know, give it a plot, it just seems too contrived. Like, ooh, add a love interest or something else like maybe kill somebody or have the main character (her name is Betsey) lose her job. Drama it up. Makes sense, considering that it is a flipping narrative, but still...whatever I want to add it doesn't feel right, so I just keep going forward or at least going and seeing what happens.

Problem is, there's too many mornings that I don't feel that I'm getting enough written because I get stuck not writing, thinking about the perfect thing to come next or what should come next. Then I suddenly find all these other things immensely interesting. Like this morning, this morbidly obese lady and her infant child were on the bus and the lady was wearing this scooped next kind of thing that came down low on her back. I was mesmerized for a little bit about the crosshatching of stretchmarks across her back and the sores and blemishes on her back that she clearly couldn't reach to wash. Then I started thinking about my back and how it surely looked when I was that big. But, none of that has anything to do with this story I'm trying to write about this hyper self-aware 21st century lady who is remarkably lonely in her dead end job and sort of forced into taking care of her parents, in a way.

Ah, see, I just had about two lines types and I deleted them all. It was something about Alice Munro stories, nothing too interesting, but it's exactly what I'm trying to fight against.

Not that I want to make half-assed stories with half-assed writing. I want it all to be gem-perfect like a Barry Hannah story (have you read that speech of his published in the most recent Harper's? Excellent stuff.) but I'm convinced that by analyzing my each and every step, I'm muting myself along the way by not just trying to write stuff out and down. See where the characters and the situations go. But, I still have to point them someplace, right? It's all contrivances, isn't it?


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