December 31, 2013

Start Anyway (Letter to Self)

I've been writing for a long time.

I've been writing seriously for a long time.

I've completed (written, revised) some drafts.

I've completed (written, unrevised) some drafts.

I've started countless drafts.

I still don't feel like I know how to write a novel.

As part of my graduate program last semester, I was paired with an editor to work on a draft of a novel. I learned an incredible amount about the way I write -- but it was mostly learning about the many ways in which I should not write.

I have another one of those happening this coming semester. I have to submit the first fourth of the draft in less than two weeks. In the past two weeks I've brainstormed one novel. Then, last week, I threw it out and started on something entirely new.

I started by outlining. But it's been days of scribbling and brainstorming and still coming out with many questions and very few answers. I know a few things about this new novel. But those small things pale in comparison to what I don't know.

It makes me nervous to start writing without knowing the road ahead. Who was it that said something about writing being like driving at night with your headlights on? (Doctorow?) That's what I'm clinging to right now -- that if I just start, things will eventually fall into place.

I don't know the end of this novel. Or the middle. Or even (if I'm being honest) the beginning. But it's time to start anyway.

I don't know if this is the best advice. I've written a lot, but I still haven't hit on a personal process that gives me a road map for what I'm about to sit down and do.

Maybe that's because there isn't one. Maybe it's different every time you sit down to start something new.

I still don't feel like I know how to write a novel.

Right now, I have to start anyway.

December 19, 2013

What I Would Like to Talk About When I Talk About Running

This is not a complete post, even though I should get to one one of these days.

This is just to say that I've squeaked in a book just under the wire for 2013 that has instantly taken a place on my favorites list for the year.

The book is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. It's a meditation, of sorts, on running. And on writing. And on the intersection of the two, and on aging. And on setting goals. And on perseverence.

But mostly it's about running and writing.

I read the first third and immediately texted my father to tell him to pick it up. I got through the first half and found myself actively laughing in places.

"I never had any ambitions to be a novelist. I just had this strong desire to write a novel. No concrete image of what I wanted to write about, just the conviction that if I wrote it now I could come up with something that I'd find convincing. When I thought about sitting down at my desk at home and setting out to write I realized I didn't even own a decent fountain pen. So I went to the Kinokuniya store in Shinjuku and bought a sheaf of manuscript paper and a five-dollar Sailor fountain pen. A small capital investment on my part" (28).

A small capital investment on my part. If that makes you giggle, pick up this book.

Highly, HIGHLY recommended. If you are searching for a last minute Christmas gift for the writers (or runners) in your family, get this.