On Starting Things

Posted by @ 4:06 pm on February 8th, 2012

I’ve started something new. I guess I’ve been in the “starting” phase for months now. Every time I start though, I forget what beginning feels like. I forget how to write a novel. There is a process of re-learning. How many novels does one have to write before she understands the process?

The disheartening moment when I open a document – Document1 – Pages: 1 of 1 – Words: 24 of 24. Delete to Words: 0 of 0. Add some, Words 5 of 5, delete again. I know that page one will become two and on, but looking at page one, with the scant words, the lack of momentum, stagnation, it’s rending. And so I quit MS Word. I check Facebook. I check my eight email addresses. I check HTML Giant. I play games on my iPad. I check blogs. Read some reviews. I check email. I play more games. I put something pithy up on Facebook. No one responds, so I delete it after thirty seconds. I open MS Word. Of course, I didn’t save. There was nothing there anyways – what’s the use of saving five words, maybe a dozen, maybe, if I was very lucky, a full sentence? (I’d save a full sentence, probably.)

I’ve had an idea for this novel for months now, a year even. There is no lack in ideas, but the process of typing it out, making prose from concept alone, it seems impossible.

How do you start a big project? How do you not become overwhelmed with the emptiness of the screen?

See: I’m trying something new with my process this go-round. I usually write by hand, and I thought I’d try typing from the beginning. When you transcribe, it’s not so jarring, the blankness. When you write by hand, it’s comforting to see a clean page. Empty word documents don’t feel clean, not to me, they’re dirty and oppressive. Maybe it’s my head. Clearly, it’s my head.

But then I open that same document today – Novel, Ver4 – and I see “Chapter Three.” I see Pages: 37 of 37. Words: 12164 of 12164. I don’t know how they got there, but once you get to Chapter Three, everything’s going to be ok. The novel will happen. It will move. It’s getting there that’s the wretched and wrecking.