I was going to spend the evening working on the novel, but I about had a panic attack about it today, so when the Redheaded Kid came over to hang out and tell us all about random text messages he gets from people he doesn’t know, I spent the evening doing that instead.
Get this! You know how the Redheaded Kid has been in terrible health his whole life and he had some incident in his teens, right before we moved here, where he had what they thought was a weird heart-attack (not caused by heart disease, but by some electrical problem with his heart) and how he’s had open-heart surgery twice and even has a pacemaker?
Turns out that motherfucker has epilepsy. Which, on the one hand, whew. Sure, parts of epilepsy suck, but not as bad as being a kid in your early 20s who thinks he’s going to die of some weird heart problem before he’s 30. But on the other hand, he’s thought for over a decade that he was living on borrowed time, could die at any moment, and even has been hacked into.
That’s got to be fucking weird. He seemed a little shell-shocked about it, if you can be laid-back in a shell-shocked way. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in. He’s now debating whether to have the pacemaker taken out now or wait until the battery needs to be replaced. He’s afraid he’ll have a weird indentation, but we told him just to think of it like some cutting-edge body modification–show it off like weird chest indentations are just the coolest shit ever and see if it catches on.
I’m feeling like the book is too hard to revise and that it’s not very good and that I am not good enough to fix it and I should just give up and write a different book, one in which no one has sex with the devil and no one gets shit on.
I know this is just a moment that comes. I’m honestly surprised it didn’t come sooner. But knowing there’s going to be a moment (or multiple moments) when you feel like the book sucks and you’re a shitty writer and you can’t go on and you’re just going to have to move to the back yard because you need to run away from your life, but you can’t really afford to, plus you’d miss your dog, and living through them without having massive anxiety attacks and weird light-headedness are two different things.
Of course, the Redheaded kid has me all worried that the weird light-headedness might be a symptom of something else that I will miss out on because I assume it’s just book anxiety.
I’m thinking he should get a tattoo of a pacemakerover the spot, if that is safe. :)
These have been good for me for the last year. Although I think some of Elmore Leonard’s are shit. If I wanted to write an Elmore Leonard book they’d be fine. But I don’t.
There is no correlation (either positive or negative) between anxiety attacks and excellence in writing. George Eliot had major anxiety about all her books and often had to be cajoled into finishing them. Jane Austen could write, get interrupted by family or visitors and have a gabfest with them, and go right back to writing the minute they left. Everyone’s different.
That’s some major misdiagnosis for the Redheaded Kid. I feel for him. Heart surgery for nothing, and then you find out you need to avoid strobe lights the rest of your life instead? Ugh.
I have been stuck right here
“I’m feeling like the book is too hard to revise and that it’s not very good and that I am not good enough to fix it and I should just give up and write a different book…”
oh….for about three years. Given my recent writing successes with the piracy project, I actually am starting to feel up to taking it on again, but I’m convinced that things happen on their own timeline and perhaps the “block” is your brain telling you that there’s more stewing that needs to be done. I’ve got insights now that I think are valuable that I really didn’t have at the time when I felt desperate to push through, and so now I think I have the intellectual pieces together to finish it up.
You know, taking off on what Bridgett said…
The book I’m having so much fun with right now is the book I started around the time we first met, five years ago. I stared and studied and fretted. Then I set it aside and worked on other stuff. Now that I’ve come back to it I realized I needed more time and exposure to other things in order to make the story what it should be.
Not saying that you need to be setting yours aside for six years or six days or six hours. Just trying to echo the idea that some books fare better when they stew longer in your mind.
OK, in a startling bit of synchronicity I just this afternoon read two short essays by Michael Chabon, “Diving into the Wreck” and “The Recipe for Life.” Both of them are about writing and the reasons writers feel anxiety about their work. The second one especially reminds me of what you are feeling. He says that a “sense of imperilment by my creations” is “a sign that I am on the right track.” You might enjoy reading them.