Writing a novel is, of course, a mad undertaking. It begins with an effervescent, glimmering vision of perfection, which sets the writer off on her ink-stained quest, assured that THIS time she will reproduce the vision exactly, and as scintillatingly as it first appeared. This mirage is quickly followed by the mossy-toothed skull of doubt, and then long months of slog, wherein the writer is often only propelled forward by a dogged sense of duty, and fatalism. In other words — we keep following the sentences, one after mediocre one, in the hopes of landing somewhere, if not glimmering and effervescent, then at least reasonably well appointed. We also keep going because, really, we don’t do anything else even remotely well and if we we don’t write about what’s bothering us, we tend to be even more annoying to live with (my Best Beloved assures me) than we are when we’re embedded in slog.
At the moment, I have negotiated with the mossy-toothed skull of doubt, whom I shall call Morton. I have agreed to allow Morton is perhaps right, and that this idea I had a while back for a perfectly BRILLIANT novel (sure to land on every prize list in the world, not to mention enormous commercial success) will be, well, at best, a GOOD novel. And perhaps not even that, let’s just admit it.
In short, now I realize (as I do with every book I’ve ever written), that the enchanting opalescent vision the muse first plonked in my noggin in never going to re realized. Oh, sure, I’ll write a book, but it won’t be the book of my dreams. The characters won’t be quite as irresistible, the plot won’t be quite as mesmerizing, and the theme won’t be quite realized.
I have told this to My Best Beloved, and he has said, as he always does, “Oh, there already are you? What a good sign. You’ll be finished the first draft in no time.” I have learned not to stomp around muttering when he says things like that. And there’s no point in telling him I’ve thought of just chucking it since he knows from experience, as do I, that I will see this book through to the end, that this is only a phase, and part of the process and the biggest truth of all which is: ALL WRITERS FEEL THIS WAY. We are all filled with self-doubt and we write anyway? Why, because we are writers first and foremost, even if we are accountants, lion tamers, firemen or priests in our spare time.
So, if you’ve ever felt like I do — take heart. Just like your characters, it will transform. Keep writing.