Our mid-project reviews are coming up. My fellow Marks have really knocked it out of the park, creating heightened tensions and new depths of story in their work. I… have not. Now I have about a week to wrangle all the bits of writing I’ve done over the past two months into a smooth revision of the first half of my book. It’s been a difficult journey thus far, with several false starts and switchbacks, and umpteen pages of unusable material. I’m terrified.
I’m terrified it won’t be good enough. I’m terrified I’m doing it wrong. I’m terrified I’m making it worse, not better. I’m terrified of things I can’t even put into words. Unfortunately, terror = paralysis in my world. Fortunately, today the Internet was my friend, spitting out for me this completely motivating excerpt from a Slate interview with Junot Diaz, on writing The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao:
Díaz: I've never had the good fortune of getting a clear idea in my head and then writing the damn thing down in one go. The only success I've had as a writer is by screwing up over and over and over. I'll write a story or a chapter 20 times before I start approaching what I think the story should be. And it is in that process of writing what I'm not supposed to be writing that I find my way to what I am supposed to be writing.
This is a tiring and demoralizing way to go about writing. But I don't know any other approach. One of the reasons I guess I take so long to write. Not only is the process hard but it takes a lot to get back to the computer, when I know that chances are good that I'm only going to screw up again.
Yes, Jesus, YES. That. Thank you for that, Junot Diaz.
I often say, when people ask how it’s going, that I feel like someone’s about to push me off a cliff. But here’s the thing: no one’s pushing. I’m not a victim here. There’s a cliff, all right, and I’m standing at the precipice surrounded by people who are murmuring encouragement. At some point I’m just going to have to launch.
I feel like the little girl in this video. Here goes…something, I guess.
I’ve watched this video five times today. The wobble in her voice, her shaky breathing, her stalling questions, all of it feels so germane to where I am right now. And the end makes me cry every time.
That little girl is my hero. Okay, here… I… go.