The Mark Blog

Girl's First Jump

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.

living room chairs

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Fear of heights and speed here

 So I refuse to watch that video and deny that writing metaphor. For me it's all about slow twitch muscle---endurance. 

 I cant watch that

 I cant watch that video--have never been down hill skiing--and refuse it as a writing metaphor. For me it's all about slow twitch muscle--endurance--that's what I'm betting on for myself. 

No slowplows

That video made me cry. Already at the bottom, she's like, "Sixty seems like nothin' now!"
Sweet baby.
(You can do it Shanna. No slowplows, point it straight down . . .)

 Shanna, thank you for that

 Shanna, thank you for that Junot Diaz quote, especially this bit: 
 
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..
 
And yes that video is awesome. 

Here...I...go...

My fervent hope is that I will exclaim "That was fun!" when I get to the bottom of the slope. I'd also be perfectly content with "Phew! I did it!" There will definitely be exclamation points involved. And champagne. And you, Amy Wallen.

I got my hands out to catch you at the bottom.

 Wow, so glad to hear you're jumping.  And keep remembering what she said at the end, "THAT WAS SO FUN!"  I don't know if that's what you'll say when you get down to the bottom of the slope, but I KNOW you'll be glad you tipped your skis over the edge.  And remember, "No snow plowing!"
Oh, and I think it's a little boy, not girl.  But that's probably not a detail that matters.  I cried at the end too.  And my tummy flip flopped.  
Love your courage, babycakes.  

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