Monday, August 2, 2010

Distracted and Discombobulated

That's me, man.

I was supposed to post this blog last Friday, but I was way too distracted by this other thing I’m working on. So Friday didn't work out and my plan became that I was going to post something this last weekend, but nope, still nothing, I was still too busy struggling with this piece I’m working on...

...Well, I was busy with that and I also attended Claudia’s Louis Armstrong Birthday Extravaganza, which pretty much takes up your Saturday night AND your Sunday morning—she mixes a mean ass martini, folks. If you ever have the means, I highly recommend having one… it’s so choice.

…But I digress…

So anyway, today inevitably rolls around and it’s somehow still my turn to put up a blog and I somehow still have nothing. Why? Because I’m still caught up. I’m still too distracted, turning this stupid short story over and over in head, poking at it, obsessing over it. Stephen King once wrote somewhere that he visualizes his story creation process as something akin to a knight storming a castle, riding around and around the outer wall, desperately hunting for a way in so he can get at the goods.

Sometimes he finds it. Sometimes he doesn’t.

So my question is: At what point does the knight take his lance and go home, regardless of the vicious taunting he must endure from the French Defenders on the wall while retreating?

At what point is your story a bust?

Basically, what if that lightning strike of inspiration accidentally catches in some dry timber, and instead of suddenly lighting a clear path, it ends up burning your little story structure down?

When do you trunk it and move on?

Ok, here’s the deal: So, I’m working on this aforementioned thing, right? It’s a ten page, 12 point font, single space short story for a possible Anthology I’d heard about second hand through Claudia (one that I might be too late to submit to at this point—oops), and its only requirement is that the story somehow concern life in a “future” twin cities. Now, I’ve written five pages, five “not bad” to “maybe pretty good” pages and I know how it ends, at least in this version, and yet… every time I come back to it, I have to dig at it. I have to rework it, rewrite it, and reshape it, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke… It’s never done. It's never quite right. And I don't mean in a "stuck in an editing loop" kind of way either, no, this is different, this is... there’s just something that’s not quite gelling about the thing. I’ve been mulling over different ways to start it, different points to start it at, different story focuses even-should it be dragons, or should it be a civil war-but it doesn’t matter, because it’s just not quite jiving. My knight can’t find his way into the castle and somewhere inside, the smell of smoke is getting stronger.

I’m not quite ready to concede defeat; I may yet be able to break on through to completion, but… I don’t know… I can see that hard and fast end point, that wall, coming up fast. I’ve still got a couple of days to hammer away at it and maybe get it into some kind of shape, but it’s feeling doubtful. At this point, no matter what, I’m betting I won’t be ready for the next meeting.

Hurmmm… Alright, well, back to it… but in the interim: At what point do you all consider your stories a bust? And what do you do about it?

Totally frustrated,



Mark Teats said...

Hang in there, Jon! The month of July I noted (sadly) how little writing I had done, but yesterday when I sat down it was there--not in quantity but in quality. The words flowed and came together. Maybe you just need(ed) a little mental space from this project before going back to it. Maybe that Martini (or 8) killed off the offending brain cell that was getting in the way?

Shawn Enderlin said...

I'm reasonably certain my IQ dropped several points at that party - before I even left!

As for when to give up - don't ask me. My knight has been riding around the To Kill the Goddess castle for so long that the PETA people would have a coronary.

But if I had to give some advice - hey, you asked! - it would be to let it go. In my experience, that distracted and discombobulated feeling almost always means that something is wrong. Majorly wrong. I don't mean that the whole idea is crap, I just think you need some distance.

So put the horse in the stable, take off your armor, and go find yourself a good wench.