Had the first moment of self-doubt in the new book last evening.
With all the demands and mental gymnastics about the move, I have not had the leisure for self-questioning. Each day and each week had something new and challenging in it; something unexpected. That is changing now.
The foundation-tremor came from the reading I’m doing. I am filling my head with thoughts of a world that is not exactly the world about which I’ll be writing…close but no cigar. I’m not sure that I like that world. If I don’t, why would anyone else?
As is my way when faced with a negativity, my head goes on overdrive…the writer’s way of trying to exercise control over a situation over which she may have none. The questions I ask myself give rise to others, and those to others still.
I stirred up the universe. And what came back surprised me. What came back taught me a huge lesson about the nature of what I value as a writer.
I wrote one question in my notebook:
Where is the wonder?
There it was, the lesson waiting to be discovered. In the genre-bending fiction that is mine, wonder is a necessary element. The flight of the questing self. The revealing of the greater us of our natures.
The doubt came not from the story (and the heights not yet discovered in it), but in the reading I’d been doing. I’ve been reading about a world that has a grounding in a social phenomenon, but not in the higher thing I’m seeking. The world I’ve been immersing myself in this very big book is not the world I’ll be writing about—a cousin who lives in the same mental neighborhood as the story’s deeper meaning, perhaps, but not in the same apartment. The first book I read, yes. The second, somewhat. This one less so. What led me down the doubt-path was the pages and pages of notes that the reading yielded…a gift that resembled the higher deeper thing that propels the desire to tell a story, but was not that thing.
First remedy (and it feels like the right one) was not to give up the reading, but to make sure I had the books that would give me my mid-course correction. I’d been trying to cook a soufflé using the recipe for stew. Why should I have been surprised that the damned thing wouldn’t rise?