I sat staring a blank screen for a long time this afternoon before I decided to write. I say “decided” rather than “found the inspiration” because as I’ve aged, it’s become apparent that inspiration has its own timetable and it is not likely to arrive when I want, no matter how much I pout.
I read through old posts on this blog for a while, trying hard to remember why I set myself these tasks in the first place. I’ve found nothing that jumps out at me; no a-ha moments or great epiphanies. So, instead of pondering on why I write, I’ll just ramble about what I’ve written.
I’m nearly done with the first Part of Flight. I use the word “done” very liberally because when it comes to phases of novel construction, I’m far from actually done. I’m still in the noting phase, which means I’ve still got to pull together all the notes from all my scattered resources and pull them into a long file that is set to some kind of chronology. Once I’ve got that completed, I’ll still have to flesh out those notes so that they’re consistent, then build onto them, and then edit and build onto that before I reach the phase before I have what could be considered a first draft. When it comes to Flight, this process can and has taken months and will likely take many more as I go into the second and third Parts. But…I’ve nearly reached the next rung on the ladder. It may be only the third step on a ladder that reaches 40 feet into the air, but I’m nearly done.
What makes this round of Flight seem like it’s taking forever is that I’ve already gone through this drama and I know what lies ahead for me. For example, when I was 15, I had major surgery on my left ankle to correct an abnormality and also some gross damage to my ankle bones. I clearly recall my doctor telling me in the summer that I would be up and active by the time basketball season came and that afterward we would do the right foot. One can only imagine my sour disappointment when I watched the first of the open gyms leading up to try-outs that year from the sidelines while still on crutches that fall. My healing made significant progress and that December, we prepared to go through the whole process again. Only now, I knew what lay ahead of me.
Another season of missed athletics lay ahead, not to forget the schoolwork that would have to be made up, the nausea from the anesthesia and the painkillers, the inability to walk, the rehab, the frustration, the sense of overwhelming depression and despair stemming from every minor task becoming a major chore, and then the pain! The incredible pain after awaking, the pain in the hours after going home, the pain in accidental movement of the foot, the pain of moving from a soft cast to a hard one, the pain of removing primary stitches and then the secondary ones. All this recalled pain pressed upon me as I walked with my mother to the prep rooms for the second surgery and I had nothing but dread when moved onto the gurney to be wheeled into surgery. Even when I first awoke in recovery, the foreboding had not dissipated and I started to sobbing as I stared at my now bandaged right foot, eventually yelling “No! I don’t want to do this!” until the staff brought around my mother (though admittedly, I was coming out of major surgery, so some craziness was to be expected).
Though there had been time to prepare, the second surgery had gone worse, emotionally, than the first, and several years later, when my doctor had to go back in and make further corrections, all of the foreboding returned in full swing, making the third and fourth surgeries even more pleasant than the second time.
I can’t help but liken my current round with Flight to that second surgery. I’ve already written this book and now I’m attempting to re-write it. I was sick for a month after I finished it the first time and, with this round, I’m well aware of what’s coming: the sleepless nights, the days of writing and then realizing that it’s all garbage, the weeks and months keeping the entire story straight in my mind, the countless edits/re-writes/further edits/more re-writes until I’m ready to throw out the whole project, the writing until I’m physically ill and still trying to write through the sickness, the experiencing of all my characters’ emotions to the point that I struggle to recall what’s real and what isn’t…
Then, once I’ve acknowledged what occurred on the first round, I get to imagine how all of the above will affect a body that has experienced almost ten more years of life with the jobs, and the bills, and the deaths, and friends, and the family, and the godchildren, and the volunteering, and the previous books, and the current projects placed on hold, and the general stress of trying to make each year a little better than the previous one. I experience a little pain in my ankles from time to time, but I fully recognize that 31 is neither 15 nor 22 and I’m not going through all that pain again unless my only other option is amputation, and even then, I’ll ask for another opinion. Despite having the foresight to know that I’m unable to go through the mess and pain of surgery again, I press forward with trying to re-write a 450K-word novel that nearly killed me during its initial creation.
I just have to keep telling myself the same thing to avoid throwing in the proverbial towel too soon: I’m nearly done!