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Monday, October 13, 2008

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The Next Five Feet

We had dinner with some writer friends a couple of weeks ago, writers who have each published several books, and one of them told me, "Writing a book is like driving a car in heavy fog at night. You can only see about five feet in front of you at a time, but eventually you get where you're going."

Or you hit a moose and wind up in the ditch, I thought. What do landlocked Southerners know about fog?

But I didn't say it, and besides, she was right, or I have at least made up my mind to proceed on faith that she is.

And so I am inching along through the fog, no idea yet where I'm going, but reasonably confident I'll get there. In another week or so, I hope to have enough of the road illuminated to convince my agent and, hopefully, an editor of the same.

I've settled into something like a daily routine. I start staring at my word processor as soon as I get the kids off to school and the second pot of coffee has brewed. I stare for about ten minutes. I type something. I get coffee. I stare another fifteen minutes. I delete half of what I typed. More coffee. I type something else, and decide that what I typed before needs to be cut and pasted somewhere else. More staring. Patrick wanders in about midmorning, wondering if I've become desperate enough to welcome a distraction.

"Go away," I say.

I keep this up for four to five hours a day. If I'm lucky, I come out of it with two or three pages I'm happy with. Meanwhile, the breakfast dishes are still on the table, nobody has clean clothes, and I can't tear myself away to go into the grocery store for longer than it takes to buy a frozen pizza and a gallon of milk.

When I'm not staring/writing, I read books by those who've gone boldly off into the fog before me: Anna Quindlen, Joan Didion, Calvin Trillin, Kate Braestrup, Ann Patchett's gorgeous Truth & Beauty. I'm cramming like I haven't since high school.

At night I pray like I haven't since I was in grade school. I pray with a list in hand: inspiration, success, and an advance big enough for someone to come and clear the breakfast dishes.

I'm honestly not sure if I brushed my teeth this morning.

I can't think of any time I felt more alive.



Blogger Chris said...

Atta girl! Stare, write, read, pray... Brush your teeth now, and get back to it.

I feel alive for you!

2:00 PM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

I laughed at your hitting a moose line. How true!

Sounds like your perspective is good though. Carry on.

And Happy Thanksgiving.

3:03 PM  
Blogger island sweet said...

oh kyran - it's where you belong. where you've always belonged... xxx

4:06 PM  
Blogger beth♥ said...

I find I am slightly envious. Bravo! Keep writing.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll get where you're going, Kyran. Without a doubt. And when you get there, here's hoping you'll have enough money to simply throw the dirty dishes in the trash and buy new ones.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Loren Christie said...

I can completely relate b/c this is my dream too. I've read your pieces in GH and I can tell you honestly, from a (normal) stranger's perspective, you'll get there.

6:37 PM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs,ask yourself what makes you come alive.And then go and do that.Because what the world needs is people who are alive"
-Howard Thurman

8:18 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Jealous. You are doing IT. This is how it gets done (or so I hear).

11:35 PM  
Blogger paper napkin said...

So how are you going about this? Do you have a bit of plot or story floating in your head? Or do you have characters that you throw together in a room, lock the door, and see what happens? Do tell, because I'd like to write a book someday, and I'm interested in your process.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

I have a friend who writes novels, with charts and timelines and an actual "process," which fascinates me. I ask her the same questions.

As for me, it's memoir, so it's more like letting the characters out of the room. I just sit down and say to myself, okay, where are we? And something floats up to the top.

Then I say, well, that doesn't make any damn sense.

But I go with it anyway.

When it's all written, maybe I will have more helpful things to say about it.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

One of my favorite memoirs is Jo Ann Beard's "The Boys of My Youth." Just thought you might like to add it to your list. You'll get there, Miss K, and I'm very much looking forward to reading it entirely. xo.

p.s. Link to via Amazon:

10:05 AM  
Blogger molly said...

I love it. I too am writing a book and wondered if other writers out there were hanging on, by a thread , wondering if the were totally insane for pursuing what at times seems like a pipedream. Thanks for the commiseration.


12:23 PM  
Blogger Schriftstellar said...

Every one of the writers on your list is a favorite of mine, too, and I find myself turning to them often (daily!) as I work on my own book. I'm heartened to think that you're out there doing the same!

Also, I had the pleasure to meet Kate Braestrup last year when she delivered a lecture at the church where I work. She is everything I expected and more...I can't imagine a better person to want to emulate.

5:40 PM  

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