# of pages written: 8
# of times I’ve checked email/facebook: 3
# of days left to write 1st draft: 143
The other day in my writing class, I mentioned to a classmate that I had dropped out of college at the age of nineteen and driven cross-country by myself to live in LA and try to be an actress. I think I was using it as an example of how I’m always pursuing careers that are extremely difficult to break into, similar to writing, but she took it a different way. “Wow. You’re really impulsive,” she said.
I was surprised. I’ve never thought of myself as impulsive. But the more I started thinking about it, the more I found it hard to deny. I recalled the time I let a guy cut my hair at a party, and then I remembered with a shock that I had actually, a few years earlier, let another boy cut my hair. I’d almost forgotten about that incident. I had gone over to his apartment for a Scrabble date, and he had an old-fashioned barber chair that I, naturally, wanted to sit in. One thing led to another (I think wine was involved), and I ended up suggesting that he give me a haircut, which he did, with a pair of rusty scissors. It’s hard not to label that as impulsive.
And it’s not that I have a weird hair-cutting fetish or anything. I’ve done plenty of other impulsive things. Recently I smacked a guy on the street because he gave me bad directions, and I willingly sampled some extremely hot peppers that no one else would try (they made my tongue feel like sandpaper for days.) Just last month, I bought the very first car that I test drove.
The thing is, though, I’ve always thought of myself as careful and cautious. I’m a very organized person – my cds are in alphabetical order, the clothes in my closet are formatted by type and color, and my roommates have often made fun of my detailed to-do lists. As far as decision-making, I all about pro and con lists, and before I moved to L.A., I wrote a “press release” for my family detailing my reasons and plans and answering several frequently asked questions.
It might seem impulsive that I quit my job and move to Cape Cod to pursue writing, but believe me, I thought about it in a very organized way, considering possible outcomes carefully.
As I was pondering whether or not I was impulsive, Nikki noted that I set the table strangely. “Sometimes you put the forks on the right and sometimes you put them on the left,” she said.
“I have trouble with my left and right,” I told her. “I’m not a very spatial person.”
She thought that was odd, considering my mathematical background.
I explained to her that when I was studying math in college I had trouble with multi-variable Calculus, in which I had to think about objects in three-dimensional space, but proofs were relatively easy. “I’m very good at linear thinking,” I told her. “If this then that, and from that follows this other thing, and therefore, yada yada. That sort of linear reasoning makes a lot of sense to me.”
So here I am – apparently I’m impulsive, yet I’m also organized and good at linear thinking. I’m hoping all these traits will come together in my novel writing. I think you need to be impulsive sometimes – just jump in and make decisions; don’t over-think everything. That’s what I’ve almost always done with shorter fiction. I start stories without really knowing what will happen. But now that I’m working on something longer, I need my organizational skills to take a turn at bat. I need to outline my novel and being more purposeful in my efforts so that I don’t end up with a 400-page mess that makes no sense. With my linear thinking skills I should be good at organizing my thoughts for the novel, but this task continues to overwhelm and frustrate me.
Today, at a friend’s suggestion, I wrote all the scenes I know I want to have in my novel on note cards and wrote as many details as I could about each one – character names, important pieces of dialogue, main ideas. Still, organizing them baffled me. That’s when my impulsive side took over. I picked a card at random and said, “I’m going to write this scene today. It doesn’t matter if it will be at the beginning or middle or end. I can put everything in order later. The important thing is to write.”
And so I wrote the scene. Who knows, maybe as the novel comes together, this scene I wrote today won’t fit or will need to be altered, but at least I know I’m not afraid of taking a pair of rusty scissors and loping off a few pages here and there.