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Get Rolling, or, When You’ve Forgotten How to Write

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Get Rolling, or, When You’ve Forgotten How to Write

When my baby was nearly eleven weeks old, she started rolling from her tummy onto her back, and I was very impressed and proud. Recently, at three and a half months, she’s started rolling from her back onto her tummy. Again, I am impressed and proud.

What’s frustrating, though, is that now, when I lay her down on her play mat, she immediately rolls over and then starts to cry because she’s on her tummy and she doesn’t like it.

“Roll back over,” I tell her. “I know you know how. I’ve captured you doing it on video.”

But for some reason she can’t remember this previously-learned skill. And she’s upset about it.

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Baby on her tummy.  I know she doesn’t look upset, but believe me, she started crying 5 seconds after this picture was taken.

 

The other day I was doing some final polishes on my novel in preparation to start querying agents. As I was reading over the manuscript I began to wonder, how did I ever create this story in the first place?

I developed the idea for the novel a little over a year ago and wrote the first draft last spring, but I seem to have forgotten how I did it. Sometimes it feels like I’m revising someone else’s work.

Now that I’m finishing up this project, it’s time to start something new. Time to switch from revising to creating.  Time to start rolling the other way.

If I can only remember how.

 

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One way to get the baby to sleep.

 

Nap time with the baby has been a challenge these past few days. When I put her in her crib, half the time she immediately flips onto her tummy and then starts to cry. Yesterday I had to walk her around the neighborhood in her stroller for over and hour because that was the only way I could get her to take an afternoon nap.

Paul and I wonder if we should leave her on her tummy to struggle and cry. Maybe, if she gets frustrated enough, she’ll remember how to do it.

Or, maybe, we just have to be patient and give her time.

Normally, when I finish with one writing project, I rush to start something new; I’m in a panic not to waste time. But having a baby has made me a bit more relaxed. It’s a successful day if I manage to get dressed and go grocery shopping. So if a day goes by when I don’t work on writing, it’s not the end of the world.

Still, there is a part of me that worries — what if I’ve lost this previously-learned skill, this ability to create fiction?  I worry that this time I won’t be able to write another novel.

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Come on, baby!  Get rolling!

 

While walking the baby around the neighborhood the other day, an idea for a novel popped into my head. That’s how ideas usually arrive. You can’t force yourself to have one; they appear out of the blue, usually when you’re doing something unrelated to writing.

The idea has gotten me thinking, and I can feel the gears in my brain shifting from revision mode to creation mode. I haven’t forgotten how to write, I just haven’t done it in a while.

I’m not in a hurry, but I’m sure soon enough, I’ll get rolling on a new novel.

Days 92 & 93: What a Rip Off!

Days 92 & 93: What a Rip Off!

TODAY’S STATS:

# of literary mags submitted to: 0

# of agents queried: 1

The other day my friend Bernard sent me twelve emails, each with an attachment of a quirky-awesome watercolor he’d done. When I gushed to him about how great they were, he was nonchalant*. “They’re just some things I did last night,” he said.

“Wait. You did all of them in one night?”

I then tried, for the umpteenth* time, to convince Bernard that he is an amazing artist. As usual, he wasn’t convinced. We’ve had conversations before on this topic.

“I don’t know,” he’ll say, “Sometimes I feel like I’m ripping off* Quentin Blake. Maybe I’m not very original.”

“So?” I always say. “Who is?”

I would put one of Bernard’s watercolors here, but he’s afraid someone might steal his idea, so here is something by Quentin Blake instead. http://www.flickr.com/photos/queenieandthedew/6996873921/sizes/m/in/photostream/

When I was in ninth grade, I used to attempt* to bond with my father over music. This seemed like a good plan since he was a musician, and I was a teenager obsessed with music.

“So, what are kids today listening to?” he’d ask me, already a hint of aggression in his voice as if he’d actually said, “what kind of crap is being passed off as music these days?”

“Well,” I’d say, happy to babble about my favorite bands, “I like Nirvana, Radiohead, Beck, Veruca Salt, Silverchair…” I’d start listing bands on my fingers. “Maybe I should just make you a mix tape.”

I did make my dad mix tapes, and I was excited for him to listen to them. But as soon as the first song would come on, he’d start getting grumpy* and saying things like, “this sounds just like so-and-so” or “they just ripped off such-in-such.”

“So?” I always said. “Who cares? I like it anyway.”

It really frustrated me that here I was trying to share something with my dad, and instead of enjoying it, he was busy trying to prove it wasn’t original.

The other night I watched the movie 21 Jump Street with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Yeah, it’s a recycled idea stolen from the 80’s TV show with Johnny Depp. But you know what? It was really funny and I enjoyed it.

*    *   *

Today I sent this blog post by Nathan Bradford to Bernard. It basically says that originality isn’t all that important. What’s important is how (and if) you execute your idea.

This is a good thing for Bernard to keep in mind*, and also a good thing for me to think about in regards to my writing. Sometimes I worry that someone else might have already come up with the same idea as me, or that my ideas aren’t original enough.

But I shouldn’t worry so much. People like to hear the same stories over and over again. That’s why we love movie versions of fairy tales and old TV shows. That’s why there are approximately five thousand vampire romance books on the Barnes and Noble shelves right now.

In fact, you’ve probably heard it said that there are only seven basic plots:

This list from 9th grade English Class:
1 – [wo]man vs. nature

2 – [wo]man vs. man

3 – [wo]man vs. the environment

4 – [wo]man vs. machines/technology

5 – [wo]man vs. the supernatural

6 – [wo]man vs. self

7 – [wo]man vs. god/religion

This list from Christopher Booker:
1.  Overcoming the Monster
2.  Rags to Riches:
3.  The Quest:
4.  Voyage and Return:
5.  Comedies
6.  Tragedies
7.  Rebirth

So any story you tell has probably been told already. So what? If you like it, tell it anyway. Tell your version, and tell it the best you can. And Bernard, the same goes for your art! Don’t worry about whether or not it’s been done before. It’s never been done by YOU. And that’s what matters.

Don’t get so caught up on originality that you can’t enjoy the music.

 

*These are all words or phrases that I taught Sergiy this week