Friday, May 09, 2008

Finding My Center

I've been both complaining about being tired & not knowing what to write next and contemplating a conversation I had about a friend who is in a constant frenzy about situations he continues to re-enact that result in huge drama and his lack of much else to talk about.

Writing Angry Fat Girls was not a pleasant bike ride in the park. From the time I returned from Arizona in January until April 16, I had not left Brooklyn Heights, had rarely strayed from my beaten dog/grocery paths. I was boarding a lot, doing early/late walks, squeezing in taxes, blah blah blah. I came away stressed out & scared. I felt like I'd disappeared at the same time my body was getting bigger & bigger. Someone kindly commented that maybe I should cut myself some slack, rest, enjoy not having a book to pound myself with. But I couldn't.

Then I had that conversation and realized that my friend's problem is that word we've used a lot on the AFG blog a lot lately -- center. He has no center, or none that he's willing to open up and act from & for.

The human center is the invisible bit of anatomy that functions like a metal detector. It searches for the life impulse -- and sometimes for the death impulse. What makes me feel alive and what mimics feeling alive, what is authentic and what is fake?

I know that when I get too busy looking for clothes, ebay fragments, new books, etc. that I'm mimicking my life impulse. I love all that stuff but it's imaginary. Those capris will be perfect for iced coffee with so-&-so; If I watch Lost Weekend, I'll get some really witty lines for that iced coffee. A piece of Noritake in my grandmother's pattern will connect me to my past & inspire the day when I have a real home...

This is what our friend does too much of as well & in these days of my decompression & floundering, I have quite a list of deliveries I'm expecting. But the pressure I put myself under to find a new book project was, despite the bitch of a mood it put me in, a healthy one. I'm a searcher. I want to understand concepts, facts, people at a molecular level. I want understand myself that way as well, which risks repetition & appearing inordinately self-occupied & boring on a blog or, alas, in a book.

This is my purpose, this search. My tools are mostly words. If I'm not writing, I'm not living from my center. What is difficult for me to understand is that sometimes the search itself must be sought. So all the agonizing of these last weeks was really, all along, part of the stretch to act out of my best self.

I finally wrote down all my novel ideas, devoting a few sentences to each. I emailed a friend who is a psychic about the dilemma, and I emailed the list itself to my agent. They had completely different responses. I felt a little pissed off about being told what I shouldn't do. At the end of the day I sat down & looked at the list again. I hated all of them. A couple required a lot of research & I don't want to take the time after having done a book with a lot of research in it. Another promised to keep me in the same foul psychic place I've been for too long now. I hated the plot of another & didn't know what to do about it.

Which of these ideas that I was lukewarm about was most commercial? This question has also caused readers to respond with warnings against thinking that way, but I was desperate & had to think every which way to settle on something before I had too many more days of being in a really awful mood.

I've had an idea for a screenplay for years that I've done nothing about. What's more commercial than a screenplay? Why is the idea for a screenplay rather than a novel?

And there, yesterday at about 1:30 in the afternoon, as it was time to get ready for dogs, was my answer. The story told itself to me. By the time I left the house, I had names for the characters. I had subplots. I'm certain I can create three crisis points upon which to string the rest along. I am in love with the ease of it. I love it because I love having the next right thing in front of me to do. I'm in love with it because I intend to hand it to my agent the day after Labor Day & if it's awful, I'll have learned something about novel writing, not churned in futility for four months, & can move on.

Or maybe it will be good & be turned into a screenplay.

It has one fat character, but she isn't a main character. There are marriages & romances that work normally. There are children. There are no literary agents, no unhappily single people, no diets, no dogs (maybe). It's just a novel.

& at 2:20 yesterday afternoon, when I left the house to pick up Boomer, I started breathing again. Now I can get back to searching for aspects of truth & lucky phrases.

& today I don't mind that it's raining.


Anne M. said...

Finding our center sounds so simple in theory but it's so difficult to let go of the extra things, emotions, activities in order to do it. I'm not quite sure where my own is now.

But I love that you have clarity about your center and your purpose, and that at an unplanned time, the Universe gave you the story. I love that you will work on a novel about normal people, that it will bring you joy to write and keep you connected with your center.

Yayyyy you, my friend ((hugs ))

Helen said...

Oh boy, I can't wait!! So glad you have an idea that you really like to work on...and that we have another book to look forward to. :-)

Vickie said...

The picture is beautiful. Is that from this spring??? Is it ivy growing on the walls - couldn't quite tell.

What you call "Center" - I think of as "Even". Your centeredness seems to have a bit of forward movement in it. Which sounds nice. My Even-ness is all about treading water.

Anonymous said...

I love that you found your concept and it's falling together. It seems when the concept is right and you're passionate about it, the words just come...and if you're not, no amount of effort will make them.

So I'm very happy for you today! :-)


Lori G. said...

I'm really happy for you that your found your concept and your center. I'm sure it wasn't fun doing the list and hearing the ideas but it brought you to where you are. I can't wait!

Laura N said...

Frances, I'm just now getting caught back up on your blog. What great news that you have a new project in mind. I hope it helps keep you centered.

Now, I'm off to read the other posts you've written recently...