The weird parts in-between
Is there a method to the madness?
This week, I managed to squeeze in some Netflix time in the evenings. My brain is normally so fried after my work days that I generally just want to eat some food and lie down but sometimes it’s worth the little bit of extra effort to consume some media and art.
This week I was watching Inventing Anna, a pretty mindless jaunt into Shondaland (love her!) which is always such a pleasure. What struck me was how the story was actually being driven by the underlying journalist. Played my Anna Chlumsky (my girl!) - Vivi, the journalist, is really as much of a main character in the show as the titular Anna Delvey.
In the episodes beforehand, she is pictured as taking a lot of notes, trying to piece together the story and doing pretty much everything but writing. For weeks and weeks she is tracking people, interviewing them, living and breathing this story to the point of driving her husband insane. The imminent arrival of their first child doesn’t even deter her from schlepping her pregnant belly to Riker’s and back. It’s the kind of dedication that one dreams of having to bringing a story, a piece of art to life.
The work is hard and grueling. She faces humiliation and obstacles. Over and over and over again she is told no, but she persists. Her pregnancy insomnia only drives her to pursue this story even more frenetically and finally right before her due date she is pictured sitting infront of her office computer typing away like a mad woman with a towel on her chair in case her water breaks.
Even though she is days away from her deadline, she has not written a single word - but in the final hours, she sits down to write and doesn’t get up for 12 hours. One of her journalist colleagues/friends tells her very simply towards the end “just start writing”.
Is this accurate to how writers write? Maybe it really is. What about all the weird parts in-between? For months now I have not written anything substantive. I don’t count my Substack posts because they’re just thoughts on a page. But actual writing - creative writing - is hard. So much of working on Book People thus far has not been writing. It’s been a lot of everything else. Thinking, synthesizing, contemplating, word vomits on pages (see: NaNoWriMo), questioning, interviewing, interview prepping, interview transcribing and the list goes on and on. Maybe this is just how it is. A lot of unfolding. A lot of the weird parts in-between.
My writing teacher/mentor loves to remind me to not be so hard on myself and that production of words on a page isn’t everything. I think my execution/production mentality makes it hard for me to feel like I’ve progressed unless there’s something tangible I can point to. It’s like I’m constantly in a race to prove that I exist as a writer by having something to write and show (even though I hate the showing part).
At some point I have to learn to be ok with the process and how long it takes. I have to pepper my research work with some writing so that I don’t feel like no progress has made. Over the next few weeks my writing mentor has given me a lot of homework, one of which is to write something. I will focus on doing that and that ought to carry me through the next phase of research. The longer I do this, the more layers of the onion I can peel back. I just gotta keep peeling.