I want to start by boosting the signal for a series of online events about to take place in support of diversity in children and YA’s literature. This is partly in response to the recent BookCon debacle you can read about here, but also stems from a lot of recent and growing online conversation about the appalling lack of diversity in the field. The online events will take place over three days, starting May 1, and more info is at the WeNeedDiverseBooks tumblr. Visit the site, make a sign, get involved, spread the word.
So, I’ve mentioned I’m starting a new book. Care to know how it’s going? I’LL TELL YOU. Starting this book is like someone’s walked up to me and said, “Hi there. We’ve decided it’s your job to build a zoo. Here are your materials,” then buried me under a mountain of sand, let a few tigers loose, and walked away. Or something. See, this is the type of imagery I’m coming up with. I AM HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME. For example, today I have been “about to start writing” for approximately 8 hours. I haven’t managed a single word. And I know it’s not over, because yesterday, recognizing what was going on, I made a rule that I have to write at least one page every day. Today isn’t over until I write that one page.
What happens if I don’t write the one page? Nothing in particular – I don’t punish myself, and I don’t even generally make progress rules like this unless nothing else is working – but here’s the thing. The only way for me to start to feel like I’m writing a book that means anything is to get some words on the page — enough words that I start to sense what this thing is now that it’s on the page. I know what it is when it’s off the page. I feel good about my book plan. But when I try to turn the book plan into words on the page, those words don’t feel like my book plan, they feel like nothing, like I’ve stepped into this dimension of nothing. The only way for them to start feeling like something is for me to keep choosing to step into that nothing and add more words.
If I don’t write one page today, it means I’ve added one day to however long I’m going to feel like this. Which would be crummy. Whereas, if I write the one page, even if it’s stiff and awkward and not at all what I’m aiming for (which is likely), I will experience the relief of knowing that I’m one day closer to leaving this feeling of nothingness behind.
One trick I like to employ when this happens is to wait until late in the day to start writing. At least that way, I don’t waste the entire day imagining that I’m about to start writing. Once the day is getting near its end, I HAVE to write, so I do. Hypothetically. I didn’t think to do this today, but it’s on the agenda for tomorrow.
A final note, written a couple of hours later: I am relieved to report that I wrote my one page.