27 July 2008

On Novel Writing and Other Things

I'm up to the stage where my novel is playing games with my mind.

At the moment, it inspires dread. It horrifies me that I may have taken an Orientalist approach to one of the characters. The prospect of historians dissecting my novel also horrifies me. I imagine them as sparrows pecking out little snippets from the story and leaving it a bloody mess.

I've become moody. I alternate between grandiose illusions of literary achievements where I silently beam with pleasure, and moments of confusion in which I spiral out of control into some paranoiacal vortex where nothing is certain except for failure.

I don't even remember what the book is about. There are at least six subplots and most are unresolved. The writing style varies from mildly poetic dribble to presumptious prose. All the characters vie for attention and the main protagonist is being bullied from every direction because he can't think for himself. Some of the characters have not even been named yet because I'm purposely deliberating on something authentic and meaningful and as a result, there are Xs throughout a number of passages. X did this. Then X did that. Am I writing a novel or algebra??

I also wonder whether it's unnecessarily graphic. Why all the details? Am I playing with sensationalism and taboo topics or am I painting truth?

The last week has been interesting. I wake up dreading the thought of writing. I feel as though the characters are becoming impatient with me. They are waiting to pounce on me to impose their personality, their wills. They are agaced at my indecisions. I'm not even in control anymore. Which is just as well because uni has begun. I need a wait out. I haven't stopped ingesting Ming history for 6 months now. I need to get out and breathe the 21st century. It is mentally exhausting to wade through 400+ pages and juggle the plot, the passing years, the historical context, the different cultures and sequences of events while keeping the characterisation in perspective. And there is yet more to research...

I definitely need a break.

So why all the anxiety? It's just that there are so many unresolved passages in my novel. And I usually finish what I start... Leaving the novel in this state means that I feel edgy and dissatisfied. There is some dissonance from not meeting the requirements of my own value system. I want it completed and I am impatient to pen the vision that I've maintained and nurtured in my mind for what is now two years, yet I'm torn because I do need a break and I'm now eager for uni. In fact, I'm already addicted to two of the psychology subjects!

These days I'm always running around getting things organised. The irony is that my health is still in a precarious state. I'm on prescription drugs and vitamins. I've only just stopped coughing after two months. On Friday, my doctor was telling me that "I've had a stressful year and I need to take it easy because my immune system has been affected." But I just have so much to do...I'm now a full time student and I demand 6s or 7s. Nothing else will do. I've just booked a week to the Whitsundays for mid September which will be nice for relaxing. I also have another trip to China to organise. This one is more of an adventure rather than a holiday and it will take time to organise. Meanwhile my mandarin is going nowhere and I can't get my tones right so forget about talking basic Chinese with the locals. Won't happen.

I often think there are not enough hours in the day with everything I want to do and achieve for myself. I'm sure I'm not alone with this realisation. I create the anxiety because of the enormous expectations I place on myself. I've known this for years. But I don't know any other way to be.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Gusztav said...

Consider making here a link to the „carnivorous vine” dream please.
Dreams are not to be interpreted, just like poems cannot be translated to linear prose. (But loss of information and therefore loss of power.)
Books (you write) eat flesh. Especially novels.