Thursday, August 6, 2009

Writing Fever

Pages written since last post: 297


I have just written an entire book (yes!with words and everything!) in 62 days. Do you know that wonderful scene in Romancing the Stone in which Kathleen Turner finishes her latest masterpiece, blubbering like a baby (and searches all over the apartment for tissue, paper towels, toilet paper, anything on which to blow her nose but of course there is nothing because she hasn’t left her desk in weeks, perhaps months)? The average movie-viewer thinks that she’s crying because she’s so caught up in the beauty of her work. The average writer knows she’s crying because she is undergoing a complete meltdown due to a) sleep deprivation b)starvation and/or dehydration c)she knows (or believes) she’ll never have a high like this again.

This is what I call Writing Fever. It is a rare degenerative disorder that affects only the most talented, the most brilliant, and the most dedicated of our kind. It happens when the writer gets so caught up in the passion for his book that he is writing pages almost faster than he can read them. It is not a sustainable state, and it has absolutely no relationship to how good (or sellable) his opus might be. There is no cure. There is only management. But, oh my, when it strikes you, there really is no choice but to hold on tight and ride it through.

Here are my guidelines for surviving a bout of writing fever:

1) Don’t fight it. It may never happen again.
2) Lay in a stash of bottled water. Yes, I know that walking all the way to the kitchen will disrupt the flow, so keep it by your desk. People have died from less,
3)Try, at least once a week, to have a dinner more nutritious than Chex mix and wine spritzers. I know it’s hard to swallow with all that adrenaline surging through your veins. Try protein drinks. If you can manage it, a 250-calorie Lean Cuisine meal or a microwaved veggie burger will keep you going till midnight.
4)Every two hours, stand up. This is not optional. You may recall one of our vice-presidents suffered an embolism that was directly attributed to his remaining immobile on a long flight– and he didn’t even have the stress of writing a book! So stand up, walk around the room– and then succumb once again to the magnet- pull of the keyboard.
5)Don’t neglect your friends and family. Of course they have no place in your universe right now, of course they haven’t the faintest inkling of what you’re going through, but, as hard as it may be to believe at the moment, one day you’re going to need them again. So the next time you open up your browser to Google “everyday life in a Tibetan monastery” or “flight times from Amsterdam to New York”, send them an e-mail. “I love you. Please be patient.” are time-honored classics.
6)Exercise. Oh, what the hell– plenty of time for that when you finish the book.
7) Don’t lose perspective. Just because you are so caught up in the magnificence of this story that you can’t sleep, eat, drink or breathe anything else doesn’t necessarily mean it will translate to your agent, editor or reader (although, I have to admit, it’s a pretty good sign). Take a few days after you write “the end” to step away. Go back to it with a clear eye. See what you’ve written. It’s absolutely fantastic, isn’t it? Yes, yes, yes, the best book ever, destined to be a bestseller, to change the world of literature forever, never will this degree of excellence be achieved again... but I digress.
8) Give yourself time to grieve. It’s over. You’ve been to Jupiter and back, but now you must live again in the world of mortals. They have no clue what you have accomplished; they can’t begin to relate to your struggles. Pity them. Because they also will never know your joy.

And... wait for it. The idea. The speeding heartbeat. The burst of inspiration. Could it be...

The fever has struck again?

1 comment:

Riana said...

In anticipation for my first participation in NaNoWriMo this year, I've been wondering how I'm going to survive, but this 'survival guide' is wonderful, and I'll surely keep it in mind for November. :D

I was curious as well, and I hope it's okay that I ask this here (if not, please direct me to where it would be more appropriate!), but for a while you had listed a third book in the Devoncroix series, but that's no longer on display on your website. Has the project been canceled? Placed on hold?