Writing Woes

Lately I have been depressed.  Like, majorly depressed.  Like, stay in bed all day and when you wake up at various intervals and think about the thing that’s depressing you, you go back to sleep–that sort of depressed.  It’s only been for about a week or so, but it’s felt like a wrecking ball has just demolished all of my good habits and routines in the blink of an eye.  It’s hard to go to the gym now.  It’s hard to write.  It’s hard to feel good about getting myself up and around to do anything at all, really.  I ate two pieces of toast today, and I’m still not really hungry.  It’s ridiculous how classic the symptoms of my depression are, isn’t it?  I mean, I don’t even do anything interesting when I get depressed, except back in my much more wild early to mid twenties (okay, late twenties as well for a while there.)  In any case, the reason for all this depression lately is because I’ve turned in the final manuscript of my second novel and have attempted to make a smooth transition back to working on the novel I’d been writing before I sold the second novel and began revising parts of it for much of this past year.  This hasn’t happened.  Why?  I find that I dislike various aspects of the third novel.  One aspect is a voice-oriented thing.  I’ve decided I don’t like certain language tics in the voice of the narrator, and want to change some of his tone in various places.  Another thing that’s bothering me is the accretion of certain kinds of details and imagery that I now find just not what I envisioned for this book at all, or if I did, I don’t know why I would have wanted that originally.  I also feel there is just a big gap in a particular social dimension of the novel, and I’m frustrated that I didn’t capture that in what I’d already written.  So now for the past two weeks I’ve found myself opening the novel file on my laptop and trying to do revision work on what’s there, to correct some of these things that bother me about the book at this point.  But it seems that just when I get something right, I look around and find more wrong elsewhere.  It’s like weeding a vast, endless dream garden–once you get to the other side of the garden, the weeds have already begun to grow up where you began again, ad infinitum.  This has led to a quick and certain downward spiral of my general mood, as described above.

I think part of the problem is also that I began this “third” novel before I left for Japan, wrote about a hundred pages of it.  Then, while I was in Japan, I felt compelled to stop writing it for a couple of reasons:  it’s set back here in the States (mostly Ohio, though there will be a good part of it in two different places in New York State–Manhattan and around Lake Chautauqua, I think); and then there was also the fact that I was in Japan suddenly, and felt compelled to write about the culture I was living in at that moment.  Actually, I always feel compelled to write about the culture I’m living in, and right then it was Japanese culture.  In any case, in the time between finishing pre-publication revision on One for Sorrow and selling The Love We Share Without Knowing, I returned to work on this third novel, Yesterday’s Child. I wrote another hundred pages, then went back to revising The Love We Share.  Now I’m back to the drawing board with Yesterday’s Child and, honestly, I think I’m a different writer than the one who began it, and want to make a lot of different decisions than that writer made when he started it in the summer of 2004 and took it up again in 2006.

Why am I blogging about this?  That’s another good question.  Since I moved back to the States, I have largely stopped blogging about lots of things.  I’ve been busy, for one, doing lots of other things that I didn’t do in the past:  author readings, signings, going through a stressful time when I was interviewing for the fiction writing job at the university this spring, etc.  But also because I felt a little like withdrawing from sharing my life publicly as much as I once did.  When I was in Japan, blogging was a way of not having to write a letter to each and every single person I wanted to stay in communication with back home, and it was a way of sorting out the life I was learning to lead there.  Back home, well, it was certainly an adjustment to return to the U.S. after being gone for a couple of years right at that point where I felt like I’d put down good roots in Japan.  But I didn’t feel as compelled to write in a public journal about that as much.  I suddenly wanted the privacy that I think we all need to truly find our own relationship with the world at that juncture in my life.

So.  Here I am again, writing about something personal.  But you know what, I feel better for it just putting it down here.  I’m not sure why, but I do.

I have a kitten who is refusing to leave me alone at this point, so no poignant ending to this, I’m afraid.  More later.  And if you have any good writing energies to spare, send a couple of vibes my way. 😉







12 responses to “Writing Woes”

  1. Lucy Avatar

    Ah man. I’m so sorry to hear about your depression. What a daunting task. The whole process sounds so schizophrenic. Uggh. The kitteh is helping, no? I’m glad blogging brought some relief. You are a fabulous writer…that’s why this process is so hard.

  2. leafless Avatar

    “Here I am again, writing about something personal. But you know what, I feel better for it just putting it down here. I’m not sure why, but I do.”

    You are showing signs of recovery (from your depression). Blogging again is probably a good thing.

  3. Rick Bowes Avatar
    Rick Bowes

    There’s nothing wrong with you that wouldn’t be cured by a good old-fashioned dose of cod liver oil.

  4. David Moles Avatar

    You know more about this novel-finishing business than I do, but have you thought of throwing it away and starting over? My book went nowhere for the whole second half of last year, till I finally made myself throw out everything I’d written in the first half. A lot of what I threw out’s made it back in, in bits and pieces — description, mostly; but the kind of deeper problems you’re talking about, I just couldn’t solve those while I was still knee-deep in the muck.

    Failing that, Rick’s probably right.

  5. Jan Avatar

    I’m so glad you have those sweet kitties. After my kids left the southwest to move back here and I was alone, there were plenty of days that I was only able to stomp through my depression by communing with my cat! Hang in there.

  6. Gwenda Avatar

    I can’t believe Rick just suggested the Peter Rabbit punishment as a remedy! (Or was that castor oil, I forget.)

    Anyway, feel better, hon. Perhaps you should just toss the whole file and start over? Or try something completely different? xxx

  7. ndr Avatar

    stories need time. and maybe, you have to start again with a blank page, trying to forget everything. a new start. a new way for the same old story. who knows. get up. bye.

  8. Derek Avatar

    *sending vibes*

  9. fusakota Avatar

     なんだ、1960年(ねん)代(だい)、わたしが小学生(しょうがくせい)だったとき、毎日(まいにち)学校(がっこう)で飲(の)まされた「肝油(かんゆ)liver oil」は、アメリカから来(き)たものだったのね?! 

  10. Christopher Barzak Avatar

    Thanks all. Feeling much better after a good evening of walking around the neighborhood and reading and drinking a couple glasses of wine. I think I don’t have to throw what I have out, though I recognize the desire to do so. Actually, after I wrote the first hundred pages of One for Sorrow, I suddenly felt like I understood what really needed to be changed in it before I could go any further, and went back and made a lot of these kinds of changes I’m talking about with this one, so I think I’m probably just going to have to do the same with this one. There are whole swathes I’m happy with. It’s just overwhelming to an extent. Also, I’m probably being a little whiny and lazy, and wishing for something about writing to be easy rather than hard. I’m going to keep tackling it. I’m the sort of writer, I think, that is like Jacob wrestling the angel. I’m going to fight the damned thing until it blesses me! 🙂

  11. Derek Avatar

    Red wine always helps. Well, it does for me anyway. Speaking of which…

  12. Rick Bowes Avatar
    Rick Bowes

    Gwenda – Cod Liver Oil was the New England equivalent. Awful stuff.

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