It is no news to anyone who knows me that I live way too much inside my own head. Unfortunately for me, I am the multitasking queen, so even while I’m biking or teaching my little monster third-graders or decorating the Christmas tree or watching “King Kong” I can easily obsess simultaneously about my pet fixations. I wish there were some way to reduce my RAM, you know?
I had once in this blog confessed a very ridiculous thing I did regarding story titles for the next issue of Fibromyalgia AWARE. One story about the autonomic nervous system I’d entitled “Introducing the Autonomic Nervous System.” Another I’d called “An Introduction to Dysautonomia.” I fixed this egregious oversight. Lesson learned. (Ha ha.)
Friday I had only two important work things to do: write a chapter of my work-in-progress, and write blurbs for the Fibromyalgia AWARE table of contents. But of course first I had to bake a pie and mop. (Really—had to.) Then it sounded like a good time for Christmas shopping. Oh, and when I got back I had to do some work on one of my more ridiculous Christmas presents (why I come up with projects so boundless, I can’t even begin to explain). By the time I finished—my thoughts tumbling round and round all the while, like the four loads of laundry I’d also done that morning—it was nearing 4 PM and I still hadn’t done the TOC blurbs. Naturally it was more important to get that stuff to layout guy Scott than it was to work on my chapter, so I sat down to do just that.
And that’s when I’d saw it.
The next issue of the mag has a special sleep section, most of which I wrote. (I had to use a pseudonym for some stories, and just didn’t take a byline for a few others, so it wouldn’t look quite so much like the Great Elisabeth Semi-Annual Journal.)
Somehow I never realized, until I looked at the TOC, that I’d entitled one of the pieces “Sweet SEANOL Dreams” (SEANOL being a brown algae extract, the primary ingredient of a product addressed in the story), and called another “Sweet Dreams: Searching for a Good Night’s Sleep with FM.”
Good grief. I mean, I wanted to strengthen my voice, to make sure my writing sounds like me—but you’d think I could sound like me and still manage a little variety.
Around 5 PM I slumped in front of my computer, determined to finish this ridiculous chapter. Ridiculous because I so didn’t want to go on this part of the journey, and had been putting it off and putting it off (and even, actually, put off daydreaming about it so I would have some halfway decent ideas to implement). I think maybe I was feeling resentful that my character had come up with this twist in the story, and I hadn’t been consulted at all.
Two hours, two phone calls, much off-topic thinking, and countless heavy sighs later, I’d finished the single scene I’d been struggling through and had shut off the computer, feeling thoroughly disgusted with the quality of my output.
No wonder I was so hesitant to get to work yesterday. But for reasons I can’t figure out, when I sat at the computer, my fingers just started moving on the keys. This wasn’t one of those sessions where I cranked out horrible, horrible first-draft prose without stopping, but I allowed myself fewer than three distractions, and finished about 3700 horrible, horrible first-draft words in less than two hours. I scarcely permitted myself an eye roll when I noticed myself hammering out one of those phrases I already know I overuse, and only wondered half-a-dozen times how many other overused phrases I'd unknowingly included.
This morning I was thinking how difficult some of this new draft has been for me, and thinking (again) about how different writing was in fourth grade, when I used to crack myself up with my brilliant plot twists and witty repartee. I miss the feeling of free flight that I enjoyed so much back then—and heck, that I even enjoyed my first three or four times through this story. It feels like I’m just too much in my own head, not enough in my characters’, and I’m not quite sure how I can detach from my own thoughts and delve more into this fictional world. But maybe I’ll get started by brainstorming some titles for the next issue of Fibromyalgia AWARE, and see if I can manage to come up with 20 titles that aren’t vague echoes of each other. Wish me luck!