Many bloggers have shared their experiences with the Writing Process. The writer’s block. The procrastination. The dilemma about where to go with a plot or a character. The battle with characters who start going in directions you weren’t expecting. The back-and-forth between “My God, this paragraph is magnificent. I am a fantastic writer!” and “All of my writing sucks ass.”
I feel your pain.
I don’t know much about the specific agonies involved in writing fiction or poetry because I haven’t done either of them since college. But I know it can be slow and agonizing work. You have to keep track of a lot of things I don’t have to worry about: characters, settings, plot development, etc. I take my hat off to all of you.
My writing is historical non-fiction, which brings its own kind of hell. Not worse than that of the fiction writers or poets, just different. Some of my challenges are probably similar to those experienced by historical fiction writers or anyone else who has to drape their content over a factual framework.
For too long, historical writing had an unfortunate reputation as being mind-numbingly dry, dusty collections of names, dates, and places. Fortunately, over the past 20 years or so, many writers have admirably demonstrated that history is full of all kinds of juicy, exciting tales, complete with adventure, mystery, intrigue, and naughty bits. There are heroes, villains, dirtbags, sluts, idiots, geniuses, and hot guys and gals. And the truth is often stranger than fiction.
My particular interest is in writing about people and events that nobody’s ever heard about. Even the people I’ve written about in this blog—most of their stories aren’t often told. I like the idea of “resurrecting” people who have been lost to history. I care about them because of who they were, what they accomplished, how they lived their lives, what they left behind. I want to do them justice.
Which brings me to my challenge at the moment. See, I’m writing a biographic piece on this guy. Perhaps you remember him.
Robert Cornelius wasn’t just a dreamily handsome face rivaling that of Pierce McKennon or Rupert Brooke; he was a brilliant and innovative guy. And except for a lame entry in Wikipedia and some other random blurbs about him, there is absolutely nothing out there about him. When I discovered that he was all but forgotten, I knew I had to write about him.
As you might have suspected, I’m hugely biased when it comes to Mr. Robert Cornelius. I feel like I’m back in high school, getting all tongue-tied and freaked out at the idea of talking to a cute guy. So when I sit down to write, I get all nervous and can’t think of anything. Or I babble for a few pages before realizing that I really haven’t said much of anything worthwhile. And then I panic. Here’s a sample of the dialogue that takes place between me and my brain:
Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: Dude, WTF? You’re going to rewrite that, aren’t you??
Madame Weebles: Why, is it really bad?
Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: He’s going to think you’re an idiot. And it’s not interesting. You make him sound boring. He’ll be insulted. And you need to rewrite this whole section too.
Madame Weebles: What’s wrong with it?
Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: It’s terrible. It reads as if you originally wrote it in English, then translated it into Chinese, then translated it back into English. I can practically hear him rolling his eyes at you.
Madame Weebles: Okay, fine, I’ll tinker with it some more.
Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: Also, what the hell are you wearing? This is what you wear when you write about him? Seriously? Put on something decent, for crying out loud. Fix your hair. And maybe put on some lipstick. Wait, what is that, is that food in your teeth??
Madame Weebles: Oops. It’s a poppy seed. What does it matter? He can’t see me.
Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: How do you know? He could be hovering over us right this minute, thinking, “Boy, I wish a better, more attractive writer were working on my biography. Just my luck I get one who doesn’t even check her teeth before writing about me.” Do you want him to think that?
Madame Weebles: No, of course not!
Judgmental Brain of Madame Weebles: Hmmm, what’s that on your chin? Shit, woman, you’re getting a pimple. That’s it, shut it down. We can’t write like this. There is no way I’m letting you write about him when you have a zit on your face.
Madame Weebles: Um, okay. I guess.
So there it is. The anxieties of talking to a crush combined with writer’s block all in one. My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.
All I know is, after I finally finish writing this biography, I’m looking for someone less attractive to write about.