For writers, it’s important to find a way around obstacles and just keep the flow going.
In a 24 hour period of wonderful inspiration which I described in “I Capture The Writing Vision“, I had captured a game plan for a series of books I wanted to write. I even had a working title for the first book in the series, Freedom’s Just Another Word. I began to work on it, to put flesh on the bones of the idea. The book would revolve around the events which took place at the time of my Dad’s death, which had happened at Thanksgiving in 1987. I had been journaling extensively in those days, and had a lot of notes about what had happened immediately before his death, and the days, weeks and months after he died.
But I was just having a bit of trouble figuring how long before his death to begin the book. Always a hard place to spot – how to start at the real beginning of the story, and not too far back or too far into it. Then it suddenly occurred to me that – for a reason I couldn’t pin down at the time – the book needed to start with the visit to Wayne. He was a very charismatic Bible Study teacher who a group of us had followed for years, and who had at one time taken me under his wing as someone he wanted to mentor.
My life was falling apart, so I went to see Wayne for help and support. I got doubts planted on my path, critique and some rather snide comments thrown at me which slandered my integrity. OK, so in a normal world you’d say bad call going to see him, don’t do that again. But my reaction to what happened was why I had to start the book there. I was really angry right after I left his office, but within three days I was suicidal. That was why I had to start with the visit to Wayne – to chronicle that extreme overreaction, and how it signaled something very, very deep and dark going on in my life.
I have always written longhand during my first draft. And it is key for me not to go into editor mode and try to clean up what I’ve written as I go. I need to just let ‘er rip and throw the thoughts and scenes on paper, and keep moving forward. The time for editing would come later, after the words had gone cold for me. So I began to write. From the very first lines I wrote, the voice of my words on paper felt right – and continued to feel very consistent as I wrote the next passages, then chapters.
Writing this book would start with what I called “loading the computer.” I would read my notes for the time period I was going to write about, then let it simmer and percolate for a week or so. Then I would sit down one afternoon, and out would pop a complete chapter, with scenes and dialogues, flashbacks and reflections, in what felt like a very comfortable order. It kept happening, all through the spring of 2006.
The hardest time to write about was the events the week my Dad died. Almost 19 years after his death, I had never sat down to chronicle the entire week. A various points I had written about my Dad’s death, and how I felt about it, as part of my grief process. But I had never tried to put together how that week felt, from the moment I got the phone call from my sister, “Come home, Dad is dying.” It was tough, no doubt about that. But it flowed just like the rest of the book.
While this was going on, I had decided to sell my condo and move from Albuquerque back to Texas. I had been talking to a man who ran a company in Houston, where I would return to a company I had worked for previously, supervising the startup of a software module. In the early summer of 2006, that job didn’t work out, and at the very last minute I decided to move back to Fort Worth. I discovered that there was a big oil and gas boom going on around Fort Worth, and my old skills as an oil and gas landman were in great demand. So I moved, and began working in the oil industry.
With the writer’s block I had been fighting, my writing had been a fragile thing to hold on to at times, so I was surprised to see that I kept making progress on the book, even during the relocation and starting a new job. Around the first of 2007, I was about two-thirds of the way through the book, with a rough hand written draft. For some reason it felt important to let this one get really cold before I went back to look at it. I had a flash of inspiration, and asked my friend Karen if she would be interested in typing up my notes, and I would pay her for it. She used to be a legal assistant and was a fast typist, but more importantly, she had a Master’s in English with a creative writing specialty, and had worked as an editor in a publishing house – not literary – it was a college book publisher. But she had that perspective, and it would be vital for me.
Karen and I had already talked about her editing my book for me, and this seemed a way to get a head start on that process. So I mailed off my hand written notes (chicken scratch is more like it – I’m left handed and have lousy penmanship) which she had assured me she could read.
By March of 2007, I had finished the last of the manuscript, put the rest of my notes in the mail, and Karen was typing it up for me. I decided it was time to study the publishing industry – for a third time – to see about getting this book published. I also decided to attend a writer’s conference in Austin. There were workshops throughout the weekend, but the sweetener was a 10 minute meeting with a New York agent. So I was moving forward – again. Would I stop short like I had done before? Would I walk away from a third book? I wasn’t sure. But on some level I sensed that I was in a different place on this writer’s block thing than I had been before. I was committed to doing whatever it took to blast past the blocks, and then actually publish this book! I knew I was at a crossroad.
Then Karen started alluding to this being a really powerful book, and one likely to be very successful. Gulp! Things were brewing for me to get to the bottom of the writer’s block, and what a wild ride that would turn out to be.
“Rock Flow” The_tahoe_guy @ flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.