Freedom in Obscurity

I woke up this morning dreaming of taking some Tylenol and thinking about the Novel-that-I-do-not-write; “working” title, The Schneebelis Go to America. I thought of all the writers who stopped writing after one book. Those who died with a work in progress. All of them. I enjoyed Hemingway’s “posthumous” novel, Islands in the Streamvery much. It was published in 1970. Hemingway worked on it in 1950/1951. He killed himself in 1961.

Capote’s story is similar. After In Cold Blood, he basically never got his shit together adequately to finish Answered Prayers (which I also liked). In fact, he lost his shit big time.

As did Hemingway.

I’m sure not Hemingway or Capote, but right now, I feel sorry for those two guys. Their lives (and livelihood!) depended on writing bestsellers. I wonder if — when they began their lives as writers — they felt like I did when I began Martin of Gfenn. Enraptured, intoxicated, carried away on the sweet river of inspiration. I think they did. I’ve read pretty much everything they’ve written — fiction and nonfiction, including interviews where they talked about writing. Both of them were in love with it. Looking at their lives post-success, the love faded into desperation. Everything depended on something beyond them, other people, the sea of eyes and pocketbooks called “the public.”

I wonder (I suspect, I believe) if they ever wanted just to go away somewhere and write without a public, without a publisher, without external demands, even those in their own minds.

But even for someone like me, not a famous writer with a public clamoring for more of The Sun Also Rises or more In Cold Blood, it’s hard to stay “in love” with writing a story, with a story. Ideas incubate. I thought that, too, as I woke up this morning. Maybe the story of the Schneebelis coming to America is incubating, but I don’t think so. Personally, I think it’s just boring to write. I know where it has to go, I know what needs to happen between the people, and it doesn’t interest me much. The question now is do I serve the story or not? It’s a compelling tale, but, at the moment, it involves two people who need to fall back in love, get married and raise a family.

Honestly, I could not care less about falling in love and raising a family, but I recognize the imperative. There’s always a moment when a writer has to step back and serve the story. Or not. Luckily, it doesn’t matter to me or anyone else if my characters manage to mend their ruptured love, procreate, and board the Francis and Elizabeth at the port city of Cowes and head into the sunset.

“There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.” – Saint Teresa of Avila

24 thoughts on “Freedom in Obscurity

  1. I tried to write a love story. I wrote hundreds of pages, but it turned out more like a bondage and abuse story than a love story. That was not one of those “good” times in my life. In fact, I think I am currently IN the only positive love relationship I’ve ever had — at least one that involved marriage (I’ve had wonderful friends, but I wasn’t married to them).

    I don’t know if I could do it either. We haven’t come from a place where we have those memories to fall back on and even this relationship has gone through a lot of stuff to wind up where we are not and most of it wasn’t all that pretty.

    Maybe you know someone whose story they can relate with which you could work? I might make it all work from listening to Rod Stewart’s “You are my heart” … and I always felt that Robin and Marian in their movie ins which both of them are quite mature and FINALLY get back together — that was my idea of romance. I don’t know of a lot of happy young romances, though. I do know of a few good working relationships built from arranged marriages. How about an arranged wedding?

    • I guess you’d have to read what’s there already. They are young people and must be in order to start a family and set out for America in their middle years. I’m responsible to some known facts. I’m just not interested in, and never have been interested in, marriage and family. That’s part of what makes it challenging. I need to think of something he does that has nothing to do with “them” or courtship that wins her heart, but I don’t know what that is (yet?). There are also many available clichés that would work fine. They’re not my first choice. We’ll see. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter at all. 🙂

  2. I loved most of Hemmingway’s work. Admittedly I haven’t read all of it, but what I read I truly loved. I completely understand. I finished blindsided and have to edit like a mad fool now. On top of that, I’m trying to come up with a new story. Do I go with something similar, or change it up. My mind is in a whirl trying to decide what to do and where to go with it. Every idea I come up with is just uninteresting.

  3. Martha, have the Schneebelis come to hate or despise each other yet, or have they just fallen out of love and become disinterested/ambivalent toward one another? Maybe if one or the other did something truly horrendous or unforgivable that caused the other (and the author) really to hate him or her, a path back to healing and, ultimately, a deeper, stronger, more enduring love would become apparent?

    Good luck!

    • Thank you. What’s happened in the story is the second. And yeah, one problem is that I don’t like that character. I don’t think they will fall in love (again). I think it will evolve into a marriage for the sake of a little boy. As far as I can see, the female protagonist will (rightfully) never trust the guy completely just as he doesn’t fully understand her because he doesn’t care to. It doesn’t lead to a deeper love. It leads to an OK marriage, three more children and the realization of the male protagonist’s life-long dream at an awful price, which, down deep, he doesn’t care much about. I just don’t know how to write it. 🙂

  4. Incubate, or scribble drivel and see what emerges. I’m not a fiction writer, but I find either approach can work, and more than anything, I find it mood/energy dependent.
    It would be a difficult burden to “need” to replicate success in a creative endeavor.

  5. Or, when not feeling the mood for the normal life of the story-players, play with the disasters, put a twist in their tale (or tail) and see how much fun it is to write how they react to these pressures. I like to play with the moments in the story where it all goes to [custard]. Then it’s easier to find a way to work up to that moment (or those moments).
    Just my thoughts, what I do to keep the momentum, any forward movement, almost as if I’m playing with the hot springs that emerge from under the thick snow, waiting to see where it will erupt.

  6. I totally get this – when I know where a story is going it’s hard to motivate myself to write. It IS boring. It’s like paint-by-number to me. Thankfully, the novels I’ve finished were ones where I didn’t see the ending coming and it just snuck up on me out of nowhere. (honest. people accuse me all the time of making that up, but it’s true. I rarely know where a story is going until I start typiing) My WIP right now just past 90,000 words and I still don’t know the ending, so it has me in a bit of a panic. Sadly, when I’ve found myself in your situation with a story, I abandon it and set off on a new one. They litter my hard drive.

    • I almost always know the ending of my novels when I start writing them and I write toward that. It’s like a star toward which I navigate. In this situation, my characters have to do things I don’t want to write. I’ve never been there before. BUT I went, and it’s going OK. The thing opened up again. The ending, though, in spite of what I just wrote (ha ha) is now up in the air. That’s new for me. SO I’m just kicking back and seeing what happens at this point.

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