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 Stream, very 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