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It used to take stiff sloshes of coffee and a cigarette even to think about writing. Then I'd have to read someone I admired in order to stimulate my brain, the flint of their words sparking off ideas. That was back in the days before my "awakening" on the atypical antipsychotics.
Now it takes considerably less effort, thanks, I believe, to the boost of Abilify, under the influence of which I find I write reams with little effort, at least in the sense that there is no hump of inertia to surmount before I can put words one by one on the page. But what precisely to write about? How do I find my subject, ask some who are at a loss at this stage of the process. They want to write, and are full of corruscating words and scintillating phrases and metaphors, but they can't decide what to write about.
I spend a lot of time involuntarily doing nothing. Of course, I don't truly do nothing; I'm distracted, from reading usually, and find myself thinking about something else, sometimes as hours pass without my noticing. Often these thoughts are dark, even frightening and become mixed with symptoms such that I call them "day-mares." Others present themselves to me as possible situations that pose problems I need to solve, sometimes ridiculous, others serious, but all frustrating or otherwise difficult: these are "scenarios."
Day-mares I tend to leave alone, as I don't want to continue down the road of thinking about them longer than I need to. But scenarios, those can sometimes turn into an essay or short story. So treasure your daydreams, your distracted thoughts, your abstractions and benign delusions -- there, underneath the dust and detritus, hidden by dried dead leaves and underbrush, may lie your subject matter. Anything can be written about, even, yes, saddle leather (who suggested that? I'm gonna have to write about it some day...just to prove the point). The writer's job is to find the story and make the subject shine.
So, say I have my topic. What now? Well, I just start writing. I seem to have no trouble beginning anywhere, and have a knack for finding the way in, though I often do have to rearrange and find the proper entry point later. But there's no problem starting, nor in continuing, though I find that coming to an end, and finding a proper conclusion is a little more tricky for me. I write until I'm exhausted and then haven't the energy to do more than tack on a quickie conclusion, or none at all. (That is, if I am writing in my blog. For more formal pieces, I go to bed and write the conclusion when I am fresh.)
But for novice writers this presents more of a difficulty. I think what you need to do is to look at your subject matter as if seeing it with the eyes of a Martian who has never seen the like before. Look as it with new eyes and enter the story there, with the most salient detail, whatever that may be. If you are writing about the newly designed firetrucks your municipality just bought, you might think that their color would be the detail that first strikes the eye, but looking at the trucks with eyes brand new and freshly open, you see that they actually look a bit like giant crickets...and you start your story about them with that observation, and maybe even mention the Martian seeing them and thinking this! The point is, you need to find something about your subject that is different and unspoiled by overuse, that no one else has observed or written about before, and start there. Hook your readers and draw them in with it, it's the most important sentence of your essay: the first line, which will either captivate or disappoint readers, leading them to continue reading or quit your essay or story and flip to something else.
While I am writing, I do nothing else. I quit smoking 18 months ago, cold turkey, so I don't even do that. I don't eat, might drink water, but forget to do that most of the time -- there! just had a few big gulps -- and I rarely get up from my chair to take a break. I simply write and write and write. I doubt most people, especially novice writers, could take this sort of pressure, and I do not recommend it. I recommend breaks, as needed, and every two hours, a half hour walk outside to clear one's head and get the blood moving (advice I really should take myself). I recommend high protein snacks as well as raw veggies at hand as long as you don't get any food in your computer! And a bottle of water always available, three 16oz bottles a day at least.
The Abilify makes me almost unable to stop writing, thought...and I'm wondering if it isn't unhealthy to be doing so much of it. Blog, emails, my notebook, pages and pages a day, whenever Joe doesn't need me, and he is doing fine these days. But I enjoy it all, and feel wonderful that the words just pour out of me. The problem is that when I am written out, when I have no more to say on any given day, and I've written in my blog and in my notebook all I can think of, I'll start repeating myself, saying the same things over and over in different ways, simply in order to keep writing...Can writing become pathological? Oh, well. THAT I refuse to worry about as it is too much damned fun at the moment! I never dreamed the day would come when writing would be effortless, no longer a chore but nearly a compulsion...In fact I treasure this new-found facility and wouldn't trade it for all the tea in Darjeeling.
It is usually near midnight before I stop for the day. Frequently I will write for eight or nine hours over the course of 24, and sometimes much longer if I am alone and not interrupted. I love both the starting and the doing as well as the editing of my writing. Every step is a pleasure. The hardest thing is knowing when to stop. But at midnight, I take my first dose of Xyrem, my other miracle drug, set the alarm for 4:00am for the second dose, and am asleep by quarter of one. The day and my day's writing has come to an end.Posted by pamwagg at September 9, 2006 02:55 PM