If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

The last few days have been a roller coaster ride for me and Mark, as we've been tuning in to the ongoing discussions about the funding of NASA (for whom he subcontracts), making a lot of difficult financial decisions, and watching our amazing neighbor finish the extensive renovation of our house. To top it all off, Tito, our diabetic cat, collapsed suddenly yesterday while I was writing, and Mark came in to tell me. "Tito's not doing well," was all he could say, and we were off to the vet, tears streaming down my face, with a limp, eleven-year-old cat.

It turned out his sugar had just gotten low, so several hours and several vet techs later, he was happily gobbling down kitten food, and we were back at the urgent care animal clinic to take him home. And somewhere in the middle of this, it hit me: my writing anxiety was almost completely gone. It's like in the face of all these other, bigger issues, all my doubts and fears about the novel evaporated. I had real problems to contend with. On the other hand, I don't want to make light of the writing anxiety itself, because when I experience it, it's very real to me.

So today, when Mark convinced me that yes, it was really okay for me to leave the house and stop watching Tito, I took some pages of the book to a local Chinese place, and ate lunch while doing some line editing. I've been making hard decisions about the novel, including modifying some of my newly planned structure in order to go back more towards my original structure. I've been realizing that as much as I'm trying to up front the more salable aspects of the novel (the psychological horror, the Gothic tropes, the vampire imagery), it still is deeply nuanced and fairly literary. I can call it mainstream, and it might fly that way, but it will never be a heart-stopping, pot-boiling thriller.

Yesterday morning, before Tito fell over in the floor, I was in tears about this and wailing that I was "hopelessly literary." Today, in the warm, spring sunshine spilling over the pages at the Chinese restaurant, I saw the book for what it was. I've written a good book, a deep book, and I have to embrace it. Sure, I can line edit it and make sure it moves as quickly as it can, and sure, I can rework the structure to draw the reader in and drop the right cues and clues, but ultimately, it is what it is, and to change it too much would be to adulterate my original vision.

As I realized this, I opened my fortune cookie, and actually high-fived God (in the air, in front of people) when I read this fortune.

If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

For someone writing a novel about pathological liars, this resonates for me in so many ways. But I think it's true for all of us, that if we just tell the truth, if we just stay true to the vision that we have, within the world we've created, that's really the most important thing. We can't impose a structure on our novels that doesn't work for them. Nor can we write in a genre that doesn't draw on our natural gifts. We have to go with the gifts we have, and make the very best use of them, and that is exactly what I plan to do: Make the novel the best whatever kind of book it is--and send it.

Comments

Keith said…
Go, Kathryn! If it means anything, Spoonbill doesn't support baseball!
Joy said…
That was an awesome commentary. Incredible inspiration and well presented. I look forward to your novel. You are incredibly blessed and an incredible blessing.
Johnsie Noel said…
Great post, Kathryn! As I writer I struggle with that concept of an honest voice. I am much more of a poet than an narrator so have shelved and re-shelved the concept of every penning some of the stories I am burning to tell. The other day, in a writer's forum, I asked the question about epic poems, like Homer's Illiad. It was then I realized, I can still tell my stories - just with my own form of narrative! It was then that I became excited about writing again.
Mylène said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mylène said…
I second Joy's comment. And as another "hopelessly literary" gal, I'm noticing from your post how as writers we have to embrace our choice(s), whatever they may be, over and over again. And although it's tough watching you go through some of this, it's also a joy watching you do it. It's a joy watching a writer be true to her heart, her skills, her bent. And in the end, there is only the story. You must be happy with it. You are the one who has to live with it. The rest of the world only buys it.

I'll buy it. I can't wait.

(Previous post removed due to eegrereegious spelling errors.)