Inside My Writing Head

Today's writing session was an exercise in frustration.

First, the overview, I'm working on the first draft of Book 3 of the Cats of the Afterlife series, The Deepest Growl. Book 2, The Sharpest Claw, will be out this month (September 2019). I have The Deepest Growl, planned out in accordance to Save the Cat Writes a Novel. I work in Scrivener, using the corkboard option. The first act came out easily. The second act has had been bumpy, with false starts, but this morning, it felt I had a handle on it. I was working at a good clip, when I thought I would just take a tiny break to do a tidy-up that should have just taken a moment. It's part of the process, I reasoned. I just needed to copy a portion of the text that no longer fit, place it in another document, and keep it in my “don't think I'll need it but I'll save it just in case” stash. After that, I would carry on. But I hit some button, and my work view changed. I no longer had my lovely corkboard in front of me with my chapter cards and notecards. I just had the text view of this card that I would probably no longer need.

For a moment, I thought I had lost everything. I had the opportunity to experience full-fledged panic. But I searched for some key words from my chapters. They were all there. But I could only see my work in text form. I couldn't see my beloved chapter cards all in a row.

I felt time tick by. I heard a voice in my head say, “Who cares about the view? You have Chapter 3. Keep going.” And then another voice who sounded much younger and just about to cry, “But that's not the way I work! That's not the way I've written books. I want to see my cards in front of me.”

“This is ridiculous,” the first voice responded crossly. “You're allowing yourself to be distracted by trivialities. Proceed.”

And I tried to obey that voice. I did go back to the text. But I was so annoyed. It was hard to focus again on talking cats in the afterlife and magic rooms and unlikely neighbors. The clock ticked until time was up.

“But you reached your word count,” another voice piped up. It didn't matter. None of us were happy.

“Just learn the program,” a sensible voice said. “Take the time to learn the features of the new update.”

That seemed practical. Maybe I will go down that path.

But another voice retorted, “Do you really think that's the way to write this book?” She let out quite a convincing cackle.

In this process I often hear a voice angry about the need to change. Today, she declared, “In the old version of Scrivener, there was a button right in front of me, in clear view, and I could just click it, and it would show me what I wanted to see.”

I wondered if I could add that button. After all, in a saner moment, when I first encountered this update I had added the Targets and Color button to my Scrivener dashboard. But in my current frazzled state, I couldn't figure out how to do that. I'm sure there's a way. I just can't see it.

So that was it. My writing session was over for the day. It was time to write my blog post.

“Are you kidding me?” a voice demanded.

“You'll feel better once it's done,” another told me.

I could relate to both voices.

“I know it's the last thing in the world we want to do right now,” I told Voice 1. “But if we don't do it, we'll be left with lingering, low-level frustration following us around. I've been there. It's not fun.”

I looked at my list of ideas that I had jotted down. At this moment, none of them rang my bells.

“Fine. I will write about this frustration,” I thought.

And I picked up a pen to write about it in a notebook, and then had to set it down, and get my green notebook because that was my pink notebook, just for this draft. The green one is for my blog posts. And then it seemed a good idea to readjust my birthday blanket, so soft and beautiful, a writing blanket, I had decided, something I needed to have on me while I sat in my writing bed with Cookie, the perfect reading pillow, but for me it's a writing pillow, named after the Cookie Monster, bright blue and huge. Or maybe it was because the other pillow that needs to be on my pillow, the one that says “Just One More Pillow” was askew, so I couldn't properly read it from where I was. Or maybe it was because there weren't cats to keep my company. Or maybe it was another superstition or quirk or object I just needed to have in order to write that flashed in my brain after this session of aggravation. I don't know.

Before I could write anymore, I found myself back in Scrivener, trying new things, and there was my old view again. I was so happy to see it. I swear it twinkled at me. It made me wonder. Do other writers care about these things? Do they go this process? Do they have brains that long for strange comforts that should be disposable but seem to absolutely need to be here?

I have this theory that in order to write I have to embrace the weird. I have to listen to all my voices and do my best to respect them although oftentimes they are at odds with one another. It's an incredibly imperfect process, but I keep trying. I will show up tomorrow and see if I hang out with those cats in that hallway and see what they have to show me, see if I can hear them in all of their glory. Writing often isn't pretty. It's messy and strange and circuitous. It's a place I want to be.