Of all of life's disappointments, one may be that writing novels is nothing like riding a bicycle. You don't learn how to do it, then jump on the old bike next time for another madcap downhill over the cobbles ride.
You have to learn again every time.
But it's very hard to admit that you've woken up and lost the magic touch. Sure, you're still good words. Sure, you still have a wry way of looking at things. Sure you still find people interesting. Sure you still have ideas and lots of them. But writing a novel is much than curiosity, talent or appetite, it has a rhythm of its own and serves up its own lessons as it will and novels are weird in the way they unfold so that it's only at the end of the first draft you know what it's about and can go ahead and safely write the first line.
A novel is the kid that won't tell the secret no matter how much you bribe it or theaten it. It's surly.
Every novel I've written I've had to learn to write one again, no less this time, but the corsetry of writing the course and sticking to its few but tight rules has kept me straight. (By straight, I also mean straight-laced!) I've been well served by examining the way other (good) writers write and what they do and don't do, in almost forensic detail and robbing them blind. In reading so much good writing, one finds that old magic - a taste for honesty even at the expense of self. Or especially at the expense of self.
A novel is more like a horse than a bicycle. It wants a novice rider so it can throw you off and give you bruises and leave you breathless. I never imagined, after a wild and unpleasant canter, I'd end up in these woods with myself, almost a stranger and just the heat of the novel's nostrils on my neck.
But here I am, and this is the novel, and it is a work in progress, and continues to be one hell of a ride. it won't let me get off!
I wonder if writing a novel is different every time because we change every day and particularly when we write. Then, we turn over the pages of all the selves we are so fast, and when a novel is done we are done with the old self, and maybe we auto-erase, or auto-delete the knowledge of the tree of good and evil and even how to climb it.
I wonder, but I don't know. I only know it takes some thinking about, when you're doing it. It helps to think with others and to get guidance from those who went before. It helps a great deal, no matter what they tell you, those writers who pretend that for them writing a novel is like riding a bike or that they have a secret God-given gift.
Well, God gives and takes away and she or he has his or her reasons for it. Renewal. Perfectionism? Grace? Community....Finding out that you are not alone, not at all. We lose something, to gain something better.
I'd like to thank my gentle fellow Kritikme writers for helping me get back on the horse with new zeal.
' Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the LORD hath taken away...'
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