Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Drop Your Pants

A friend sent this to me of a men's bathroom at a new Sofitel hotel in NZ.


Kay Hooper used to say in her bio for her Loveswept books that Bantam published in the 80's that writing was like dropping your pants, and she always followed up by saying "I feel a breeze". (Kay is the author whose work kept me from going crazy after a wreck in 1984, in which I was partially paralyzed for about 18 months. We corresponded for some time, and the newbie here hung onto her every word.)

I live in an ancient home...with everything holding it together so old that when something breaks, it takes an Act of God to get it fixed. This morning, as I was scraping off crappy paint & wallpaper in the bathroom, it was the toilet...rather, the water valve behind the toilet. Somehow these things break, even when nobody touches them, I guess. Finding the right replacement part, fondling water valves as if they were the Shroud of Turin, channeling Robert Pastorelli's character Eldin Bernecky from "Murphy Brown"...revisiting the 80's has already had me bellowing at barking dogs and fiending for nicotine. I wanted to write today, not fuss with stripped threads, matching new valves to old, and debating the differences between 1/8th of an inch and yanking out the entire plumbing system to accomodate one minute malfunction that could quite literally flush my day down the loo.

But isn't that the way it is with our writing, too, when we're working on something old rather than something new? Isn't it always refreshing to jumpstart the muse by letting her run rampant now and then with an idea so new that the words have yet to be formed?

One of my dearest friends has close to forty projects she's started and never finished. This would have me quivering in some detox facility. I like finishing things. I prefer starting them, as she does, but the thought of leaving that many tomes languishing is akin to getting lost in the catacombs of my mind. No, thanks. Ditto for doing as another friend does, reworking the same tired (and by now trite) material until the characters are unrecognizable and the plot has been done by someone else who had the gumption to finish the book, get it critiqued, and submitted.

When is the appropriate time to flush what doesn't work and tackle a new project? It's different for each author, but weigh the consequences. If you've only one book in you, if you're a Harper Lee who can hit the big time with one book that will set you for all eternity, if that one particular project is your epitome of excellence, by all means finish the book. On the other hand, if it's "just a book" and you feel that there are more of them within, that the one you're on is more of a learning tool than a construction whose completion is worthy of your time, bless it and let it go. Use the one that you love that you fear no one else will for its true purpose...and only you can determine what that is. Maybe it's a personal thing--you don't care if it sells, you don't care if anyone else likes it or not. Or maybe you care too much. That's what happened to John Kennedy Toole and his now-classic, A Confederacy of Dunces. Just remember that he killed himself over it--literally. His mother submitted it after his death in the 70's, and the book won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1981. I'm sure his mother was proud of his work, but she'd probably much rather have had her son with her than the award.

Ask yourself if the book you can't release is your life or if it's merely a part of your life. Remember that the balance of power shifts when you allow something or someone else to control you. The multi-talented Robert Pastorelli killed himself. John Kennedy Toole did the same. Kay Hooper (author) and Candice Bergen (actress who portrayed "Murphy Brown") have gone on to other projects and are still doing what they love. I'm not suggesting that your only choice is between death and survival. I'm suggesting that you be the one to decide the direction and the lengths you'll go to achieve either. You decide the quality of your life, as well as that of your fiction.

As Kay says, drop your pants. Then take it further. Make a stand. Pick a direction and run with it. Do so, mindful of your intentions and what you wish to gain as well as what you're willing to give up for it.

Showing up is essential.


Screw the bathroom today now that the valve and piping have been replaced. I'll worry about the cosmetics later now that the primary function of the room is fixed. The room will never grace the pages of House Beautiful anyway, no matter what I do to it, so I'll work on it to satisfy myself and throw my energies into something more in keeping with my vanity (if you'll pardon the bathroom pun).

My "Rinda" mood from The Write Snark :

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11 Comments:

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Michele said...

Hello!
Just dropping by to say Thank You for visiting my blog. Now I return the favor and visit you!

I liked reading this post. Troublesome plumbing affects us all, one time or another.
Sounds like you tamed it though.
Loved the bathroom humor. I can imagine a lot of laughing flies on the wall watching first timers' reactions at they use the facilities...LOL

Love the adorable kitty pictures on your other posts. Sweet!

I think I'll drop in now and again if that's OK. I like your writing style...AND looks like there might be another book to add to the ol' TBR pile :-)

BTW- I myself, am a curious kitty. My curious question?: How'd you find me???

Anyway...have a wonderful day..and it was nice visiting your blog.
TTFN!

 
At 6:20 AM, Blogger Michele said...

Ah , from Tanya...cool!
I love her blog. Always interesting.
Thanks for answering my question!

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger Merry said...

Now, now. The 40 writing projects on my harddrive are only 37. I've finished three in the last 8 months. This brings the total to 14 finished books, now.

I will finish everything.

Eventually.

Even the quilts.

So there.

Merry :)

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

ROFLMAOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Mer, believe it or not, I wasn't even talking about you and your stash. (dying here) Wish I was. You'd handle what I said better than she would. This one is a non-fiction writer bud. REALLY.

(still howling) oops. Sometimes I forget there are others who resemble a remark when I'm pontificating.

 
At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Sasha said...

Great Post! (love the picture too!)
I've always like Kay Hoopers books, and now that I write as well, I tottally understand the sentiment.

But, like you, I have to finsih what I start. I can't do anything else.

 
At 3:39 AM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Hi, Sasha! THANKS! Come back and visit any time. (grin)

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger Merry said...

Well dang. There's nothing worse than getting all defensive and then finding out that its NOT all about you. LOL

BTW, almost have Mom's quilt done...a little more quilting on one row, finish the edges and she might even get it before Christmas!

Merry

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger Rinda Elliott said...

Ha ha! I wondered if you were talking about my multitude of unfinished products. See, there are more of us out there...

Rinda

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Amie Stuart said...

You are a goodess! And an oh-so wise one at that....I swear you could have read my mind...Look for an email from me soon *G*

I ADORE Kay!

 
At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Myrddred said...

What an absolutely fascinating post. I saw it as a call to the addled brain to face the screen and the keyboard once again.

Thank you, Lyn.

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Thanks, Myrddred! Thank you, all of you. What's funny is that none of those who posted here are the friend who had 40+ starts without finishes - lol. Guess there are more of us than we realized, huh?

Have a good day, all! On to a new blog if I can stay connected. Seems my friend Heather Rae has sold...WHOO HOO!

 

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