Maintaining focus for the duration of a novel is a lot like running a long distance. If you think you can, you can. A painter friend once told me that when they worked on a piece for over a month, boredom would set in. How did I stick with writing the same novel for two or three years?
The word compulsion leapt to mind. I’ve since distilled where that answer came from.
I love stories and always have. Books have always been my stalwart companions. They’ve taken me to faraway places and showed me how lives are lived. Now as a writer, story broadens my journey. I travel back in time and into the deepest interior of myself to conjure the people who populate my pages.
The drive to persevere with a story comes from my excitement over what will happen next. I approach every day with an image of where I’m taking the story (or where it’s taking me), but until I write it down, I don’t know the destination for sure. The end of every writing session is like coming to a season finale for my favourite Netflix show. I have to tune in tomorrow to alleviate the tension of not knowing how a story situation will resolve itself.
I feel empathy for my characters, even the unlovable ones. I dig them into such ruts, I can’t wait to see how they’ll climb out. Or maybe how they won’t. The characters are real to me, like friends I know are out there even though we haven’t met in person for a while. I never tire of spending time with them, or think ‘let it be over’.
When the writing flows, hours pass like minutes. I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. The experience is like being a clairvoyant channelling the dead in a seance. Once the vision ends, I metaphorically collapse, spent but fulfilled.
That is the best kind of writing day, but everyday can’t be that way. Still out of a dedication to the story and the characters, I show up and do the work.
And now, I’ve circled back to compulsion.
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