I’ve kind of been taking a break from writing.
Not a huge break. I mean, I was revising Privateer for four months, and I wrote a whole post about how I had to get into a completely different mindset to do that. I give props to people who write new stuff and revise at the same time, because—as I found out when I tried my hand at a couple of short story ideas while in London—it’s really hard to divide up your concentration.
And it hasn’t been a dry spell ideas-wise, either. I’m still scribbling them down. My notebook is pretty fat and juicy. I just haven’t been starting things.
I don’t remember if I wrote about this or not, so please smile and nod if I’m repeating myself, as this is a sure sign that I’m losing my mind. But ever since I finished the first draft of Privateer in November, I’ve found it hard to begin other stories. This happens to me every time I finish a big project, but it still feels a little foreign every time it happens—probably because this is not the problem that most people have.
Most people don’t finish stories. They have no problem starting stuff… and then petering out toward the middle. But that’s never been me. This isn’t actually a good thing, because I know this about myself—that I will almost always finish a story if I start it—and that means that I have to be seriously committed to the idea if I decide to start writing it. I have to be willing to give up my firstborn for that idea.
Have I mentioned lately how great of a parent I will be in the future?
Back in January, when I was fresh off the Privateer rush, I came up with this really weird idea. I know now that it was a product of my watching too much Alias during winter break, but I decided that I desperately needed to write a spy novel. A spy novel in which the main character was actually some kind of weird cyborg with a microchip implanted in her head that could encapsulate her soul, and this was allowing her to switch bodies via microchip transplant whenever she got too old so she was actually 900 years old.
And I thought it was BRILLIANT, okay. Because I still felt so empowered after finishing Privateer, I immediately began planning it.
But the more I planned it… the more I realized how stupid the premise was. And I started thinking, “Wait, it took me a year and a half to write Privateer. Am I really willing to dedicate that long or longer to this crappy excuse for a spy/dystopian/scifi/whattheactualheckisthis novel?”
Short story shorter—I put it away. I started revising Privateer. I took a stab at a couple of short stories. I had a few more novel ideas. But the whole time, that little voice was chanting in the back of my mind, You’ll never have another idea worth your time.
I was feeling like a Bad Writer. I was dismissing every single idea I had, because they WEREN’T GOOD ENOUGH. Why weren’t any strokes of genius hitting me? They seemed to be hitting my friends. Everywhere I turned, I was seeing new stories pop up out of nowhere for other people. Tweets that read, “OMG I love the thing I’m working on! #amwriting #writerproblems #jkihavenoproblems”
So I was sulking around and feeling pretty badly about myself. And then I remembered something.
There are no bad ideas.
Initial ideas are seeds, and they’re supposed to be “bad.” They’re brainbabies. The brainchildren and brainadults (is that a thing?) come later. No idea is inherently stupid. Ideas are a good thing. They lead to better things down the road.
They come to you. And maybe you dismiss them, but they’ll always come back.
What I have just described, my friends, is what I’m now calling The Slow Curve.
Have you ever seen The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003), starring baby Hilary Duff and that cop from Pretty Little Liars? If not, you are missing out on a truly masterful work of art, but I will take the liberty of explaining myself since a.) I cannot find the scene literally anywhere on YouTube, and b.) the title of this blog post is just so fantastic that I NEED YOU TO UNDERSTAND IT FOR THE SAKE OF MY FRAGILE EGO.
In the movie, Lizzie McGuire goes on a class trip to Italy, and her sexy-as-all-heck classmate Ethan Craft has a scene with Lizzie’s best friend Gordo, in which Ethan tries to teach Gordo how to attract the Random Italian Females.
GORDO sees girls. ETHAN also sees girls.
ETHAN: Nice spy, bro. Yeah, watch and learn. The Slow Curve. Works every time.
ETHAN begins to turn slowly, his hair wafting in the breeze and his lips parted in an alluring, ultra-masculine pout. It is, in a word, delicious.
GORDO: I’ve got to go talk to them.
GORDO begins to walk away, leaving ETHAN sad and alone.
ETHAN: That’s not how The Slow Curve works, they come to us.
Get it get it get it?!!?!ajsdf;laskjdflskd
*claps for self for knowing this scene by heart*
So now it’s been about a week since I’ve had to have this epiphany yet again. And I’ve got this story idea. So I’m starting it.
And guess what. It came from that stupid spy novel idea I had in January. The plot isn’t remotely the same (no cyborgs or microchips… yet), but I definitely stole some characters from the world. Also, secret agents may or may not be involved.
And I’m going to put it on Figment, so help me, because if I don’t, I might chicken out and stop writing it, pretending that I didn’t *really* start it so that I won’t be obligated to finish it.
But that would be marginally dishonest, since I’m already 10,000 words in.
— Samantha Chaffin