Thursday, April 5, 2012

Beginning a New Novel: Writer's Limbo


There's something exciting and fearful about the blank page: it is both open and closed. Open to possibility, open to the moment of discovery, open to the potential of a new creation, but closed, yet, to words, and somehow impenetrable. The blank page is opaque, and yet there is an eternal hint of translucency. There's a hint of something beyond, of images and movements, of stolen moments from strange lives. Yet never clear. It's like words heard from a distance, so faint that you are not entirely sure whether they are sounds or imaginings. And yet the wall of the white page ascends before you. Is there a door? If there is, you need a key.

I always find this moment strange, the moment when I'm between one thing and another. Standing on a precipice, deciding whether to jump. For the last few years I've been revising. I've been writing, too: blogs, short stories, new scenes in old novels -- even entirely new storylines woven through these old stories. But never a new novel. And there's something about that, above all other things, that engages me: writing the first draft of a new novel.

It is both exciting and fearful. Perhaps this is always the case with the unknown, the inherent potential for both bliss and catastrophe, whether fictive or real. I've recently finished some drafts of old novels, and now I have this wide white space before me. Calling. Voices are whispering beyond the white page, the white wall. And yet each day the page seems a little more translucent and I see a little more of the world beyond. Faces, mere shadowed silhouettes, press close to the page from the far side, as if they, too, are listening for me; waiting for what? Instructions? Demands? Supplications? Prayers? The animating touch of fingers upon keys?

I know it is a matter of momentum, a matter of imaginative force. I hesitate, always, at the beginning. Beginnings are always the hardest for me, both in a technical sense and in the sense of my own impetus. But there is rich soil on the other side of that white wall, and the ideas are cimbing out of the ground. Whispering. Calling. Wondering. I know, soon, soon, soon, they will get stronger. The din of the voices will grow loud. Fingers will scratch the back of the white page. Tentative at first, but then stronger and stronger. A rip will appear, and then a tear, and then a face will press through, a question on its lips. Now?

Yes, yes: now.

11 comments:

Mieke Zamora-Mackay said...

Oh my God, Bryan! Your words. So beautiful!

Starting a new project is worrisome for me too. It's also as exciting to meet the new faces and voices that come through.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Um. As Mieke says, those are very beautiful words. I'd liken my starts to picking up a bucket of words and throwing them excitedly at the page. ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Beginnings are the most difficult for me as well. I really need a solid idea before I start writing and then I'm never sure if I'm starting in the right place.

Steve Abernathy said...

Here are 3 draft beginnings:

It was a dark and stormy night.

A screaming comes across the sky.

Call me Steve.


Get to work.

Bryan Russell said...

A screaming comes across the sky on a dark and stormy night: Call me Steve. Apparently, Ishmael was taken.

Nate Wilson said...

All these ideas climbing from the rich soil, calling out, seeking a brain to latch onto. I'd never thought of ideas as zombies before, but I think you've got something there.

Mine are more like a whimpering on the other side of a door, a desperate whine as I abandon them yet again to go to the museum and admire everyone else's shiny ideas. (I really need to get back to my novel.)

Lydia Kang said...

That first blank page always infuses me with anxiety. Invariably I blog about it, and people push me to just do it.

Social Media Blog Solutions said...

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Donna Hole said...

All that blank space cann be intimidating - and intriguing.

Beginnings are the hardest for me to. I get a visual of what I want to write, how it should end; but that first step is so hard to type out.

glad to see you're starting something new Bryan. Nice to have fresh ideas.

BTW; I'm not seeing any donuts here. Rather disappointing . .

........dhole

Bryan Russell said...

@ Donna

I'm seeking corporate donut sponsorship for my A-B Challenge. Soon it will be raining donuts. Or maybe drizzling donuts.

Matthew MacNish said...

It's a high like no other.