the good, the bad, and the ugly about the writing life

The Grass is Always Greener: Part 2

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No matter where I go, there I am. Has that ever happened to you?

It seems to me that, as a writer, the grass is always greener wherever I’m not.

In my earlier post (The Grass is Always Greener: Part 1), I was so looking forward to starting the new book. Sadly, once I started it, I was gazing longingly back at the months spent editing the old book.

I’m not the only fiction writer who thinks the grass is always greener somewhere else. I’ve heard some of these same sentiments from the students in my fiction writing class (see my earlier blog entries for Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 ) and from fellow writers. So, are all we fiction writers certifiable contrarians? Not exactly.

I think this is a case of what my therapist always used to refer to as an “and” moment. The new book is exciting and fun AND scary. The old book is safe and comfortable AND completed.

We’re used to thinking of challenges as fun. Maybe it’s an American cowboy mythos, but challenges are also challenging. That’s why we are said to “overcome” them. Hence the fun…and the terror.

It’s a fiction truism that each book is different. I finally realized that this new book is a blank slate, a pristine sheet of paper, an empty computer screen. And I have to re-create Paulette’s world all over again.

I’m lucky in that she’s a recurring character in a mystery series, so I get to visit a place I already know. I get to re-examine characters that I’ve already created and find new quirks to emphasize. And, at the same time, these recurring characters and setting can be seen as limiting the world of my story

In much the same fashion, I get to create new characters to clash with the ones I’ve already got. One of them, Calvin Zetlin Swan, wasn’t doing what I told him to do.

This wasn’t a problem. It was fun. I realized that I didn’t want to kill him off (or maybe he convinced me). In fact, I’m thinking about adding him to Paulette’s posse and making him a regular.

The point I’m slowing drawing toward is that maybe the grass is always greener where I’m not. Maybe it’s the looking forward to doing the next piece—the anticipation—that’s the most fun.

I’ll be sure to let you know when I get there because right now I’m betwixt and between with my own editing, teaching, and blogging.

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