Never have I felt this burning, scorching, bubbling of my insides so intensely before. I have previously likened the process of idea and inspiration for a story as being like a ‘brew’. The ingredients begin to react together inside your mind and pop and spit until it spills over onto the page as a draft.
But this time… I fear I’m going to explode. I’ll sizzle then burst quickly, leaving a pile of ashes, and perhaps one charred foot, as seems to happen. I was awake at 2am last night writing four pages of notes about this story. I am losing more and more sleep and yet I don’t know when I can write it. I work full-time now, I read on my breaks, I read and draft blog posts in the mornings. I go to the gym in the afternoon (I must have this time away, even if just to let my eyes recover for a bit). I get home and read or write reviews. I have other projects. I see friends and the occasional movie.
But I have to start. I have to get it out of me. It is growing so large that it is a great, searing weight. It is making me excited, anxious, frustrated, frightened, in love in love in love. Somehow I will write it. My last manuscript (which I am still deciding exactly what to do with) I drafted while working, studying, and in a serious relationship. I wrote 1000 words a day. I don’t have the study or boyfriend now, but life is big. Perhaps this time I can make it 500, with a little more time on weekends. There is no way I can’t write it. I will surely become a pile of ashes.
So what I have to do first is solidify this world inside my head. I have to know it intricately before I let it all out. I will start taking notes for midnight relief, but I will also hone and build upon the world. I will write maps of characters, histories, connections, lines, interests. I will write a very basic here to there plot structure. I will think about person and tone. I already know some things – I know the main conflicts. I know some motifs and culturally significant links. I know it is a young adult novel. I know there is more than one main character. I know it is set in a regional Australian town in 1996. I know a lot more – delicious, rounded, frighteningly big things that I don’t want to tell anyone. I want to keep it to myself. Because sometimes that burning, interesting, important story is only that in your head. On the page, the flint is not struck. And that is why I will not tell you specifics until it is done. If it is done. If I want it to go out into the world.
All I know now is that I must start, I must try. I must. I am compelled.
There is one thing you can do to help me, lit-lovers. I want to go back to 1996. I don’t have a time machine, but I want to be a teenager/child in the mid-90s. Tell me where I can get magazines – Girlfriend, Dolly, Smash Hits, TV Hits, music mags, Cleo, Cosmo etc. Tell me what music you listened to in 1994/5/6. Make me a CD! Tell me the little things you remember, keeping in mind that anything you tell me I may regurgitate in fiction. Tell me about TV, movies, food. I will try and pay for any postage on the magazines, or CDs. Comment me here, email me – literaryminded (at) gmail (dot) com, or surprise me – PO Box 6266, St Kilda Rd Central, VIC, 8008.
I will end with one of my favourite parts from Kafka’s diaries, in 1913:
The tremendous world I have inside my head. But how free myself and free it without being torn to pieces. And a thousand times rather be torn to pieces than retain it in me or bury it. That, indeed, is why I am here, that is quite clear to me.