It’s been a strange month.
I got about halfway into revising the book and discovered that the plot makes no sense. I’m sure it made sense at the time, but when I really thought some things out it all fell apart. I mean, I know what I meant, but it just didn’t work. There were a lot of things I liked about it. Some wordbuilding details, some of the big ideas. I came to the conclusion that I liked these things and loved the characters, but thought they needed to be in a better story. So I decided to set fire to it and just start over.
It’s liberating, really, when you make that decision. It allowed me to incorporate about a hundred new things that had occured to me as I slogged my way through version 1. It also allowed me to cut a whole lot of clumsy exposition and focus on what happens and who does it. My beta readers (saints as they are) will have to let me know if it’s working or not.
I blame Julia Cameron. I’ve been reading my way through The Artist’s Way, her twelve week course on higher creativity. I say reading it because I haven’t actually been doing it as completing every exercise would mean doing nothing else for twelve weeks. But I’ve been doing the morning pages, which consist of three pages of freewriting every day. They’re supposed to be done in the morning, per the name, but I’ve been cheating and usually doing them around lunchtime. It’s by freewriting about that book that I discovered my problems with it, and the ways to fix them in version 2.
The Artists Way popped up on my radar because of Mur Lafferty and I should be Writing. It sounded interesting and I made a mental note to seek it out. Then I was shelf-reading during my volunteer hours at our local library and there it was. Synchronicity, Cameron would call it.
One of the things she talks about is all the excuses we make for ourselves to not be creative. We decide we can only be creative if we have certain things, i.e. alcohol, or chaos, or, in my case, Mania.
I had tracked down my most creative periods of my life and found that Bipolar hypomania was a factor in all of them. My recent hypomanic episode had left me with an entire novel (yes, another one) loaded in my head. I had begun to despair of being able to be creative when I wasn’t having a manic episode. And mania, for me, always starts off just fine. There are a pleasant few days, an increase in energy, I don’t need to sleep, etc. But then it goes toxic and I end up in a mixed episode where I’m nothing but angry and stressed and tense twenty-four hours a day. So you can see why I’d like to opt out of mania entirely and not rely on it for my creativity.
And I can’t say it’s been a magic bullet, but reading the book and doing some of the exercises, and doing the morning pages did help me recreate the book in my head and get started on rewriting it. I can’t say I’ve been mania-free during that period, but it’s helped me show up on the page no matter how I was feeling otherwise. I’m no longer waiting to ride out the neurochemical storms.
Someday, probably when I’m done with this book and am waiting to start on the next, I will return to the Artists Way and do it the right way. In the mean time, I’m jazzed about the book again and think I can really do it right this time.
We’ll see what happens.