Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Who's afraid of Sylvia Plath? - Jennifer Getsinger

Who’s afraid of Sylvia Plath?
©2008 Jennifer Getsinger
Prompt was: “What stops me from writing every day is………” (blue paper)

Nothing. Nothing stops me from writing except my own choices not to write. Those choices may favour paid work, which is a good thing or too many crossword puzzles, sudoku, cooking, gardening, or other things that fill in the day because I’m not a very disciplined time manager. I have probably written more “every days” than most published writers. I know I was devoted to daily journal-writing for the first fifteen years of my journal, and relatively dedicated to writing often for the rest, about another quarter century. That should add up to forty-one and a half years since I started the journal.

Now my writing challenges are different—in addition to the journal-diary, I try to write down and get around to writing about a dozen novels I have made up in my head over the years. It just seems so silly to do that when I hardly work enough to get by, but now it’s possible due to doing editorial work at home on my own schedule, part time.

I’m almost done typing up the first draft of a love story with the working title, Red Rock Romance, about a couple of geologists. I’ve promised it to an editor so am somewhat motivated to finish it, although the thought of anyone reading these hopelessly naïve and boring stories is kind of scary.

Another work is a novel in diary format, which is constrained by having a limited point of view and a chronological narrative by necessity from the diary structure. This is not the flip and cheerful brief diary of Adrian Mole or Bridget Jones; nor is it the morose journal of Virginia Woolf, or fascinating social life of Anaïs Nin. It is loosely based on my own style of describing the natural world around me as I proceed through life as more of an observer than participant. But the plot is not based on my own story any more than a sparkly micaceous garnet schist resembles the mushy black mud from which it was metamorphosed. This one is called Moss & Woodsmoke and is on its fifth draft. What keeps me from editing it to a finished work is my commitment to finishing the romance first, a story with more of a typical narrative arc.

What keeps me from writing is mainly embarrassment. Embarrassment that my writing is not scintillating enough (I guess we can’t all write diaries as clever as Sylvia Plath, but then I wouldn’t want the same results). Embarrassment about trying to write intimate moments without creating mockery in the reader. Embarrassment about weak stories. And lately, embarrassment that it has taken me so long to write them down. When I tried to promote the romance to an editor from a well-known publisher of romances recently, I was told my story—which takes place in the 1970s and 1980s—wasn’t “contemporary.” After a few drinks I got over feeling depressed that I was so old my real life couldn’t even be defined as “contemporary,” and decided I would start a new genre of “historical fiction!”

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