I was watching an episode lately that involved Frasier freaking out because everyone keeps remarking on how set and settled his life is. He has his routine, and he doesn’t shake it up. His brother, his father, his coworkers, his neighbor, they all say something along that vein: steady, dependable, predictable Frasier.
The episode really got me thinking about how I’ve felt I’m in a rut lately in lot of aspects, including my writing. I just haven’t had any breakthroughs involving any of my novels in a while to get me really excited. I’m getting really tired of considering the same issues about the work I’m editing (I always end up editing the same things!). As much as each editing pass brings changes that carry an overall positive effect greater than the sum of their parts, if you will, it’s hard to feel like I’m accomplishing anything.
I’m even sick of trying to iron out the basic plot structure of my next novel, because I’m not sure how to make things work. And as much as I know I should leave off it, I keep plugging away. But you know what? I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
WHY I WRITE EVERY DAY: or, THE LOTTERY JOKE
That episode of Frasier ends with Frasier’s dad Martin trying to lift his spirits by speaking from experience. He says the times he’s felt most in a rut, and that his life was going nowhere and nothing could every change, are precisely the times something comes around to introduce a wonderful, unexpected development that he was completely unprepared for. That really helps me feel better. Because I think Martin is exactly right….
Assuming you give life an opening to surprise you. One of my favorite jokes I heard in a homily, with that moral, goes like this: a man is in desperate financial straits, and really needs a windfall. So he prays incessantly to God, “Let me win the lottery. Please, God, let me win the lottery. I really need this. And I’m a good person. I’ll use the money for good. Just let me win. Please please please!” He prays like this for days and days, and finally, the lottery drawing occurs. The man watches it live on television, and he’s really excited because he just knows he’s going to win.
Well, he doesn’t. And he’s really upset. And really angry. So he yells at God, and God responds, “What did you want me to do? Seriously. You never bought a lottery ticket!!!!“
The point, of course, is that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity (Henry Ford said that). We make our own luck, and we have to put ourselves in position for positive change to occur, or it’s never going to. And that’s why I write every day. For me, writing every day is me buying my lottery ticket. I don’t necessarily write for long, but I write for some length of time, even when I’m feeling in a rut. Even when I’m SICK of the work in progress.
At this point, I doubt I’ll make any substantial content edits to “The King’s Sons.” Some deletions, sure. Many deletions. Maybe move some things around, and tighten other things up. It’s a draining process, especially when I’ve been editing this novel since Christmas and have just started yet another editing pass after receiving beta reader comments. I guess at this point, my daily writing is more a train ticket than a lottery ticket. It’s a ticket that brings me one day closer to publication and a place from where I can begin a new novel. And that’s where I throw my hand in at the lottery again.