a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Warming Up

In the last post I talked about some of the reason I decided to blog about my novel–some publicity, the chance to bat ideas around.  But there’s another one I just realized.  I can use this blog to warm up before I really get down to writing (the novel, that is).

Writing, for me at least, is a lot like watching water boil.  For the first 90 percent of the activity nothing or very little happens.  The water just sits there, even as you know the temperature must be rising.  Then it starts to bubble around the edges just a little.  If you shake it about you will hear it sizzle.  And then, suddenly, and faster than a congressman dropping his pants in a political scandal, it starts to boil furiously.

My process is a lot like that.

So much so that often I’ll sit down at 10:30 or eleven to start writing, but I’m not really going full tilt.  Nowhere near.

What do I do to fill in the time when I’m blank?  Or just not revved up yet.  The muse isn’t visiting; she’s having her nails done currently.

Thank God for Facebook!  What a wonderful timewaster.  I love cruising Facebook when I’m supposed to be working.  Somehow, it’s different from reading the paper, or even reading the news online.

At first Facebook may seen like more of a goof off opportunity.  But it’s not.  You can delude yourself that with Facebook you are talking to friends and colleagues about your ideas and getting their feedback and opinions, even if it’s just feedback and opinions to a status update like, “John Grabowski is feeling very sluggish about writing today.”

After a while, though, Facebook gets tiresome.  You have heard from everybody and there’s no one left who hasn’t offered you encouragement or sympathies.  Or gossip.  Or reviews of the weekend’s movies.

So there’s the New York Times.  I can waste a lot of time reading the New York Times.  Then of course I have to post the best articles I’ve read to my Facebook account.

And there are always reviews to write for Amazon.  Actually, writing Amazon reviews is an excellent way for me to get warmed up.  It jumpstarts my brain and gets me into a “writing mood,” but it isn’t as restrictive as writing fiction, so my imagination gets freed up.

Now, I do most of my writing in a coffee shop (appropriate, since my novel is about a guy who spends a lot of his time writing in a coffee shop in New York City), so by now I’m going up for my second cup of coffee.

But I’m really not wasting time.  Subconsciously I am thinking thorny issues through while I’m doing all this.  I’ve found that just plunging ahead and writing words is not necessarily the most productive way, though it may seem like it is.  Sure at the end of the day (sorry, Andru) you’ve written a lot of words with this brute force method, but how many of them will survive into draft two?

After my second cup, another Facebook check, maybe a peek at email, and a quick scan at the stock market and political headlines, I get down to the business of writing.

And for the first hour or so, I’m cold.  Cold as Cary Grant making love to Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest.  It’s hard to really warm up to your subject, crawl inside your characters’ heads and try to understand them.

So when do I start cooking?  Right near the time I have to leave, of course.  I’m usually out of the coffee shop by six; they close at seven.  So of course by five I’m on fire, wishing I could bottle that feeling and turn it loose at 10 AM.

Sigh…

How did Leo Tolstoy write War and Peace by hand in one lifetime, anyway?  How did Bach write all that church music?

It’s best not to think about giants, however.  Today I managed to finish a chapter and touchup-correct another section of the book.  One small step for man, one giant leap for my story.

And by the way, I’m on Facebook, if you’d like to get to know me better…

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