It is the evening of March 10, 2011, and I can`t seem to sleep. I am too busy flipping between two books on my kindle app. Both these books are about novel writing, and purport to give aspiring authors advice on the creative process. They are written by two of my favorite authors ever: Haruki Murakami and Erica Jong. So naturally I find myself hanging onto every word.
Of course, I only get around to reading such things after my novel is finished, and passed onto the hands of a very busy agent who will decide its fate for the moment. Work with the same novel for two years and I promise, you will start to feel very lonely without the company of all your characters once they are all passed into the hands of another- a complete stranger, no less- for review.
So my time is spent my making a long list of agents to query just as soon as the current one rejects me. Yet this rejection is taking quite a bit longer than others in the past. I don`t know what to do with myself. I have even attempted to revive my blog after two long years of neglecting her for my novel. It is then that I, somewhat helplessly, turn towards the advice in these books.
Haruki Murakami says that writing a novel is like running a marathon. He mentions how important it is for a novelist to have are focus and endurance. Focus means being able to stare at a computer screen and do nothing but write for hours at a time without any distractions. I think that means no facebook, twitter or various other time wasting endeavors such as googling all the people I hated in high school.
If that is the case, I am screwed.
So I switch books, and sooner than not Erica Jong is describing the shrivled member of an elderly publishing executive In rancid detail. As it turns out, she literally had to give this man a blow job in order to advance her standing with him and the company. I am glad it is not the seventies anymore, but unfortunately I do not think I will ever get that image out of my head, ever.
Back to Haruki. He writes casually about all the marathons he has run, and laments about how much older he has gotten and how much harder that makes the whole process. I think I am supposed to make most of the connections between running and writing by myself.
I enjoy running too, but I am gradually realize that when I run it is nothing like the calm, meditative running that he engages in. Rather, I run in manic bursts along the Sumida river, blasting music so loudly into my ears it can likely be heard on the other side of the water. I write in very much the same manner, although much more quietly.
More than that, I can`t get over the fact that Haruki is still listening to an MD player. He is even proud of it- of not owning an ipod- because apparently, he does not want "to mix music and computers. Just like it`s not good to mix friends and work, and sex."
Ok, ok, but an md player? Could there be anything more obscure? It is impossible for me to lose respect for the man, but honestly, what a dork. Where does he buy parts for it if it breaks? Maybe he goes to one of those retro electronics shops in Akihabara where people go to play Atari and the original gameboys when they are feeling nostalgic for the bubble.
Back to Erica Jong.
Now she recounts the fable of a women who is seduced by an ugly man who claims to be a demon. Eventually she begins to suspect that he is actually an man- not the otherworldly beast he claims to be- still the lovers struggle to keep the illusion alive anyway. For if the fantasy were to disappear, that spark that egnited their magical, demonic lovemaking would be extinguished.
According to Jong, there is no metaphor for the writing process more precise.
"The job of the writer is to seduce the demons of creativity and make up stories," she says. "Often you go to bed with a man who claims to be a demon and later you find out he`s just an everyday slob. By then he may have inspired a novel. The novel remains though the demon has departed."
I don`t get it.
I read this over and over, trying to understand it. Unsuccessful, I vow to resume and possibly finish these two books the next night.
Obviously this does not happen.
The next day the world is shaken upside down. And to a large extent, it remains that way even now.
I am just opening these books again for the first time today. Actually I have been quite busy the past couple of months on another draft of the novel.
You see, that agent who was talking so long to reject me on the night of March 10, actually gets back to me a week or so after the earthquake to inform me that I "have written a genuinely moving novel" and that she is "seriously interested in taking on for representation."
So now I have a cool new agent, and we decide on some minor changes I need to make for the next draft. Since completing that task last weekend, I finally have some free time again- at least until I find out everything thats wrong with the current manuscript- so maybe I will finally get to finishing those books on novel writing. Or not. I haven`t decided yet.