Some days the best analogy I can come up with for my writing process is that it’s like the formation of sedimentary rock. I put down layers over a long period of time and they slowly harden into stone.
That’s the time-scale: geologic time. Don’t think in years, think in epochs. I find this discouraging sometimes.
I just joined a choir, in an effort to get back at the world. Er, I mean, because I wanted some very different art to practice regularly without the kind of (geologic) pressure writing involves these days. Last night was the first session and I really enjoyed it, even though I suspect I sometimes sounded like a confused cow.
Anyway, I was driving home with one of my writing buddies (who also just joined – so she’s a singing buddy now too). I was telling her I had a pretty good time writing the last couple weeks, but especially yesterday. “I suddenly realized they could have a conversation about ethics,” I said. “Just a little overlay of philosophy on this scene.”
“See?” she said.
I didn’t see.
“Layers,” she said. “Like we talked about. You write in layers. It’s like oil painting, where you have to block all the major shapes and the lights and darks, and then you start to go through and start putting down other layers that you find more interesting. Right now you’re at the philo-sopho-layer…” She made a circular motion with her hand, which was probably supposed to mime painting, but instead reminded me of making pizza.
“Philoso-sauce,” I suggested. “Then I can sprinkle on the philoso-sausage.”
“Exactly!” she said, and we laughed about that for a good long time.
Pizza is certainly a tastier image than sandstone or oil paintings, and still pretty apropos. I’ve got my crust, certainly, and the sauce is mostly down (I just scraped it off one quarter and have to spread it round again). And no, I am never happy with cheese pizza. There always has to be more than that: Canadian bacon and caramelized onions and delicious chunks of eggplant (the eggplant is the theme, of course; it pops up when you least expect it and makes you WEEP). One final pass with the Oregano of Elegant Writing, and then I can pass it off to my editor.
Who will tell me it’s half-baked, ha ha ha. Or else he’ll find a big old hair in the sauce. Erg.
At least this analogy gets me off of that geologic time-scale, which I was seriously bumming me out.