Always be writing. These words cross my mind at least once a day. They linger like a scavenger outside of my peripheral vision, waiting to swoop in and steal my kill. I usually obey, taking opportunity of distraction free pockets of time on the bus or after hours when everyone has gone to sleep and yet it’s never enough. Surprisingly, the problem has never been opportunity. Instead I struggle to fill the hours, finding myself scraping the peanut butter jar for the last dredges of creativity hoping for that spark that will release the flood gate of paragraphs dreaming to grace my word processor. There is a vein of gold in there somewhere, of that I am sure, but first to tend all that boring rock around it.
I have some other lesser ambitions in my life that take a back seat to my writing. One of them is the desire to grow peppers. I’m talking really hot peppers like ghost peppers and other feisty varieties not native to my climate. I’m a bit of a junkie for the endorphins I get from eating food that can be weaponized and used to suppress large crowds. The point of this involves the difficulty in cultivating the plants that grow these types of peppers. Anyone who has tried understands how meticulously peculiar these plants are in their requirements. The odd part is you can grow a perfectly healthy plant with minimal effort but if your goal is to harvest their fruit then you will have your work cut out for you. Simply put, these plants have to be finessed before they will put out.
When you see that first tiny pepper that represents so much more than impending burning lips there is also the sense that while you are on the right track there is much more hard work ahead. This is the same sense I got when I finished the first draft for a novella I’ve been working on for the last few months. I followed the advice I’ve seen echoed time and again to get through that first draft no matter how hopeless you think it is and it’s just like they said. I hate it. It’s a mess. The story is thin and the characters are forgettable and if anyone were to read it in its current form they would probably tell me to stick to my day job. The exciting part however is that with the satisfying catharsis of just telling the damn story out of the way I am now free to focus on the details that will make the second draft of my story resemble more of what I initially had in mind. Like building a house, the foundation is laid. Now I can start picking out the wall paper.
I feel the need to talk more about the process as I go through it. The inspiration for this came from seeing excerpts of Kafka’s journal that he kept, cataloging some of the minutae from his mind. It was the frustrated one line entries that caught my interest. The lack of inspiration that tranquilized his creativity. It was a reminder that even a lush plant can fail to bear fruit some years. Even so, he took the time to write a single sentence to express his frustration to no one but himself.