It’s Always the First Time

It’s windy and blustery, raining off and on and looks a lot like November came just a tad early. Probably perfect for the horror movie crew doing location shots downtown for the next couple of days. It’s good writing weather, even if there are outside tasks waiting. In these conditions? They can keep waiting. Possibly until spring.

So what has a weather report to do with anything? Well, as I said, it’s good writing weather, so when I get done with this blog I get back on the third story in the adventures of Jing, Pan Bao, and Mei Li. Sometimes writing is easy, like pulling the bung on a full barrel and the words just gush out. Other times it’s more like trying to squeeze the last few drops from a sponge. Usually you can’t tell which is which when it comes time for the end result to be examined. Unless we haven’t done our job well, and then you can. Our bad, not yours.

Writing, it seems, can be “like” one thing or another, but what it cannot be is any particular thing more than once. Or, to fall back on the old Zen adage, “It’s always the first time.”

One wouldn’t think so. After all, I’ve written two other stories about these characters. Surely I have a handle on their world and these specific characters by now? Doesn’t feel that way, and that’s a fact. I’m still discovering facets of Mei Li’s doubts and insecurities even as they do not turn her from her ultimate goal of becoming human just so she can die as one and move on to the next karmic step. I’m only beginning to understand how the loss of her mother forced Jing into adulthood before she was ready. Even Pan Bao, that grumpy, mercenary yet pious Daoist priest, has facets to his character only now starting to be revealed. In short, I know how to write the last two stories because I’ve already done them. That doesn’t tell me how to write this one, only getting it done, working it out, will do that. And leave me totally unprepared for the next one, whatever that turns out to be.

I’ve heard variations on the novelist’s complaint before: “I don’t know how to write the next novel. I only know how to write the last one.” As someone who does both novels and shorter fiction, I can personally attest that this applies equally to both. Or as a predecessor once phrased it: “Writing is one of the few avocations which, if diligently practiced, becomes harder the more you do it.”

Doesn’t matter how many books/stories you’ve written. It’s always the first time.

 

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