Note From a Panicked Writer


A blank computer screen, a legal pad with blue lines across a sea of yellow, a piece of white paper so empty it looks like it’s covered in little black and grey dots.  These are all a sea of space a writer has to fill up with words and getting started with those first few sentences can be so daunting, I find myself running downstairs to do an extra load of laundry or calling a few friends.  Or how about this: I just ran outside with my new binoculars to see what type of bird, tall and twittering, is calling from neighbor’s magnolia.   Isn’t it time to fill the cat’s water bowl?

I promise I’ll start Tuesday I tell myself.

I’m supposed to be working on a new novel and yet, I’m stuck.  I’ve done all the basic tasks.    I’ve bought two Five Start spirals from Walmart and I’ve divided one into sections on main characters, style, how to, scenes; the other is just for story notes.  There are pads in my car’s glove compartment where I can jot down details and odd moments like this: “Saw man brushing his teeth next to gas pump.  Spit in grass on other side.”

But I’m having trouble settling down, staying focused, being productive.  The big bugbear for me is point of view.  At first I thought I’d write something from one character’s point of view, then another’s, then I’d jumble it all together and write an old fashioned novel then I panicked because a little voice said, “No editor will go for that” so I picked up ole fave Madame Bovary and studied Monsieur Flaubert’s shifting POV.  I’d love to tackle this except I’m not Gustave Flaubert – sad to say.

Timidity spreads like a virus: I keep changing my mind about the year I’ll set my story.  At first I thought I’d be vague, just write something bland set in the recent past and I’m not allowed to write autobiographically.  I tell myself, “Go ahead and move everything to the forties,” then I think of the time to research – “Okay, how about the sixties?  Oh, but Vietnam, Pop Art, perhaps not.  The seventies?   Watergate, earth shoes, and disco. . .”

I think you get my point.

A few days will pass.  Eventually, reason will set in.  I’ll pick the decade I want to focus on and after glancing at many novels and some old texts, I’ll finally decide on my point of view – who will tell my story and what voice will the author have?  (I have a bad habit of intruding.  Sometimes, in my writing, I’m like a guest who has stayed a little too long at the party.)  I’ll spend a few more days drinking too much coffee, staring in reverie out the window, perhaps visit the Virginia Historic Society, and later, notes in hand, I may have the courage to start typing.  The computer screen will no longer stare at me like a cold and heartless all-knowing eye.


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