I did it to myself, but it has happened and is happening, right now.
I have a manuscript and a pilot script due on the same day.
That day is quickly approaching.
This means there are, right now, four different documents open on my laptop screen, a notebook open to a page that says “MOM DOCTOR PAP JOKE,” another pile of papers for a pitch I have this week, a pile of bills I won’t bother to check yet, and a bottle of generic “All Day Pain Relief.” I have random pieces of paper scattered around me, items scribbled with random thoughts I came up with in the shower, in my car, balancing on a tightrope. Basically anywhere I’m unable to type immediately, that’s when my brain goes, “I FIGURED OUT THAT JOKE YOU WERE WORKING ON,” and then I have to scramble to find some kind of paper and something that will leave a mark on that piece of paper.
One time I had gotten out of the shower having finally figured out an ending to a chapter, and the only thing I had to write on was an ATM receipt that was in the pocket of the clothes I’d been wearing before I got into the shower, and the only implement I had was my index finger, dipped in my own blood from a cut I’d given my shin with my razor in the shower.
It had better be the best damn chapter in the novel, because I wrote it in shinblood.
It’s also jarring to one’s brain to shift from the comedy pilot, which has to tell a big story in very few words, where just about every single sentence must
1. Push the scene forward
2. Inform us of something we’ll probably need to know one act later
3. Either set up or deliver a punchline
and a novel, which is filled with all the words ever. So many words. You can write until you can’t write anymore, and you won’t be done writing all the words that need to be written just so you can get to the next thing you have to write. In the novel you have pages and pages that all have to push the plot forward, that have to inform us of things we’ll need to know two hundred pages later. If I realize at page 276 that I want something to happen here because my shinblood says so, I can’t just go back to page six, write a new joke, and then know I’ll have payoff. In the novel, I’ve got to change page six, page sixteen through sixty-seven, search and replace someone’s name for another, add a couple of pages describing someone’s something or other, then try to figure out just how many times I’d written something that completely contradicts what I’d just decided to do.
I mean, look at me. Hair’s crazy, chipped nail polish, skin a questionable pale even though I took some time to go to a beach (yet stayed inside and wrote while it was sunny, only swam in an ocean (gulf?) once — at one in the morning. (other pictures here.). I’ve been writing on airplanes and porches and beds that aren’t mine. Thrice I have almost given myself third degree burns from distractedly pushing my French Press because I was thinking of a thing I had just written.
Basically, what I’m telling you is that right now I am absolutely no fun to be around. My head is swimming with characters and dialogue and lingering questions to the point where I imagine my face looks like I’m trying to remember the name of that guy that was in that one movie while also trying to remember the name of that guy that was in that other movie, while I’ve got a Beyonce song stuck in my head. I feel like I’m writing an enormous crossword puzzle. Not solving it; creating it.
I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize. I’m so close to the finish line. So very close.
It’s times like these when I try to imagine what it’ll be like when I’m on the other side of these drafts. Once other people can see these words, read these pages. Later, when it’s more about me sitting still worrying about what others think of me, instead of right now, when I’m stuck in isolation, having to worry about what I think of me. I’m mean to me.
Later I’ll be allowed back out in public again like last summer, when nice girls in the 108-degree Baltimore heat would ask me to sign their boobs.
Until then, I’m right here, typing away my nail polish, feeling an ulcer in my stomach, wondering if this is funny enough or that is smart enough or if this other thing is good enough for you.
I only have a few days left to figure it all out.*
(* That’s totally untrue. I turn in these drafts to the people who have requested them. Then I wait. Then I get notes. And then it all starts again. (Brought to you by Writing! A job for needy masochists.))