Asleep at the Keyboard
It was many years ago. I wrote a short story about my mother who wanted my brother to send his army uniform home so she could have it “martinized.” (In those days, you didn’t go to the dry cleaners. You had your clothes “martinized.” Some guy named Martin must have come up with this idea). My brother wasn’t really in the Israeli army – he was doing an “internship” (this was before soup kitchens and Habitat for Humanity).
Anyway, the agent/friend read the material and said the fateful words, ”Ellen you could write a blockbuster.”
But I don’t have a gift for writing fiction. No matter. I would study the “bestsellers” and see how I could improve.
The first thing I noticed in these bestsellers was that no one had eyes — they had pools of sea foam green. They also had “aristocratic” features. I’m assuming that meant a hooked nose. This wasn’t going to be easy.
During this painful period, I read an article about author Philip Roth. He was asked how he starts a novel and he said “sometimes on page 300.” So I started my novel on page 300. I figured that would be the middle of this remarkable tome and I would work my way to the beginning.
I then took a class at the 92nd Street Y and the teacher advised us to get bulletin boards and 3×5 cards to keep track of the plot. Since I didn’t have a plot, I promptly went out and bought the cards and the bulletin board (I still have the bulletin board but it’s empty. I think it’s ridiculous to put up pictures of children who are old enough to make a living and get off the family payroll.)
But I kept at it. Everyday. A How to Write Fiction book said to stay at the computer until the muse came to you. Don’t look for the muse. So I stayed there for hours. I didn’t eat lunch because I was afraid I would miss her. Evidently the muse was busy because she never showed up. It could also be because I live on a cul-de-sac and my home/office is difficult to find.
Finally I’m on page 310 but it makes no sense. I can’t keep track of my characters. Even more importantly, I didn’t care about my characters. They could do whatever they wanted to do – just leave me out of it.
By page 400, when I woke up from a long nap at the keyboard, I knew it was over. If you can put yourself to sleep while writing, chances are your readers will also slip into a coma.