I was stuck in Arsehold for the last two weeks. You may have experienced the same.
I’ve been writing a novel while locked away. That’s not so different from my normal life, where I’m always working on a novel. Many people think I’m working on one novel forever and a day, but I’ve finished many. I shrug them off; I enjoy novel writing.
I think under ordinary circumstances, this would have been finished a few months ago. These aren’t normal times, at least for me. I’m assuming a lot with those words. It’s sadly probably normal for quite a few people to stay locked up in one place, with limited contact for other people. I think of prisons. Nursing homes. Hospitals. Yeah, getting downright depressing, isn’t it?
Some say that such solitude is a gift. I’m not one. While I’m a solitary person, I like outside stimulation. (Sounds a bit naughty, doesn’t it?) Like to walk to clear my mind, shift into writing mode, and slip into the noisy solitude of a good cuppa coffee in a coffee shop, hunch over my laptop, and tap away.
All that normal-for-me isn’t available now. Coronavirus lockdown, you know. Although I have coffee and space, I also have wife and cats. They struggle with my writing boundaries. My wife tries respecting them, but news of the world sets her off. I also don’t try enforcing my isolation with her, as she’s in the same situation as me. She’s much more verbal, however, and craves other contact. While she’s dancing and exercising Monday through Friday via Zoom, and meets with her book club once a month with Zoom, and Zooms into a coffee klatch almost every week, she likes expressing her opinions and insights vigorously and out loud. There’s usually a lot of swearing involved, too. She’s quite passionate about social justice, equality, human rights, and women’s rights. She also hates Trump and has little respect for most other Republicans. So I try to indulge, but then I suffer. Either way, one of us must suffer in our situation. We get over it, but it’s not ideal.
The cats, however, don’t give a damn that I’m writing, reading, playing a game, sleeping, eating, showering, or sitting on the toilet. Three cats share ownership over me. They have their own secret agendas, which surprisingly, often involves me. Part of that is which cat owns the most of me, and whether that’s acceptable to the other cats.
Between wife, news of the world, the coming and going of the muses, and the cats, novel writing progress has been uneven.
But I persevere. Sometimes, the worse interruption is by me to myself. Self-doubt. Imposter syndrome. General malaise. It struck hardest in Arsehold.
Arsehold is a place in my novel, wholly made up. I came up with the name months ago, a whim that made me laugh. I stuck with it, creating the setting around the name, devising the history of how it came to be. Yet, my characters struggled to get through Arsehold. I naturally responded, per my proclivities, to overanalyze what was going on and why, attempting to seek the root of my issues. I thought it might be the general tone. Perhaps some of the introduced characters weren’t clear enough. Maybe, maybe my characters shouldn’t be in Arsehold. And what happens after Arsehold?
Writing helps me think by creating a funnel through which I must focus. With all this mental flaying, I did a lot of writing about the novel in progress, addressing the concept, characters, story, plot, locations and settings, etc. Eventually, I took all the assembled material of the novel in progress, one hundred twenty-five thousand words, and began reading, editing, and revising, putting the story into the order that I think it’ll be in published form.
That helped. By the time I’d reached Arsehold (almost sounds like a song lyric — I can hear CCR doing stuck in Arsehold instead of Lodi), I’d discovered that the errors that I thought I was seeing weren’t there. It always scares me to think or say, hey, this is pretty damn good, about what I’m writing, but that’s what I concluded. Of course, it’s my work; if I didn’t think it was good, maybe I should be working on something else, right?
Anyway, I think I might get through Arsehold this week (knock on wood, he said, tapping the side of his head). Got my coffee; time to write like crazy, at least one more time.