My reading last night went pretty well, I think. My daughter ended up sitting quietly in the back row, in the lap of a friend who apparently has magical powers, or at least the ability to keep a three-year-old happy and quiet during an hour-long reading ? in my grateful opinion, the same thing. And the reading part itself went well, though I have to admit I see it as something to get through so I can get to the reward of the question and answer part. I think I like Q and A so much because the questions are, at least part of the time, unexpected; and because I have to answer them right then and there, I end up learning about my own process. Someone will ask me, "Where did this character come from?" I'll just start talking, because I have to, and sometimes I'll say something I didn't really know before I started talking.
But sometimes I give an answer to a question and I later think 'Why did I say that? That's not true.' Last night, someone asked me how I feel about my writing as I'm doing it ? can I tell when a scene is really working, when something is really just taking off? I told her that I can never tell when a scene is working, and that I always think whatever I'm writing is terrible as I'm writing it, and that I always feel a complete lack of confidence with every word. And now I'm sitting here less than a full day later thinking, 'Why did I say that? That's not true.' If I really felt that little confidence, writing would be a pretty miserable experience, and I doubt I would have the emotional stamina to do it five days a week. Upon further reflection, I would say the closer truth is that when I'm writing a first draft, I'm thinking something like, 'This may or may not be good. I may end up being really happy with this, or I may end up hating it and wanting to delete it. But there's really no way I'll know unless I keep going, and I want to see where it leads.'
And really, isn't that more or less what goes through most people's heads about the day in general when they get up in the morning?
I didn't paint an entirely gloomy picture of my writing hours for the audience last night. I did tell them that when I'm writing, I often experience what someone-famous-with-a-name-I-can-never-remember called 'flow,' which is the state of being so immersed in a project that you not only lose track of time, you lose track of self, which can be, of course, a very nice vacation to go on. I think reading can take you on this vacation as well. But for me, it's really writing: I told the audience last night that my daily foray into the world and minds of my characters is probably the closest I'll get to successful meditation (I haven't been able to pull off the more traditional kind). I believe the guy who wrote about 'flow' (surely some of you well-read Powell's customers know the name of the guy I'm talking about) thought that this state was very good for the mind and the spirit, as good for you as meditation is supposed to be. And I believe he said it was the truest form of happiness.
So I apologize for the lie last night: really, when I'm writing, I'm not miserable at all.