In Defense of the Sexy New Idea

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It happens to the best of us.

You're engaged in a committed, long-term relationship with your current work-in-progress (or C.W.I.P.) when things start to sour. You're fighting all the time, you stop listening to one another, and all those little flaws you overlooked in the beginning start to drive you crazy. You and C.W.I.P. are engaged in a particularly heated battle one day--perhaps at a coffee shop--when the Sexy New Idea walks by.  The S.N.I. (just go with it) gives you a wink as it saunters past, and then, for weeks, whenever you and C.W.I.P. are fighting, you think of S.N.I. One day you are at the coffee shop without C.W.I.P. You've decided that you need a little time apart, some space to think things over. And then S.N.I. appears again, as if out of nowhere, only this time it doesn't stop at winking. It sits down next to you, leans over, whispers sweetly in your ear. It tells you that it sees you are unhappy with C.W.I.P., that you've been fighting far too long, and you should just give in to your impulses and leave C.W.I.P. behind, run away with S.N.I., who would never treat you so poorly, who will always love you and listen to you and never fight with you. And then you have to make a decision--to be faithful to C.W.I.P. or to be seduced by S.N.I.

At some point every writer will face this situation, especially those who work on novels. Writing a novel is like running a marathon, and when you're on your fourteenth mile and think there's absolutely no way you can finish and all you want to do is collapse into a pile in the middle of the road, someone reaches out and offers you a tall, cool glass of water--but you can only have it if you stop running. At first you resist, but the person runs along beside you, holding the water glass in front of you so that you have to see it, can't stop thinking about it, until you finally give in.

Writers are warned about these S.N.I.s, these tall glasses of water, that we are supposed to resist. If we give into temptation, we are told, we will never finish anything.  We will never achieve that ultimate level of commitment to our C.W.I.P.s (seeing them turned into books), and we will never finish the marathon.  For a long time, I reminded myself of the dangers of succumbing to S.N.I. I resisted the temptation as it strutted past and whispered in my ear. But a couple of weeks ago, when C.W.I.P. and I were having a particularly bad fight, I gave in. I stopped resisting. I allowed myself to be seduced by S.N.I., and I have never been happier.

What's that, you say? This happiness is only temporary?  In a few months, S.N.I. and I will be fighting and I'll be begging C.W.I.P. to come back? Possibly. But C.W.I.P. and I have an understanding. It isn't over between us, I just want to explore other options, see what else is out there. After my relationship with S.N.I. is over, I hope to return to C.W.I.P. a better writer and creator. I hope then I'll be able to give C.W.I.P. what I haven't been able to give it in the past.

For now though, S.N.I. and I are in the honeymoon stage, planning the future and building a world together. We are starting the first chapter of our life together, and, despite the memories of C.W.I.P. still hanging over my head, at least I'm writing again.

4 comments:

A. Hab. March 6, 2011 at 2:18 PM  

Lacy, I love this! Especially because this is so true, even for non-fiction, non-creative, entirely-compulsory works...like dissertations. Recently, I reread my prospectus to remind myself of my original organization plan. Well, as I read the entire prospectus, I realized that I had veered quite a ways off from the original plan at all, which meant that I'd have to rework my entire introduction as well as the organization. What I find is that every once in a while, I'm seduced by the SNI of inquiry. "Do I really wanna stick with this topic?" I ask myself. "Ooo! That topic over there is soooo much more awesome and attractive and will surely cooperate and bend to my theoretical lens better than my current topic!" Same danger applies for dissertations as with novels--giving in almost always equals not completing the task at hand.

On the other hand...sometimes giving in will lead to more interesting (and interested--which always leads to more interesting) projects. If you're not in love with your project (hell, if you're not just at least mildly attracted to your project), then how can you expect anyone else to be too? That said, enjoy your honeymoon period with your SNI! Think CWIP would be up for a menage-a-trois? ;)

Carolyn Kate March 6, 2011 at 2:33 PM  

This is pretty much exactly what happened to me, on a much smaller scale, while writing the final essay while taking your lit class. Except my S.N.I. was not very S. It was that horrible, awful, gross, pimply, bad-breath, crooked teeth, slimy novel.

Bradley March 6, 2011 at 3:04 PM  

Is this really about writing? Lol

Moka B. March 8, 2011 at 2:21 PM  

Cute! And I'm so glad you're happy with S.N.I. Just go with it. Sounds like C.W.I.P. is fairly understanding and won't abandon you while you're taking a break. :-)

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