How I Write… Confessions of a Raging Introvert

I’m a slow motherfucker, everybody. Most people I know complain I dawdle around and waste time. What none of them get is the speed of my mind–it’s just slower than everyone else.

For years, folks, I faked that I wasn’t an introvert. I still do a pretty mean impression of an extravert when I go out. But it’s starting to get old. Nowadys I don’t feel like I have enough time to fake what I like to talk about. I’m just going with who I am now.

My introversion is part of the reason my literay output has been next to nothing the last five years. I only have so much mental energy to go around, and rather than give me energy everybody I know and every chore I need to complete is a drain on my limited resources. I’ve finally just had to accept that with the way my brain works I only have enough energy to do one thing with my life. Either party, have friends, a relationship, or write. For the last five years I been busy chasing tail instead of writing. Maybe, at age 38, I’m finally mature enough to just get the work done.

I had a story idea a while. Well, I had the urge to investigate an idea I had about people that I wanted to write about. So I started writing, thinking I was laying down some good shit. After 20K words, I gave it a read, and discovered I’d written a big pile of shit. I would say out of those 20K words, maybe 3-4K were any good.

Now, I have this idea that some people can write out of the box. They got the right kind of brain to basically structure a story as they go along improvising it. That ain’t me. My guess is this happens with the more extraverted writers. You know, when extraverts talk out what they want to say versus an introvert who thinks it through before they talk. I’m the latter. It’s a lesson I keep failing to learn. Every one of my stories starts out as an idea, and in a rush I take off writing.  The result? Shit. I go back to the drawingboard, re-think what I’m trying to say with this idea, what’s the point, then I start buildong it out from there.

The point is, as an introvert I really need a lot of time alone, just to think about what the fuck I’m doing in life. My stories are an extension of that need.

This newest idea I have, which should reach novel length, started out as an insight I’d had by living life and observing people. Like usual, lacking some kind of impulse control, I just started writing. I thought I was being brilliant, too. My big idea was I’d mix essay and narrative. But what I accomplished was the destruction of each. The essayistic portions ended up being preachy, telly, and boring. A few of the scenes came up breathing, but they were very thin. That’s no big deal. It’s another feature of my slow mind. I can’t think of details on the spot. I have to add them in on later passes. Actually, this  isn’t necessarily due to my slow brain, it’s due to my pathological focus on the BIG PICTURE and UNDERLYING SYSTEMS that govern human behavior. You know that forrest that some people see because they can only see the individual trees? I can’t see the trees at all until I know there’s a forrest.

Erlier this morning I took a walk. Wait. Let me start earlier than that. Before my walk, I tried to re-write the opening scene to Crazy Bitches. I got some decent conflict in the scene, but after I read it back, I couldn’t figure out how the fuck it would fit into the idea I was writing about. Being stubburn, I tried thinking of a solution. My brain tried to weave the threads of implication into the greater idea of Crazy Bitches but the scene, the whole fucking concept of the scene, seemed out of place. There’s only one thing you can do when you have that problem. Scrap the scene. I saved it, thinking maybe it would be the start of another story. I know it won’t open Crazy Bitches.

So, I was frustrated. I daydreamed for a while, but I do my best thinking while I’m walking around. On that walk, I began thinking very precisely about the idea this story is meant to express. The basic idea is something like American culture is sexually abusive and destroys people. But when I went off half-cocked, I started writing about a guy who hooks up with a girl who kinda develops a fatal attraction for him and starts doing crazy shit. Hence, Crazy Bitches. I failed because the idea wasn’t just about men and women. It’s about the cultural emphasis America has and its effects on men and women. The first version saw me making my narrator, who’s already damaged, the protagonist, and the antagonist the girl he screws with. Unfortunately, in order for the story to work, the protagonist has to be relatively undamaged at the beginning of the story. The antagonist has to be America. The narrator, who is yours truly, Bob Collins, can be damaged. A damaged narrator is good, as he’ll be able to chart the protagonist’s decline in character as he succumbs to contemporary American cultural prejudices.

I wouldn’t have come up with any of this if I hadn’t taken that walk. But you might be diffrent. You might have a quick-thinking mind that could move from the idea to a general structure in a few minutes. It took me two weeks and 20K of wasted time and writing before I took a couple hours of a solitary walk to figure it out.

What’s this all mean? Absolutely nothing. I work the way I work because my brain functions best that way. If yours does something else, you better listen. Until you pay attention to who you are rather than trying to fit in to a style or a group of people, you won’t be shit. So, listen to yourself. Either that or…

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