This is a guest post by Carol Wilson
Writing ain’t easy. Putting together a novel may not be as heroic an effort as climbing a mountain or as complex as launching a moon shot, but it sure feels like it sometimes. With the despair that writer’s block can produce, what better role models to turn to than the protagonists of the books we love, that made us want to get into this crazy business to begin with?
Sometimes, monomaniacal pursuit of a goal is the only way to get it done, even if your crewmates (family and friends, in this case) think youíre totally nutso. Think of each blank page as a white whale, and harpoon that son of a gun! It takes the almost diabolical commitment of an Ahab chasing Moby-Dick to succeed as a writer, and Herman Melville himself must have identified at least a little bit with his vengeful hero as he cranked out his whale of a tale.
This Catch-22 anti-hero has always been my model for surviving in a world gone mad, where they’ll kill you if you aren’t mad too (and even if you are). Question authority, stick it to the man, and do what you know is best for you, no matter what institutions (in Yossarian’s case, the Army, in yours, the publishing industry) are telling you they require of you. Because ultimately their prerogatives are not yours, they will crush you underfoot if you neglect to plan out an escape route for yourself. Real madness is always a threat to novelists too (see Jack Torrance at his typewriter in The Shining), so make sure you keep your head on straight.
Let’s reach way back to one of the foundational works of Western literature: Homer’s Odyssey. Penelope waits 10 long years for Odysseus to return from the Trojan War by way of various meanderings in the isles of the Mediterranean. Similarly, it can take a whole decade for a book to come together, and the process is only slowed if you allow yourself to believe that this is something to be ashamed of. Just do your daily writing, as Penelope works tirelessly at the busywork of her loom, waiting for her man (your Muse) to show up and set everything straight again.
4. Don Juan
Sometimes your idea just needs a little romancing. Show up on a date all nervous and freaked out, and it’s practically guaranteed that you’re not going to score. The same goes for writing a novel. You must be smooth, charming, inspire confidence, and you can seduce the Muse. Take this irresistible attitude, and your range of works will be as varied and vast as the Don’s conquests.
Daydreaming is the essence of all fiction, so don’t be afraid to practice a little positive thinking. Visualize yourself as one of these great literary heroes, even if you’re really just Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Show the same vim and vigor they do, and you’ll be living happily ever after in no time.