Today I’m thinking about the two mindsets you’re asked to keep together to be a novelist. Practical and impossible.
To write, you have to lie a lot. You have to spend a lot of time in worlds that don’t exist. Today I spent time thinking up a writing system that doesn’t exist and then taking it through the steps from inception to a modern world in which it was the primary means of communication – looking at how it would have changed and what technologies might have come up alongside and with it, and what tech we know today that would never have been invented at all. I spent a long time exploring how even different people groups might be thought of differently if we wrote with something other than the materials and systems we actually use. And why a culture might decide to use something else in the first place.
And now I’m writing a blog post explaining that I didn’t actually write anything down during that whole time, and I feel bad because I now have a lot of “actual work” I have to do – querying (always that nowadays) and revising and outlining and writing some non-fiction (this post, some emails, a newsletter, etc), and now I’ve added some research that I need to do, because maybe the system I spent the morning dreaming up does actually exist somewhere in the world, and if so I need to study it in all its forms, figure out if it’s useful to me or if I need to change my thoughts entirely, and make notes on the whole thought process because I might need to use some part of it later even if this exact thought is a bust.
It’s a strange transitional world to work in. I mean, that’s the job right? You have to dream up stuff that hasn’t happened, but you also have to develop the practical skills needed to be able to communicate those impossibilities.
I think the worst part is actually thinking about the process. I find myself becoming 120% more insufferable when I think too hard about what exactly I’m doing. Especially if I then talk about it. That can’t be good for anyone.