An odd stage fright with no audience


I just realized something. I’m actually afraid to type the first sentence of the book I have in my head.

In fact, I’m a tad freaked out about it, because I don’t have a reluctant writing bone in my body in any other aspect. What is going on here?

It’s not that I don’t get freaked out in general, because I do. But this particular strain of freaked has a weird, gnawing undercurrent of subtlety that makes it vaguely disturbing.

I’m thinking that sheer size is most of the issue. I can flail away at a thousand-word screed; lift off, gain altitude, approach target, drop sorties, and get back to home base rather deftly. But in those cases, I can still see home base from my target—orientation loss is not something I risk much in these cases.

But now, I have this plan to deliberately drive a section of Americana off the historically-accurate turnpike for the sake of visceral humor, retrograde musical illumination, and to underscore the fact that white people are usually the ruinous culprits at concerts when they try to help a solo performer “keep time” with their abysmal and short-lived clapping outbursts.

Problem is, I’m not sure I have the internal, gyroscopic orientation that was supposedly the hallmark quality possessed by the late stuntman, Dar Robinson. He was legendarily known for his ability to know up from down while plummeting 35 stories during a screen shoot. He also died riding a motorcycle at moderate speeds, so we’ll just leave that here.

So I think I’m afraid of the fall. I’m sure I can leap off the edge of this thing; start some conflagratory point-of-departure that invokes reader interest. But now that I’ve decided to throw an anachronistic boomerang at a section of the past, I better try to figure out just how far the logical arc is going to reach in terms of ”reasonably absurd outcomes.” I know good and well someone will read this book, and immediately cue up a postgraduate outrage chorus over some glaring inconsistency I failed to take into consideration.

One time, I was asked to perform magic tricks at a renaissance fair. Now me, being used to a modern and western approach to sleight-of-hand, I was used to wearing slacks, and also a jacket that at least gave me pockets with which to streamline my act with accessibility times. I knew I was already going to have to wear some balloon-armed pullover blouse-thing with a string tie-off. I knew I was going to have to wear sans-pocket costume pants from their wardrobe. I knew I was going to look like Peter Pan. The feathered-garnished hat was like a giant squelch knob, tuning out whatever remained of my masculinity.

Already struggling with that, I stood behind my table, tossing cards, performing the cups and balls, etc.

“Those cards aren’t from the period,” said one.

“Those cups aren’t from the period,” said another.

“That wand isn’t period, either,” said another Ren-parrot.

For an hour, I endured indignant, routine-stifling interruptions from a smug, self-assured cadre of 15th-century know-it-alls. My preemptive, explanatory caveats meant nothing. I may as well have tried to push Rain Man onto a plane than get Lord & Vassal Inc. to take a card, shut up and move along.

“Guess what?” I said. “This grange hall we’re at isn’t from the period, either. Neither is that Timex Expedition watch you’re wearing. I DO know that Field’s jewelers wedding ring sits in direct contrast to your from-the-period mead goblet, but I quibble.”

I’m not sure they processed that well.


All I know is this. I can launch this literary ship from a thousand ports. I can make the high-seas saga interesting. And funny. In fact, I have time-release moments in mind so visceral, that I’m hoping to release the sinus-cavity-excoriating Kraken for which I am known.

I am now counting. It’s only taken me twenty minutes to write the previous 655 words. Productivity is not my problem.

Meh. Whatever. Into the unknown it is, I guess. Time to get that first sentence out. I know it’s in there.


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10 Responses to An odd stage fright with no audience

  1. CB says:

    Your blog and a latte… Great way to start my morning. Thank you, RG!

  2. Steve says:

    Eating my high-protein, high-fiber breakfast cereal creation and drinking Sumatran Reserve coffee while reading your blog this morning.

    It is my understanding, though not from actual experience, that most books evolve as the writer writes them, and often the writing can go in a different direction than the writer originally intended. The longest thing I ever wrote in my life (to get out of grad school) was around 18,000 words and it certainly evolved as I wrote it – in part thanks to my Attila the Hun committee chair editor who didn’t seem too worried about my self-esteem.

    Suggestion One: Some bloggers write portions of their book as blog posts. Try that and see if that helps you get started.

    Suggestion Two: Critics are always out there. Pay attention to the important critics who have something to add, even if they’re not nice about how they do it, and don’t worry about the armchair critics who won’t make a smidgen of difference to the quality of your writing.

    Suggestion Three: Have a cup of Sumatran Reserve. I am heading for my second cup before I go for a run.

  3. Ann says:

    Ah, yes! The fear of the unknown. How many times have I stared at the cursor, wondering how to start. This happened a few weeks ago – I had not catchy intro. Then, I’m driving down the interstate and there it is – on a billboard, no less. All the profs in my current program just keep saying, “write, write, write.” Don’t make it pretty, don’t labor over sentences, just write. My downfall is that every sentence has to be perfect before I move on. Argh! WhatEVER you write, I’ll be happy to read it! And Steve’s suggestion is perfect – try out sections on your blog. Excellent point.

  4. Steve says:

    While I would like to take credit for a brilliant idea (blogging your book), I got the idea from this book – “How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time”, by Nina Amir while perusing the writing section at Barnes and Noble one day. It also occurred to me that one way to make money with writing is to write “how to” books about writing since there are so many.

    In the interest of looking at opposing views, not everyone thinks this is a good idea, notably Jane Friedman. Anne Allen offers some cautionary advice.

    In case my embedded hyperlinks do not show up in this reply, here they are in order:

  5. Steve says:

    Yes, someone can rip off an idea. I wonder what copyright laws look like for blogs? Is there some way to copyright the material on your blog?

    If you become a successful (and wealthy) writer, remember me and fly me out to your place in the middle of a harsh Vermont winter!

  6. Steve says:

    You can self-publish on Amazon. I’m afraid to post the link because I don’t know what giant Amazon effigy may show up. Just Google “self-publishing with Amazon.”

    Also, I believe you can set up on your blog something where if people shop Amazon through your blog you get some money back. Might be good for book recs that you blog about.


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