Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Fiction and Non-Fiction: An Enjoyable Balance
When 2019 started, I had as my primary writing goal to finish the novel I've been working on for a while. It's been going well but with my usual slowness, and I promised myself, in January, that as soon as I finished the extended piece I was writing on the Russian science fiction writers the Strugatsky Brothers - a piece for a collection of essays on science fiction writers that will come out in the next year or two - I would resume work on the novel. I also promised myself that in 2019, unlike in 2017 and 2018, I would not keep pausing in my writing of the novel to write non-fiction pieces and reviews. In early February, when the Strugatsky Brothers piece was finished and I'd sent it off to the editors of the sci-fi piece collection, I took up work again on the book. It takes a couple days to get your head back into a fiction story and build up a little momentum. But I got back on track, as I always seem to do despite my worries that I won't, and I did stick with the novel for a few months to the exclusion of everything else except the blog piece I write here each week.
Intentions, intentions. If only one could stick to them! By spring, I found that I'd volunteered to write or accepted offers to write a number of pieces on crime books, or authors, past and present. And I found myself, as I'd vowed I wouldn't, repeatedly putting the book aside to write these pieces.
Momentum broken, momentum restarted, momentum broken, momentum restarted...
It would be easy to balance fiction and non-fiction if I could write full time. I could write fiction in the morning, eat lunch, and write non-fiction in the afternoon. But since I can't do that, I have to swing back and forth between the two - it's one or the other at any given time - though I can write non-fiction a bit faster than I can turn out fiction. As I write this, I haven't touched the novel in about 5 weeks and I don't expect to be getting back to it till at least December, perhaps not even till 2020. Maybe I should admit to myself that what is really going on is that I'm writing the novel in between stretches writing non-fiction. That's what 2019 has turned into. And yet, to be honest, I can't say I'm upset. I do wish the novel was further along and I was closer to finishing it than I am, but as I've come to realize I really enjoy writing these non-fiction pieces. It's as if the book reports I once loathed doing in school I now can't keep myself from doing. I love doing the research you need to do. I like the challenge of organizing a piece to try to create maximum interest and of using the analytical part of the brain more perhaps than you do when writing fiction. And the fact is you get paid something, guaranteed, and probably get as many if not more readers from certain pieces than you do from a novel. At least, I do. So that's the situation. Writing is writing, and I've always admired writers who are versatile and can do both fiction and non-fiction well, people like Joan Didion or V.S. Naipaul, Jamacia Kincaid or Ishmael Reed. The list of writers who do a good deal of both, in truth, is long.
And the book I'm about halfway through? It's there in a folder on my dresser, printed out to where I am at this moment, and I look at it periodically to help keep my mind on it while I do the pieces I need to do. When I return to it, it'll take me a few days to rebuild momentum, and I'll be worried that I won't get back on track but then I will get back on track, and...
In 2020, I will have this book done!