My last objective was to re-devote myself to writing. Since I graduated in 2015, I kept forming new goals for when I would finish my second revision, my third, and so on, when I would start querying, when I would aim to be “finished.” But I have skidded past those self-imposed deadlines without accomplishing any goals, despite the fact that the story has lived and muttered like a cave-creature in the back of my brain for at least two years now (the current iteration anyway. The kernel of the story has been with me for about ten years).
My first obstacle was my own depression. As much as I love writing, it’s hard on a normal day to force oneself into a chair and start typing on a computer, especially when that’s essentially what I do for eight to nine hours at work. Of course, in typical Catch-22 fashion, writing would have helped with the depression, because I would have been able to focus on an activity I loved and a project that was important to me. And I compounded my problems by failing to recognize what I was going through and that I needed help. I didn’t think I was suffering enough to warrant that level of intervention.
Shedding my depression gave me back a sense of purpose, but I didn’t do it alone. I also can’t forget that it’s a part of me. I can be thankful that it’s not worse, but I must also remember to keep my guard up. I can’t afford to lose any more time.
Second, my writing was slowed by my own desire to build my experiences out to enrich my career prospects and writing portfolio. I was researching Doula certification, training with Women Helping Women, and writing weekly highlights for Biology of Reproduction. I knew that I wasn’t leaving myself much mental or physical space to work on my book, but these were all temporary pursuits with long-term dividends: worthwhile deviations.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, the training has been completed and I can check that off my list. I’ve narrowed my Doula research to finding some starter books at the library–still on my to do list. This past week, I approached the deadline I’d set for the freelance writing. I decided two months ago that I would not renew the contract when I realized I was no longer writing with any level of enthusiasm. This information was not my passion and I realized I was gritting my teeth to get through. I was ashamed and tired, and I realized I was giving away my writing time to a pursuit where I couldn’t even give my best. I wrote up my email to the editors on the 16th and will send it in by the end of this week. I started writing again that night when I came home.
My final problem reared its ugly head though as soon as I pulled up my word document. I’d managed to build a number of barricades in the process of writing the first draft. The first round of revisions did little to address this barricade, as I didn’t really hit my stride until the last two hundred pages when I began to earnestly crop. The second revision (draft three) was interrupted around the midway point because I realized, even with the extensive cuts I was making, I would still have too much for a first manuscript. I also had a major character problem and I couldn’t determine the appropriate solution.
Luckily I have many helpful ears in my life, and having received solid feedback from my fellow writer, I carried that advice with me and debated with my readers. I teased out the answer between my own thoughts and the feedback I received.
When I finally had it between my teeth, I felt the old enthusiasm flush through my mind again. My fingers became twitchy with the desire to tap my keys. I wanted to write. I wanted to advance. I wanted to discover the algorithm of my re-mastered character who could also, just maybe, solve my excessive page problem.
So I halted my third draft and began anew with a fourth draft. Right from the beginning, my changes enabled me to cut out an entire chapter. Sarria moved through the first scenes with more direction. I’m only now starting on Chapter Four, but this solution has already begun to alter the landscape of my plot.
And just as I was beginning to build up steam, I ran into a new question that slowed this magnificent progress: I didn’t have a name for the new character.
He is the fusion of two important men who occupied similar roles in Sarria’s life. The personality and the experiences of the new character are a perfect balance between the former two, so the old names would not have suited. I needed something new, a name to capture that elusive spirit that thrummed at the heart of both characters.
The question lingered in the back of my brain and interrupted my thoughts when I considered what other edits I would make to the book. I couldn’t get away from it. I stalled out again and worried the question like an aching tooth. All throughout training. During work. In the shower and while cleaning dishes.
Two nights ago, my mind was different. I felt free and focused from my decision to prioritize the book. And I found my breakthrough.
I was working on my next chapter, and the old character name continued to crop up. It was his introduction, but trying to edit around the old name felt like I was ignoring him. I could practically feel his spirit turning away from the action to look at me. When are you going to find my name, he asked me.
My partner had been playing Portal 2 in front of me maybe half an hour earlier. I’d glanced up at the sound of Gladys’ familiar voice and spotted a periodic table. It was this image that came to mind when I turned back to the issue of names. There must be some inspiration there, in the rich texture of the scientific titles of elements. It would fit in with my Latin theme for the wolves as well, but the only elements I could remember were Lead (Pb), Gold (Au), and Silver (Ag). None of these would do, not for my noble wolves. Gold was flashy, but weak under pressure. Silver was moon-associated but overdone for wolves and easily tarnished. Lead…well lead was obviously not right.
I pictured the Romans and Greeks, the structure of their language, the symmetry of architecture, the sweeping marble statues and their bronze armor and swords, the coins, the blood of the Latin world.
And there it was. The name I’d been looking for. A name for both spirits: Aeramen. The latin word for “bronze” or “copper.” The burnished color of fire, utility, grace, and deference. Even the tonal qualities of the former names were captured in this new one. The word settled over the character with the resonance of a cathedral bell ringing through the nave. (I don’t have any children, but I imagine this is what a successful baby naming feels like.)
With all my barriers overcome, I can see the open plains of my story. I’m ready to run.