I'm Terribly Afraid I Might Spontaneously Combust

Photo borrowed from www.unexplainedstuff.comNever have I felt this burning, scorching, bubbling of my insides so intensely before. I have previously likened the process of idea and inspiration for a story as being like a ‘brew’. The ingredients begin to react together inside your mind and pop and spit until it spills over onto the page as a draft.

But this time… I fear I’m going to explode. I’ll sizzle then burst quickly, leaving a pile of ashes, and perhaps one charred foot, as seems to happen. I was awake at 2am last night writing four pages of notes about this story. I am losing more and more sleep and yet I don’t know when I can write it. I work full-time now, I read on my breaks, I read and draft blog posts in the mornings. I go to the gym in the afternoon (I must have this time away, even if just to let my eyes recover for a bit). I get home and read or write reviews. I have other projects. I see friends and the occasional movie.

But I have to start. I have to get it out of me. It is growing so large that it is a great, searing weight. It is making me excited, anxious, frustrated, frightened, in love in love in love. Somehow I will write it. My last manuscript (which I am still deciding exactly what to do with) I drafted while working, studying, and in a serious relationship. I wrote 1000 words a day. I don’t have the study or boyfriend now, but life is big. Perhaps this time I can make it 500, with a little more time on weekends. There is no way I can’t write it. I will surely become a pile of ashes.

So what I have to do first is solidify this world inside my head. I have to know it intricately before I let it all out. I will start taking notes for midnight relief, but I will also hone and build upon the world. I will write maps of characters, histories, connections, lines, interests. I will write a very basic here to there plot structure. I will think about person and tone. I already know some things – I know the main conflicts. I know some motifs and culturally significant links. I know it is a young adult novel. I know there is more than one main character. I know it is set in a regional Australian town in 1996. I know a lot more – delicious, rounded, frighteningly big things that I don’t want to tell anyone. I want to keep it to myself. Because sometimes that burning, interesting, important story is only that in your head. On the page, the flint is not struck. And that is why I will not tell you specifics until it is done. If it is done. If I want it to go out into the world.

All I know now is that I must start, I must try. I must. I am compelled.

There is one thing you can do to help me, lit-lovers. I want to go back to 1996. I don’t have a time machine, but I want to be a teenager/child in the mid-90s. Tell me where I can get magazines – Girlfriend, Dolly, Smash Hits, TV Hits, music mags, Cleo, Cosmo etc. Tell me what music you listened to in 1994/5/6. Make me a CD! Tell me the little things you remember, keeping in mind that anything you tell me I may regurgitate in fiction. Tell me about TV, movies, food. I will try and pay for any postage on the magazines, or CDs. Comment me here, email me – literaryminded (at) gmail (dot) com, or surprise me – PO Box 6266, St Kilda Rd Central, VIC, 8008.

I will end with one of my favourite parts from Kafka’s diaries, in 1913:

The tremendous world I have inside my head. But how free myself and free it without being torn to pieces. And a thousand times rather be torn to pieces than retain it in me or bury it. That, indeed, is why I am here, that is quite clear to me.

8 thoughts on “I'm Terribly Afraid I Might Spontaneously Combust

  1. Ooh, how exciting that you’ve been grabbed by a story! I hope your combustion is able to be channelled.

    (Hi, by the way – I’ve been enjoying your blog and your stuff in B+P.)

    I was a teenager in regional Australia in the ’90s, and I seem to remember a lot about it.

    1996 was the year I spent listening to commercial radio – as opposed to most of the decade, when I was hip-deep in jazz – so my tastes, ah, were more strongly aligned with my peers than at other times.

    * My friends were obsessed with Mariah Carey around this time, when she was first getting into R&B/rap
    * Silverchair were everywhere, as were Savage Garden. And I was waaaay more into Savage Garden. *shame*
    * Crowded House broke up, and I remember the Farewell to the World concert being on TV but it didn’t mean anything to me – conveniently, I didn’t become obsessed with them until later.

    Um, 1996 was also the year of the Macarena. I’m just saying.

    * Romeo + Juliet – film and soundtrack
    * Clueless – I cannot count the number of times I said ‘whatever!’ to people

    Honourable mentions to Dawson’s Creek and Felicity, which didn’t come through until 1998 but had a huge impact on my group of friends.

    From memory, 1996 was the first time I used the internet, and the year I got my first email address. I did the classic teenager thing and put my age in my email address. My friends and I wrote experimental-form emails to each other – not only all-caps and all-lower-case, but all-consonants (very hard to read without the vowels, if you were wondering). We were so cool.

    I didn’t know anyone who owned a mobile phone.

    I’m sure I can dredge some other stuff up if this is helpful. Good luck with the novel!


  2. You know what was blowing my 10-12 year old mind in around then? Nightmare Before Christmas, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, Disney’s The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the pleasures of What’s Up Doc? of an afternoon. Best.

  3. Gold!

    Hereandnow – hi! Thanks for reading me 😀 I’m so grateful for your input. Silverchair and Savage Garden are coming up a lot. I’ll have to track down their CDs again. Mariah Carey – I remember how popular she was. The Crowded House concert, I also remember when it was televised but not knowing what the fuss was about. Great stuff. The Macarena I have jotted down – what a phenomenon!

    I remember the effect of Romeo+Juliet and Leo DiCaprio. Clueless I’ve already decided will be a big influence on my characters and the language of the book. Pink fluffy things on pens were big because of that too.

    *The beginning of the internet* you’ve uncovered one of my ‘big thematic things’. Shh! Thanks for sharing what you and your friends did.

    The first mobile phones were bricks and there was no SMS function – OMG!

    If you think of anything else, cheers in advance! And I will be sure to check out your LJ.

    Mr CT – Jurassic Park was HUGE. And I spent a few hours on YouTube last week watching clips from 90s afternoon TV. I mostly remembered the stuff on ABC – but What’s Up Doc – cool. Also, Saturday Disney, anyone?

  4. I promise not to tell about your big thematic thing! Heaps of good material to explore there, though.

    Oh, wow, such flashbacks to the pink fluffy pen-things. There was an epidemic of them at my school, along with those tiny butterfly hair-clips.

  5. Fantastic. I’m so excited. I’m up too late again.
    Thank you.
    And thanks to all the emailers! Spice Girls indeed.
    I watched ‘Tank Girl’ tonight. This is the best research ever (well S+D was pretty cool too – 1970).
    Keep ’em coming.

  6. When 1996 is retro, I am an old woman! I know that wonderful falling in love feeling you get at the beginning of a book you just have to write and you do have to harness it, because if you let it slip it all returns to normal. When I was a teenager I was typing my novels on a computer that was so high tech because it had an automatic correcting ribbon. Man I loved that thing.

    Good luck with the project.

  7. Wow that’s a great stage to be at. the great thing about being a novelist is that you only have to have a really great idea every couple of years. I know many a potential writer who has too many ideas and is easily distracted so has never actually finished anything. Good luck!

  8. You’re not old Krissy – and you rock! Thanks for the encouragement. I’m not going to let it slip 🙂

    And Rachael – I’m about to go read the end of your book on my break. Oh, it’s killing me! (in a good way) I look forward to your next ‘great idea’. And I do usually finish things, luckily. My potential publishers (halloooooo) will be pleased with me one day.

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