from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #16: I’ve Hit a Wall

with 6 comments

I’ve hit a wall and it’s hurting. The last time I ran into a wall, I split open my forehead and came home a bloody mess. Jason said he could see skull. Mom wrapped a towel around my head and rushed me to the hospital. It took 16 sutures to put me back together.

In truth, it wasn’t a wall back then. It was a steel doorway that I ran into, shortly after nearly avoiding a collision with the wall. I often wonder what would have happened had I ran into the wall instead.

This wall isn’t really a wall either. You can call it writer’s block, but it seems too simple a description. For me, it’s a wall. A wall constructed of uncharacteristic fear and self-doubt and mortared with a rash of bad luck, hardened in the brutal Korean summer.

The doubt is that this 250-page manuscript isn’t the groundbreaking masterpiece I thought it was. The fear is that it isn’t even publishable as it is, that it’s just another draft to be resigned to the recycle bin and I have to start over. Again.

There was a decision I made a year and a half ago, when first I sat down at the coffee shop and punched out a rough draft over an inspired and frenzied three months. The question was whether to write the story chronologically or thematically. The decision to write thematically was the result of four years of shitty chronological drafts. Life in the Korean Army just isn’t interesting enough to present chronologically. Like I wrote in my introduction, “[n]othing happens in a black hole. Every day is like the day before and the day after. There is no concept of time in a void.”

This past year and a half, I was confident that I had a bestseller in my draft, a bestseller I could complete by last month. But revision’s a bitch. Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, I see a story that is disjointed, confusing, incoherent. I’ve never been a big picture person.

I feel like a sculptor practically done with his installments on the eve of an exhibition who looks at his work and is filled with a desire to smash them to little pieces but cannot bring himself to do so. I’ve sculpted too many pieces I wasn’t particularly proud of, but I never really cared about the sub-par work because it was either for school or given as a gift because I’m too cheap and lazy to go out and shop for something nice.

This fear and loathing has been exacerbated by recent misfortunes and a hectic summer intensive schedule. The laptop on which I wrote and revised the whole of my manuscript died last Thursday. I couldn’t turn it on no matter what I tried (the story of my life). It’s been totaled; the cost of repairs is more than the thing is worth. Luckily, I sent a draft of my manuscript to my editor last week, but I still probably lost around ten pages or so.

What’s more, I have an extra class to teach on top of an already hellish summer intensive schedule, and as a result, I’m exhausted from the moment I wake up in the morning until the moment I can fall into restless sleep. I still drag my weary ass out to the coffee shop after work, but I spend the four or five hours staring at ten rough and unedited chapters with no motivation to touch them. What’s the point in editing if I’m going to throw them away anyway?

What I need right now is reassurance, a pat on the head and an “Everything will be okay.” That and somebody to bankroll me until I get published, whenever that will be. Maybe I should hit up one of those “adult” night clubs for cougars and find myself a sugar momma. I’d probably end up with a pudgy sexagenarian with an ajumma perm and a fetish for short boytoys.

What I find myself waiting for is an e-mail from my editor telling me “Everything is okay” and salvageable. She’s in Canada on vacation and probably won’t be able to get around to it for a couple more weeks. This is going to be one unbearably long, hot, sticky Korean summer.

I’ve hit a wall, split open my head, and am a bloody mess.


6 Responses

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  1. Hang in there, dude.

    Kevin Kim

    July 9, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    • I am. By a thread.

      I’m actually doing better than the post makes it seem. I just can’t write, which is frustrating. But it only really affects me the hours I’m sitting in the coffee shop. I’m awful at clearing my mind, but I’m awfully good at making it so cluttered I only focus on the task at hand.


      July 9, 2010 at 9:18 pm

  2. man up, you sound like a pussy. and this is coming from a girl (classy, i know).

    nah, just jokes. it happens. maybe it’s best to take a break. sometimes i get too frustrated or whatever..and i can’t even think straight.

    look on the bright side…at least you have an editor/interested party.



    July 10, 2010 at 7:13 am

    • Oh, I am a pussy. It’s kind of my thing. But thanks for the sentiment. It’s always nice to wake up at five in the afternoon after a long night/morning of drinking to the brutal truth.

      I do need a break. I was just joking about hitting up the “adult” night clubs, but maybe it’s not such a bad idea.


      July 10, 2010 at 5:39 pm

  3. it wasn’t a towel, it was underwear.


    July 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    • Towel, underwear, what’s the difference? They all ended up being used as rags back then.

      I wish someone had taken a picture when I walked through the door. I’m curious how bloody I was.


      July 30, 2010 at 10:16 am

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