Posted July 9 ’12

Pretty much all I’ve done for the last few years is whine about my “Mexico” book.  The tone, the voice, the setting, everything has been wrong.  Border issues killed character development.  Paralysis in the face of atrocity.  I spent a lot of time quoting statistics instead of writing dialogue.  My people were stiff, boring, cardboard cutouts with fake smiles.  Fourteen months ago I threw out a completed first draft and started again. It was such a relief and I was thrilled by the prospect of coming at the book from an entirely different angle.  I promised to tap it, nail it.  I practically had a pub-date set.   I believe I made the announcement here on this site and then went on vacation (Borneo) to celebrate the fresh start and the new up-and-coming novel which was certainly going to be my best book ever.

Writer’s Retreat Borneo

I came home and hunkered down for another year in the saddle, positive that I would easily find the true path now that I had identified the problem.   How hard could it be?  I’ve written four novels–three published.  I know how to tell my stories.   The voices in my head were loud and clear.  I had discipline; I worked everyday. (Except when I was in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Berlin).  Just finish the damn book, Katie.  No Problem.

And yet here I am one year later, still floundering.  When I flounder I tend to complain and that’s not productive.  So I just took another therapeutic break and went shark diving in Fakarava.  And I’m pretty sure I’m cured.  I feel confident that I’ve finally broken through the steel-reinforced brick wall that is my writer’s block.  For sure.  Really.

Katie at the end of the world: Fakarava

Fakarava is in the Tuamotu Islands, about an hour from Tahiti via small plane.  It is a large rectangular atoll with a pass at both the north and south end.  I started the trip in the south and stayed at a camp-like lodge that had neither electricity nor fresh running water (salt water showers).

Accommodations were basic but the diving was spectacular.  Ever wonder where all the sharks live?  A lot of them are at Fakarava.  Two hundred sharks on every dive, five hundred sharks when the current’s right.  The water temperature is 81 degrees.  The visibility is excellent on the incoming tide.  The reef is healthy and beautiful.  Fakarava is paradise.

Sharks in every direction

I spent my days underwater, mediating on the meaning of life.   In my dreams at night, my people helped me plot my next plan of attack.  There is something about floating around in the ocean, surrounded by big animals, that is incredibly inspirational.

The diving in the north is easily as good as the south.  I spent four days riding the rip-roaring northern current which is a hell of a lot of fun. There are hotels with electricity and fresh running water in north Fakarava and I found that those luxuries do help with the creative process.  The trip was very productive.  I’ve definitely got it all figured out.

Looking For Inspiration

So now I’m back in the chair at the office.  I’m starting again.  I don’t have an imaginary pub-date this time.  Who cares how long it’s going to take?  You can’t rush art.  I swear I’m gonna finally finish this book and then I’m going to go on vacation to celebrate.

Katie Arnoldi conquers writer’s block