Wednesday, November 19, 2008

10 - 16 November

10 November
Katami’s role in Choice is to inject beauty into this tragedy. “Look, Matt, notice how the world moves on and renews itself.” The joy of individual moments even in soul-crushing adversity.

Words to consider for a sestina: dogs, hands, be, space.

11 November
So here is what happens – I build the writing thing up as being so very huge and meaningful and then I get scared of it. And then I don’t want to do it. And it becomes bigger and scarier. Then the monkeys take over. They fling poop. They chatter and scream incoherently. I get caught in this maelstrom of activity. Like Dorothy. Except that instead of telling everyone how there’s no place like home, I complain about how busy I am and how I’m NOT getting any writing done. And really, it’s because I’m scared shitless until I can trick myself into writing again by throwing some monkey chow onto the floor and running like heck until I get to the computer and turn on my noise-cancelling headphones so I cannot hear the monkeys chatter when they realize I’ve tricked them, but then, I’m writing and nothing else matters.

12 November
Oh my God. I don’t like to write at my desk! Why have I been fighting like heck to force myself into writing at my desk? Why can’t I learn to trust my writer instincts instead of beating myself up for not being “dedicated” enough? My writer has been telling me for two weeks now that I need to get away from my desk.

I think there’s a lot of similarity between writers and sports players. We don’t know what causes us to be able to do what we do so we get very superstitious about how we do it. Instead of not changing our underwear or always starting for homeplate on our right foot, we invent rituals and habits, define our writing space and conditions as narrowly as possible because that’s what worked for us the last time we had a great moment writing, when really none of that matters.

I spend so much of my time beating myself up because I’m not writing, because I think I’m not making it a high enough priority (yes, I am still hearing Gayle’s voice questioning my dedication to being a writer – it’s only been 20+ years and I am the only one from my undergraduate program still writing, go figure). But what’s maddening is that then I get to the writing and it feels amazing and the words flow and I remember, “Oh, so this is why I write, to feel this.” And then I realize that what’s actually been happening while I’ve been not getting to the writing is that new ideas have been settling and sinking in. This semester I’ve taken on playwriting and poetry, two genres that are new to me, and taken them on for some very specific prose-related reasons. These genres require me to pay attention to different things when I’m writing, to use different muscles as I write. When I got to working on Choice this week, I suddenly see that all the time I wasn’t putting words on paper, I was still writing because what is coming out shows me how much has been going on underneath the surface. My brain has been reordering itself, rewiring how I approach scene and juxtaposition of image, how I move characters through dialogue, create turns in the story through what is being said. What I’m writing this week is very different than what I was writing at the beginning of the semester.

13 November
So here’s what I love about being a writer. I’m sitting in the elementary school cafeteria while my nine year old has chess lessons. I’m here because he wanted me to bring the chess board we made over the summer and it’s too heavy and bulky for him to carry by himself, so I brought it and decided I’d just write in the corner for an hour until they were done. So here I am, and the lesson’s going on, and I’m working on my novel. I’m in two places at the same time. I’m here, in the cafeteria, and I’m in Reno with Matt who’s having a really shitty day while he struggles to find ways to deal with his brother’s death. Both places are as real and concrete to me as the table on which I’m writing and the pen in my hand. I can tell you what’s being said in the room and the conversation Matt is having with his mother.

Sometimes, when I’m writing, I feel my own edges blur, do not feel as physically solid as I do at other times. It makes me wonder if, when people look my way, if I look out of focus to them – like my physical boundaries blur to match my mental ones.

Possible words for a sestina – red orange yellow green blue purple.

14 November
Picked up my data recovery disks from Best Buy today – YEAH! The hard drive wasn’t damaged and they recovered just about everything – including my iPod files! I love having all my data back.

On the way home, I drove past a picket line – the strikers had a giant inflatable rat. It made me wonder about the person who makes these inflatable animals. I’ve seen the gorillas before – the ones they use at sales – but never a rat. And the only use I can think of for it would be at a strike (like, it’s not the kind of thing you’d get for your child’s birthday party, you know, especially since it’s got its mouth open and has fangs and claws, unless you were a unique kind of parent). So, it made me think about the person taking the order for a giant inflatable rat and thinking, “yeah, this’ll have a ton of uses.” I mean, who designs a giant inflatable rat?

Crud. I’m reading Zadie Smith’s article on realism in the novel from the New York Review of Books (great article, by the way) and it jogs something for me. Should I switch two characters in Choice around? Swap their roles in the book? It’s interesting. It would mean a massive rewrite. I’ll have to think about it because there’s something there.

15 November
Our recent history feels “busy” or full because we have personal experience of it, we don’t have perspective on it yet. We don’t know what will fall away and become irrelevant with time. Ancient history feels gauzy because there are large portions where we don’t know what has been lost – like fabric that’s been washed and worn until there is no cloth, just thread.

I know that I’m engaged with Choice again because I am leaning forward into moments throughout my day, running for my notebook to jot things down. And it flows, it flows, it flows.

Worked on the sestina today. Wonder of wonders, I’m actually caught up this week and not dashing into Sunday still needing to read an entire book of poetry by Monday night.

16 November
I cheated a little on my sestina – I’ll call it a fractured sestina because it doesn’t adhere to the rigid structure of the form in terms of end words. Each line refers to the same end word (I used colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple), but doesn’t end with that word. I think it works because of the subject I’m exploring with it. What I like about the sestina form is that it becomes a meditation on the meaning of words and their relationship to the words around them. But I often get bored reading a sestina because it feels forced. (not that I’ve read many, before this semester, I didn’t even know they existed).

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