Sunday, December 28, 2008

The light dawns

So here's what it is.

I hit the 3/4 mark in Choice. I lost sight of the ground.

Even though I still think it works better with the scene coming earlier - my sense of panic and not knowing what to do comes from that dreadful 3/4 point more than anything else. Once I got working on it tonight, things started working themselves out, of course.

But there is something about that 3/4 point. And it's not just writers who experience this - I've seen it with painters and people building their own houses or putting together a marketing campaign. I think you're far enough away from where you started that you lose sight of the initial impulse, but you're not far enough along to know it's going to work out just fine. You've lost sight of the shore, but you're not seeing the land across the ocean yet. You have to trust it's out there and keep swimming until you hit it.

So, I guess I'll have to tread water for a few days until everything loosens up and the writing feels comfortable again.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Getting Loopy

27 December
Here’s one of the games I play with myself. I make things take longer than they need to because I’m afraid that when I’m done with them, I won’t have any other ideas. So I putter away my time, don’t work on projects like Choice or Ithaka or any of the short stories I’ve got simmering in my brain. But I'm thinking about them all the time, and trying to get to them all the time. If I would just work on them as diligently as I've been working on Choice lately, I would finish everything. And I ought to trust myself by now that I have more ideas than I will ever be able to write in my lifetime. They just keep coming.

Choice has thrown me a loop today. As a short story, I had thought the scene where Matt gets arrested came too abruptly in the beginning. And once Ray asks Matt to help him do the ritual to help Denny move on, it's a straight shot - you know Matt will get the clothes, you know the guys will end up in the desert, etc. The arrest was too big, too overpowering for the scenes that follow until they're out on the desert. So I thought...I'll put that scene later in the novel version. Well, novel version is now at 150 pages and I was getting to the arrest scene and realized, no, it actually DOES need to go at the beginning, in the first 25 pages - so now I've got the dilemma of how to get it there. Do I continue writing as if I've already put it in the first 25 pages? Or, do I go back, make those revisions now and then continue once I've fixed all the continuity problems? And, I don't know for certain (although I'm 95% certain) that the scene should actually go there, so I don't want to do this in a way that I'll obliterate what I've gotten done to this point - so I'm not sure how I should do this. Longhand revisions, on the computer. And I can feel how easily this will turn into a reason to stop, and I'm refusing to allow myself to go there. So I'm desperately seeking advice from the writers I know on how best to write through this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

8 - 15 December 2008

15 December
Ignoring the world is also a political statement. (heard on NPR from a slam poet)

13 December
Residency – an autobiography. Word tree of working notes from residency.

Take different genres (maybe 6) and create linked pieces based on that genre (like thrillers, fantasy, autobiography, romance, etc.)

11 December
Scream – the dinner is with a college friend she hasn’t seen in a long time - not a good friendship (think Scott – someone she always wanted to impress and never could, and doesn’t like very much). Her husband – “Tell me again, why are we doing this?”

Ideas for my residency - take seagull story and create visual text – use the story as the basis for other pieces – slice the text up, line by line, make a mobile out of it, diagram its sentences, work with hyperlinked text.

1 - 8 December 2008

8 December

After writing assignment: What was interesting to me was that in order to get anywhere with this week’s assignment, I ended up drawing to the music, recording my impressions of it by tracing a pencil over paper (kind of stream of consciousness drawing, not trying to make an image, just lines). Giving the music form, however abstract, helped me find a way into the music so that I could then create a scene to go with it and figure out what kind of scene would have had to happen between the two pieces of music in order for one to become the other.

The cello piece was cohesive, large continuous swoops, joyous, playful, while the Lamentate was fractured, small islands that were disconnected from each other. Odd and interesting that I had to translate the music into another medium in order to find access to it.

1 December
What’s more important – the event truth or the emotional truth?

What’s a gem but compressed decay?

Using form as a way to show you know what the history you’re a part of is and using it as a critical approach, to comment on history.

2 December
This semester has been so full of new discoveries, new ways of thinking about what I’m writing and reading. I’m sad that it’s almost over, actually really is over. It’s been thrilling and exciting and my biggest worry is that I will close my notebook on this semester and never think like this again. Because that’s what usually happens. I want to stay awake to this. Yes, trust. Trust that what is meaningful will stay with me, will distill and become part of my blood and bones, as unnoticed as my beating heart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

17 November - 1 December 2008

20 November
Writing prompt to adult students: Who or what ghosts do you carry within yourself? And I ended up writing about Choice (backstory: This is a novel that started out as a short story several years ago. Basically, a 14 year old boy deals with the sudden death of his older brother. In the original version, the brother was out joyriding with a friend, stuck his head out of the car while it was going about 100 mph and was decapitated, the end of the story was a weird “ritual” out in BLM land around Reno so the brother can stop haunting the friend who was driving – so many of my friends said “I didn’t know you wrote horror” that I ended up changing the story radically and it’s now grown into a full-fledged novel. The brother is killed while joyriding, he is not decapitated, the ritual still happens.) So, I realize after this ghost prompt that everyone in the novel is haunted by the brother’s death – not as in ghosts appearing in the middle of the night, but in emotional terms. So Choice is a ghost story after all. And that’s very, very cool to me, that the original impulse of the story still comes through even though it has moved away from its original form, that the impulse now exists on a more symbolic level.

22 November
Reading Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell) – convergent and divergent thinking – convergent is being able to look at patterns and figure out what comes next in a sequence; divergent is being able to do things like finding as many uses for a pencil or brick as possible or forming as many words as you can from a longer word. I excel at divergent thinking and suck at convergent – this may explain why I’m really great at the brainstorming phase of a project – thinking about my characters, the story, imagery, etc – and have a really difficult time with endings. Endings need me to add up all the patterns and choose the way to sum them up and move them into something larger.

23 November
I want friends who have cool names like ‘Unterferth’ and ‘Magnus’ instead I have friends with nice normal names like ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Sue,’ even my dog’s name is ‘Maggie’ (she came to us named) instead of something more interesting like ‘Cabal’ or ‘Stylus.’ I wish to seem exotic instead of normal. I think I spent most of my teens years trying to figure out what ‘normal’ was and then how to become it. Now I’ve succeeded and it’s really, really boring, and I don’t know how to do anything else. Why this seems important to write down, I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to write a story with a dog named “Stylus” in it.

28 November
A pantoum with a scene between Matt and his mother (from Choice)– I have a really difficult time keeping them in a room together because they don’t have anything to say to one another. Repeated lines of dialogue, talking cross purposes. Hm. Possibilities.

1 December
Wrote and rewrote the scene. In absolute terms, it’s not brilliant, but what happened in the writing of it was interesting. It forced me to keep the characters’ dialogue at odds with each other in order to keep the tension. In my first draft, I had the characters respond directly to each other and that was boring. By keeping them at odds with each other, it worked much better. I also found that I had to alter the form a bit. It worked better to have the fourth line of the “stanza” be repeated as the next line of dialogue. What also happened was that last line came to be the power position in the conversation, the one that was directing the flow of the scene so I brought in an incidental character (a grocery store clerk) to be able to change the power structure and give Matt’s mom the upperhand in the conversation. As an exercise, this worked really well for exploring these two characters. I often have trouble with their dialogue because there is so much that isn’t being said between them. This structure gave me a way to play with them and what they are and aren’t saying to each other. And as rough as the dialogue is, it helped me find a way into this relationship that I didn’t have before.