Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I could so easily let myself be swallowed by the desire to do research for Choice - I feel it. I am walking the knife edge between feeling confident in the work and being subsumed by the creeping doubt that it is not enough. Because I feel as if I have not devled deeply enough, not created enough density in the material, let myself be taken over the story I am telling. It does not feel as if it is a part of me. And all this feels like I am falling into dangerous waters, shark-infested waters that threaten to capsize my craft and drag me under until I can no longer figure out which way the sun is nor find breath to keep me going. It is worrisome and I feel I could so easily go under and never finish this work.

Working Notes

I realized I hadn't posted working notes since March. I had a lot of blog entries while I was doing the residency, but have been continuing to take notes on my process and what comes up as I work. Here are the latest from the end of the residency onward:

21 June – Headlands workshop
How you approach a landscape:
Collecting questions – what does it make you think of? What do you want to know more about?

Military landscape – fear and defense. Think about the duality of who has been here before, the desire to protect against attack, inclusion/exclusion.

Nike site – cold war ruins.

How each epoch has to defend itself against a more and more advanced technology until we end up buried in a cement crypt.

Legacies of the structures of defense – what remains. What historical ghosts are not readily apparent?

Juxtaposition of uses on the same land – military relics and beach.

Annihilation of races – technology, disease – how people disappear. FOR CHOICE – how people disappear, physically, mentally, spiritually, historically, and what remains after they are gone – what gets left behind (foot paths, trails, artifacts). Allison OD’s in an old miner’s shack.

Nature is designed for impermance, humans strive for immortality, for things that endure past our lifetimes.

What constitutes inquiry?
What gets erased?
What remains?
And what power do we actually have over what remains and what disappears?

Public space – the need to create ownership, to mark territory.

16 June
It was over in an instant for Denny, but for me, it takes a lifetime for my brother’s body to land on the ground.

15 June
Choice is Hamlet – realized that today when I decided to make Matt the one haunted by Denny instead of Ray. It was an odd moment, thinking that, and then feeling, oh yeah, that feels right, and then realizing, it makes the novel a retelling of Hamlet.

12 June
My deepest, darkest fear is that Choice will never achieve the density it needs to make it interesting.

It’s odd how some milestones can loom before you and they’re big and you see them coming from miles off and others just happen, they slip past you before you even know they’re gone.

What if Matt turns 15 during the novel and no one notices. Not even Matt.

Sometimes I still feel like I’ve maintained an idyllic, fantasy notion of what it means to be a writer, and I will never be able to be successful until I break through that gossamer screen and get down to the hard and fast reality of it.

I feel as if I know nothing about writing.

Idea – after I get the beats down, write the scene as narrated summary, exposition, action, outline.

2 June
The art that fascinates me is where it’s one thing when you look at it, but then you see what it’s made of and that creates an entirely different idea of what it’s about. Like a mosaic made of broken dishes depicting a woman washing dishes at the sink. But that’s not the kind of artwork I do.

It is difficult to find the stillness I desire in the maelstrom of my life.

1 June
Reading How We Decide – do we become fixated on negative experiences because our brains are hard-wired to figure out what when wrong? To learn from our mistakes?

Choice title – The Shadow of Doubt
I suck at titles.

29 May
10 unusual things in Denny’s room

28 May
What I don’t understand is that I have all these ideas, and instead of getting excited about putting them into action, I just want to lie down and take a nap.

I am limping my way back into writer mode.

And then, suddenly, I am back in it because I am doing it.

Prompts for Choice:
10 things Matt knows about Denny that no one else does
10 things Matt doesn’t know about Denny
10 things Matt misses about Denny
10 things Matt hates about Denny
10 ways in which Matt is like Denny
10 ways in which Matt is nothing like Denny (maybe 20)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Very quick entry tonight.

Here's a link to the photos from the site-based practices workshop I did on 21 June 2009. I created a Facebook album for them because there are about 70 photos. You can access the album even if you aren't on Facebook by following this link.


More later. It's 10 pm, and I have to go read a bedtime story to someone.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Procrastination and Loss Aversion

I've been reading Jonah Lehrer's book How We Decide over the past week. He's one of my favorite science writers, and I highly recommend him if you're interested in how the mind works. His blog, The Frontal Cortex, is great, as is his first book, Proust Was A Neuroscientist.

Anyway, I just finished the chapter on loss aversion. It's an intersting phenomena that leads people to make foolish choices, especially when it comes to money. It seems our brains are hard-wired to feel loss more strongly than gain. This is why studies show healthy couples maintain a ratio of 1:6 of negative comments to complements - no kidding, it takes six compliments to overcome one negative comment. It's also why it takes a return of $40 to make us feel satisfied for a $20 loss. There is pain associated with loss.

It's made me think about what happens when I sit down to write and why it is sometimes so difficult to sit down and write. It's a lot easier to play spider solitaire with the occasional win than to work on my novel for two hours and feel like I'm not getting anywhere. At least in the short term. Unfortunately, according to Lehrer, the way our brains are wired, we LOVE the short-term burst of dopamine that gets released by that quick win. The long-term, deep soul satisfaction that happens after working on something and watching it develop, happens in the prefrontal cortex, an entirely different part of the brain. The dopamine receptors in our brains would like nothing better than to party all day long and exert a very strong pull on our ability to make decisions for our long-term benefit.

The other thing that I think happens is that no matter what, I am always a better writer in my head than I am on the page. I don't know any writer who is entirely happy with what ends up on the page - we always think we can do it better. So there's the pain of losing that image of perfection that exists in my head until I pick up my pen and actually start to write.

Understanding this made it much easier to come to the page today and get some good work done even though it feels uncomfortable and like I'm wandering through the deep, dark woods without a compass.

I'm reading through Choice (tentatively now entitled The Shadow of Doubt, but it's been other things in the past), which has been a somewhat slow and agonizing process. Yup, that paragraph or scene I didn't think worked a couple of months ago, amazingly STILL doesn't work and needs to be taken out. The first 56 pages are a slow slog, unfocused. After that, the story picks up a lot. It gets much better. Which makes sense. Those first 56 pages are still pretty much what I originally wrote many years ago when it was a short story - I was feeling my way into the story, the characters don't know who they are yet, and the themes of the story were still developing. It's going to take work, but I'm really happy with what happens after those pages. There's actually a lot to play with.

The really painful thing is that those places that seemed most in need of work when I first wrote them, still seem like they are most in need of work. But...those places are few and far between.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Watermelon and the Airedale Regarded Each Other

The day the box arrived was a day like any other. Maggie watched her human carry it into the kitchen and begin to take things out of it. They were wonderful things with wonderful smells. Her human put some of them in the refrigerator and others in a basket on the counter. But she left a few things on the counter, and this is where Maggie decided that things WERE JUST NOT RIGHT.

It was a big, green something that look a bit like her ball, but it just was not RIGHT. Maggie barked at it, but it ignored her. She barked at it again, but it continued to ignore her. So she took matters into her own paws and decided to meet the intruder on its own turf.

The green ball began to move! It rolled off the counter and onto the floor.

Maggie retreated to a safe distance and considered the green ball on the floor. She barked at it again. It ignored her. She decided to investigate it further.

She licked it and it rolled away!

Hey! That's not right, Maggie thought. This green ball is dangerous and must be barked at with great enthusiasm. She barked and whined and finally her human came and picked the green ball off the floor. Then, to teach the green ball a lesson, her human picked up a knife and sliced it in half. Then she gave Maggie a piece and it was delicious.

The next time that box comes into her house, Maggie will be ready. Especially since she knows the peaches were up to something, too.