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Starting Now

Starting outline

Starting outline

Here is a picture of the weekend’s big goal: the first small step toward another one. The goal was to hand-write the briefest, tightest outline of a novel I last really worked on three years ago. Length: one handwritten page. I did just over three. Three years ago my typed outline was 84 pages. It’s progress.

Three years ago I was unemployed. I walked off the last job after another elaborate B-movie excuse for not being paid, just before Thanksgiving. I poked and prodded at it, then sat down January 2nd and started work. Character outlines, plot outlines, 20 pages just on what the world is like for the main character. In June of that year I printed some of it out and took a picture, to encourage me. The picture is still on my desktop. Writing the narrative got more and more bogged down. I gave up, again, like I had given up writing in 2009, again. There’s so much to keep straight, then the world outside.

I could not keep any of it together. I held onto the job and changed everything else. All those notes stare out of my OneNote page, the tome I printed out sitting in a wire bin.

During the great clean-out, I almost tossed that printed out tome. It’s heavy, wasteful, too much. I need another clean start. I kept it along with a drawer of notes and notebooks and little scraps of paper, ideas I wrote on the bus or on a restaurant receipt. You want to keep that, said the friend on the phone. It’s where you’ve been, your path. It’s not failure. I put the big tome in a hanging folder. I haven’t looked at it again.

A friend has time to talk this morning. Four or five years ago (the number always goes up, more quickly) we both stood on the edge of serious writing, talking about it. Now he’s published, stories and a novel coming out this summer. I remind myself not to feel failure and not to judge. He thinks the novel will work out well.

Do you ever feel a resistance, a desire to walk away from it and do anything else? Yeah. But just sit down, do that three hundred, five hundred words a day. And realizing it’ll be lumpy, have rough patches when you’re done. But you go back and fix it.

Orson Welles came up in that first call and again today: his astounding accomplishment so early, his listless end narrating Nostradamus TV specials and hawking Ernest & Julio Gallo wine in big glass jugs. It takes a long time to grow up, understand character, how things really work. What to slow down and speed up is a mystery. My friend and I are not where Orson Welles was.

Job panic is abating. Each day tightens into a little more order, a little more of work’s random loud sense. My shoulder hurts less. I make it to Friday and feel like a little kid. The sun is out and I am ready for cartoons.

Last night I started. It was like college: dark out, a light, writing in pencil on a lined pad. I worked so hard in college. It feels easier now. I am leaving so much out, but it is so much lighter.

Friday to work

Friday to work


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