Why I’m Not Around So Much

The path moves itself

The path moves itself

My postings here have fallen off. Not a great loss, given my tiny audience, though I appreciate my tiny audience is not in it for the cat pictures. Does it matter? Nothing matters. Everything matters.

I’ve been working on a book. It’s a mountain from the past that still hangs out there, but the climb is any other marathon: the finish only imagined until afterwards. But I’m getting better at it. I’ve written more of it, in a more sophisticated way, than I ever have before.

I’d avoided the book for decades, having judged myself incapable of expressing it with the competence and grace I wanted. Jobless after Thanksgiving 2009 I’d at last started adult work on it, churning out thousands of words of character studies, outlines, treatments: a mountain of work a mountainous book deserved. I didn’t get to writing the manuscript until March 2010, and by then I’d exhausted myself. I got a job and gave up in a different way.

2013 was different. I started fresh, focused on simplicity. My outline was three pages instead of 90. I made a schedule of long-term goals, since I had been drifting so long. I’d have a draft finished before Thanksgiving 2013. I felt, if not excited, buoyed to a new level.

This time a year ago I was drowning in an anxious depression. The job, new in January, nixed my money worries but took all my time and energy, the school performance anxiety I’ve never quite vanquished transferred to the job. I worked evenings, woke up mornings, pounded out doughy, uninspired words that took too long. The opening was hackneyed (how many characters have startled from a dream?). It was March and I was hardly more than a chapter in. I worked harder, taking up the weekends. I spent so much time in front of a keyboard my shoulder still acts up. April had me back to antidepressants (don’t be fooled by the initial mania), and things only went down from there.

2014 is different. I don’t remember when, but after getting things straightened out by fall I finally took a friend’s advice: even just fifteen minutes every day is great progress, if you really take the fifteen minutes. So the first chapter–which I threw out and rewrote, and has morphed and grown in notes and in my head since–is complete for now. The second, a similar mess, the third, better. My parents visit, the holidays, work keeps going. I’m not winning any races, but I’m deep into the seventh chapter, the first in the second act. Thirty, forty-five, sometimes a couple hours a day; with productivity independent of the time spent. Frank Herbert, who wrote the Dune novels, observed that six months later he could see no difference between what he thought at the time of writing was good or bad. I’m trusting Frank and all the others. Nobody has confidence in this, and that’s fine. 

2014 is different. I have friends that I maintain. I keep up improv classes and harbor dreams of what that could mean. The book is coming together–slower than I’d like, but a daily stone to the pile. I don’t feel hunkered down in my little house, my only anchors to sanity the cat and voices on the phone. I am not like a friend’s brother, now deceased, rejected from work, rejecting of family, on his last dime and (in my friend’s frank words) with no chicks to bang. I don’t feel thrilled and released and terrified as when I was first divorced. Splashdown is complete and the capsule is still. But because I am still, I can move.

If, since Hawaii, I have been yelling at you, I apologize. It wasn’t my intention, even if that is what I needed. Many things have come together and stuck in the right way, and I suspect the friend who suggested I start this blog knew that would happen. Thanks for that.

I still observe things, still think into the dark. I go for walks and look up with wonder instead of the dread I have been so used to. I do my thirty or forty-five or hundred and twenty minutes, and then that’s the day, and I do something else, or nothing. I’m sleeping okay. The job won’t last forever. I’ll keep you informed.

Don’t push the river. It flows by itself. 

– Barry Stevens


6 comments on “Why I’m Not Around So Much

  1. I believe that someday I will have that book in my hand. I am proud of you!!

  2. Sounds very promising. The rich experience of the craft itself (in your case, writing) fills the void with meaning, challenge and pleasure. The book will only be a by-product–although I’ll eagerly await bringing my copy to you for autographing–a marker along the journey. Sounds as if you are enjoying yourself. I’m glad.

  3. I also look up with wonder…
    Thanks for the blog. It speaks to me some days in unexpected ways.

  4. You’re right — nobody has confidence in their work. It’s a major hinderance to me and I’m constantly trying to get past it. For me the turning point was when I realized that I was allowed to write shit in the first draft. That way I’m not aiming for perfection, only to get it down on paper. Writing is great, but it’s also a slog, most of the time. I once heard Joe Haldeman say that once, maybe twice a month he has a really great day, when everything goes perfectly and it’s a true joy. The other 28 days of the month are just like any other job.

    So those are the important things to remember — it can be a slog and nobody has confidence in their work. Keep those in mind and you can make it through. That’s my own mantra, at least.

    You know where I am on FB — PM me if you ever need a pep-talk.


    • I have a wall of encouraging quotations and aphorisms at the top of my stairs. I can’t help but look at it. Does is work? Can’t say. But at least I take heart that everyone’s lack of confidence at least proves we’re not narcissists or sociopaths.

      Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle In Time was rejected by over 40 publishers, if memory serves. One note on my wall points out that Roland Dahl rewrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory SIX times. I think Tolkien rewrote each Ring book from scratch at least twice.

      Letting the first draft be garbage is great freedom. The next lesson to learn is accepting the second draft is good enough, that there will always be a gap.

      Thanks for the pep talk offer. This is what the web is really meant to be about.


  5. Thank all of you for the encouragement and positive energy. Michelle, I think speaking to someone in an unexpected way is the ultimate goal, and highest compliment.

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