Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Occupy a Writing Life

Sunday marked the two month anniversary of me writing on a story every single day. Even on weekends. Even on vacation. Even if I go to bed and have to drag myself back downstairs and open my notebook to write at least the next sentence in the story. This should be something to be celebrated. Something to be commended. Do I do either? Uh, no. Instead I hear this mean hateful little tyrant voice observing that some days it's only for five minutes or that I haven't actually written today yet. Somebody recently asked me if I have perfectionist tendancies. On the surface it doesn't seem true. But below the surface, where that mean little tyrant resides, well, yes, apparently she is a perfectionist since nothing I do is ever ever ever good enough. It's craziness. How do I get her to shut up? I write. It sounds counterintuitive to write and give her more ammuniton to use against me such as the characters are flat, the writing is filled with cliches, that I should be accomplishing so much more in terms of word count than I do since I do stay at home and it goes on and on and on. So I write and I observe. Just acknowledging that part of me is sometimes enough to shut her up. Afterall everyone wants to feel heard.

Last Thursday I finished the draft of my story and sent it out to my writing group then immediately opened up a brand new document and typed in the first paragraph of the next story. That's what I'm working on now. I'm in that stage of getting to know her voice. Lots of freewriting to see what is churned up. Pieces of scenes, dialogues, flashbacks. This is actually kind of fun, this part of my process. I don't quite know where it's all headed yet. Each sentence I write helps me to discover a bit more about the story and the characters. It's like I'm on this expedition. So this is what it feels like to occupy a writing life.

Still haven't got back on the submission band wagon yet. It's been a while since I've submitted anything to any journal out there. Not sure why. I really hate the whole logistics of it: finding the appropriate venue, on-line or post? did I already submit there? which story? when? typing up the cover letter, including a line that might jog their memory of me if they have responded favorably to my work in the past. It's all a little tedious. But it's part of a writing life so I just need to do it. Just like the exercise thing which I now do daily and have done almost daily for two years now. So I can make myself do those things I despise.

"Ron Carlson Writes a Story" is seriously the best book on writing that I have read. You are practically inside his head as he writes "The Governor's Ball" privy to every decision he makes and every choice he comes up against. You see the moments when he has no idea what comes next but he stays in the scene anyway to find out. It's amazing. A must-have for any writer or any reader curious about the whole writing process.

Currently reading:
1. "Lolita" as part of my writing group. We were all amazed to discover that none of us has read this yet.

2. "The Time it Takes to Fall" by Margaret Lazarus Dean- a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Challenger explosion. It intrigues me since I set my first novel (my under-the-bed novel) in the same time period and wrote a scene centered on that day.

3. "Feast of Love" by Charles Baxter which I have to read before I see the soon-to-be-released movie. Several books fall into this category: "Everything is Iluminated", "The Kite Runner". Luckily I already read "The Jane Austen Book Club".

"Solve all your problems through the physical world. That is, if you have a scene that's stalled or muddled, go back into it carefully and write the next thing that happens in real time. Don't think, but watch instead: occupy."
– "Ron Carlson Writes a Story" by Ron Carlson

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