Thursday, January 15, 2015

We Interrupt This Self-Promotional Blog to Bring You a Navel-Gazing Post

On Friday, January 9, I had a really, really weird day, full of dizzying highs and dreadful lows. It contained lots of news about writing, this day, none of which I can share with you here, and it was impossible to get to sleep at a decent hour that night. Inside my head, seventy-six trombones led the big parade, and the quiet bedroom was so noisy that I had to get up and go to my computer.

I put in earbuds to block out the intermittent sound of an amorous pair with some manner of connecting wall to my living room, and then I set to work, because my head was just too loud to do anything else. I wrote a short humor piece that I'd been contemplating for about a week, and then I wrote a longer thing about Star Wars that was already visited upon you. It felt good to write; January has been quite lucky with regard to the other thing, the publishing thing, but the writing thing is the better thing. It seems like I have to forget this, over and over, in order to remember it, over and over.

Because despite my ambitions, I haven't written a word on the wikibook since the semester ended a month ago. I've read a bunch of stuff - DFW and Edith Wharton and Richard Todd and lovely Georgette Heyer and Antonia Crane - but I haven't written anything that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Not to be too plain, but December fucking sucked, and it's taken me these first two weeks of January just to exhale and get over it.

Pictured: Me (left)

It hurts that I've failed to get started as I'd planned to, but if I've learned nothing else about the way I write, I've learned that all things come in their own time. I'm finished feeling shell-shocked and exhausted and have started feeling restless, so I hope to set a rhythm in the next month that includes several hours a week of writing. And I'm staring down nothing at all except the wikibook: no short stories, no genre fiction, no Highbinder sequel. Wikibook. Or bust.

I was considering taking the spring off from school in order to work at my job (in an office) and work at my job (at my notebook), but I felt so discouraged about that idea, pushing the start of graduate school off until 20damn16, that I took Matt's advice toward the Middle Way and I'm only taking one class. I'll take another one in the summer, and then I'll finally be eligible to enroll for the MA.

Now that I'm two years in and almost there, I confess to feeling some uncertainty about my choice. CSUN has so thoroughly exceeded my expectations that I'm not wavering about that aspect, but the idea that I should've tried for an MFA instead keeps nagging at me. In terms of school suitability, I can't avoid moving locations in order to do an MFA, and I can't see my way to that. Anyhow I don't work well in unstructured school environments, plus I'm not interested in being competitive with other writers, so I struck the idea of an MFA from my vision of Writer-Me.

But still. Would I have better opportunities? Would I learn better or more useful ways to write than I have in the past two years or will in the next two years? Would it look better on my mental resume? Am I going to wind up talking myself into an MFA anyway, or even a dreaded PhD, because I won't feel finished when this is all over? Will I wind up penniless and school-addicted, unable to adapt to life outside a classroom, unable to write without a workshop group, unable to read without class discussion? Should I quit now, now that I've reached a place of mild confidence as writer and reader (even though I know there's more to learn, as there infinitely is), and I'm not yet totally broke? Or is it too late? Am I already irrevocably lost to the ivory tower?

Pretty good card, actually

Rgh. Whatever.

On another note, I know there are a few folks reading who are DFW fans. If that's you, get Karen Green's book Bough Down. (NB: I looked for it in every indie bookstore I visited for about six months before I gave up and ordered it from Amazon.) She's his widow, and the book is more or less about her grief. It's also one of the most fascinating books I've read in the past five years. It's uninterested in whether you as reader/viewer get what she's trying to say; it's inward-looking, personal, in a way different from most everything I've ever read. Not obtuse, like so much literature, but personal; it's not that she's toying with whether or not you understand, but that it's completely clear to her what she means and if you can't understand, well, you're just not her. Like unexpurgated Anais Nin, but distilled, with a sharper wit behind it. It's also deeply, deeply sad, and unnerving, and finely wrought. Get it, and maybe get a magnifier for the collages in it at the same time.

Maybe my January hasn't been wasted after all. A good book is a salvation and a blessing, is it not?

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