Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Three Rs and Other Stories

I'm really proud of the two posts I wrote after my blog break in February - the one about an old friend, and the one about how I misinterpreted Lynda Barry. The first one especially got a lot of personal reactions from readers, which tells me that I wrote something well. I hoped I would have equally sharp and thoughtful things to say after this long break between May and now, but I'm not sure it's going that way. Instead, a lot of small stuff is in tow. Nothing big and thematic and relatable like before. Forgive me.

1) Reading. The past month has brought a slew of reading that I didn't really want to do and a good deal that I did. I slogged through a 1794 novel written by Mary Shelley's dad, which was just deadly boring, and worse, I kept sensing that it wasn't doing me any good. Even when I can't write, reading always feels a little bit like creative effort, because my mind is chugging away at the underside of the book: why did the author do this, is that really working, does the other seem bad to me because it's lazy or because of my taste, etc. Caleb Williams was just dull, just obsolete, and the only thing it taught me in hundreds of pages is that a very good plot can do little to jazz up mediocre writing. I did not need to learn that again.

I'm taking the second volume of Remembrance of Things Past with me on vacation next week. For reasons already explored, I decided earlier this summer to give up on my three-years-of-Proust plan (one volume each summer), which made me very sad. But I've improved such that I think I'll be able to do it after all. Now I just have to remember everything from last summer's volume.

Lovely notion, though I felt very, very alone during Caleb Williams 

2) Writing. I've been working with fair diligence on the secret project in the last couple of weeks. Not every day, but most days; not a lot of words per day, but more than none. I feel good about it, or at least about prospects for revising it. I'm not ready to share what it's about yet, because I'm still not sure if it's actually a good idea. That's an odd place to be, to have some certainty about the quality of the work I'm doing and significant uncertainty about the foundational idea of that work. Usually it's the other way around, and I'm sure the idea is good but dubious about whether I'm writing it well. Right now, I know that I'm writing well and/or I can see what I need to fix. I do not know where this critical capacity came from. (Maybe from all that reading.)

I also dreamed a really fun, interesting idea last week that, if I can write it, will wind up being a sort of low-pressure rehearsal for the wikibook. Since it was that project which triggered a giant creative crisis this year (more about that another time, perhaps), I'm goddamn ecstatic about the idea of having a legitimate practice run in the works. The wikibook is the book I need to write, but I'm still scared enough of it that I need all the help I can get. The dream idea will probably end up being another unpublishable, too-long, genre-ish-but-not-really piece of work like so many before it, but if it helps get the wikibook out, I'll accept virtually any terms.

3) 'Rithmatic. I haven't done any math lately.

There are other things, but I want to save them for other posts. Surely they'll be organized better elsewhere. Or will they? Maybe it's all just a jumble right now and I should tell you about the ah-may-zing opportunity I'm getting over Labor Day, and the podcast that made me actually literally shake my fist at the sky, and the From Me to You post I thought up this morning that's about how to revise everything from a sentence to a novel, and this book I read that was so good I ordered ten copies from the publisher to send to friends, and...no, this is just me blabbing. Never mind. I'll winnow it out and give you something logical in August.

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