Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Something I will miss about school is the press of deadlines on my back. On Sunday I wrote 2,700 words because I had to turn it on Monday. I'd've liked another couple of days to work on the result, and then another week or two to let it ferment, before others saw it. But I'd waited too long to start, so I had to roll with what came out on Sunday.

The cool thing about this, and about the associated deadline, is that the thing got written. The not-so-cool thing about this is the feeling that I rushed it, that I didn't say everything I wanted to say, and that I got tangled up in my ideas and made a mess. Of course, those are problems that come out and get fixed in subsequent drafts. The professor said he wanted shitty first drafts, not perfection. But still. I don't like showing unfinished work to others unless I really trust them, and this feels unfinished. 

The gradual evolution of my writing process has left me with early drafts that are closer to finished than they used to be. By this I do not mean that everything I write is perfect. I've come to a writing process that includes such a long time chewing over the topic that when I'm finally ready to write, after the better part of a year, the work comes out like a late draft instead of an early one. All that time I was writing drafts in my head. If I'm not given that time, I come up with garbage, but if I don't have a deadline, I might go on thinking for much longer than I should. 

For my capstone class I'm working on a long, experimental memoir project. It is scary and hard, so I might have set it aside indefinitely if not encouraged by mean, heartless professors to write it now. It's a mess and a half at present, but I turned a corner of some kind on it in the past two weeks. The word count is building. I've figured out a) that I need an organizational strategy and b) what that strategy is going to be. Implementing it will take hard work of the kind that I've been wanting to do this semester, and was finally pressed to do on Sunday, rather than putting in a half hour here and an hour there. 

Life seems all cut into pieces lately. I give too many of them away. I want them for myself. I want to spend a whole day with my notebook, tea, the Brandenburg Concertos and a container of hummus. Not worrying about laundry, exercise, application deadlines, meals, money, nagging health issues, keeping up with friends' triumphs and tragedies, etc etc. Much of this stuff is worth my time, but I want, selfishly, to be neglectful of everything except the work. Is that asking a lot? 

Yes, of course it is. Yoga and meditation are more significant accomplishments when performed out here in the world, rather than in a cave in the middle of nowhere. My friend who wrote a novel 200 words at a time? I admire her a hell of a lot more than me, offering benign neglect to my husband for three months while I write in a trance every day. On Sunday night a dog barking at great length outside my window while I worked was too much and I yelled "Shut up!", which doesn't harm anyone (I was inside with closed windows), but it's not at all like me. I never lose my temper at annoyances like that. When working, I'm a different person - snappish, territorial, egocentric. 

It follows, I think, that I'd be a better human if I found a way to work in the world without overdosing. But I have tried that way and it does not work. I can't do 200 words a day. It makes me wretched. A cut-up life is doing something similar, but unlike with the memoir, I can't come up with an organizational strategy that fixes anything. 

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