Good morning, midnight

I dreamt that my mother lived in the bedroom upstairs in the house I grew up in. She was sweaty and sick, but I was outside looking for someone on the street. She pulled her light blue robe around her, the one I didn’t remember she owned but she did, and said “The doctors can’t tell me why I can’t eat.” I almost forgot to go home and make her dinner. This is like the homework dream, the exam in the class you didn’t attend in the classroom you couldn’t find. Only it was my mother I had inexplicably forgotten, who was sick and alone in the upstairs bedroom waiting for me to come home.

I am cranky and inconsistent. I have let down people in my life, even today before breakfast (long story, uninteresting). But not my mother. For years I felt guilty that I didn’t live nearer to her when she was sick; but she loved the city I lived in at the time and wouldn’t have wanted me to move just for her. And I would have been lonely and miserable in [hometown redacted]. I am searching for 200 words of resolution for a dream.

After she died, I stopped looking for mountains in the clouds on the horizon. I did not need their steep shadows the way I used to. But thinking of them today gives me a sense of space, a pause. I don’t have to remember the sick room, the bedroom my mother never slept in. I can think of the crest of the hills, blue as the ocean in the distance. I am not usually a person who remembers dreams, but I am good with physical memories. I can remember the shape of the mountainside I used to cross on a regular hike. I could find my favorite boulder outcrop below the spring by the angle of the hill in the summer when the leaves were thick and the flies buzzed around my head.

What is buzzing around your head today?

Details, Schmetails

When I was single, I had one friend who I’d take as a date when I needed a date, and I put her down as my emergency contact. She was my fake girlfriend. She was the one I called (other than my mom) when I had a shitty day and she did the same.

Once she told me that she wanted a girlfriend, beside all the obvious benefits, because she wanted someone who was interested in the minutiae of her day. She got a real girlfriend not long after I met DP, in part because her fake girlfriend was no longer quite so available.

One of the things they tell you when you shack up is that one person can’t meet every one of your needs. Sure I had someone to cook for me and keep me warm at night, but DP after the first few months wasn’t fascinated by absolutely every single thought that flew through my head. And so I turned again to my friends.

I have friends with whom I can exchange urgent emails about plot developments and implications (not to mention a detailed appreciation of the prettiness of some of the characters) of my favorite geeky TV show. I can email another friend in the morning about a beer I drank the night before, knowing she’ll stop everything even for a moment to make a comment. My former fake girlfriend and I argue about a book we love at least once a year, and it’s an argument we’ve been having since we were 15 years old. I rely on that. Poke, poke, I’m here. Pay attention to me.

What details do you share?

Having the Last Word

I am the youngest of four girls in a family that loved to talk. My parents came to visit me in college, and we went to [nearby city]. I didn’t own a car then, and had only a vague idea of how to get downtown. I sat in front and my father drove. When you approach [city] from the south, there is a point where the highway curves and you can see all the steel and glass of downtown glistening in the sun.

“I think you should take exit 56,” I said without confidence.

My mother, oldest sister, and grandmother were all crammed in the backseat. My father missed exit 56.

“Sam, that was your exit,” my mother said with urgency.

“Dad, shouldn’t you have turned there?” Oldest Sister said.

“Sam, you missed the exit,” my grandmother chimed in.

I was ready to get out and walk.

As a result of my upbringing, I hate not being able to say what I need to say, and I despise being misinterpreted. And, as DP loves to tell me, I interrupt him all the time.

I think this is why I love to blog. I don’t need to have the last word, but I do need the space to talk, explain, flesh it out.

Now your turn. Why do you blog? Can you get a word in edgewise?

A Positive Note

I love the Freelance Union. I love what they do, and I particularly love the idea of the Quiet Revolution. This is how I think we should all live our lives.

Today’s twitter question, which was crafted just to start conversation, deserves a little more commentary than my twitter feed would possibly allow.

“How do you start your freelance project on a positive note?”

I don’t. I go to this blog and bitch and moan. I complain about the fact that my equations are green (why?) and that my author can’t stop using the word “unique.” I whine that I have to edit instead of taking my dog on long walks in the fleeting spring weather. I complain that I’m too lazy to cook for myself even though I work no more than 15 feet from a working kitchen.

But then, I go back to my work, rejuvenated and refreshed. It’s very cathartic. I guess that’s a positive note, right?

What about you? Are you all sunshine and light?

Doorknobs and editing

You may have seen this flittering around on Facebook, but I’ll add one of the (many) relevant sections.

Normal people have a sort of mental secretary that takes the 99% of irrelevant crap that crosses their mind, and simply deletes it before they become consciously aware of it. As such, their mental workspace is like a huge clean whiteboard, ready to hold and organize useful information.

ADHD people… have no such luxury. Every single thing that comes in the front door gets written directly on the whiteboard in bold, underlined red letters, no matter what it is, and no matter what has to be erased in order for it to fit.

As such, if we’re in the middle of some particularly important mental task, and our eye should happen to light upon… a doorknob, for instance, it’s like someone burst into the room, clad in pink feathers and heralded by trumpets, screaming HEY LOOK EVERYONE, IT’S A DOORKNOB! LOOK AT IT! LOOK! IT OPENS THE DOOR IF YOU TURN IT! ISN’T THAT NEAT? I WONDER HOW THAT ACTUALLY WORKS DO YOU SUPPOSE THERE’S A CAM OR WHAT? MAYBE ITS SOME KIND OF SPRING WINCH AFFAIR ALTHOUGH THAT SEEMS KIND OF UNWORKABLE.

There are many reasons that the whole post struck me. I recognized the way, when I’m tutoring writing, I have to wrench myself away from irrelevant tangents inspired by the student’s work. I recognize the way I couldn’t take notes in college. But it turns out that this scattershot approach can be effective in editing.

Science journals have strict rules about how to set various things. So, when I see “2 mm apart” I have to think about everything I know about those words/numbers. I have to consider whether 2 should be written out (not when it’s accompanied by a unit of measurement), whether mm should be written out (not when accompanied by a number), and whether it should be hyphenated (no). This is liberating for the ADD brain because I’m going to be thinking about the associations I have with each word/number anyway.

One of the things I’ve been trying to do over the past few months is to nail down the things in my brain that are ADD. It’s hard to separate ADD, anxiety, and depression because they are all interrelated. The clinical definitions don’t help, because they are generalized. And try to separate that from everything else in your brain and you have a big stinking mess. But this picture of what this person’s interior worldview captivates me. I know when I get like that. I know why I come home and DP has left bread in the toaster oven all day. This is what I need to remember, to embrace or guard against depending on the situation.

Averil asked a variation of this question months ago, but what does the interior of your brain look like?

Getting a Ph.D.

Cougar and I were talking about academia the other day and she asked me whether I wanted to get a Ph.D.

“Fuck, no,” was my considered response. But it was a fair question. I work on the outskirts of academia and have entered the adjuncting class. It’s hard to get a teaching job or respect in an academic setting if you don’t have a Ph.D. And I’ve edited some of those fuckers and I can safely say that the level of writing is within my grasp. (The level of writing is in my 17-year-old niece’s grasp too, but then she’s also a pretty good writer. Takes after her auntie.)

At one time I considered very briefly getting one as I saw my writing project opening up into a big huge mess of things I didn’t know. How would I find the time to learn all I needed to to write the book I wanted to write? But I knew better.

Writers are often like oil and water to Ph.D. programs. Would you rather study how a book works or write one yourself? For me it’s no contest. Or as Jim Harrison (?) said, I’m the bird, not the ornithologist.

One of DP’s favorite stories is the time he was chatting up some woman online (before he met yours truly, of course). Now DP is one of those people who retains everything he reads. He was channeled into gifted programs when he was a wee lad. In short, he’s pretty fucking smart.

“So, where did you get your Ph.D.?” the online woman asked after DP said something about his teaching job.

“I have an MFA in fiction.”

“Oh, that’s surprising,” the hussy said. “You’re too smart to be a writer.” He had a few choice words for her, and he found me a couple months later, so it all worked out for the best. But can you imagine? This woman hussy was studying literature.

But I’ve been thinking recently that The Fucker is my Ph.D. I do have an MFA, and I did put together a poetry manuscript. But it didn’t feel like I was assembling a book the way writing The Fucker does. It was just a collection of poems. Over time, the poetry manuscript has become a book, and I’ve learned a ton from writing the poems within it. But I’ve learned more from the memoir because it’s more difficult for me.

What do you have a Ph.D. in?


The Writing Process Blog Tour

Because I’m all anonymous and shit, I can’t tell you how I know Georgia Clark, but suffice it to say that when I heard her read the first chapter from Parched, the whole room was itchy and impatient to get their hands on the book, which wasn’t going to be out for a couple years. You, my friends, do not have to wait that long. She has invited me to do a blog tour (or she’s doing a blog tour, I dunno something about chain letters and my mom and terrible consequences, but since I don’t have to worry about that anymore, I’ve thrown caution to the wind) about the writing process.

What are you working on?

I’m writing a memoir. I hate saying that because memoirists are seen as self-obsessed. But have you met a writer? They’re/we’re all just clawing at our lives and experiences so hard just to get something to write about that I understand how we might come across as self-centered. I’ve been writing this blog just slightly longer than I’ve been writing the memoir, and it’s given me the strength to realize that, as a poet, I can write to the right edge of the page.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I’m anonymous, mate, what’s with all these questions? [Georgia is from Australia so I can use fancy Commonwealth terminology when responding to her questions.] The memoir (or as we call it around here, the fucker) is not just a memoir about losing my father. It’s also about understanding science as a nonscientist. I had lost sight of the bigger question, but it’s back. Thank god. I hated the previous version. (Whoa, that’s a lot more frank about my book than I usually am in these here anonymous parts.) So it’s not about grief, it’s not about childhood, it’s not about science, it’s about all of these things.

Why do you write what you do?

I would like to be a science writer and write arty slim volumes about [subject redacted] but I don’t understand this shit, I can’t focus long enough to get real research done, and I can’t write about it when I do, by some miracle, understand something. So I bounce around and include a bit of everything. I justify it by reading a bunch of Nick Flynn and calling myself a poet.

Short answer: because I can’t write about anything else.

How does your writing process work?

Guilt and procrastination sprinkled with a liberal lack of planning. I am a freelance copyeditor, so the only way I can justify blowing off an afternoon of work is to write. Or, if I’m not writing, I get whiny and bored with life. About the time my partner threatens to kill me, I decide to go write. Beats divorce, which is expensive and sad, or so I’m told. I should probably wash dishes/dust/weed my garden but I don’t want to. So I write. There was a long stretch in my life where the only thing that was going well was the writing. I try to honor the writing because of that. And because I love it. And because my life is infinitely less interesting without it.

I get Freedom (aka the best $10 I’ve ever spent, also introduced to me by the very same Georgia Clark), kick myself offline, and try to write as often as I think I can get away with it. I am not a person who plans ahead. I grab the time and I go. I don’t know what I’m writing about until I do it. I struggle with planning and I hate it. So I just write and revise, write and revise. This sounds messy, and it is. But I rely on ambition, drive, melodrama, and the ribbing of my writing friends to get through. And so far it is all keeping me afloat.

Now, my friends, I am passing this writing-process blog-tour baton to Sarah W., the killer of my work ethic (hurry up and finish your novel, I’m running out of shit to read); Lyra, author of the best novel you haven’t read yet but will; and Averil, whose book was so beautiful and scary I couldn’t put it down. Your turn.