Go ahead, ask me how the whole nanorevisemo bullshit is going. Badly. Thank you so much for bringing it up. How’s the writing? It’s great!
For reasons too complicated and tenuous to explain, I have dived back into my poetry MS for the first time in many years. It’s pathetic how long it has been since I’ve shown it some real love.
But for the past two days I have been thinking about imagery, sound, a few lines that I don’t have to explain to fucking death. I don’t need to establish this person as a character, I can just call her “you” and add a few details about the landscape and maybe some stars. Yeah, stars!
Things are small and easy to break. The problems are big but the solutions are smaller. Have I said too much or not enough?
What are your problems today?
I live at a crossroad. When my attention falters, I can watch the lights turn and fire trucks rush through the intersection. I live on the edge, where Town turns into Fancy Town, and the road between them is scenic. As such, I often see very fancy cars driving through my intersection as a break between the more plebian, boring cars and the rushing fire trucks.
I have never had anyone offer a guitar for my soul at these crossroads, but it could be that I’m never out at the right time. Maybe my dog scares off the devil. He’s pretty cute; I imagine the devil doesn’t hold with cute.
My manuscript is not at the crossroad. It is on a long state road in Illinois. It’s too green to be truly Midwestern bleak, and it’s too flat to sing to my mountainous heart. But if I keep going, I might finish. And that keeps my attention.
Actually this extended metaphor is both a procrastination technique and a way to admit to the semi-anonymous universe that I think Porsches are insanely beautiful cars. But I still want the 1960s Bug.
How’s your path through the wilderness?
This weekend I gave a panel about science, science fiction, and poetry with my newest poet buddy. We went back and forth, each of us reading a poem and then the other. This is a surprising form for two people who had not met each other before planning this panel, but it worked. Our poems spoke to each other in weird and interesting ways, and by the end I felt as if we had done something immense together. Our audience may not have felt this way, but I don’t really care.
We talked about how there is stigma about all three of these subjects. Strangers are liable to tell you they hate any of those fields without being seen as rude, or anyway, in the writing world I’ve had people say all of those things to me. But we fucking embraced them, embraced what we knew and what we didn’t know. Fuck my early morning chemistry class, which was hell on earth when I was 16 years old. Now that I’m forty-nothing, I’ve read Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table, where chemistry is made beautiful. I’ve moved beyond my high school trauma.
But so many people don’t intellectually speaking. They take their eleven-year-old self’s fear of being seen as different and they apologize for liking Star Trek. These rigid categories play out on a nationalist stage. You’re either with us or against us. You either accept us completely or not at all. Nuance is dead.
I do not want to impinge on anyone’s personal grief. But nationalism is one of the most dangerous political forces I see. Do we remember Bush Jr. trying to justify his attack on Iraq by saying, “They tried to kill my dad”? A president risks his life, unfortunately. If I could bomb anyone for slights or threats in the line of my professional life, there would be not a lot standing.
Going back to my wretched manuscript, I have a frame now. My frame is wrapped up in geekery. And I don’t fucking care. It’s my landscape, and I’m claiming it. But personally speaking and not nationalistically. Fuck. I’m going back to revision. I’m no good at politics.
What do you embrace?
The number of words I should revise by tomorrow in order to keep up with my revision goals: 35,000
The number of words I have revised as of 10:42 a.m.: 33,599
Whiny emails sent to my partner in revision since the beginning of the month: 27
Whiny emails sent to me from my partner in revision: 24
Robocalls this week offering me a cruise to the Bahamas: 2
Number of times I have believed that hanging up after hearing the word, “Congratulations! You have won…” has lost me a free cruise: 0
Orange leaves on my neighbor’s tree: Fewer than there used to be
Papers ungraded: 2
Favorite recent books that I’ve read: If the Oceans Were Ink and Bell Weather
Awareness that the above does not include a number: 100%
What are you counting?
The rain is pissing down and the wind sounds like waves. My office window faces north and so gets the brunt of the weather. Right now my neighbor’s tree is a wet orange blur and the window frame creaks in the wind. Classic bleak New England. One of my friends used to live in Taos and talked about how it was hard to get anything done in the relentlessly clear days.
I don’t want to leave the house, not even for coffee. And that’s good because I’ve got a paper to edit, student papers to grade, and 2500 words to revise. What’s it like where you are?
Everything’s wrong. I have a cup of coffee, a quiet room, some bluegrass, a spooky graveyard that I can see from my office window. Everything should be fine, but it isn’t. I hate writing. I’m going to give up. But not until I finish this fucking month of revising. I’ve checked facebook twenty times and trolled a couple of websites looking for clothing I don’t have the need or funds to buy. I read a review of a book that I love.
I drag my eyes back to the manuscript. The transition between the chapters are total shit. Maybe there is someplace else in the chapter I can start? No, not really. Fuck writing. I’m going to go rake leaves. Wait, one idea. What if I put the next chapter before the current shit-show chapter? Oh. That works! It continues the theme of the previous chapter, but goes into more depth. Cool. There is a gradual cessation of pain. I find the will to keep on living and writing.
What keeps you going?
I forget how much I love this time of year. Everywhere I look I see my favorite colors, the deep red of the Japanese maple (70% of why I bought this house), light orange leaves all over my lawn, dusty purple asters, the smoky light of early morning.
I am restless, unsettled by some low-level resentment and irritation at my Second Job. So much of the overall structure of the Place of Employ is total bullshit. But there are things I find highly rewarding about the job. Yesterday, killing 15 minutes, in the adjunct office (no windows, two other people), one of my colleagues printed out his own little textbook, an introduction to logic, for me. I have emotional dissonance when I think about the Place of Employ. I’ve been working for myself for too long.
I’ve been happy about my revision efforts. But not today. Today I hate the MS. Nanorevisemo waits for no woman. I have 2500 words to revise today. I ended a section suddenly yesterday in a new place, but it seemed right. Now I have to start section two. I have some words written, they just need to be focused and interesting.
No problem. Right?
What causes you emotional dissonance?