It’s been a weird little January. Ever since I went freelance, January has been a month of writing and editing, because my academic Second Job is on break. I think it was two Januaries ago that I did some major book work, which was great. This January has been the Small Beer book.
If it weren’t for the destruction of the progressive image of this country, I would be fine. On the one hand, now that the veil has been removed, it is obvious to the mainstream that there are deep inequalities and abuses that this nation has not atoned for. One of my friends was born in Germany right after WWII. He talks about the deep shame of knowing that his male relatives, people he loved, had been Nazis. He almost moved to Israel to work on a kibbutz to atone.
The governor of Maine said that John Lewis should thank him, a white Republican, for what the white men (Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, etc.) did to free the slaves. I laughed until I cried. White America has never reckoned with the impact and reverberations of slavery the way Germany has with the holocaust. Nor have we (for I am part of white America too) acknowledged the ways in which we have benefited and perpetrated white supremacy. I used to think I was off the hook because my family didn’t own slaves. But I know as a white woman I move in a privileged space.
I’m rarely considered to be a criminal, uneducated, or poor (at least now that I don’t dress like a grunge waif). My being in a room or a group is rarely considered a political act. My friend S. once said that every time she walks into a room, people have an opinion of her as an African American, a woman, and a writer. That is a weight I rarely feel.
I’ve gotta keep thinking, keep working, keep meeting new people. What questions should I be asking?
I bought myself a fake traveler’s notebook with some Christmas money. I finally succumbed. There is a leather cover and four elastics that hold notebooks that you can switch out. There is also a cult following. It’s not a cult, I swear. Ignore my swirling eyes.
I like it because I can carry a weekly planner; a work notebook, which includes teaching notes if I’m teaching, and editing notes if I’m editing; and a writing notebook in which I can put all the stuff I’m writing. (And you can get decorated notebooks and/or put stickers on your notebooks, and put your fancy new rooster card for the Chinese New Year in a clear pocket, and yes, I’m twelve. OK? OK.)
I know you don’t care about my stationery obsessions (except for those of you who do). The point of this post is that my writing notebook is pretty empty. I have a few notes for an article I’m not ready to write. I’ve some thoughts on restructuring the Fucker. I have a few desolate stanzas. And one journal entry.
I’ve been writing almost every day, but it’s been the Small Beer Book. I think this writing is good for my overall writing skills. And I’m getting to be gently snarky, Indy at half-mast. This ultimately good for all of my poetry and nonfiction. However, I have not been thinking critically about what I am doing writingwise and where I am going. I’ve been getting to the computer and writing my X number of words a day and then fainting on the couch from overwork. (I may exaggerate slightly.)
I think one of the hardest things about being a professional writer, by which I mean all of us who write and submit and publish and despair at any level, is recognizing the ebb and flow of our work. There are times for planning, times for writing, times for editing, times to let the field grow fallow.
What mixed metaphor are you?
Yesterday I sent the first half of Small Beer Book (thanks, Paul, for the new working title) to the editor. It was freeing. I didn’t have to worry whether it was the best-written piece of prose I have ever wrought. I was pretty sure it was pretty well written and there is an editor (an editor!) who will look at it and make sure I don’t embarrass myself.
Wait, it gets better. I was reasonably sure I put an umlaut on “marzen” beer (not sure how to do that here, SjG, are you reading?) every single time it appeared. But you know what? It didn’t matter, because there is a copyeditor who’s going to fix that for me. A copyeditor who isn’t me!
This writing shit is awesome. Why did no one tell me? Oh, right, it’s because we’re all creative writers laboring for no money, no fame, and no glory.
After this, I’m going to go back to editing, I’m going to start writing the second half of Small Beer Book (but not today), and I’m going to (gulp) go back into the Fucker, the big beer of my writing life, and make it better.
What’s your small beer?
I’m face to face with a deadline. It’s going to rainsnow tonight. The Glossary of Meteorology has yet to include rainsnow (or maybe rainsnowlocusts) in its list of words, but maybe it should. I’m suffering a batch of ill health, which means my cheese grits/creole seafood dinner that I was promised is definitely not going to happen tonight. (Wah!)
However, all is not lost, because I remembered the list of banned words! This is the best thing since The Hater’s Guide to Williams-Sonoma. Both are annual occasions made for the hater within us all. I just reread the W-S one and it made me feel better enough that I ate a (cheap Trader Joe’s) cracker.
What are your first world problems?
What if one were to blow up one’s life, in a figurative sense, and move a few states over to a place of rivers, mountains, and progressives? What would it be like to live in a village? When is a person too old to try to make friends?
What keeps a person tied to a place? It’s not that I love the town I live in. There are many things I like about my life, and Second Job is a delightful mix of comforting and infuriating.
What if it were a short-term scenario, a few years, with a very specific goal in mind? The adventurous part of me says Yes, just do it!! But the rest of me thinks about how much damn physical and emotional work it is to move, to try new things, to look for another Second Job. But of course I can edit from anywhere.
When is enough enough?
- Our country is turning into a not-very-funny Simpson’s episode.
- We are watching a Holocaust in Aleppo.
- It’s the end of the semester and I can no longer think.
- As the goat demons of Sauron are my witness, I am going to get to the page today.
- (I don’t really believe in the goat demons of Sauron.)
Here’s some Patti Smith to cheer you up/bring you down/remind you to defeat the goat demons, whatever their form.
I’m writing a small book about beer. What I know about beer mostly fits into a pint, so I am reading like mad to learn the things I should know already. So much has been written about beer that I have to figure out how to make the content my own (and conveniently to avoid plagiarism). So in keeping with the style of the book series and to my own proclivities I’m writing a book that I’m calling (to myself) A Small Book of Beer Sass. Indy has come into her own, although I’ll be writing it under my real name.
There are other things that I need to write, including a possible revision of The Fucker. But this one is going to get me a few dollars to last me through January. It does not bother me that The Small Book of Beer Sass is going to be a very light read. It is frivolous by nature. It will be funny and (I hope) well written. It’s a job and (I hope) I will get paid.
The other writing is harder. I hate our current political world and I hate the depressive effect of the morning news. Rage can warm me up and get me to the page, but I falter. What do I know? One relatively privileged person? But the answer is not not to write. That idea is as ugly as the double negative.
I’ve been struggling to write political poems since graduate school. It’s hard to incorporate politics into poems. Is it too topical? Too ranty? How much explanation is needed? Anna Akhmatova wrote about pine trees with raised boughs, or were they people, rising up. Forgive me [grad school professor redacted], I’m too lazy to look up the actual poem now.
I know what Toni Morrison said about the role of the artist. But what does that mean to those of us who have astronomically fewer readers and less intellectual and writing power? What does that mean to the everyday artist who is struggling to get to the page?
How do you get to the page?