I like using the word “notes.” It lends dignity to what really is just a jumble of random thoughts that I (and maybe you?) find interesting.
I am a freelancer and a temporary serial bachelor. My spouse is getting a degree in Good Works in a different part of the state and is gone two days out of the week. Sometimes this means I eat complicated bean and rice dishes with fresh salsa. [Spouse is a person of excellent taste (especially in women), but his views on Mexican food are disappointing to say the least.] Other times I eat cheese toast and pretend it’s healthy.
Baked food is the freelancer’s friend. You assemble something and then
get some work done write a blog post while it cooks. I am a fan of roasted chickpeas, baked eggs (which dispose of many and various leftovers), and roasted vegetable hash (with eggs or meat depending on what you have; fish is also amazing).
It’s been a difficult fall. Personal upheaval. Minor, but persistent, inconveniences. Two workshops to present each week. Everything has calmed down, except the workshops, but even so I had a freelance job evaporate in a particularly startling matter last week.
But I am writing again and clearly eating. I’m still married. My dogs are alive. My house is standing. The wood is stacked. Yesterday I made my first one-match woodstove fire of the season.
The beavers moved in and turned my stream into a pond, which has been a pretty fascinating process. Fortunately the stream is at the bottom of a ravine, so the rising water does not affect the house or yard. We now have ducks and I’ve been seeing a great blue heron too, which is lovely. It turns out that beavers whistle at sunset and sunrise.
What have you learned this fall?
My book and I are in an unhappy relationship. Well, I’m unhappy anyway. I don’t like to look at it. I have to work on it in my notebook or printed out because I can’t look at the manuscript on my computer without feeling ill.
Its familiarity bores me. And the part that I haven’t figured out frustrates and enrages me. I’d consider divorce, but I ain’t no quitter. (I’ve always hated “I’m not a quitter” as an argument, as if doing something that punishes your health and sanity is worth preserving your identity as a not quitter.)
But I’ve put a certain number of years into this relationship and quite a bit of work. I used to be in love with the book. Obsessed. And today I saw a little glimmer of humor and then emotion that moved me to a long-forgotten moment of tenderness. Aw, little book, you’re not so bad after all.
I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.
My hometown’s name has become synonymous with white nationalist violence. On the zillionth readthrough of The Fucker, I realized I had to write about it even though the most recent famous act of violence happened years after the events in my book.
First I surveyed my friends from elsewhere. “Everyone outside my hometown considers Hometown to be the site of racist violence, right?”
Yes. Yep. Sorry, but yes. That’s where the tiki-wielding neo Nazis were, right?
I’m writing about science and other more memoir-y stuff. It is tempting to think that race is irrelevant to my book. But that would be wrong. Everything about how I lived my life in Hometown was dictated by the fact that I am white. It affected how I was treated and perceived. It affected my educational path and thus my future/present.
(And if you don’t believe me, just ask the equally bright kids of different backgrounds who were my peers in elementary school, but whom work in the college cafeteria.)
My father would not have been a professor if he had been born black. A black man born in his place or time with his abilities might have been a mechanic or a tradesperson of some kind. And I would have grown up with a different background and other things to write about.
White nationalist violence has occurred in my hometown and in the rest of the country for a long time. I read somewhere that white people make all their choices of where they live, socialize, worship, and work based on race. And I think that’s true for most of us. It’s just a matter of recognizing it.
How does race affect your life?
I am truly appalled by the fetishization of fall that occurs on my stationery/bujo/notebook-habit instagram account. I don’t know why I should expect more, however.
I spelled stationery two ways, but had it right the first time. Go me!
In spite being in thrall to Japanese paper that does not show gel pen marks on the other side of the paper, or the verso if we’re being fancy, I have not fallen into the fad of buying All the Stationery. Mostly this is because I am not flush at the moment. Although Kokuyo paper is cheap and lovely.
I had to look up verso too, because I always get recto and verso confused.
I am a total fraud.
Even so, I am going back to school tomorrow. I haven’t been in front of a classroom in two years, but cooler heads promise me that the ability to teach college students to write doesn’t disappear entirely.
I have been assured that these college students often feel like total frauds themselves. I’m going to make them write about their writing fears, and then I’m going to make them talk about their fears in front of others. I will talk about my own writing fears. I no longer fear that I cannot write, rather I feel I cannot write enough or that I will look stupid. They are also worried about looking stupid. We will be in good company.
What do you fear about writing and/or fall?
The addition of a red-headed demon to my household. Her name is Alice and she is a puppy.
I’ve sworn a dread promise to myself upon my arrival to cannot-deny-it middle age to work on my book every day (except when I have visitors or other extenuating
sisters circumstances) or at least every weekday. So far, so good.
The fact that my authors provided no volume, issue, or page numbers in any of their 51 references
The need to write a few more poems about space for an upcoming reading
Feeling of futility of complaining about my privileged editorial lifestyle when my own country is locking children and adults in camps for trying to flee oppression and violence largely caused by my own country
Why aren’t you writing?
Writing Crash: I came back from my residency, which consisted of six full days of me working my brains out, and dived into an editorial project. Then I drove over the mountains to Second Job and hosted people. I have a new write-together group. On Monday morning I met with them, wrote my brains out, managed (just barely) not to express my undying love for all of them for giving me the space to write, and then spent the rest of the day in bed. Never underestimate the importance of a day/afternoon off after intense work.
A Thing: In writing editorial notes for a friend’s project, I said, “This brings up the idea of [heroine’s relationship to intergalactic gargle blasters]. I don’t know if that is A Thing. But if it is, it could be interesting.” And as I reread the notes I imagined someone saying, “Indy! You’re a writer! Words are your business! Surely you can do better than A Thing!”
I really hate it when people post “I did a thing” about things that are important, like writing a book. I know it’s casually understated, but it still annoys me. Claim your work. But one of the things that keeps copyeditors from being raging assholes in real life (mostly) is work-life balance. Do not be that nitpicking person all of the time.
I was giving my writer friend a lot of feedback. I had to quasi apologize, quasi explain about a comment I had made because I was afraid she would think I was insulting her. (I wasn’t, and she didn’t think I was.) “A Thing” became shorthand for “a theme that might be interesting and significant to develop.” Writing is communicating, and she understood what I was saying.
Threes: Humans love lists of threes. No one wants to hear about the weather or my cheerfully scandalous lawn. There are robins and last night I heard a barred owl. The cows have moved back in to the pasture next door, and yesterday Poodlehead stared them down. This year she did not bark at them. But they stared back. I don’t know what was going through any of their fuzzy heads.
(Also I am horrified, depressed, and upset about the new abortion ban and it’s complete disregard for personal autonomy. How to help here and here.)
What are you trying to communicate these days?
Someone somewhere (you come here for my incisive grasp of facts, right?) said that it takes ten years to become an expert (or was it just a professional?) in writing. Including my first creative nonfiction class, I’m in my tenth year of writing prose.
I’m on the last full day of my week-long writing residency, and although I miss my spouse and dog, the idea of leaving my little writing studio makes me want to cry. I’m surrounded by practicing artists and writers. The other night, an older poet walked into a room where a younger poet had laid out her manuscript on a conference table.
The older poet casually listed all the techniques a poet can use to figure out how to organize a poetry manuscript. Then she went upstairs to bed. The rest of us just stared at each other in awe and appreciation.
“I mean, she’s been doing this, for what? 30, 40 years?” the younger poet said. “That’s deep practice.”
I’ve gotten so much done this week because I know what needs to be done. Not exactly and not all of the time, but overall. There is so much more to do, of course. But I think for the first time in the [mumble/cry] years I have been working on the Fucker, I have truly been able to see it like a reader rather than a writer.
What have I learned that I think advanced writers need to know? Stay tuned. Or possibly visit my real-life persona blog if that information is available to you.
[This post was drafted a few days ago. I am home now. I survived reentry. Thank you, Paul, for urging me to post.]