Mocking the Dogs

It’s freaking hot in my neck of the woods. My dogs have been lying around trying to move as little as possible. And because I’m mean, I make fun of them for being lazy.

“Is the poor Sophie uncomfortable?” I asked. “Does she have to raise her head to look at me? Oh her life is hard.” For some reason I like to mock my dog in the third person.

Meanwhile I haven’t moved from the couch in hours to do anything other than stare blankly at the interior of my fridge and ignore the stack of dishes in the sink. Maybe my dog (on her side, directly in the path of the window air conditioning) knows how much I have to do to get this damn book written.

When I was at a residency, I learned I can draft a chapter in a week. I am still working on those first two chapters. When I begin to despair (like I did about 15 minutes ago), I have to remind myself that I am working on later drafts, not vomit drafts.

My dogs are probably making fun of me now. “Look at her, staring at the glowing screen. What does she think about all day? Why doesn’t she sleep all the time like us? What good is writing? Get a real job, like at a butcher shop, where you can bring home leftovers.”

And speaking of real jobs, tonight is my first time adjuncting since the fall. I have reached a point, dear readers, where I am no longer nervous standing in front of people. If you told me that would be the case ten years ago, I would have fallen over with surprise.

Who is mocking you today?


Writing, Marriage, and Grief

Today Paul wrote about an Iris Murdoch quote.

“Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.”

Iris Murdoch
“The Sublime and the Good”

At the risk of feeling as if I were doing a school assignment, I would like to respond. It’s been a complicated few months at Fangs and Clause Central. We’re contemplating a move to greener woods, if not pastures, certainly a greener state. This is looking more and more like it’s going to happen. I am excited, terrified, and sorry to leave a few important things about my current life. The rest I will not miss.

I finished the latest edits on the Small Beer book. In order to do this I neglected the dishes, my spouse, and anything that didn’t involve some variation of googling the ABV of a weisse. There has been drama at Second Job. Suffice it to say when I make it to the end of the day, I have no desire to talk to anyone about anything.

But there is my spouse, and he is real. I love him. And so I have to at least make the effort to listen, talk, respond, and otherwise nurture my relationship when all I want to do is crawl into bed with a book, alone.

But more immediately Spouse just went to say goodbye to a friend. His best friend is dying of cancer. How does one support another person through that, especially when he grieves differently than I do? (We all grieve differently of course.)

For 48 hours I am alone in the house. I am only responsible for getting my own self fed, to work, and back home again. (There are some dogs I have to take care of, but they are not too bad, and they are usually happy.) I’m trying not to feel guilty at being relieved to be alone. Books pile up on the spouse’s side of the bed after only 24 hours. Today I would rather stay in bed than go to work, but I am up and around because I love parts of Second Job too.

Grief is coming. The only reward is that we also have love.

This is what my brain looks like

In the past half-hour, I have done the following things:

taped an old train schedule onto my work notebook for pretty decoration because I am 12

printed out an email from my friend R about an article we might be writing (R, are we writing it? I think so.)

did a little freewrite about poetry and math

checked my work schedule

read a good blog post about facebook and writers

tried to remember the famous lit crit guy who said he knew all about topology but mathematicians said he was full of shit*

*(A lit crit guy full of shit? I was as shocked as anyone)

The previous action was prompted by the scientists who won the Nobel Prize in physics. They worked on topology. I tried (and failed) to read the Wikipedia article on topology.

went back to the internet and stared blankly at the tab. What the fuck was I about to look up? Oh yeah. Hurricane Matthew.

How’s your torrential stream of consciousness these days?

Not Writing

I’ve never been so happy to not be writing. This summer did me in. Wake up, work, edit, edit, edit, edit, write, rewrite, cry, deal with nonwriting things. I did none of these things well. My physical environment and my interpersonal relationships are still feeling the effects of all that writing and neglecting things that weren’t writing.

I have a shred more patience for humanity. Spouse and I had a very short but calm conversation about the State of Our Lives—you know, the kind of conversation that can easily lead to angry tears. I anticipate a few more conversations of that nature. Side note: Living with people is really difficult.

For the first time in probably twenty years, I feel no guilt for not writing. I finished The Fucker for now. It’s in someone else’s hands. It’s time for me to pick up the pieces. I fill my time working Second Job, planning my class, walking a dog or two, and cooking. I can play Wildwood Flower (slowly) on the banjo. I’m obsessing about organization/planner for the semester.

What do you do when you don’t write?


Writers are unloved puppies. After years of beating their head against their tired laptops they venture a few sheets of paper or electronic documents out into the world. Sometimes they receive a cool, “no.” But other times they receive some constructive feedback and a challenge to push a particular thought further.

I submitted a wee little essaylet or blog post, I’m not sure, to a place I have been published in the past. The editor wrote back and said he liked the premise, but wanted me to work on a part of it. I put a professional-sounding tone to it, but I practically fell on his hand weeping in gratitude for one morsel of encouragement and engagement with my work.

I’m here! Notice me! Read my work! Love me! Mark up my work! I am your spaniel, I am your doormat.

Hiro in bed cropped

Saturday is the New Monday


Being a freelancer on an academic calendar means that Thanksgiving week is a blur of family and daily attempts (and failures on my part) to do work.

But now everyone has gone home and I am delighted to be back at my little desk, even on a Saturday morning, looking at a possibly rainy day, gearing up to do a little writing work.

I had to cancel NanoReviseMo in order to get my poetry book updated to 2015 standards to submit to a contest, but I think I will restart revising next week.


I see pictures of perfectly laid out tables, everything pristine before the guests come. There is a concept I’ve heard of. Table decorations? This is not how we do things at Fangs and Clause Central. No, ma’am.

If you come early, you’re given a beverage of your choice and put to work. If you come on time, you’re given a beverage of choice and urged to eat appetizers. If you come fashionably late, I’m too involved in getting food where it needs to be to offer you a drink. But I usually can manage a hug.


The problem with a friendly delicious Thanksgiving is that it doesn’t make a good story. Little Bruno (who is a friend dog) didn’t even get into the cheese dip this year. We had no obviously racist guests, no family fights, DP and I didn’t even manage to fight. Awkward Sister was only somewhat awkward. And the best example of that is small enough to not make a good story.

(Socratic learning does not work on 40-year-olds in their own house. Never say, “there, isn’t it nice to have [random surface] all neat and organized?” to your youngest sister. For she will stare blankly back at you and say, “Sure, I guess” in a tone that means I don’t fucking care. If I did care, the entry table would be neat and organized at all times.)

The real scandal happened off screen in a neighbor fight of epic proportions. But it’s too real and sad and irritating to write about here.

Tell me about your scandals. Did you make it through Thanksgiving unscathed?

High Tonight, Low Tomorrow. Precipitation Is Not Expected.

Shrink: How’s your concentration?

Indy Clause (pausing to consider that she can’t concentrate enough on her mood to even answer the question): Fair to middling.

Shrink: Is your lack of concentration causing you problems?

Indy Clause: I feel as if it’s situational lack of concentration.

Shrink stares patiently at Indy, waiting for her to explain.

Indy: I mean, I just went to a big writing conference. I made some new friends and one of them in particular has been feeding me a lot of opportunities. Actually, she’s my friend from grad school, not one of my new friends [barely restrains herself from telling Shrink four more stories about her new friends]. And my reader just sent my book back to me [barely restrains herself from telling Shrink three stories about her manuscript and/or her beta reader], so I want to work on that. And I have actual paying work to do. [Falls silent.] [Reflects on the fact that she’s sounding more ADD than usual.]


I have no idea how talk therapists deal with writers. I once had a therapist who asked me how I felt about being an orphan. “Oh it’s romantic. Positively Victorian!” He stopped me right in my tracks. “What about the concept rather than the word?” Oh. That man was worth his weight in pre-tax healthcare savings account dollars.


But why should I suffer alone? Here is some of the fantastic stuff I’ve been reading in my headlong rampage across the Internet. I first read Vanessa Martir’s account of AWP, where white male writers were stepping over a black man lying on the ground outside the men’s bathroom. Then I found her blog. And writing tips.

I have discovered places to submit researchy nonfiction [Management: Yes, that’s a term.]

CougarSon is not the bratty adoring and adorable boy I grew up with anymore. He is now a man with a family and a Ph.D., and we’re facebook friends. I like reading his links to long intellectual pieces about race and politics. CougarSon is interested in politics, but I got caught up in the discussion of Cornell West and scholarly writing in the middle of the article.

Here is the song referenced in the title.


What’s been distracting you recently?