On a new schedule! Two days of work (Mondays and Tuesdays) and then a stretch of days to focus on writing and finishing my novel.
My boss asked, “So uh, how’s your new schedule going?” I just replied, “Well. Lemons, lemonade you know. Going to use the extra time to finish my novel.” Which pretty much sums it up.
Going slow, but moving forward. One of the profs (a Famous Writer) in my former MFA program once told me that her husband, a Very Famous Poet said you just have to wait for inspiration on the steps. So you have to show up to write everyday. Sit on the steps, sweep the steps, but be there to meet the Muse. Sometimes the Muse doesn’t show up and sometimes she does. But if you’re not there, you’ll miss the Muse when she comes by.
So right now, that’s what I’m doing. Showing up to write and doing the work with or without inspiration. Meeting the Muse.
Writing a few hundred words a day some days, and a couple thousand other days. I have to remind myself to not get down on myself like I did while at Hedgebrook, when I would flagellate myself for NOT writing like the Famous Writer who would crow her word count at dinnertime for the day–“3,000 words! 5,000 words! Sucky day: only 2,000 words!” I was having a hard time because I set unrealistic expectations for myself, and then held myself to those unrealistic expectations. It broke me.
Now I go at my own pace, and a few hundred words is still just fine. And I won’t beat myself up into writer’s bloc. This is really the beginning of my writing discipline, something that I, if I am to be perfectly HONEST, have NEVER had. Not when I was in my MFA program, even, when I would slam out words but not consistently. I have never had a consisting writing regimen. So now I begin, and it feels good. (Now if only I could start doing this with workouts–maybe one discipline will stir up another)!
I’m also reading Roberto Bolano’s 2666, gifted to me by my fairy godmother (she is a real person, this fairy godmother–I’ve nicknamed one of my friends who has gifted me “necessary luxuries” like a place to stay in NY and 2666 in the past few months, my “fairy godmother”). It is AMAZING and EXACTLY the book I need to read right now. Early on in the novel, I stumbled onto a FOUR-PAGE-LONG-SENTENCE. It was extraordinary, and reminded me of a writing exercise that Aimee Bender once had us do in workshop: to write a 150 word long, grammatically correct, sentence. It was fun…but four pages I think is amazing. And I may do just that, as well. And there’s more: his shifting perspectives, the way in which the characters wander, and his complete confidence with his prose and with the narrative. I am being guided by a master.
Another friend, Nova, has inspired me to put everything I have into my novel. So often, I come up with a story idea or a scene and I partition it into a short story, separate of my novel, because I find it doesn’t fit “perfectly.” When she said that she has been funneling everything into her novel, it hit me: WHY DON’T I DO THE SAME? And so…now, when I have an idea for a scene in a bar or the image of food or whatever, I have been sticking it right into the novel, with some great delight and surprise.
I have discovered that it really all does go together. One afternoon, I found myself obsessing over the hurtful and confusing “feedback” from my boss. I’d sifted through and picked out the useful bits of his feedback but found myself drowning in the emotional sting. I stuck the sting into my novel. I stuck my boss’s words into the novel, and wove it into my character’s life…and it was such an illuminating experience. For me and for the character.
I shop in this way–I just buy what I like without a particular outfit in mind, and in the end, the outfits get created and the wardrobe has a theme, and it all goes together; in fact, it goes together in a unique way that doesn’t make me feel like I stepped out of a catalogue. And in fact, because I buy what I like, I’ll always wear them, and they’ll never go out of style, at least for me. So…WHY have I been so narrow minded and been doing the equivalent of shopping for only ONE thing, or WHOLE outfits each outing?
So that’s the setting in which I begin to fulfill my promise to myself. I am writing and finishing my novel.
I ask you to fulfill a promise to yourself, too. And do it with great urgency.