I keep learning - life is rarely one or the other thing. Almost invariably it is both. Opposite ideas walk side by side down twin corridors. The corridors are separate. The ideas, opposite ideas, live separately. Joy keeps pace with sorrow - all of it simultaneous but strangely apart. So much interior, but we aren’t split in two, even what we hold in total secrecy, privacy the more polite the notion. We relegate and move forward. No wonder then the madness of life. In the middle of the happiest moments we are struck with grief, ineffable (whether by choice, convention, or requirement) but present. Just like the mourner who stares at a casket and inwardly smiles. It’s not one thing. Unlikely to be clear, ever to be clear.
Novels fall flat (to me) when intentions of the writer are made too clear. Clarity is best left for windshields and those needing steering. Clarity isn’t the same as honesty when you take to your work. Honesty traverses twin corridors as well. Honesty is harder than clarity, because it rests with the responder, and response may vary. Allegory interests me but it supposes so much. Commonality is all around, but so is staggering diversity.
In pursuit of characters full and round, falling back on what we think we know never works. It is easier to write the extremes, harder to hack out a center space. It’s all that interests me right now.
It’s odd work lately, an ongoing conversation with nobody but myself. I feel hollow as a straw.
I edited 30,000 words for a client the other day in five hours. I raced through the text with an objective to fix the obvious errors and not get hung up on the rest. Just fix the big problems, make it easy on yourself.
Funny how our own work becomes so precious. Can’t make a rash change because that could be genius you are throwing away. It isn’t. It’s the same extra junk everyone is guilty of it. The same nonsense of loving the sound of your own voice.
At the end of November 2009, I started writing what turned into a very intense and intricate novella. I did seven complete, tedious revisions. I worked, reworked, added, cut until I liked it, a lean animal. The whole thing moves fast, takes the reader to staggering ending. The first time I read the ending my arm hairs stood. I couldn’t believe I wrote it.
I set the work aside in May of 2010, as my life tumbled forward. I started working on an unexpected project that became urgent, that took my energy. Between June and November I wrote the bulk of what is a full length, hybrid manuscript.
I threw myself into this work. I wanted only to work. I thought maybe I could get a residency, and edit the two works in tandem. They were linked. Dialectics. I thought it would be perfect. I bordered on arrogant. I’ve got this, I figured. I have two good manuscripts that simply need polished.
On December 1, 2010, some asshole broke into my car while I was parked at work. They stole my laptop, and I lost a lot of work. Some I had, poorly labeled. Some I had printed. I didn’t know. It hurt too badly to see what I’d lost. I couldn’t even go through it. I did an experiment with aleotoricism at this time just to stop myself from thinking about it. I floundered. Whatever arrogance I had, or even confidence, eroded.
2011 was odd. I wrote, of course, but all the writing was heavy. I didn’t dig in with the same enthusiasm. I developed complex strategies of procrastination. I deliberately wrote in a false voice, because what if I lost it again? Then I’d only be losing stuff I didn’t care about the same way. I did small, self-contained projects, experiments on structure. Lots of things.
A few weeks ago I finally got a new laptop. I decided it was time. I located all the work I could, cobbling together old thumb drives, emailed copies, anything. It’s the first time I could look at in in earnest.
Today, I compiled a working draft of the novella I completed and revised in 2010. I lost several complete revisions, and can only guess at what I changed. I have the first, second, and fourth drafts, at least. And the seventh draft of the first and tenth chapters. It is only a quarter long than the behemoth I edited in five hours flat the other day. I could edit for that client so ruthlessly because of detachment. And strangely, after the year of transition that 2011 proved, I can detach from my own work.
Not completely, but maybe enough. And on reading the end again, the arms hair thing. I think that is why I keep going with this, this process of fingertips to keyboard, and hours spent combing over words.
It won’t take five hours. I’ll give myself a week. The eighth revision of this thing. Then, I’ll print it out and let it live with its brothers and sisters on the shelf.