writing


Random quote of the day:

“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.”

—Jules Renard, Journal, 10 April 1895

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“Every novelist ought to invent his own technique, that is the fact of the matter. Every novel worthy of the name is like another planet, whether large or small, which has its own laws just as it has its own flora and fauna. Thus, Faulkner’s technique is certainly the best one with which to paint Faulkner’s world, and Kafka’s nightmare has produced its own myths that make it communicable. . . . The work of art itself. . . is the solution to the problem of technique.”

—François Mauriac, La Table Ronde magazine, August 1949

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“While the novelist is banging on his typewriter, the poet is watching a fly in a windowpane.”

—Billy Collins, The Paris Review, Fall 2001, No. 159

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

I haven’t written much in the last three weeks. I allowed myself to get distracted by my mother’s memoirs (and I do mean allowed). Then late Sunday night I came down with either a stomach virus or a bad case of food poisoning and have pretty much felt like I was run over by truck all week. But if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit I’ve been on a writing vacation. (Screwing off, in other words.) I’m finally starting to feel human again, health-wise, so I’m rapidly running out of excuses not to write. I need to just hunker down and do it.

I’m about 80k into the novel I’ve been working on. That sounds way the hell more impressive than it actually is because this novel is basically stitching together a bunch of pre-written stories. However, I’d say about 25k of that is new writing. I’ve gotten to the part of the novel where the pre-written material has mostly been used (there’s one more story for near the finale). I’ve completed chunks of partially written stuff and done substantial stitching together. My last bit of serious writing before flaking off was finishing a barely-begun story that had been sitting on my hard drive for years, than slotting it into place. It felt really good. I liked that section so much I even considered ripping it out and marketing it. But it doesn’t really work as a standalone story. It works quite well in the context of the novel framework, so I’ll just leave things be.

Finishing that was an important for me. I’d completed a couple of stories late last year—the first I’d finished in years, and real milestones on the road to recovery from writers’ block. But they weren’t great stories, more like stretching exercises after a long time of sitting idle. But they were finished, and they were stories. The one I just completed inside the novel was solid work. It will have to be edited, et al., in the larger context of the novel, but it was a substantial thing. It had always been a linchpin story in the greater context of the world I created here, but it had existed in my mind, not in actual writing. That was also true of other stories I had to complete for this project, but this one a big deal for me.*

Now I’ve arrived at another story I’ve needed to complete for some time—the last before the big push to the end. I always knew it was going to be the hardest to write. I’ve poked at it a little and edited out some superfluous material, but I’ve mostly been like a horse shying at a jump. I know myself as a writer well enough to understand that part of the reason I’ve shied away is because it was going to be difficult to write. I just didn’t want to go there and had to wait for my psyche/right brain/whatever-the-hell to build up its nerve. (This is a totally unconscious process, by the way, and has to work itself out in the back brain.) So, the time has arrived to get over myself, jump the hurdle, and get on with it.

The good news in all of this, is that I’ve started to tell myself stories again after a long while of nothing. I’ve got new ideas on the back burner wanting to be written and decent enough that I want to write them. (And by stories I’m afraid I mean novels. I don’t seem to be able to write anything short to save my life.) Also today, the end scene of the current novel popped into my brain fully formed, so that’s a very good sign. (I’d been vaguely aiming at a last line before this time.)

It feels good, it feels like I’m a writer again. I’ve even started to take it a little for granted which I haven’t done in a very, very long time. I don’t want to take it too much for granted because I know quite painfully how easily it can be taken away from me again.

By my own psyche, of course, but we’re always our own worst enemies, aren’t we?

 

 

*For those familiar with my Dos Lunas cycle of stories, Ramona finally got hers.

Random quote of the day:

“Clichés are the cockroaches of language. We may sneer, but they will outlive us.”

—Joyce Carol Oates, Twitterfeed, 3/3/14

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“I don’t know what it means and I don’t care because it’s Shakespeare and it’s like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words.”

—Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Yesterday I spent nearly four hours transcribing my mother’s memoir. It’s a huge job, the bulk of which I did years ago, but I’d printed it out at a certain point with lots of footnotes asking Mom questions about things. She dutifully went through everything, often answering questions, sometimes not. Those answers are what I’ve been transcribing.

I’ve felt a pressure to get this done lately so I can pass it on to interested parties in the family—or outside. I even dreamed about it the other night. After talking to a 90-year-old relative yesterday (still perky and independent, thank the gods) it hit home profoundly that Old Time, she’s a-flying. So, I took a break from my own writing to concentrate on this.

My mom had a remarkable life in her not-quite-94 years, ranging from cattle drives and log cabins to Rosie the Riveter to the digital age and voting for the first African American president. She has a lively stream of consciousness writing style. Her sense of humor and spunk come through clearly, her sense of adventure and fun and unself-conscious grit. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but sometimes it’s frustrating. She’ll toss out stuff like going to see big bands at the Aragon Ballroom during World War II and I’ll ask her to tell me more about it: what did the ballroom look like, what did the people wear, what did the bands play, what kind of crowd was there, etc. All the telling details that make a scene come alive. Sometimes she’ll go into more detail, sometimes I can tell she’s bugged by my questions and she’ll write things like, “It was a long time ago. I don’t remember.” Or worse, “It was just an ordinary ballroom.”

Because, of course, for her it was just an ordinary ballroom. It was hard for her to conceive of the fact that people don’t live like that anymore. Sometimes when I’d point that out to her, she’d perk up and go into nice, rich detail. But not always. My questions, I think, were sometimes a chore to her.

I keep repeating to myself as I transcribe, “She’s the writer, not me. It’s not the way I would have approached it, but this is her memoir, not mine.” And she wasn’t striving for a literary work, just a walk down memory lane to share with me and whoever else might want to read it. I’ve tried to leave things as she relayed them. On a couple of occasions when her memories overlapped mine and she’d resisted my requests for more detail, I’ve filled in the blanks trying to match her style, but I’ve kept that to a minimum. Her story, her words.

The vast majority of this was before her stroke, before the incredible time and energy suck of caregiving. Before the long, slow slide of my grief years, before I could face a project like this. Years.

After the stroke, my mom’s mind was still lively (thank the gods) and her memories intact, but her vision was seriously impaired. Her handwriting, always somewhat of a challenge, got more challenging as time went by. But still she persisted—and so do I.

I got almost all of the footnote answers transcribed. And near the end, when my own end was going numb and my stomach was growling and I thought it was time to stop for the day, I came across several more handwritten pages. More material, untranscribed. Some of it must have been written years past, long before the stroke. Others were clearly after, getting on towards the last years. I tried reading those, and it’s going to be touch and go, frankly. I didn’t despair at finding new work. I grieved that she was no longer around to clarify things, to ask for more details, to be bugged by my questions.

But that’s the ephemeral nature of existence. I’ll do my best with Mom’s legacy. I know in my heart she appreciates what I’ve already done.

But Old Time, she’s a-flying.

Random quote of the day:

“I am not really a writer. I am just someone who is haunted, and I will write the hauntings down.”

—Janet Frame, quoted in her obituary, The Telegraph, 30 January 2004

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.”

—Neil Gaiman, Keynote Address, University of the Arts, May 17, 2012

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The distinction between revision and writing is kind of arbitrary because when I’m writing I am obviously revising. And when I revise, I’m writing, aren’t I? I love William Matthews’s idea—he says that revision is not cleaning up after the party; revision is the party! That’s the fun of it, making it right, getting the best words in the best order.”

—Billy Collins, The Paris Review, Fall 2001, No. 159

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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