Sunday, January 17, 2010

timoune from the tree

"Oh, Gods
Oh, Gods
Are you there?
What can I do to get you to look down
And give in?
Oh, Gods
Oh, Gods
Hear my prayer
I'm here in the field
With my feet on the ground
And my fate in the air
Waiting for life to begin"

How did I get from waiting for my life to begin to spending Sunday evenings playing bejeweled blitz on facebook and doing laundry, planning menus for the week, figuring out when to schedule workouts, and wondering just how much longer I can put in at this contract position before my brain starts to go and I start to actually care about shit like serial commas, correct capitalization, and fuck-it-all hyphenation?

I miss writing. Or maybe I miss the idea of writing. But the mere thought of starting to wade back through files of crap, fastwrites, my novella, my performance pieces... I shiver. So amateur. It's just bad, right? It's been so so long, and I feel completely invalidated about the whole process. I miss Women Writing and the openness and support of the circle. 

I listened to an interview, or a piece of one, today on my way back from the gym, with Tracy Chevalier, who wrote, among other things, Girl with the Pearl Earring. It was somewhat fated, as I was looking for something else to read--I was biking today and biking=boredom unless there is something entertaining to read--and I picked up Chevalier's book off my shelf, and thought, "Hmmm... this looks light and easy for stationary bike fodder." And it was. And some higher force must have been in action since I randomly chose the book, and the author was on NPR. Granted, it was a Diane Rehm clip show from the week, but still, I was in the car for all of five minutes in driving between the J and my house, and there she was, talking about her process.

It seems Chevalier likes the research part of writing better than the actual writing. She said that once she starts drafting, she has to make decisions such as "Will she be blonde or brunette? What kinds of clothes will she wear? What kind of job will he have?" In the research phase, for her, all of that is wide-open. Well, I suppose as wide open as it can be when you're writing historical fiction. Griete is hardly going to sport skinny jeans and an ipod in 1665. But still, she sees all of that as "open" when she starts to draft.

Me, I'm the opposite. My characters are mostly formed in my head before they ever hit the page. They "tell" me what they look like, in the nonverbal, noninsane way that characters talk to their authors. They yell at me when I force their hand in the desperate attempt at plot construction--always my downfall. Maya, the main character from one of my pieces actually stopped me cold in my head and said, "I would never, and I mean never, ever, do something as stupid as that. I might be forgetful and I might have ADD, but I would never lock my keys and my cell phone in my car." I had to disagree with her because it was a key plot point for her to do so. I think she eventually forgave me, but last I wrote, she is languishing in a female jail, trying to figure out where she went wrong, if she still has a marriage, and who is picking up her 22-month-old daughter from the sitter. And she's going through caffeine withdrawl with a cellmate who runs some organization called "PUTAIN," which is a joke so far inside that I'm going to have to cut it and rewrite because the only people who will get it will be the ones I explain it to, and where's the fun in that?

But maybe that's the key. Maybe I've been too linear (now, there's a surprise. I'm always linear in narrative and nonlinear in drama, and I write drama much better than I write narrative. Hmmm.) and maybe the plot should start in jail, and the central conflict is how to get out, and it's only by looking backward that she can begin to move forward. Trite, maybe, but as a character, Maya is anything but. She's completely wacked out and insane, but in a loveable way. I initially modeled her after Leopold Bloom but decided I liked her too much to go that route. Bloom jangles keys. He's a little boring. And he's stuck in his own head. And she can be too, but she dialogues outwardly to her BFF in the way that Bloom stays inside. And instead of alcohol, she's always looking for the next caffeine hit.

Okay, maybe I'm unstuck now. Maybe, for the first time since the whole "moving to D.C." process began, my life is settled enough to write. Maybe I can carve out an hour or two between workouts, preschool and school commitments, errands, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and work (I shouldn't have listed it all out) I can do this. Maybe this "settling" into the groove, where I'm processing subconsciously by playing this dumbass game, is just what I've needed to acclimate and to get ready for my next big step.

Thanks, Gods, I needed that.

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