Having a 4 day weekend is just about the most glorious thing in the universe. I slept past 10:30 three of the days, and generally lounged around in sweatpants until the mid-afternoon, at which point Boyfriend would scrunch up his nose at me and suggest, ever so politely, that maybe I’d like to join the world of the living and tend to my stink. I ate well, probably too well (or too poorly, depending on how you feel about gummy bears for breakfast), and spent a lot of time hanging out with friends and family. Thanksgiving was the highlight, and the day capped off with some cuddling on the couch with my nieces, watching Madagascar 3 in 3D. How was everyone’s holiday & weekend?
I also made some serious progress on le book. I schlepped my computer desk into the guest room so I could write undisturbed, though Fitz didn’t really seem to take the hint and preferred to sleep curled up on a ball on the chair right next to me just in case I decided I wanted to play with him. The desk won’t stay in there forever, as it doesn’t really fit, but for now it’s nice to soak up all the Parisian inspiration. I’m up to a whopping 16 pages now (I’ll be expecting a New York Times book review ANY DAY NOW), and yesterday I got so absorbed in the storyline that I actually lost track of time. It was a pretty magical feeling. Though I’ve said it before, writing is honestly 20% research, 10% writing, and 70% sitting there staring at the screen. The percentages can fluctuate, but I’m slowly learning to accept how frustrating the whole process is and just surrender to it.
Also, my list of place to visit in Paris in March for “book research” is growing.
The highlight of my very nerdy week is always the Sunday New York Times. I technically got a subscription for Boyfriend for our anniversary, but I get just as much enjoyment out of it as he does. Thankfully we never go for the same sections (I take Real Estate, Sunday Styles, the Book Review, and Arts & Entertainment, and he takes the front section, Business, Metropolitan, and other snooze-y sections), and this weekend while we were eating breakfast, I flipped through the Book Review and found this hilarious and charming cartoon at the back. Given that I’d spent most of the weekend holed up writing (or, err, trying to, anyway) I found it especially fitting.
I really got a giggle out of the Unnecessary Punctuation Ribbon. So I did what any dork would do: I clipped it out of the paper and framed it (I happened to have one of these frames laying around, obviously. My house is like an IKEA auxiliary warehouse). It’s hanging on the wall in my bedroom as inspiration.
My friend Iain is a published author and I was picking his brain at a party we went to a few weekends ago for any advice he had for someone starting out. “Check your ego at the door,” he said. He also gave me a terrifying (but realistic) timeline of how this is actually going to play out: “This is a five or six year process.” Oh. I explained to him that I was really having a problem with the act of actually writing and he said that the book is truly written in the rewrites, so the best thing I can do is just bang out a first draft to work with. I’m trying. It’s coming in spurts and single sentences that strike me when I’m in the shower or about to fall asleep, but it’s nonetheless coming. I think there needs to be a Patience Award in that cartoon.
And for a bit of levity, I’ll leave you with this amazing tweet my friend Tom sent a few months ago. Really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
How was your weekend?
It’s so funny, maybe not funny ha-ha, but I barely wrote a single word of fiction for 8 years and then one day last week it’s like I flipped a switch and now it’s all coming back to me, how much I love writing fiction and how exciting the whole process is. It’s all consuming and overwhelming, trying to figure out exactly how to translate into words the snippets that are playing in my head. The story has exploded into something much bigger than I originally thought was there, and I am honestly having such an amazing time working through it. I’m so happy, even though sometimes it is so frustrating to sit down at my computer with a cup of tea and know there is so much I want to say but can’t get the words right. So I dug out a book I’d bought in high school, back when I was writing a short story a week and battling bouts of insomnia with scribbling away in notebooks, “Beginnings, Middles & Ends” by Nancy Kress (I also found a faded post-it stuck inside the cover with the number of a high school boyfriend, what up!). Yes, I’m the dweeb who bought books on writing fiction. It’s actually a really helpful resource, and totally gets at what I’ve been feeling. Kress writes, “[t]here’s always a gap between the story as you imagined it –compelling, insightful, rich with subtle nuance– and what actually ends up in the manuscript […] because stories must be written, and read, one word at a time, with information accumulating in the reader’s mind to create the full picture. This slow, linear accretion of impressions can’t ever quite equal that perfect flash of inspiration in which all the parts of the story –action, meaning, nuances, insights, all of it– burst into the brain all at once. Words, unlike movies, are not a multi-sensory event.” When it’s explained that way, it assuages my terror of not being able to do the story justice. It will get there, the trick is not to be discouraged. I have 6 whole pages (totally out of chronological order); at this rate I’ll be done next year, and that’s okay.
I was talking to Aidan, my best friend since 6th grade, the other night at the Florence and the Machine concert and when I told her I was writing a book she said, “I’m so happy! I always knew you’d be a writer.” Which is funny considering when we met, our life aspirations including dressing up like the Spice Girls, ahem. With the exception of 3 creative writing courses I took in college, and this blog (which I don’t consider the same thing), I’ve taken about an 8 year break from writing. It feels so, so good to be back.