Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not-writing this morning

I'm not-writing this morning. I'm supposed to be writing. I feel obligated to write, since I am at this very moment sitting at my desk at the Kimmel Hardin Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska, enjoying a month-long writing residency in Nebraska City.

My room is right there on the second floor, see the closed blinds? I'm sitting behind them, trying to block out the sun, trying to write.

It's 75 outside, and sunny. The birds are chirping outside my window.

I can't write because last night while working on my second novel (as yet unnamed--why are titles so damned difficult?), my character took over. It was one of those magical times, and I'm sure you know what I mean, one of those times when it felt as if I weren't even writing, as if I were possessed by my character, this other woman, this Sasha Dewey, who is me yet isn't me at all.

The scene that unfolded was chillingly honest, and tender, and odd. It's exactly what the book needed yet, because of this one scene, I will have to rewrite the rest of the book.

I was SO close to being done. I could smell the finish. It was that reachable.

Now I have weeks, maybe months, of hard work, hard writing, in front of me. The result will be a better book, of course. But results are long-term and writing is long-term and is it terrible to want short-term gratification? To see the so-called fruits of my labor lovingly displayed in chapters that fit and interconnect and do what they're supposed to do? To see it now, not in three weeks or three months or three years, but now?

I had four hours of sleep last night. My hair is dirty, my toenail polish chipped. I'm slumped at  my desk, trying so hard to not-write that my hands and eyes and head hurt.

Writing is not easy. And not-writing is even harder. Especially when the spirit of your character rises up through your fingertips and takes you to places you never imagined, uncovers feelings and secret urges you've tried to keep hidden because (dare I say it?), each time you uncover something in one of your characters, you're also uncovering secrets inside yourself.

This can be unsettling.

I'm going to spend the morning and maybe even the early afternoon not-writing. I have three books to read ("Stay Awake" by Dan Chaon, a series of quirky short stories, is incredibly good) and a sunny balcony callling my name. I'll settle down with a bottle of sunscreen, a glass of orange juice, and I'll read and daydream as birds sing and crickets chirp and all around the splendor of autumn leaves waves in the sky.

Later today, after I run or swim my laps, after I feel stronger and more centered, I'll sit down and write. But for now, I'm taking it easy. I'm sitting with myself, alone though not alone because even now, in this patch of sunshine, at this desk in the middle of this small Nebraska town, I can feel her, my character, my Sasha, waiting. She's crouched, as if ready to pounch or sprint. She has so much energy!

I wonder where she'll take me next.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I have a publicist

I have a publicist.

This is BIG news to an Alaska girl who gets her kicks logging long runs in the mountains.

My usual idea of a thrill is being charged by a moose.

This is a much, much better.

My publicist, whose name is Sonya (I imagine she has sleek hair and wears expensive shoes) is, of course, to help publicize my book, slated for release Feb. 5.

I'm going to have to start including her in conversations. "My publicist says it's Tuesday," I'll say with a haughty toss of my (unsleek) hair, and everyone will be so impressed that they won't notice that it's really Wednesday.

But seriously--all of this scares the crap out of me. Publishing a book scares the crap out of me. Realizing that people will soon read (and comment, and criticize, and perhaps even hate) something I wrote scares the crap out of me

I'm not even sure if my book is any good, I've read and edited and reread and analyzed it so much. It's my book, that's all I know. I feel great affection and love for it, much the way I used to feel for my son, when he was still living at home. We'd interact and go through our daily routines, and then I'd look over and watch him cooking ramen noodles or pouring orange juice and my breath would suck in--I'd be so amazed by his beauty.

My book is a little bit like that. It's ordinary and familiar and commonplace, yet every so often I glance through it and my breath catches, my heart pounds, and I am be amazed. I wrote this, I think, and it seems such a miracle, such a truly stupendous thing, that I wrote a book.

And it's not that my book is so amazing; it's not. It's that I did it. I wrote it. I stuck with it through the hard and awful and truly terrible times. I didn't give up, and lord knows I've given up on so many things throughout my life.

So, yeah, I wrote a book. Other people write music and run ultra races and play the flute in the school band. It all connects us in a sense, and I suppose that's what makes it so amazing.