July 19, 2010

cool down and emptiness

The weather has finally cooled down here, which means a respite from tiny summer dresses back into comfy long jeans and t-shirts. It's always exciting, initially, when it's warm enough for those flirty sundresses, but I feel more like myself, somehow, when I can wear a minimum, modest amount of clothing of the sort in which I could easily undertake any of a range of possible, improbable tasks: dish washing! ditch digging! apartment fleeing! spontaneous dance partying! And truth be told, I can't remember the last time I did any writing in a rose-patterned tea dress. Jeans it is! All the cool things get done in jeans.

The heat wave also stalled me out on what I have been wishfully referring to as my "fast novel project." The concept? Write a fast novel. Sounds good, right? Well, easier said than done. (Duh, you say. To which I say, touché.) Working from a set of deadlines dubbed the "nerd grid," I've been trying to quickly turn out some pages of a novel I've had in mind, while remaining accountable to my two friends who initiated the exchange with each other in order to stay motivated through the editing progress of their own manuscripts. Deadlines are a gift, and I was (still am!) really excited about their stimulating possibilities. But absolutely no writing could get done in my apartment at 42 degrees Celsius with my one sad, whirring fan. Maybe this is not unrelated to my point about jeans above. Sitting around in fever heat in the politest alternative to underwear one can scrounge up does not inspire literary genius, or even say, a couple of average sentences, which is what I more reasonably strive for, in general. I did manage to do a bit of editing on my existing novel-in-progress, but that's it. But the problem about arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines is that once you breeze by one, it's very hard to re-conjure your existential faith in the rest of them. But we'll see.

The other problem with writing right now is that -- for prose, anyway, in my own limited experience -- one really has to be calm to write. And I'm not calm. I think a state of not calm is a great one for dreaming things up, for getting excited about a million different projects, for thinking up beginnings and endings and complications, but it is not ideal for that discipline of sitting back down (and down and down and down again) at the computer. That requires its own special kind of...I almost want to say emptiness, in which you can find enough stillness and space to let the story come on its own and fill you up.

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