Friday, November 9, 2012

11-9-12 On Writing

Sigh. "At this rate you will finish (50K) on December 8."

I knew the weekdays would slow me down, but it's still one of the reasons I had avoided doing this word count thing for National Novel Writing. Is it motivating? That's hard to say. On the days I have time to really churn out the writing (it's not work -- I love it), sure, seeing the progress in a tangible way is nice. But on all the days I only manage a paragraph or two, not so much.

This morning I was down the rabbit hole, writing away, when Sam asked if I could help her curl her hair. My seventeen year old girl is perfectly capable of doing this, but it's a rare moment for us together and I would never say no. Soon, she'll be gone. Writing can wait.

Last night, I had to work late, thanks to the crappy service from Century Link that keeps dropping out our internet connection. It dropped eight times yesterday, which causes all sorts of delays to get back up and running only to have it drop again. When you call, you get "Jeff" (yeah, right) on the line from India who tells you fascinating things like, "It's because you have two phones. Plug one in directly to the box and it will be fixed . . ." when we've had two phone in this house for five years and only recently have been experiencing the internet outages? Then he tells you, "Keep an eye on the green light on the modem marked internet. If it's not on, then the internet is out." WOW. Thanks, Jeff.

But it's always something. You write because you love it and you remind yourself when you don't have time to write, you have to make time, and then ... something comes up. The thing about writing is it's all-consuming even when you can't be consumed. You are having a conversation, or working (always working), or listening to music, or making dinner, or curling your daughter's hair, or taking her to school, and your characters are standing there, or sitting in the back seat of the car, moving about in the back your mind, calling to you. You start to fall asleep and have to grab the pen and jot down an idea they sent you from the other side of the page. It's lovely and it's maddening.

I am reading Stephen King's On Writing, which I much enjoy, but there are some interesting tensions in it that I can't help but puzzle over:

I marked this:
"It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around." (Location 1243) (How do you cite a Kindle location number instead of pages?)

And then this:
"You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair -- the sense that you never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page." (Location 1297)

So I don't come lightly, but I don't come to stay, either. The paradox of "be here now." I sneak in moments, like an illicit affair, between working, and being a mom, and a wife, and a friend, and tell myself it won't always be this way. Keep at it. Do what you can, when you can.

A few other highlights thus far:

On writing his first original story, as a boy of six:
"I remember an immense feeling of possibility at the idea [of writing a story], as if I had been ushered into a vast building filled with closed doors and had been given leave to open any I liked. There were more doors than one person could ever open in a lifetime, I thought (and still think)." (Location 226)

On finishing Carrie, which he never really liked:
". . . none of them taught me the things I learned from Carrie White. The most important is that the writer's original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader's. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like you you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position." (Location 916)

I am only, according to the quite precise Kindle, 34% of the way through. More gems to come.


  1. Hello Tori, this is B with the CenturyLink Help Team. I'm sorry to read that your internet connection has been dropping so often, and that Jeff didn't provide such a great experience for you. If you need further assistance with your service, please send me your information via our webform, and I'll be happy to check your line for issues:
    Thanks Tori,
    CenturyLink Help Team