Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Still Climbing the Hill

Tomorrow I'm going to see a colleague to discuss my writing. I gave him 10 pages of my in-progress manuscript a couple weeks ago and he now has some comments to make. He's published half a dozen books, so I decided to ask him for some input.

It's a weird thing to hand over some writing, to gut yourself like a fish and then wait for the reaction. But at this point I'm smack in the middle of the attempt to write this blasted thing and I go back and forth between feeling completely crushed and overwhelmed by it, and feeling as though I'm almost ready to break through the wall of "stuckness." A different reader/critic might help. We'll see.

I have a new friend who emailed me today with wise and perfectly timed words. Among them: "The point is, I think, the longer the project, the more lows and highs you will  have.  And, my guess is, the longer the project, the lows are even lower, the highs higher (hopefully)." I might have known this already, but I hadn't identified it consciously. All I knew is that every few days of work on the book, I have a horrible bout of devastation/hopelessness/near-paralysis and lie curled up on my bed crying. I end up back at "Why am I even writing this (expletive) book? What is the point?" Then I take the endorphins provided by the crying and get up and do something different (dishes, usually) and reevaluate.

It was good to hear these words of wisdom from this friend and fellow writer. I'm often overlooking the obvious, and although I've said the words "This is the longest, most difficult writing project I've ever taken on," I somehow don't give it permission to knock me down and pull me back up as much as it does. I think you need to do that, to have sort of an agreement with it. So I'm giving it permission now.

How could it not be this hard? I have to revisit scene after scene with my father, both in his sickness and his health, his decrepit final year and his younger, snappier ones. And then I get a really unexpected twist (it perhaps shouldn't have been unexpected, but it was for me) when I discover after 70,000 words in, that this book is at least as much about myself as it is about my dad. This is the way of the "memoir." It's unavoidable. As my close friend Connie says, "Or else who is writing it?"

Today I was driving to my hair appointment and was in a writing trance. It was as though the book were riding in the car with me, coaxing me to see it more clearly, like when you have someone's name on the tip of your tongue. As I was sitting in my salon smock thingy, waiting for my turn, I was apparently so transfixed on staring out the window that Brenda, my hairdresser for 20 years, stood and watched me, wondering what I was thinking about, before she finally called my name.

You know what's great and scary at once? Feeling that deep immersion into the project itself. It's a combination of three things: exhilaration over the closeness to the work, the cold anchor of existing in a pocket of isolation (just you and the constant search for the slow skeletal building of the book), and the realization that there is no abandoning this wretched thing until it's finished.


  • At 8:44 AM, Blogger radagast said…

    It IS a weird thing. I've never had the experience of writing an actual book, but I did collect some poems into a manuscript a couple of years ago, and I, too, thought I would run them through the filter of a fellow writer whom I respect. We tell our students how important this step is, after all. Mostly I just wanted her to give me an outsider perspective on which poems should stay and which should go. One forms a complicated relationship with one's poems, right? Everyone else can see what a homely, dull child you have, but you are convinced they are just missing his hidden wonders. Anyway, it was interesting. One of the poems she told me to either take out or revise extensively had already won an award and been published in two different places. So, you know, I decided I'd keep it. But she also made some very helpful little suggestions as she was reading through--mechanical things like pronoun reference and syntax. Those are the kinds of things I have trouble seeing after living with a poem for a while. So, I guess I'm saying, yes, at some point you have to bare your throat. But don't give this guy too big a knife. This is YOUR baby. Hmmm. It occurs to me that you didn't actually request any advice. :) Hope it goes well.

  • At 3:36 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I'm ALWAYS up for advice, and this is really good. Helps so much to hear what other writers go through, especially those I admire and your'e certainly in that category. Absolutely love the "homely, dull child" analogy. Very funny and spot on.


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