December 10, 2004

The Slaughter of a Blemish-Free Pigeon is Required

I've been talking with a group of my writer-cronies about the need for specific space (location, ambience) or specific rituals (time of day, objects, colors, quality of light) in order to work. Or rather, THEY have been talking, and I have been nodding and pretending to be very deep in earnest thought and feeling sub-par.

Because I don't have much to add. I feel very strongly that I don't have a muse. If you want me to write? Give me a concrete deadline. I will FIND the mood. Heck, I barely have a process. As far as a special SPACE or location? Well. I like to have a door. If it SHUTS, even better. Like, now, in the new house, I have an office with a DOOR ON IT that SHUTS. This still makes my heart go pittery-pat-pat. SUCH an improvement over the last 3 1/2 years and I am so WILDLY GRATEFUL that I dastn't fuss for anything else. Ever.

In the old house, after I was pregnant with Maisy, we moved my office into the master bedroom so she could have a nursery. Oh good Lord. If I could afford a belief in Feng Shui I would tell you the Fend Shui in that room was VERY BAD. I slept in that room, I worked in that room, and since my husband and the big tv with cable and the game cube and the DVD player and my computer were in there, I did most of my in-home recreating in there. I began to feel like a mental patient, looking at the same four walls every day, all day long, let out for meals downstairs in the inmates' cafeteria. I started to get REALLY squirrelly.

So I took over the dining room. This was our TINY! TINY! starter house and the dining room was a 9 x 9 cube that had two HUGE triple-doorway-wide chunks cut out of the walls. One chunk led into the family/living room and one led into the kitchen. In fact that was the WHOLE downstairs, the kitchen, then my cube, then the family room. So. If anyone was in the house they were bound to come thundering through every ten minutes or so. NOT PRODUCTIVE.

Here? I have a room of one's own. It is a plain room with white walls and no window treatments, no prints hung, nothing, just random piles of my CRAP growing peacefully like a Crap Garden and every avaialable surface coated in paper piles and books and baby shoes and Galleys and McDonald's happy meal toys and Target bags full of only-the-Lord-knows...It is like HEAVEN.

Hmm, but then Ritual?

Nope none of those either. I USED to think I needed to smoke to draft. I HATE drafting. I KNOW the writing is going to be bad in my drafts, and I hate writing bad sentences and bad scenes and sketchy characters and generating 50K of prose that smells so much like dung that BEETLES come sit on it and preen themselves and I have to constantly clean maggots out of my printer. For me, the part that flips my cookie is REVISIONS, but you can't revise until you have something to WORK WITH, so that means DRAFTING. Drafting blows. I used to type for as long as I could bear it and then go stomp up and down the deck, smoking, until I could stand to go back and draft more. But I quit smoking and now I just go outside and stomp. Can "having a temnper tantrum" be considered ritual?

It seems I lack all the qualities that would make one like having rituals or special spaces.

I am not organized (you have to be CAPABLE of doing the same thing at the same time often enough for it to become a habit/ritual)

I associate memory/states of mind with smells and temperatures -- people who associate OBJECTS or LOCATIONS with memories are more likely to feel they need specific items or spaces, not because the items or spaces have any power, but because they help the person access the right frame of mind FASTER. Although---I do write better in cool weather...

I am not superstitious and will happily march under a 50 foot bower made of ladders, stomping hard on every sidewalk crack with a score of black cats parading before me.

I am not sentimental. In fact, I got a new wedding band for my 10th anniversary and have --not less than 6 months later-- COMPLETELY LOST the original one.

It is universally acknowledged that I am dead inside: I do not like songs, so music can be on or off and I won't even notice as I work. And I am left absolutely cold by the wondrous beauty of nature. I don't like looking at sunsets or mountains etc etc. Sorry, but there it is. (I DO like animals, however, and will look at AS MUCH NATURE AS YOU LIKE if you put some squirrels or little deers or silly birds in it.)

I am not a JOURNEY person. I am a destination person. Which ALSO makes me a sub par human, I am given to understand. But, once again, THERE IT IS. What can one do? I have been told the only answer to that is "Do not breed more soulless robots like you." But hey. TOO LATE. And if I am pragmatic and concrete and goal oriented to the point of mental illness, FINE. I think the world NEEDS some pragmatists. The art-fart world especially-- in this haven of the very strangest, I am the weirdo's weirdo. The one who thinks the EXAMINED life is not worth living.

But maybe this LACK is where my writing comes from...When I start a book, it begins with a sentence that grows out of an image in my head. I have no idea what the image means, what the story is about, and if I did, there is NO WAY IN HELL I could write it. I finished writing gods in Alabama two years ago? At least? And I just re-read it in ARC form and was SHOCKED by some of the deeply personal stuff in there --- in this book I say things I had NO IDEA I was saying at the time, or else I would NEVER have put them in writing--writing that will enter the public domain for the love of little furry rabbits.

And I'm not talking about CHARACTER or PLOT -- Arlene Fleet is not me, I am not her, nothing in this book ever happened -- I'm talking about what the book is saying on other levels, about love (how men and women relate to each other and about how family, especially mothers and daughters, relate) about morality (redemption and what sin is and how God works) and about, well, what justice is.

Holy God but I have wandered far afield. Look, if you stuck with me this far, thanks. I will be heading out to begin therapy now! BRIGHT SMILES ALL AROUND!

Posted by joshilyn at December 10, 2004 9:38 AM

How much of myself comes out in my fiction may be part of what keeps me from getting past the first, say, 2-5,000 words. LOL!

I also associate smells with memories... and sounds/songs. Not usually objects.

I HAD a space all my own in our old house. Not here. My computer closes up into an armoir so I can lock the boys out of it. I have no space whatsoever. I need space. I miss space.

Posted by: Heather at December 10, 2004 10:54 AM


Posted by: Klint at December 10, 2004 11:31 AM

Dear god, I thought I was the only one. Destination person - I like that.

Posted by: Shelley at December 10, 2004 12:11 PM

Okay, wait, you lost me at the whole "I'm a subpar person" thing. WHO has a novel being published RIGHT NOW? And a second one being petted and admired by the Mighty Publishing People? I'm pretty sure it's not ME....

Posted by: Mir at December 10, 2004 5:08 PM

I hope you don't mind, but I co-host a writer's online group and I gave your blog as a must read link. (Also, big-mouthed your book, god in Alabama...:-))

Souless robots writing books, are there any other kind of writers, lol

Now, I have to go do my rewrites on my own book, but I have to first follow my own little rituals: plucking my eyebrows; rubbing the dog's belly; rubbing my husband's belly and my favorite, rubbing my own belly!

Who needs rituals?
thanks for the good read

Posted by: dee at December 10, 2004 5:57 PM