Late afternoon was spent wandering the cobblestone streets downtown with a certain someone, sucking on fresh-fruit smoothies, trying on Gucci knock-off sunglasses and floppy hats, holding hands through the crosswalk, avoiding the sunny side of the street for the shade. “What are you going to write tomorrow?” he asked me, and I said I didn’t yet know. They’re uprooting the center of Houston Street and there are gaping holes, orange construction roadblocks, and huge machines moving tanks of dirt, but once past all that it’s quiet. A girl cried when her boyfriend left her, and she waited alone for their drink order. She said she was sorry, E told me. But for what? I wanted to know. But why? On the corner, necklaces hold photographs of trees and statues from Central Park, and of the Empire State Building, which can be glimpsed from our street, but I refrained, since I can’t spare 40 dollars. Now home, and the fan has a direct shot of my face. There are no dogs barking. I will not check my work e-mail again. Tomorrow—I’ll decide what to write then.
I’m taking my summer vacation starting this Saturday through July 11. Guess where I’m going? Broadway—about a 15-minute walk away. Or maybe a nearby cafe to get a change of scenery, maybe that Starbucks on Christopher where I wrote the freelance books, maybe there. Yeah, I’m taking my precious vacations days this summer to not leave the city and to not go to the beach. I’m going to write. It’ll be a mini writers retreat here in steamy Manhattan, the sweat and noise as usual except I won’t have to go to work and so it will be ten million times better. When I originally arranged for the days off, I wanted to make a whole plan about what I’d be working on—the revision of my novel, or a few first chapters of the new one, or three short stories, or, I don’t know, the plans kept changing. But right now I’m saying no rules, no assignments, no set deadlines. I’m just going to write every day, and it can be anything I feel like writing. I’m truly excited about this time off from work. I feel like I’m going to the Bahamas.
I get interrupted a lot at work—today I decided to time it and it’s not half as bad as I thought. On average, I get bothered every four minutes. Put my head down, read a page for a while then always in the middle of a paragraph, a sentence, a thought someone appears at my desk talking to me. It’s not really my job to be talked to, or talk, so it makes fitting in the work itself a bit harder. Sometimes people stand in the door of my office, hovering, and I don’t notice them until they make a sound. Other times they come in gabbing. They want me to help with things, or answer questions, and seeing as I am so easily distracted I have a hard time remembering where I was before the interruption. Sometimes I read the same paragraph three times with no apparent memory of having read it. But four whole minutes between interruptions! Just imagine all that can be accomplished in four minutes. I could be feigning copyediting page proofs for work and as I move my red pencil along the lines I could come up with a brilliant idea for the Next Great American Novel. Or short story. Or sentence. I’m not picky.
It’s odd. I feel like I’ve lost something and I’m only now letting myself get sad about it. Not that I’ve lost the novel by saying I am almost prepared to declare it finished—more that I’ve lost this fantasy in my head of what Life as a Writer would be. It’s not what I expected. Door closed, for real this time. And I’m feeling melancholy about it, is all.
I got another freelance writing assignment today. Not the one I was hoping for, but a smaller project writing word games based on a TV show I’ve seen only once or twice. Of course my name will not appear anywhere on it. It’s funny: when I was a kid and imagined myself growing up to be a writer and publish books I never thought they would be books like these. Ironic? Sad? Ridiculously funny? This is life? I don’t know just yet.
I'm leaning toward no.
As in, no major revision.
I want to do a few character tweaks, following some recent feedback I got from a friend in the film industry, to make sure my intentions are clear. I don't think it will be too much work, and I think the manuscript will be better.
But other than that no. No new middle. No alien abduction. No chunk of my heart gouged out and slopped down on these pages (again).
Then I will approach indie presses, agentless. I've always wanted an agent—I once worked for a literary agency, so I know how much a (good) agent can do for an author. But if I don't get an agent for this book, so be it. I have to move on, obviously. As so many of you can see, I'm clearly driving myself batty. It's sad. And silly. Especially when there are so many more things I want to write…
Thank you for the kind comments. I've been in an impenetrable cloud of indecisiveness for a long while now. And to think there are people out there who don't even know me but who think I should keep going, keep trying, well, it's a wonderful thing.
It's true I want to write something new. Last night while drifting off to sleep, my new novel came to life against my closed eyelids. I learned things about my new narrator I didn't know before that night—she's itching to come out on the page. And if I stick with this decision I can write the new book. I've grown since I wrote the manuscript I've been agonizing over. I want to say new things, spend time with new characters. Is that so wrong?
I like it just the way it is. Look—I'm not even wanting to line edit. That's a sign.
Oh, but what if [this] happened instead? The story would be totally different if I did that.
How much fun that would be! Like a whole new novel! I'm actually getting excited!
Hmmmm. But everything else would fall apart once I head in that direction. Where will the plot even go then?
I have no idea.
Ugh, I have no idea.
Oooh, but what if I used this revision as an opportunity to say something more honest, more real, more important? To write a book closer to me than it ever was before?
(Pause to think.) It would be a whole different book.
It would be a whole different book!!!!!!!!!
It would, wow, it would take a lot to write a whole different book, huh?
The end. Currently rereading and only at page 36.
Scene: Lobby of building where I write on weekends. I enter the elevator and one of the security guards gets on with me.
Security guard: You've been coming here for years. What, are you writing a book or something?
Security guard: What's it called?
Security guard: Your book.
Me (blatantly lying): It's untitled.
Security guard: You don't know the title yet?
Me (continuing with the lie): Oh, it'll come to me.
Door opens on security guard's floor. He gets out but still holds the door open.
Security guard: But how will I find it at Barnes & Noble?
I shrug, smile.
Security guard (as doors close): When you know the title, you'll—
The elevator doors close before he finishes his sentence.
Relieved, I ride the elevator to the top floor. Nice guy. Too bad I'm too anxiety-ridden and rude.