The practical thing would be to revise my novel. Or, I have a big project coming up, one I’m working on with another writer, and which I will be focusing on with great intensity the rest of this month. I should be getting a jump on that this morning, instead of residing in my usual corner playing with the words of my short story. But it catches my attention, this little story, it wills me into it, tweaking words, trying to cut lines because at 26 pages it is still too long, trying to rethink the end note, to make it resonate just as I want it to when I close my eyes and see the shape of the story in my head. I’m just trying to get everything I want of it down on the page.
I showed this story to E yesterday and he had great feedback, as usual. (He also sent me an ichat message I should have kept that told me how much he loves my writing and made me blush with pleasure for a full minute. I realize he’s biased because he’s in love with me, but still—with me, compliments go a long way. I like to hear the good stuff first; then we can tear into the not-so-good and the, be realistic, the bad.) Since E is a filmmaker he has a real visual sense about scenes and story arcs that help me immensely. He also knows, with studied practice, all my tics, and isn’t shy to remind me when I slip into them. So I sit here now, playing with the story, wanting another draft with his comments in mind. I’m distracting myself from reality by focusing so intently on a short story. There’s no money in stories. There’s no glory (I can’t imagine my kind of stories in a place like The New Yorker). And the rewards are slow: you finish a story, send it out to journals, wait, wait some more, and if you get lucky and get a yes it could be another year before you see it in print. Writing a story has nothing to do with gaining notoriety or any kind of public attention—you can’t count on that. It’s a small, personal thing, a thing of pleasure. I love reading stories and I love writing them. Our financial situation is a horror, so I know I’ll have to pursue more practical writing projects soon… but for now I’m playing with this paragraph. Each time I change a word I start fresh and read it back again. The shape of the paragraph keeps shifting, looking visually different on the page, feeling different in my head as I read it back silently, moving my tongue around the words. I have major “attention to detail”—I should highlight that fact on my résumé. Let me distract myself a little longer… tomorrow I’ll be more practical and think ahead.