An Example of How Brilliant I Am

Something to keep in mind: I should make sure to type in my correct phone number on the supporting materials when applying for writing awards! I am using the last hours with my computer to get a new application ready and discovered, to equal amusement and horror, that I applied to an award this past year with a typo in my own phone number. What if—and I’m really stretching here—but what if the admissions committee had miraculously loved me and called me to tell me so but it was the wrong number and some beastly person picked up and snapped at them and made them hang up the phone and change their minds and give the award to someone else? What if they got no answer? What if everything was riding on this one phone call?

I mean, yeah the chances are slim. But, What if?

Sometimes I am just so totally awesome.

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Return to Paper

My laptop will be leaving me tomorrow. It has a small crack in the palm rest and I am sending it away to be fixed. I have been told it will take seven to ten business days, though all they have to do is pop off the top case and put a new one on. This cannot be done at my local Apple Store—I must send it away. What is seven to ten business days in real time, up to two weeks? In writing time, how many possible pages? In goof-off time, who knows.

It’s such a small thing, the crack. I am looking down at it now and it barely seems worth it. Then again, I am paranoid ever since my last laptop died on me, and I don’t want this small thing to turn into an enormous thing that causes the computer to implode years from now and I’ll have run out of the warranty and I’ll look back on this day and think, Couldn’t I have spared the two weeks? Really, such things happen.

Also, I might as well get it fixed now—while I am stuck creatively. If I am in the midst of a novel later I won’t want to let the computer go.

So, what does this mean, not having a computer for that long?

It means that if I want to write I will have to write… on paper.

I don’t know why I’m so weirded out by it. It’s not like I haven’t written solely on paper before. I mean, seriously, that’s how I started. I did not always have the sleek convenience of my Mac OS with its quick-thinking little brain and its soft keys and its many, many distractible elements that more often than not see me NOT writing instead. These two weeks could be really refreshing. It’s possible. I honestly have no idea what it feels like to write in the pages of a notebook anymore. I hope I haven’t forgotten how.

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Damage

The discovery of Writer, Rejected‘s “Literary Rejections on Display” blog yesterday set into motion a series of thoughts in my demented head.

First, commiseration. I feel you, Writer, Rejected. It sucks. And at the same time it can also be really, really funny. Heart-wrenchingly funny. The kind of funny that gives you nosebleeds.

I felt that first.

Which soon turned to recognition. How many of my own rejection letters ended the same way? The same turns of phrase and empty promises, the same excuse.

Oh, I remember that agent. And that one.

I did not go digging around in my box to compare.

Then,

The harsh glare of reality. How long has it been since I was trying, actively trying, to publish a novel? (Don’t lie.) The months are many. The rejections felt a lot, but I don’t know if they were worthy of a complete and total annihilation of any attempt to be a novelist. I’ve retreated so far back I don’t remember where I was supposed to be going. Years, we are talking almost two years, aren’t we?, since after the high of the writers colony and the low of real life after?, or maybe a year because I was still secretly trying then?, I really don’t care how long it’s been, I just know it’s been a long time.

And, yes, I should be working on a novel now. A new one or an old one. Any one. A something.

So what if I have a full-time job now. I should find the time; I can make the time; I can.

But I can’t bear to.

I am really damaged by this.

How pathetic is that.

There are some people who are cut out for this industry and there are some people who are not. I always thought that I could—somehow—fight my way through it, but how is sitting still and feeling sorry for yourself fighting your way through it? How is not writing putting up any kind of fight?

I have no excuse.

I’m always like: If you want to write, you have to try! And: Keep going! And: Rah-rah-rah! And my enthusiasm for everyone else is made up of this bright, garishly happy light, this HOPE, this honest hope that they’ll make it. This woman at my old job now getting her first novel published, yay! My friend with her awesome new story, hurrah! Some girl I know who walked home with me and randomly said she was going to start her book that night because I am so incredibly inspiring, go for it!

For myself, I’ve got nothin’.

Is it better to have tried and failed, really? I don’t know if I believe that.

Maybe it is better to NOT have a stack of rejections in your bedroom that you stumble over when they fall off the shelf and you pick them up and you sift through them and you remember how it felt all over again and your heart sinks and you go, Oh.

After the Weekend

We returned to the city last night. As you may have guessed from my “Fictions” post below, my so-called writing retreat turned into more of a weekend of not so much writing as relaxing (i.e., reading, swinging in the hammock, watching the pond, taking a languid nap on the couch). Also checking my email and Facebook and Myspace and… you get the picture. Still, it smelled amazing up there. My heart slowed, the panic dissipating even just for a couple nights. We cooked for every meal (by “we” I should say E, though I did mostly make the pancakes). It was nice, so relaxing, though as you can see by the post from yesterday, my guilt and heavy-weighted doubts followed me up there. I guess they’re not confined to the city limits.

While there, we drove past the agent’s house. We had to; it’s between the one-lane bridge and my mother’s house where we were staying. There’s just no way to avoid it, though I’d like to. Here’s the cruel coincidence: I learned, a few years ago, that a literary agent I was in contact with happened to have a weekend house a mere minute from my mother. That was all well and good when this agent had my manuscript—there was a holiday, Thanksgiving, our pseudo-Christmas, in which we drove past through the snow and I pictured her in there reading it, maybe beside a fire, maybe with a cup of hot cocoa, you know I have an ungainly imagination. The coincidence was a splendid discovery, at first. Then she suggested a rewrite, which I did, though it clearly wasn’t right, so she suggested another rewrite, which I did, and I’ll admit I believe she was right in both instances, but the last contact I had was that if I had another manuscript I should feel free to contact her with that. I think I wore her out. Sometimes it hurts to talk about. Most times, I guess. Other times, I feel honored to know she took the time, realizing who her other clients are and her position with the agency, I tell myself to feel honored, I do, but it feels pretty sucky to drive quietly past her house and pretend I don’t know she lives there. I’ve never met her, though I’ve talked to her on the phone. Anyway, she was there this weekend. Judging by the many cars parked in her driveway and on the roadside, she was having a party. I didn’t stop to picture the literary hotshots at her house that very moment… I had a hammock to swing in, a pond in which to spot turtles, a library book ready and waiting, a whole house to pretend was mine. The lesson is that you cannot get away from your failures. Or the lesson is that you should always be reminded of your failures so you can grow from them. Or maybe the lesson is that coincidences are just that, coincidences. Or, better yet, there is no lesson. She lives there; so does my mom; life goes on.

I liked being away. While it’s true I didn’t do much writing, I did get a burst of motivation our last afternoon and I completed the second draft of a short story I’ve been carrying around for months. It has a new title. It’s gained at least five pages (and is probably now too long). But it’s closer to what I want from it, which makes me a bit happier. And it was fitting that I finished the draft of the story there, because the story is set upstate, so while I was tinkering with the revision I was staring out the sliding glass doors at the wall of trees that surrounded the house, just as a wall of trees surrounded the house in my story.

So here I am, Monday morning, quite bluntly my least favorite moment of the entire week, in my usual morning chair, writing this post while a man raves loudly to himself across the way, yelling at no one, yelling at everyone, and the rain pours, and soon it will be time to get on the subway, and already my shirt and pants are soaked, but I’m not annoyed, not depressed, really. I’m okay. The weekend made me okay. I hope it lasts.

Fictions

  • I write enough to merit being a writer.
  • No one could say I am wasting my life away.
  • I am deep enough into a novel that I will not try to pull myself out.
  • I am not going to restart the novel AGAIN.
  • I am confident.
  • I still believe I will make it.
  • I will not give up.
  • I am perfectly capable of being in a place with free wireless internet access and not making use of it for nefarious purposes.
  • Monday is my most favorite day of the week.
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Such Quiet

While the world goes on at home—the familiar noise, the banging, the whoops, the heels on floorboards, the stumbles on stairs, the sirens, the honks, the car alarms going off again, the incessant buzzing of someone who wants to get into the building but doesn’t live here, our neighbor slamming her door then forgetting something and going back in and slamming her door and going back out and slamming her door and forgetting something again and slamming her door and so on, the usual—we are here in this isolated spot. Anywhere around the house, all directions, any one, there are trees. No other houses can be seen. No lights through leaves. No sense that another human being is reachable, if we had to reach another human being, if, for example, some strange murky creature ascended from the pond just out the sliding glass doors, slithered up the deck, and attacked us, and we started running, I don’t know if I could figure out where the long dirt driveway is in the dark.

I’m not saying I’m afraid of the pond at night—though the gang of bats, doing wild loop-the-loops over the water, so close to the house, were enough to keep me away from it. When night fell, the sky dark blue, the bats could be seen at first (Are those birds? I’d thought. Then, Oh god no those are not birds) and as it got later into the night, and the sky turned from deep blue to deep black, I couldn’t see the bats at all. Which is maybe worse. The bullfrogs in the pond called from dissonant spots in the water. I’d turn my head to one, startled, then get startled at another. The wind through trees made that husssshhhhhh sound, like someone was whispering. There are moments when this is so alien to me. Maybe I have really become a city person.

Then, over breakfast in a sunlit kitchen, the only sound outside the house the strum of wind through trees, and the twitters that could be birds maybe, hell I don’t know, we started talking about the topic of quiet. Which brought us directly to the topic of noise, and home. I began excitedly describing the night revelers I run into early mornings on my walk down Christopher Street, what I imagine of them, what I’ve seen, and he looked at me for a moment, a small smile on his face. Funny, he said, that we come all the way out here and end up talking about the city. Yeah, I said. Maybe you’ll write about the city today, he said, seeing as you’re not in it. That could be true, though how strange would it be to channel such noise when I am here in this quiet.

At this point, really, I don’t care what to write about. Quiet, noise, the fact that I was making pancakes, I’ll take anything.

This quiet is what my head feels like: the occasional screeching of unidentifiable creatures, and wind.

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Soon There Will Be Trees

E and I are going on a short retreat this weekend. There will be trees. There will be a pond. There will be quiet, I am sure of it, some quiet. Cicadas at night, too. Or will they be crickets? I doubt I’ll know the difference.

Usually I never want quiet; I live in New York City; obviously I care little about quiet. I am proudly numb to noise. Or I used to be. But something is breaking up inside me, this vision of what I wanted my life to be, of who I should be and want to be and am.

So I have some time outside of this life to get my head straight. Two people are being very generous to let us stay in their house while they’re away. Did I mention the trees? The pond?

Anyway, we hope to use the time to write. E will be working on his script; I’ll be working on…

I have no idea.

I figure the mood will strike me once I get there.

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