Monthly Archives: July 2012

Begin again

1.

“Begin again,” –some time ago, a friend mentioned that she had once read a poem that began this way and repeated this this line throughout as a refrain. She said that she couldn’t remember exactly how it went, or who it was by, but that its general message contained something about the poem not going as intended, and needing to start over mid-poem, mid-metaphor even, for something better.

When she said this, I felt immediate kinship, a certain knowledge, that I too had read this same poem. Yet despite both of our best sleuthing, neither of us could find any poem that matched this description in phrasing and content, let alone one that we would have both read and remembered. (If this is a real poem, and you can shed any light onto its source, I will be forever grateful, as this has been bugging us now for years.)

The best we can assume for now, though, is that it is a snippet that one of us wrote, a forgotten piece lost to the annals of computer crashes and old forgotten social networking sites.

A shame, too, because if I could but find it, I would quote it often.

2.

Begin again.

I have been working, off and on, for the last 10 months on “the fairy story” and have realized recently that I have made a great tactical error. A major plotting problem of near “throw it in the gutter and be done with it” proportions. A major side character could not, in fact, be plotting the actions that I have been giving him this entire time. To have him do so makes the overall storyline unwieldy and inoperable… As I have already discovered the hard way. It also, I realize on reflection, is not consistent with the world I have built and, even worse, is inconsistent with his character, making him appear more stupid and shallow than his other character attributes would indicate.

So, it’s back to the drawing board, requiring major rewrites of the parts already written before I can actually hope to move on and “finish” a first draft. NaNoWriMo novelists would gasp at horror at that statement, and tell me to just keep going and work out the beginning on draft two. But because I must recreate so much of the plot, there is not much hope for that. By the time I reimagine what I should have had the characters do, instead of the missteps I had before, it’ll be just as fast to do the rewrite.

Still, the task is daunting. I stared at the scrivener file for five minutes yesterday in disgust and then walked away, putting my pain on hold for another day.

3.

Begin again, for I have told this story backwards. I wanted to know where my days went, these obligation-free summer days that I declare to be for my art and writing, and yet somehow fail to do either to an extent my perfectionistic mind deems acceptable. Yesterday I began, therefore, to keep a time log, carefully noting how long I spent eating, and sleeping, and checking Facebook, and running errands and and and…

This is how I found that I spent exactly, and only, five minutes working on my writing yesterday.

(critics gasp! She just admitted she did not write yesterday! A writer who isn’t writing is an imposter! A fraud! …these are the things we tell ourselves, patting ourselves on the back that our dedication to craft is more hardcore, that our fingers bleed harder, our self-flagellation more genuine than those that would create without appropriate levels of misery. Putting the pen down, I remember to breathe.)

4.

Begin again.

All of which is to say…

Today I discovered that I spent, without exaggeration, 40 minutes of my afternoon picking at my feet like a bored bonobo.

I am a monkey in my own mental zoo.

Advertisements

Capturing a Space

Invisible Cities coverThese days I have been rereading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. I remember first reading it at fifteen, speeding through each city without much thought to what it meant, finishing it in a day or so, and wondering what the point was. This time, my approach is slow, observant. I read, perhaps, two cities a night… stopping between each one to let the image build up in my mind of the place that Marco Polo is describing.

I am looking for better ways to write scenery and setting. I have been working on a piece for almost a year now (referred to these days just as “the fairy story”) and ended up stuck when trying to describe certain aspects of the fantastical fairy realm. Reading the Calvino has brought me new insights into both how to describe the world I want to create as well as new ideas for world-building details.

Picture me, sitting on my porch, finishing Cities & Memories 2 and then rushing back inside to my notebook muttering “But what about the violins??” as I went. Or today, reading Cities & Memory 4 and then sitting outside reflecting until the mosquitoes began to bite, rethinking the idea of travel around my fairy city not as Point A– Point B but as all the shops and houses and lives that live in between these two spaces.

Of course, then I reread that section and replaced every reference to the town name of Zora with Pittsburgh– a city that similarly is described in its “succession of streets”. Without a straight line in the whole city, and with maps that fail to convey the topographical reality of a city composed of many valleys, Pittsburgh’s secret, like Zora’s

lies in the way your gaze runs over patterns following one another as in a musical score where not a note can be altered or displaced.

But this has nothing to do with the fairy story, it is just homesickness.