Here’s what you need to know about me right now:
1) I have three jobs.
2) I am working on a novel, which is a fourth job.
3) I am tired. It’s so easy to convince me to do anything else but work on my novel when I’m not working my other three jobs.
Two of my jobs are on an academic schedule, which means two of my jobs gave a Spring Break this week. That means I have 20 extra hours to spend working on the novel. But I also have grading to do. Enter: discipline.
Except, not quite.
I kept saying I’ll write before I leave the house in the morning but I ended up doing other stuff and telling myself I’ll do work after I come home from the office (the job without a Spring Break). Then, when I came home to grade or write I was so tired and I told myself “You deserve a break.” And I was right.
But then then Julianna Baggott posted on Facebook, “The work punishes you for your absence.”
Ugh. She is right but so am I–I should so take a break. Breaks are ancient wisdom.
So then it occurred to me this morning that if I make a schedule that includes breaks, I won’t be able to say “I need a break” because I just took one. Breaks are when I can play on the internet, watch True Detective with my boyfriend, blog, talk on the phone with a friend, etc. Breaks are not the same as making dinner, though. Breaks are not the same as my shower. That needs to have a slot on the schedule, too.
Today I got two hours of grading done and two hours of writing done. We’ll see how tomorrow works, but I’m putting down today for the record. Intentional breaks, people. (They worked today.)
Like August Wilson and his plays, Shacochis is a novel-a-decade kind of writer. The reviews are saying his latest is well worth the wait. I haven’t read The Woman Who Lost Her Soul yet but I certainly will, especially having heard him read from it a couple weeks ago at the local reading series.
The LA Review of Books recently published an epic-length email interview about the epic. Here is one of my favorite bits:
Q: Could you say something about how the book’s structure evolved? Every time I think you’ve pushed a scene as far as it can possibly go — you find a way to push it one step farther. In the process more layers of character are revealed. How deliberate is this?
A: The explanation for the structure is a bit dramatic — perhaps psychodramatic would be the more accurate description. The novel is divided into five interior books, and as I was closing in on the finish of Book One, I had to confront — for genuine medical reasons — the likelihood that I was about to die. Accepting that outcome, I decided to create a sense of closure around the denouement of Book One. Even though the narrative closure is misleading and downright false, Book One could still be published autonomously should I indeed croak. That sword of impending death was still hanging over me by the time I wrote Books Two and Three. If I died, Grove Atlantic would still be able to publish my unfinished work as finished. One novella — Croatia — and two small novels. By the time I was working on Books Four and Five, the medical crisis had passed, and I had every reason to believe I wasn’t dying quite yet, which means I was free to go ahead and write those last two books without fretting that they needed to close in a way that was a full stop, narratively speaking. That’s the simple explanation for why the book is structured the way it is. I was looking at eternity, trying to hedge my bets.
A woman in my apartment complex told me she has a novel idea. I’m sure she’s not the last person who will ever tell me that. I heard this girl at the airport once go nuts over her novel idea. She annoyed the hell out of me, this airport girl. I wanted to interrupt her and say, “You have no idea what you are talking about.” But you know, maybe she did? Maybe her novel will come to be and maybe it will be a great novel.
In the book I recommended yesterday, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield spends a section of tiny essays explaining what makes a writer (or anyone) a professional. One such essay is called, “A Professional is Patient.” On page 75 he says that the professional,
… understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare. … He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that. He recognizes it as reality.
The reality is, I think, that most of us have novel ideas, or just really good ideas in general that will take a lot of persistance to make them materialize. Some of us have entire drafts of those novel ideas but what separates those who actually follow through with those ideas from those who won’t–any good idea, says Pressfield–is the acceptance of delayed gratification. Every day we must go to work and say, I’m going to take my time. I’m going to keep working until this is done. And then I am going to keep working on it again until it is great.
So, today, on this second day of RTNM, I am going to slow down, take my time, and do my best to get lost in that work. It’s that whole cliche about recognizing the value of the experience in the journey, not the destination.