Dispatch #13: On Writing
Whatever you ardently desire...
I’m supposed to be writing and I did some earlier, but it didn’t go very well, and so I stopped, and felt depressed and ate some salami out of the fridge. That’s when you know you’re doomed: when you’re eating salami from the fridge, no plate, just your palm.
In an effort to do something productive, I opened this newsletter document. Writing is writing is writing, right? (I refuse to doom scroll…the news is just. Wow.)
This weekend I return to Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, the retreat in Temecula that I wrote about for paying subscribers (hint hint) last fall. I’ll be there for a week and in that week I plan to return to my novel revision, which I haven’t even looked at since Christmas. Am I worried? Yes. Panicked, even? Yes. But I always feel a little panicked thinking about writing when I haven’t doing enough of it lately. Today, my one day this week to write and write and write (before I grade and grade and grade) has led to me walking around with salami disks in my fists. Oh dear. But I know that once I’m there, with the time and space and quiet, the book will come back to me.
Right now I’m working on a short story that I’ve been dreaming about for months. I waited too long to write it, though: the reality of the story cannot surpass the fantasy of it. I tried to write its opening a couple of weeks ago, and then tossed the pages because the voice was too jokey. This occasionally happens to me with first-person narrators because I can’t help but crack a joke if one is available. This voice, though, was too comic, and, more importantly, too ironic. I needed real, sincere pain in the voice. So I started again. It’s better now. The opening lines may be too intense, but they can easily be cut in revision.I’ll wait for a trusted friend/reader to tell me because it’s a fine line between the brilliant and the cringe-inducing.
I did add some jokes to the dialogue that I’m still chuckling over.
Right now, I’m struggling with how much of a backstory to reveal, and when, and the twist of the story. Why oh why am I trying to write a story with a twist? And once the twist occurs, do I just end the story, or does more occur? Probably the latter, but I fear it’ll just go on and on and people will be bored. I hate writing! I love it!
What’s interesting to me, what’s keeping me going with this story, is twofold. One, I want to see if I can pull off the twist and yank the story into the supernatural. I like how I’m preparing for it and the challenge is appealing (even as I complain). Two, I unintentionally placed two images in the story that became motifs (both mentioned twice so far) and I’m curious to see what they mean and how the meaning evolves. I don’t want to push them too hard, because the danger is making them obvious SYMBOLS, but I like their energy, their thematic thrill. What are they telling me?
Every text is whispering something, if you listen.
Last week I worked on a magazine pitch that made its way up the ranks but got, if not exactly rejected, then pushed off to be revisited at a later date. It was a relief and a disappointment, and also streaked with hope because it’s not a NO (not yet anyway). What was revelatory about the experience was that I realized how much I want to do magazine work. Not just a personal essay here and there (which I also enjoy), but bigger pieces that don’t stop (or even start) with autobiographical. This piece, as its conceived now, would require some reported elements, and I would have to educate myself about something I only know a little bit about. It scares me, and excites me. I think about how I’m ready for more nonfiction work, and how that can feed my novel-writing life.
I hate to use the word “brand” because, ugh. Look, I’m a geriatric millennial with some Gen X tendencies and I find the idea of turning myself into a product to be consumed pretty icky. But—but! At this stage I am trying to consider the long game of my career. What do I want out of it, and what kind of work do I want to make? For the next, oh, fifteen or so more years, my time will be constrained (and okay inspired, energized, deepened) by motherhood. When my children are at Oberlin and Deep Springs College (or, whatever, smoking dope in an alley), I want to look back at the things I made while I had so little time and understand the through line, the path of my curiosity. And by then, goddess willing, I’ll be in good fighting shape and I’ll have more time to continue that work. Maybe I can take on every extra thing when I’m in that stage of life. Right now, shit—I’ve got until 4 pm today and it’s my longest day to work. I need to make some choices. What do you want, Lepucki? And who wants me to do what I want? There is a panic (another panic!) that the goals I have might be unreachable unless I find the opportunities. I can find them, but what if they aren’t offered to me? I need to make my brand, and not have it made for me.
Growing up, my dad had this handwritten note on our fridge, which I read every time I opened it:
Whatever you ardently desire,
And enthusiastically act upon…
Will inevitably come to pass!
That positive thinking shit really burrowed itself into my consciousness. (It even makes a cameo in my novel! Pre-order now, ha ha, too soon for that.)
Right now, the back door is open and the most gentle breeze is floating through and I feel euphoric for just a moment as I type this.
About the breeze, not my career.
But, tell me, what are your career dreams?
Meanwhile, here are some fun links:
I returned some stuff from Mango (wow, ill-fitting!) and instead got the same Boden dress I got last spring, but in a new print. I have nowhere to wear it but I don’t care. I wish I had five of these dresses in amazing prints.
I chopped off my hair in a cute little pixie so I am wearing (a little) make-up and considering some new earrings.
This Korean egg and rice dish is so easy and delicious. None of the kids ate it.
I loved The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. It’s for kids and you can read it in a couple hours. It’s sweet and wise, with a knowing fairy tale-ish narrator. I love how DiCamillo resolves everything, and allows for a sliver of the unknowable, the vast mysteries, to persist. The heroes of her stories, though, are safe. It’s a comfort for a child, and for this adult.
Better Things is back! I still meet people who haven’t watched this show so I’m praising it here. It is my favorite show! It’s weird and funny and real. It’s on Fx/Hulu and is currently in its fifth and final season. It’s based on creator Pamela Adlon’s life as a working actress (she played Bobby on King of the Hill!) and a single mother of three girls. It’s such a perfect LA show. A perfect parenting show. The scenes of her cooking make me feel ALIVE. She co-created it with Louis C.K. but she broke ties after his whole deal and since then the show has grown stranger, shaggier, more intuitive, and it feels, somehow, more like a thing made by a woman. Please watch it.
I love the new Haim single “Lost Track.” The bells! Here’s the music video, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
Oh, and for my paid subscribers (hint hint), I listened to reader Nick and got an ALL ELECTRIC KIA! It’s trying to be a Tesla but the wheel wells have these pleats that remind me of little baking tins. This is how I choose a car.
But, seriously, send me your career dreams and goals. Whatever you ardently desire!