Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Reblogged from Plague Dawgs

Dear –

I got lost on my hike today. I missed a turn and ended up on the wrong side of the mountain. I was moving fast, jogging at times. By the time I realized the trail wasn’t looping around like I’d thought it would, it had started snowing hard little pellets–so heavily it was hard to see–and I’d found myself in a silent, densely forested area with no view of the gulch. I calculated I’d been heading in the wrong direction, at a good speed, for about an hour. It had been all up-hill, and I was tired and hungry, a little shaky, and thinking vaguely, yet constantly, about bears and mountain lions and what if I twisted my ankle?

I hurried back, cutting corners and running most of the way (once I knew exactly where I was) for about an hour-and-a-half. The first half-hour, hurrying through those trees in the snow, I wasn’t feeling at the top of my game. It was the idea that I was so far out, that I was alone, that I hadn’t planned very well. I was slightly panicked. I’ve had many moments like this on hikes that go slightly wrong, where I think, I’ll just take a short-cut over this hill–except the hill’s incredibly steep , and once I’m up there it’s hard to get down, and I didn’t pack any food and my water-bottle just fell from my hand and rolled down the face and is gone.

Or–there’s a black bear in my path; I go the other way, but the bear follows me, not quickly, but changes direction and follows me. For more than a mile.

Or–I’m miles from home, running out in the rangeland, no one knows where I am, and I’ve broken out in hives and my throat’s closing up and it’s very very hard to keep moving.

Panicking doesn’t help. Sometimes I have to admit I don’t like where I am and that poor judgement or bad luck led me here, and get on with it (and acknowledge that things have been worse). I decided to relax in the knowledge that I wasn’t truly lost, had just gone the wrong way, that at least I had plenty of water and had dressed warmly.

I’d had to go into myself (resisting my iPod, which was packed away), and acknowledge the reality of the situation and my discomfort. And only then could I make a change. The panic momentarily flared back up, but subsided gradually and finally. I relaxed; I got off that mountain.

I think that’s why this journal exists the way it does.

It’s my way of regulating panic so I can keep moving forward. What I have to say isn’t always cheerful, and isn’t always said prettily. But I need to say it, and listen to what I’m saying. And then I can look for a new way.

It wasn’t as though I overcame some huge obstacle–just a moment of fatigue and reflexive, stabbing fear. But up there in that moment, before I dealt with it, it felt like it could have been something much bigger.

When I got home I found an acceptance letter for my story, “Exploded View,” in my inbox. It was the same story another journal had rejected within 13 hours of receiving it. “You don’t sound that excited,” Ryan said.

I don’t usually get very excited when things go right; these are little moments that make it easier to carry on with one less worry (one less story to place) and keep working. So I’m going to get back to work. Grateful that I can. And feeling–I know this is weird–but *different*. Like I’ve been through something–not just the hike. Something that was actually bigger and scarier than I’d understood or can fully grasp now. I don’t think I’m off that mountain yet.

I bought a CD at a Jason Webley show last night (he was amazing).

From “Ways to Love”:

Our minds were sharp, our bodies burning.
We gave ourselves over to learning.
How to break and how to give,
Betrayal taught us to forgive,
We stretched and soaked up everything they
Taught us well, we were first in our classes.
We learned to see through many glasses,
How to sink and how to fly,
We learned to watch each other die.
My God, this course is harder than we
Thought we had learned enough ways to love,
Still I don’t know mother where we are.




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Dear –

I’ve been reading. Reading up a storm. Brief moments of crushing doubt today — despite a pleasant walk and sitting in the sun and eating well and all those things. Anyone who thinks writer-type people are kind of downers needs to think about the optimism it takes to believe that one can write a novel. To believe that one can actually sit, every day, and write a little more, and a little more, and it will all amount to something – and not go in an incinerator. Because that happens a lot. It doesn’t work out. I hope it works out. Also, I’ll need a job soon, and though I spend half the day looking and contemplating and readying materials – there aren’t any. The ones I’ve applied for (with the BLM) I haven’t heard from. I’m thinking about breaking down and being somebody’s receptionist. It’s hard to imagine sitting in an office all day. Maybe part-time, if I can swing it. Answering the phone. Sitting there. Getting up to get a drink of water.

The writing’s going well today.


10 p.m.

I finished a scene I’ve been trying to figure out for a while. It turned out differently than I’d imagined, but I’m happy with the direction in which it’s moving the book. It serves the plot in a way some previous scenes perhaps do not, but I wrote those scenes without knowing what the plot was going to be,  so it’s not their fault. I just can’t get ahead of myself. I’ve struck a good pace. I don’t need to start sprinting toward the end (I really want to start sprinting toward the end).

I don’t know how interesting this diary is going to be for others. I want to be able to look back on this time and maybe learn something from it – that’s how it’s going to be useful to me. I’m not sure its usefulness extents beyond that, however.

– t

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Dear –

Spent all day sending stories out. It’s the last day for such nonsense. I get back to working on the book tomorrow.

Just a short note tonight. Too late, too tired.


– t

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Dear –

This always happens. I have to take a few days off writing every time I go on a submit-athon, because I spend so much time reading lit mags and thinking about how my existing stories might fit their tastes and requirements, that I go to work on “5-GULCH” feeling like my own taste and requirements have been drowned out and replaced by the certainty that I don’t know what’s good, all stories are the same, I’m SICK of stories (including my own), etc. It’s not the best mood in which to work on a book. But I need to send these suckers out. They may not be the best, the very best, stories, but they’re DONE. They’re the best I can do; they are what they are. (That’s going in the new cover letter.)  They’ve fulfilled their destinies and now they must go. The sooner the better.

Yesterday was a rough day. Beat-up body, beat-up head. I did work on the novel a bit, right before bed. It might happen again tonight. My favorite thing about yesterday was reading through the Big Books of my life and sending a list, along with favorite passages, to GIRL CANON, which celebrates “the right of women to believe that they are qualified to decide what literature should be” (quoted from this article). I can’t think of a better way to fight back against a headache than writing about books I love — actually, choosing not to write much about them, but to open them up and record the passages that did the things to my brain. Part of it was reading these books outside the context of school. A whole new world opens up, a whole new scope. I wasn’t thinking about them critically; I was able to enjoy them for exactly what they were. I’m glad I learned to read critically, but it’s such a relief sometimes to flip the switch on those analytical instincts and return to the pure joy of reading. This is why. This is why.

I watched a doc about mountain-climbing, and there was a lot of talk about “respecting the mountain,” and I’ve been thinking about an essay that has to do with the ways in which we do not respect our mountains, how we have created realities that are separate from the rules that govern the natural world and other people, and how we sometimes forget these personal realities aren’t air-tight.  Like how, in a blizzard, my neighbors here in this glacial part of the world were trying to drive through snow-banks, in white-out conditions, as though it were a regular Saturday and they had people they were meeting at the bar. Or how I maintain certain delusions to get things done–get job applications out, wash dishes, submit stories, talk to people, just get through my day. I find this world-building/world-denying capacity in humans fascinating. It’s necessary to some extent but there is a time when you have to —

[cue the game-show audience]

Respect. That. Mountain.

– t

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Dear –

I am, how you say, in pain. My back. My head. My eyeballs. It’s all coming from my hip, I think. The one day hiking in old shoes.

Spent today sending stuff out and reading. It’s possible I’ll still get to 5-GULCH, but I think I’ll make this my day off.

Unemployment continues. Is there a job where you keep your clothes on, get paid decently, and go outside sometimes? I’ll keep looking.

I just realized, I’ve forgotten to sign these. That’s part of writing a letter/diary.

Tomorrow’s supposed to be nice, upper-fifties. I’ll try to get out for a walk early, then use the afternoon to write.

Now to send more stories out while there’s enough time before bed to avoid stress dreams. Then I’ll watch something on Netflix and fall sleep with my cat on my feet.

– t

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Dear –

Maybe I think if I do this every day, it’ll help me keep writing. I’m about halfway through 5-GULCH, not at a point where I can say for sure whether it’s going to turn out or not. I don’t have an outline; I’m moving forward by instinct and a vague sense of where I want things to go “emotionally.” (I had to put that in quotes to indicate I’m aware of how ridiculous I sound, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m absolutely serious.) I’ve tried a lot of things so far that haven’t worked–experiments with perspective and language shifts. Some have actually turned out okay. Borrowing a bit from Mrs. Dalloway, I used a passing plane to unite various landscapes and dip in and out of perspectives. It took me a long time to figure it out, though it’s a relatively simple device.

I have to do these things–experiments–to work on the same piece of writing every day. I think I’m a short story writer by nature, but writing a novel isn’t as difficult as it was the first few times I tried. People say the main factor is time. The enormous quantities of time. But actually, the reason I didn’t finish my last novel was — I got bored. I got tired of all my old tricks. I think I used to limit myself far more than I do now, so my chances of quitting out of boredom have probably decreased. Now I’ll try anything, and if it works half the time, and I stay engaged, it’s worth it. Of course this only underscores the value of time, since I need loads of it to actually accomplish anything in this manner.

This morning I streamlined the scene I talked about yesterday, and I think I was able to preserve its strengths, though I did remove over half of it. Too many details, too much dialogue. Then I did a quick pass over a few of the more recent scenes, identifying inconsistencies and other technical concerns, and began writing one new scene by hand, sitting out on the wood-palette chair Ryan built in the yard.

Tonight I’m going to send out another round of stories and look at job openings, since I accomplished what I wanted on the book, and I can’t procrastinate anymore.

Here’s the chair, in the garage. I feel like Troll Queen of the Mountain when I sit in it. It’s much larger than it looks.



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Dear –

This is interesting. If I go straight to my blog and begin a new draft, I have a greater chance of posting what I’ve written than if I’d started in a separate document with the intention of posting it later. I also have a greater chance of finishing it. This kind of post, anyway – this diary.

I’ve had a hard time getting started on 5-GULCH today. Maybe it’s time for a break. Except I really want to work. And once I get started I’m usually fine.

I think yesterday’s straight-up-the-mountain hike caught up with me after all. We went on another walk today, and all afternoon I’ve had this sick, deadened feeling, like I’ve been hollowed out and my insides flung to the birds. And when I’m tired, sometimes it’s harder to slog through the psychic debris. Work’s probably the best thing I could do right now. Concentrating on something. Then sleeping.


10 p.m.

Worked through earlier scenes – cleaning, fleshing out. It was a good way to spend the night. Tomorrow I’ll decide what to do with a particularly surreal scene that doesn’t seem to fit, in tone, with the rest of the book. It might be a matter of thinning out the details rather than removing the scene completely.

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