On Atwood and Writing

56th Trial: Happily I have little to report here, as the gift of gab has seemed to infuse my fingers of late. However, my dog Boo Radley persists in her state of distress with the fact that I am home more, writing at my table, and she is forced to lay toys at my feet that sit there, unobserved by me. She pretends to sit and wait patiently, but then her exhales narrow in her throat and come out as incessant whines. 

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 10-15hr/wk

Weekly Choice of Tea: Peppermint Coffee – I have set aside the power of tea and have continued the holiday-inspired flavor of peppermint coffee that I stocked up on, making the addiction REAL.

Biggest Success: I am in the Home Stretch. Its that exciting anticipation of being on third base, seeing the end with just one more bat at the metaphorical ball. I have not disappointed myself, and have left most things to catch fire on the back burner so that any and all free time have been filled with a hot cup of joe and my pencil. I have a tan notebook that has the black block letters “WRITE” on the front cover, and it is now more demanding than it was inspirational. 

The past few months have not been a struggle. I have felt more like a writer now than I ever have, and it is because I struggled over the past years to build the foundation and the story line, that now it is happily unfolding. I see the scenes play out before I can write them out, and the character’s have their own voice. I had not felt that till now, and realize the development of the story is likening to the development of my own, that both go through the awkward phases only to come out confident and certain, sort of! That in retrospect, something has been accomplished and created. This story is real, and the novel is nearly finished. I am on the last chapter, and my hands pause over this keyboard as I struggle to find the words to express what that even feels like.

It could be completed next week. I could spend the next month polishing it off before I print it out, wrap it in an outlandish bow, and submit it to my freelance editor (who I chose due to her deep affinity for Beyonce and Harry Potter). With the end so near, I hit a milestone that marks the beginning of the next mountain:  editing, agents, and publishing. That alone could take years, and on top of the many years it took me to get this far, I find myself only half way to the finishing line. But who knows, if it turns out to be a “success”, what time will open up for more stories to follow? But please, I get ahead of myself.

As introduced by my last post, I began Margaret Atwood’s book “On Writers and Writing” after reading the instructions of Edith Wharton. My education on the subject continues, and I continue feel the boundaries of a novel and a writer’s playful attention to them.

These are some of the most important take-aways that I marked in her novel “On Writers and Writing” :

  • “A lot of people do have a book in them – that is, they have had an experience that other people might want to read about. But this is not the same as ‘being a writer.’ Or, to put it in a more sinister way:  everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger.”
  • All writers have a diagnosed condition:  Duplicity. With a capitol “D.” While this could easily be understood in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reference, I enjoy Atwood’s explanation of it. “What disembodied hand or invisible monster just wrote that cold-blooded comment? Surely it wasn’t me; I am a nice, cosy sort of person, a bit absent-minded, a dab hand at cookies, beloved by domestic animals, and a knitter of sweaters with arms that are too long. Anyway, that cold-blooded comment was a couple lines ago. That was then, this is now, you never step twice into the same paragraph, and when I typed out that sentence I wasn’t myself.”
  • “The composition of a novel may be one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration, but that one part inspiration is essential if the work is to live as art.”
  • Writer: “Why this self-loathing? Perhaps it’s the gap between the image – inherited from the Romantics – and the reality. what will the glorious dead, the giants of literature, make of the ninety-pound-weakling descendants?”
  • “There is never any shortage of people who can think up good things for you to do which are not the same as the things you are good at.”
  • “Publishing a book is often very much like being put on trial, for some offense which is quite other than the one you know in your heart you’ve committed. They [critics] know there’s a body buried somewhere, and they’re keen to dig it up, and then to hunt you down. Trouble is, it’s not usually the right body.”
  • “It isn’t the writer who decides whether or not his work is relevant. Instead it’s the reader.”
  • Reader:  “A spy, a trespasser, someone in the habit of reading other people’s letters and diaries. As Northrop Frye has implied, the reader does not hear, he overhears.”
  • “How many writer have put on other faces, or had other faces thrust upon them, and then been unable to get them off?”
  • “The act of reading is just as singular – always – as the act of writing.”
  • “Going into a narrative – into the narrative process – is a dark road. You can’t see your way ahead. Poets know this too; they too travel the dark roads. The well of inspiration is a hole that leads downwards.”

 

As always, thank you Atwood for your friendly, and yet terrifying, mirror that you hold out for all writers (and society). I read this, warm with laughter at her mindset around the writer and the reader, and as I tucked it back into my bookshelf, I shuddered from the bitter cold this road may prove to be. Luckily, I am not far from the ocean should I need to warm my toes. Only this is laughable still, as it would be in Pacific waters.

XOXO

Art, Love, Loss, and Literature

29th Trial:  Interpretation.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 1hr. I am not sad about the lack of writing that has happened this past month–though any reader to this blog must be. I have decided that before Feb 1st, I will have completed chapter 5 and IDEALLY chapter 6.

Weekly Choice of “Tea”:  Gingerbread Latte

Biggest Success:  Jamie and I purchased tickets to visit Vietnam! Everything we own is now in boxes and storage…why not see the world before we have to be responsible adults again?

 

How does one interpret? Art, love, and the inevitable goodbye? Any absence or void leaves behind it a remembrance, just as any writer or painter leaves behind an echo of their voice. Do we look upon such voids or legacies with sadness and loss? Or with warmth and admiration? I had a very eventful visit with Jamie’s family over Christmas break, one in which I was left to ponder loss, love, and art. For one, Jersey their beloved husky, died the morning after Christmas after two emergency visits. The void was suffocating as it was quick and unexpected. While my heart was heavy with the feeling that something was taken that shouldn’t have been, others felt the memory of Jersey lived on and was enough to make their hearts light.

Secondly, we saw the Cleveland Museum of Art, where interpretation thrived in the whimsical strokes of Renoir and Degas, and hardened in the corners of Picasso. They created art that speaks volumes today, and still takes people by alarm and uncertainty.

Thirdly, we saw The Danish Girl, where I cried at any moment of love, longing, and insecurity. It was truly a story of acceptance, and the characters surrounding Eddie Redmayne were, to me, unparalleled in kindness and unprejudiced temperament. I was stunned by the attitudes and the beauty of each character we followed, and my interpretation, while my own, could not be more in favor.

Lastly, I have been so inspired by the aforementioned events, that I look toward the upcoming event in my chapter where I hope to illustrate my thoughts on reality and interpretation. To accomplish this, I reached back to 2014 where I stood in front of the infamous mural by Herakut while I was in Miami, FL.

This mural is pictured for you, and I would love to hear any interpretations you might have!

Herakut1Herakut2

At the Center of Detail

21th Trial: What do you see when you look at art?

Weekly hours spent writing or in the pursuit of plot: 0 hours

Weekly choice of tea: Pumpkin Spice Chai

Greatest Success:  Swam Three miles! I’ve got a couple more to go, then St. Croix open swim race here I come!

I see this portrait of a husky that Jamie painted, and already its image steadies itself within my mind. You understand art, or you search within other’s interpretations and understand theirs. Within a minute or an hour, the observation of art brings balance with its ability to create knowledge. Look at the Husky’s eyes, the colors of contrast within its mane, and you understand Jamie more. How she views the beauty of her art, how she creates beyond the boundaries of reality.

I find that the time I have spent away from my novel, I look at it as of a stranger’s painting on a wall. In a second I know it–as naturally, it has my strings! However, the question arises of what I am trying to create. Alas! What does happen when the artist puts the art brush down, only to then pick it up again? Creation will ensue, however to what cost? I already am itching to retrace my steps. I see what could be inserted into this section, or maybe an event could be placed between such-and-such paragraph to foreshadow where we are now. Like the painted accents of gold that fleck through the mane of the Husky, the artist must know when to start adding, editing, changing, and knowing when to stop. Already I have not yet concluded chapter four–it seems much too soon to go back now and focus on what could be inserted. I find that the most assure way to not re-edit the same passages a thousand times is to blunder forward, and once I know the conclusion (or course for that matter) of my novel, then can I bend and alter the scenes that have led up to it. I just hope that the words penetrate in the future as they do now, as if to hope the blue eyes of the dog maintain their mystery, or that the calm yellow around it’s eyes bring balance to the fierce reds of it’s fur.

What I see when I look at my novel may not be the understanding that years of progressing it will induce. I can only rely on my taste changing ten-fold as I weave through the lives of my characters, and allow the unfolding plot to give direction on how to retrace the path back to chapter one. Like this artwork, I see my story’s center. Yet I cannot tell how I will accent it, or exactly how much gold I should use. Placing detail where it ought not be can be very distracting, and bring failure to the finished artwork. Does the same apply to a novel? Can one add too much detail? My answer changes depending on who I cannel!