From Under the Pile of Boxes

For a tiny, 50 sq ft kind of space, I seem to have collected a shitload of stuff. Packing up to get all moved in to new space many miles from here ... goal is to be settled in by weekend and ready to be raring in new office by Monday.

Meanwhile, I have been coffee-shop writing the last 10 days or so, and it's been alright ... got some of the Mr. Orman story done, and am well into the travel essay I've been kicking around since July.

First Month of 2005 Progress Report Check-in:

FINISH DRAFT OF 2N CHAPTER: Incomplete but in progress.
FINISH DRAFT OF SHORT STORY: Incomplete but in progress.
4 HOURS DAILY OFFICE TIME: Transmuted into "500 words daily" -- that said, mission accomplished!

Ok, so I didn't get all I wanted done done. HOWEVER, I did write 500 words each and every weekday plus 3 Saturdays, so I am patting myself on the back and letting this month be a wash. There is something to be said for being midway through chapter, story, and essay: to wit, it's a hell of a lot better than NOT.

Goals for February:

SET UP NEW OFFICE -- complete with plants and candles

With that, I return to the packing up.


Saturday Progress Report

Feeling good-and-focused enough that I dragged my ass to the office on Saturday, though that's not my usual plan. However, 2005 GOALS require I complete drafts of 1 chapter (2N) and 1 story (collection) each month, and while I think the chapter completion likelihood is mostly sewn-up, until this morning, I hadn't started doing the actual writing-writing of my story.

So I struggled for the last 3 hours with "Endurance" and came up with the first 500 words plus a semi-structure, but man o' man was it tough. I'd hoped to be out of here by 1 pm so I could spend some time on the treadmill, but it's almost 2 now, so time has run too short (aren't I so punny we could all die). Must go forage for nourishment then pretty myself up for multiple cocktail parties this evening beginning just after 4. Oh the life.

Plans for Sunday work session are slightly up in the air. I can't let another week happen in which I don't grocery shop and cook for my husband; the guilt as well as the discomfort not knowing how/what we're going to eat turns out to be too much for both of us. So tomorrow I have to plan our menus, get to the store, and then make something like soup I can freeze for quick dinner. Hopefully I can also get 500 words in, but I'm not going to beat myself up forever if it doesn't happen. I need some down-time, after all, and the real plan is only to write-write 5 days/week anyway.


Process and Product

Schedule a little thrown off by killing a few hours this morning between barn and meeting Husband at car dealer. (This Week's Lesson: Nissans even suckier than Fords.) Spent the time scribbling away at Starbux, netting seven long-hand pages, roughly 180 words per page, inventing two new characters who are supporting players in 2N.

Despite writerly thrills with this creation, and despite believing that more than sufficed for my daily word count minimum, I came to office 1) to escape house, which is filled by Husband, his germs (the poor man is dripping out of every facial orifice), and the horrifying spectacle of the televised CORONATION ($40M? Did they forget there's a war on and hundreds of thousands of tsunami survivors have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat? Not too mention the general end-of-the-world state we seem to be in ...); 2) to stay in the habit of weekdays at the office; 3) because I really thought I might get 500 ADDITIONAL words done!

Sometimes life intervenes, however. Life, in this case, takes shape of Dear Old Friend, who is sick again and back in chemo. He's been one of my heroes most of my life, but if this latest challenge doesn't make him a contender for the World Champion Superhero title, I don't know what could. (Ok, well, I do have a couple of ideas, but I think after this he's pretty much off the hook and all we needy, anonymous Metropoli ought to go bother somebody else.) Anyway, I spent much of the morning emailing him, and now I just don't want to work anymore today.


Feng Shui Foolish

Got to the office good and early today but still managed to kill nearly 90 minutes surfing the internet. Distraction inspired by an article in the Times today about a woman who Feng Shui-ed the apartment she shares with her husband. I'm not a feng-shui-er (in a supreme case of funny, I recently de-cluttered a feng-shui set I'd been given years ago). HOWEVER, I am about to have to move offices, and it occured to me that in setting up whatever new space I end up with, I might as well try a little feng-shui-ing, because seriously, every little bit helps, and it's not like it can really hurt.

Plus I live in LA and every once in awhile you have to give in to your flakier instincts. For instance, I periodically give in to yoga for a couple of weeks at a time before dropping it again.

Anyway, I ended up feng-shui surfing for a ridiculous amount of time today before finally throwing money at the problem and buying two feng shui books.

Despite my new-found fear that my blue desk may be "drowning" creativity--is that why I write from my red easy chair? And should my red chair actually be yellow? Where do you buy a less-precious water fountain?--I still managed 515 words on 2N.

And while I'm talking new office decoration, I think I deserve a better desk chair. I keep saying I'll cash in for a real chair when my novel's done, but I think that might be slightly bass-ackwards. As long as I have to sit in the fucking thing every day, shouldn't I enjoy sitting in it? Wouldn't I be more productive without the leg cramps and back ache?

And DWR sells the one I want in a lovely lime green. If I put a lime green chair with a blue desk, does that cancel out the "drowning" aspect of the desk, considering that green-blue colors are good for artists?


Happy 6 Month Anniversary, Mr Husband!

611 words on 2N today, but it was a pulling-teeth coupla hours (3, to be exact). I had meant to do a little work on my new short story, "SIN," but scenes have yet to present themselves in my brain, despite all the notes I've been making for it, and my battle with 2N has me pretty mind-numbed ... so instead I'm going to go spend 45 minutes on the treadmill.

BTW: Starbucks is now putting little literary quotes on their cardboard cups.


Getting It Back On ...

Ok, so yesterday I was still running around with what we prep-schooler's used to call "'rents"(perhaps because they paid ours?) but I still managed 2 hours of my own time, in which I made last polish to "Darlene," made 20 copies at Kinkos, and submitted it to a bunch of places, all of which liked "Soap" enough to send me lovely handwritten notes about the reasons they couldn't use it but would like to see more in the future ... well, the future may have taken damn near three years, but I ain't gonna sneeze at that, so what the hell, the future is now.

All that said, I am expecting the 'rents to check in around an hour from now ... have been to the barn and the grocery store, done a load of laundry, and assembled the lasagna for tonight's Parental Send-Off and Danielle-Welcome Party. While assembling said lasagna, I had all sorts of fabulous insights for my new story, so I am going to go see how much I can get done in the possibly an hour until I'm back on 'rental call.


Consider Myself Spanked

Writer Friend sent me an email ass-kicking berating me for letting parents slow the roll, so despite wanting to curl up in a little ball and DIE for the 90 minutes I had to myself today, I sat down with the computer from 4:30 to 6. Revised character studies for 2N, and finally polished my new draft of "Darlene" to a finish. Not a whole lot got done, word-count wise, but finally being in another state of "done" with "Darlene" is nothing to be sneezed at. 'Specially b/c wonderful Husband's response to my being done was to say, "Print it out, I'll read it now."

He's a good good man.

On Books, Because Writing Has Halted Due to Parental Influx

First off, if you've read DFW's Broom of the System, which yes, I did force myself to finish because I was in snowy Meeker, and really, there was nothing else to do, somebody, please explain it to me. I didn't get it at all.

But on the other hand, great book: Meg Wolitzer's The Wife. Too lazy to hyperlink today -- go look it up yourself. Perfect length for 2-hr flight from Denver to LA, and if you're a writer, it really does "the writing life" to a fantastic (by which I mean, totally imaginative to the extreme heights of possible career trajectory) and absorbing degree. I hate to fly, but the book kept me tuned in enough to not flip out entirely, and considering my general choice of flight reading is back issues of New York Mag and whatever tabloid has Jessica Simpson on the cover, that really is saying a lot. (Fair warning: if you're not, yourself, a wife, The Wife may not resonate as deeply for you ... don't say I didn't warn you. But for me, thought it was great, since I spend all my time thinking about issues like being a wife and/or writing. FYI, last year's I Don't Know How She Does It was similarly successful for me, so there you go.)


On the Loss of A Room Of My Own

Thursday, I was informed I am losing the lease on my very inexpensive, very convenient-to-the-gym office space. (Come to think of it, that's probably why my work has slowed to a halt.)

Unmoored is not even remotely the right word to use here. How is it I finally get my bearings again just in time to be EVICTED?

Aargh. Need new office space ASAP. How annoying. I'd start looking this week, but wrinkle in this plan is the slight chance Husband may win exciting new job in NYC and we may be moving camp. Double argh. So I can't really sign a new lease until I know where I'm going to be living six months from now. Triple quadruple argh.

Famous Last Words

Ok, all those things I said late Wednesday about all those things I was going to accomplish ... poof. Some combination of hypnosis (snow on mountains, light on snow) and hormones has felled me in my tracks.

But I'm still getting a lot of reading done. Abandoned Hedwig & Berti "toot sweet," as I like to say. I don't need "charming" Holocaust novels, thank you very much.

But Thursday night I read Lily Tuck's The News From Paraguay, and I'm here to tell you, it absolutely deserved the Nat'l Book Award. Totally absorbing, lovely prose, fascinating story, time/place fabulously rendered. Go Lily Tuck. All naysayers should just be quiet.

Have moved on to Xmas present from Husband, who upon hearing me say I was no fan of David Foster Wallace--Husband has been re-reading A Supposedly Fun Thing ...--offered me a copy of DFW's first effort, The Broom of the System, and said, "Try this."

Began it last night on a couch in the living room next to a roaring fire and was having NONE of it. Moved into the bedroom and it began to grow on me. So there you go. I'm only 145 pages in of this nearly 500 page paperback, so the jury's still out, but I'm sticking with it so far. It's a little bit Vonnegut-meets-Pynchon-meets-DeLillo, but since I haven't actually read any other DFW besides the first 30 pages of Infinite [Book]--has anyone ever read the whole thing, now, really, I mean, every single phrase, no skimming?--and the lobster article he wrote for Gourmet mag this summer (or was it Bon Appetit?)--maybe that's how all DFW is, anyway? I, for one, have little to no clue, really, except to find author photos featuring men in knit caps slightly ridiculous (see the photo in A Supposedly Fun Thing ... and I'm sure you'll agree).

And while we're on the subject, Lily Tuck's author photo sucked, too. How severe can one woman be? I mean, she might as well have been wearing a wimple.


On Being Home

One of the benefits of being in any of my mother's houses is she always has a large stack -- more precisely, stacks and stacks and stacks -- of hardcover novels around, usually a) new; b) recently dissected by the NYRoB (my mother actually reads the NYRoB, unlike me, who before cancelling my subscription years back would just let it pile and pile until the pile was yellow and easy to clear out of my tiny West Village apt); or c) totally over my head, usually Russian or South American in origins. (This is a woman, who, in the last four days, while suffering the flu, has been watching Chabrol films on DVD, and describes "Before Sunrise" as "fourth rate Rohmer"). She does her shopping at Three Lives, which is about three feet from her apartment in NY, and she ships boxes of her finds out here to Meeker, which is why late last night I was curled up with The Master--final impression: gorgeous book, a perfect Jamesian ghost-story that is totally illuminating, and fittingly, haunting--and why today I finally got a gander at ...Max Tivoli. Wasn't as thrilled with that one as the Toibin; I felt that reading through the first two-thirds of Tivoli was harder work than a work that I wanted, but the ending was so lovely and heartbreaking I think overall it's a success. I cried, despite feeling slightly annoyed at how exhausting / ennervating I found the actual reading of the book to be, so clearly I cared more than I supposed. He snuck up on me, Mr. Tivoli did.

Which is pretty impressive, considering that when I was a child my best friend and I were convinced we were spawn of the planet Xabadiaxalo, where people grown down, and that we'd been in a scientific accident when we were what would pass for 11 here, and our aging process reversed, so that we were now cursed to grow up. Our fellow Xabadiaxalans sent us to Earth so we wouldn't feel like freaks. We wrote several novellas about our lost lives, and illustrated them too.

Anyway, snow came in last night and went all day and we have inchees and inches out here. Something about the snow made it tough to work most of the day, though I did get lots done on the 2N treatment late this afternoon. Tomorrow afternoon I spend some more time with Darlene.

Friday I think a bit more about characters for 2N, work up better histories for them that I can refer to later on in the process, when I get confused (which I know will happen, so better to get that packed away now). What is Daniel's actual family background? I sort of like the idea of Daniel's parents and sister being in a cult somewhere in the Northwest, whereas I think Nic has to be wealthily orphaned, sort of like my sister's old friend Thomas Shaw, who lives directly opposite my parents in the Village and who was left a Picasso that you can see hanging inside his living room, if you're gazing carefully from across the street in my parents' living room, which my sister and I, sometimes, are.

Then, Saturday, start the actual writing of 2N Ch. 1.

Then, when parents leave LA on the 14th, I need to turn my attentions to finishing Ch. 1 and having a finished finished finished Darlene to workshop, plus a new draft of a new story, if I'm not to get behind my New Year's resolutions just out of the gate.


* Produce a new chapter draft each month, plus a new story draft for collection each month
* Workshop a new story for collection each month
* Submit stories to lit mags in batches, quarterly (March 1, June 1, Sept 1, Dec 1)
* As soon as draft of 2N is complete, find readers -- (no endlessly tinkering with early drafts, as I did on Hart! Tinkering can be done AFTER first round of notes received ... must avoid losing steam in anyway I can this time ...)

To bed, perhaps with a copy of a novel called Hedwig and Berti that my mother handed me a few days ago -- comes highly recommended by Three Lives, but since I don't really know the "new" guy there, I'm not sure what that means, yet. Haven't been in there myself in ages, since I'm trying to watch the profligate spending habits and find that anytime I'm in a really good bookshop I walk out with too many hardcovers. (How else to explain my walking into Skylight just before Xmas to get a copy of Black Beauty for my cleaning lady's daughter, and ending up lugging home Dave King's The Ha-ha? Actually, there is an explanation: I knew him obliquely at Columbia, back in the day. Also, while we're on the subject, it was a pretty good book--he set himself a difficult task, narrating it through the eyes of a hero who can't talk nor read nor write but is otherwise completely able-minded, and I found that, despite this, he succeeded in finding a way for that hero to drive the narrative, not just have it happen around him. And he plumbed him deeply, too, and didn't beatify him in anyway either--he had warts on him, and he was totally realized, and though parts were a little cute--did his room-mate have to be an Asian-Texan soup-maker with an industry going on in the kitchen? did the kid in his charge have to be half-black? ((that said, it does make the movie-version seem inevitable, and I suppose that's what we want, right, we novelists who writing in a sea of other hopefuls are hoping somehow to hit it bigger than them? I can't blame him ... I mean, my agent said to me, when I first pitched her the plot of Hart, "who do you see starring in the movie?"))--it was overall a good novel about which, I kept saying as I read it, "Wow, he did a really lovely job," and if you don't believe me, ask Husband, who had to suffer through my saying it over and over again.)


Progress Report

Got a pretty good plot-line map together today, so tomorrow I'm going to use it to fill out my existing treatment for 2N. Ending is still a little hard for me, despite the fact that the final scene was the first image I conceived for this entire story. Problem is, I think one of the characters must succumb to Hodgkins if the final image is going to work ... however, since this character takes a lot from a close friend who recently fought his own bout with cancer, and has made it through, killing off fictional character comes hard. But it's really beautiful, the final scene, if he dies ... really. Hmm.

Otherwise, spent the day gorging myself on left-over sweets from my parents' New Year's bash (my mother trucks in the entire contents of Dean & Deluca when she comes out here) and reading The Master, the Booker short-listed novel by Colm Toibin. Am loving it, not just for the lovely prose and imagination-mirroring-meandering of its narrative, but because I feel Henry James' pain (at least as it's created by Toibin) -- how hard it is to balance life with art, and not feel you are missing something at one, by favoring the other ...

OK, tommorow: 2N Treatment work
Thursday: Dirty Darlene work -- finish new draft!
Friday: Start working on 2N Chapter 1


Slight change of plans and weather

Have extended my Colorado trip by 5 days, realizing that in lovely snowy Meeker, pop. SMALL, distractions NONE, I really have nothing to do but WRITE -- it's quiet here, and since I'm not home, I have no responsibilities to house, husband, or even cats and horse. So I'm digging in tomorrow, at what's essentially my own private Yaddo. Hope to get far enough along that I don't even suffer the smallest twinge of resentment when my parents descend on LA next week, making both work and workout time impossible.

Which is not to say I will be doing any real exercising here. Perhaps I'll walk up and down a hill or two tomorrow. OH! I can resume my walks! There is lots of lovely walking to be done in snowy Meeker.


Arise, eat, email, shower, WORK, eat, email, WALK, READ, WRITE LETTERS, email, eat, sleep.

Tough life, this.