2005-08-24

August Check-in

I finally found my summer groove! This month, I wrote a 13,000 word long story concerning a trapeze family and their middle daughter's struggle to fly free -- and I actually LIKE the first draft, and believe I can make something lovely from it.

Here's how I broke through the summer doldrums. As I've said earlier, my life was pretty upended by circumstances out of my control--my wonderful 5 year-old quarter horse Nelson, who came to live with me in May, became violently ill and had to be hospitalized in July. He very nearly died during his 4 1/2 week hospital stay, and I spent a lot of time on the road, traveling back and forth to see him. With Nelson in the hospital, I found myself waking up later and later, because I no longer had to rush to the barn at the dawn to ride. So between bed and the freeway, writing hours got shorter and shorter ...

With the result that I became more and more depressed.

Finally, the first week of this month, I reminded myself of what I know to be true about my writing habits, and yet so often let myself forget:

1) I write best first thing in the morning, preferably before I speak or see anyone, and much as I hate leaving our warm bed in the mornings, I work better if I get to the page while Husband is still asleep.
2) Writing 1000 words is ECSTACY. Pure and simple. Writing 1000 words is as good as anything anything anything gets. Writing 1000 words sends me off towards my other chores and responsibilities happy and care-free and high. Giddy with joy, even. Funny how, when I'm not writing, this is the thing I most quickly forget.

So I started getting up in the mornings again--up at 7, out the door by 7:15. First stop: Starbucks, where before my coffee I wrote a minimum of 5 pages in the journal, then ordered a non-fat latte and read until 9. At 9, I kept a date with my story, and wrote until 11 each morning, aiming for a minimum of 1000 words and hitting way past the mark several times.

The high that followed allowed me to cope with the stress of my horse's illness--recently, horrible as it is to say, he's taken a turn for the worse. It also helped me be sweet and kind and good to Husband, who in return did anything and everything to get me out the door mornings, even agreeing to go to sleep earlier than usual and not bitching about my alarm going off hours earlier than he likes to wake up. He even insisted I go to work in the mornings despite our having house guests (the amazing man sent me to the office every morning and took on hosting responsibilities entirely by himself).

So now, as we prepare to leave for our 10-day excursion to Maine, I'm feeling good about my work because I FINISHED SOMETHING!!!! I moved through the middle-of-the-draft problem, and shot straight through to the other side!!!

And even better, as I wrote the story, the synapses kept firing towards other projects: I figured out exactly how my story collection functions, came up with a new story for it that takes its inspiration from the Nelson tragedy (writers are vultures), and figured out how three other stories for the collection that I'd been percolating for awhile actually get from a to b to c--how I should approach and move through them, how they start and end and even, how the middle parts work.

Anyway, I can go on vacation breathing easier because of all this. But also, I can go on vacation knowing that I won't stop writing just because we're traveling--that I'll actually enjoy it MORE if I escape for a few hours every day and hit the page. So that's the plan, and that's the gauntlet I'm throwing for myself over the trip's duration:

I WILL RETURN TO LA WITH A FIRST DRAFT OF A NEW STORY.

Because only if I keep writing can I truly relax.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Get the girl some mustard, she's on a roll. Good fer you. You'd better have that new story as promised, or else.