Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The First Question

Last week during our bloggers meeting at the library, our fearless leader Carrie brought out questionnaire with nine writing-related questions. We had several minutes to sketch in our answers and then we went around the room discussing our answers. Most everyone had more in-depth answers than mine--I was fixated on a project that isn't working out all that well and trying to decide whether it was something I could abandon without too much guilt.

My answers tended toward those mixed feelings. There were several replies about hope and enjoying the world, none of which appeared in my replies. (I am obviously taking too much time thinking about this: my screen keeps flopping forward. I expect it to start snoring at any moment. Getting to the point.) I thought the questions would make a good series of blog posts and give me a chance to think further about where I might be going with this writing thing. Thus, the first question:

1. What motivates you?

Briefly? Deadlines. Eyeballs (as in readers, not as in actual eyeballs). Cadence and lyricism will drive me to pick up a pen, although that fades as I try to hum my way through my own prose. I've never really lost that taste for poetic prophecies and spells, for the resonance of lines against other lines, or for the lift in the poetry, the flick pushing the words aside and revealing the emotion or image behind them.

Aside from the text itself, walking and driving (so...motion?) motivates me. When I can, I go to the local arboretum and hike the trails or, in hot weather, to a mall to walk and think. Ideas float by in traffic, although I've never kept a recorder to catch them.

The issue isn't really motivation, though. If I'm not writing, it's not that I lack the motivation or the stories. It's that motivation exists in almost perfect equilibrium with demotivation. Even thinking about the things that motivate me drives me to think about their opposites, as if a superhero summons calls the villains at the same time.

It occurs to me that I *should* write better antagonists than I do. Motivation! :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

You Are

you are
What you lay claim to or what you do,
Where you live, what you wear--skin

you are
Breath, composition, thought patterns,
Religion, philosophy, political

you are
Just what I define you to be
When I imagine your life away
from here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Oh, Great and Powerful Slushy Machine

More plate-glass window views but less freeway--bagels rather than breakfast tacos this morning, hopefully to put me in a more writerly mood. So far, I'm staring out at the trees diagonally across Cypresswood. There's one large pine near the edge of the road, branches spread like arms while shorter trees gather at a respectful distance behind. It could be leading the forest of them to the road to harangue the drivers or just to demonstrate why the forests are shrinking and the heat is building. Perhaps it is trying to keep its children out of the road.

Trees along the edge put in mind of spider webs--the orb weavers might be out in force in the arboretum but it is far to hot (heat index of 110) for me to go and see. Just thinking of them gives me a slight (much appreciated) chill. October is lurking beneath a few calendar leaves and then the season of Christmas lights. November and another NaNo will be here before I know it.

Meanwhile, the novel that I intended to finish this July during summer NaNo is still dribbling out, notecard by notecard. I feel as if it's wrapped in webbing, drained of motive force by changes in setting, character shifts, and my own fear that I just don't have anything to say. Or that my voice is just so much more noise in an already noisy bookshelf, full of crowded, crying novels as the shelves shrink and are given over to puppets and puzzles and upmarket candy.

Something about the heat of summer and so many clearcut areas boasting soon to arrive gas stations and strip centers makes me feel as if we're slowly scrubbing ourselves off the planet in favor of artificially sweetened and intelligent soda machines and Lotto boxes. At some point, that sugary blood and chance-dependent outlook will birth a kind of fatalistic manic AI that will turn our corners into temples of semi-frozen worship.

Or not. I think I remember dreaming about my novel last night and being unable to tell the person to whom I was talking the novel's title. I feel as if all the sweetness has been pulled from the idea already, leaving not even a titular carapace to remind me of what I originally thought.

And I find myself in a strip center, full of sweet frozen coffee and staring across the road and thinking about the trees on their summer vacation at the edge of the road. Come in. Sti down. Take a chance and cool down. The hum will calm your fears and the words just aren't necessary. There's always another idea and the slushy machines are always hungry.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

By the Side of the Freeway

There are about six lanes dividing the view from the window in front of me: below, there are cars moving slowly through the drive-through, cars accumulating and being flushed through an intersection, along the road that runs beneath the highway there are single-story buildings visible in that minature, small-town strip of gas stations, storage facilities, and brown strip center offiers; above the roadway, there are flashes of semi-trucks, flashes of car roofs, and a stark black powerline.

If the cars thin out, I can see the deep shadows beneath the overpass, the dark cave humming above and below, breaking trips into sections of town, bivouacking pigeons in the heat of the day. I'm still thinking about voices, about how one voice can dominate a meeting, can divide the participants into producer and consumer. It's difficult to find a balance in a communal enterprise. The highway keeps my attention on the motion outside, dims the chatter in here ao that I can keep a stream of words running from my head to my fingers.

Lately, I've been finding other voices too dominant to write. Short stories, essays, novels, blog posts, radio interviews, status updates chatter through the day, interrupted by the ding of a dryer or the insistent paw of either Merlin or Varda. My own voice, rolling through the quiet house, playing with the text of the latest book I need to read or want to read or think I should read. Eventually, it feels like there is enough language in the world. There are ponds and lakes and oceans and puddles. It has been raining for so much longer than forty days nd forty nights. I am drowning or I am living at the bottom of the ocean.

I am briefly a node on the highway, singing with the radio.

And I am here, breakfast crumpled on a plastic tray to my right, staring out the high windows toward Highway 59 and the clouds that look like they come from a separate sky, one that belongs to the highway and not to all of the cars down below.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cover to Cover

There is that moment when the book is finished, the last page pressed against the face of its opposite, and the entire book sags against your palm. The weight of the book seems to pull the last of the story away from you and you decide whether the place you have left was pleasant, whether it sank knives into your heart or your head, whether you are yet released from the rhythm of the words that carted you across the book's terrain.

This is a good space for laundry. Pull soft, dry towels from the what could be the bowels of an interstellar pod and stack in them in warm drifts in the bins balancing on the dryer. Towels that have been traveling in darkness, in the slush of a watery cave, in the tumble of a hot, spinning metal cabin. It's a good place to realize the book hasn't left you yet. You're still in the mood to argue its certainties, to debate whether the definition of good literature is still Everyone Dies in The End.

Towels, as Douglas Adams rightly intuited, are a perfect, a necessary, accompaniment for this activity.

I have just finished Marina Keegan's The Opposite of Loneliness and Michael Moorcock's Wizardry and Wild Romance, two books that are similar only in that they contain essays. TOofL was a revelation. It did the hard work of showing me, when I would have rather avoided it, the perspectives and pain of others. Reading the essay about why people care about whales, I was reminded of the constant FB status questions about how we care about Cecil the Lion but not other people! I want to make an easy answer--we can surely do both--but the essay was about the effort we make to find solutions for problems that appear to have a solution. The man who killed Cecil cheated. It's an easier thing to comprehend and be angry about (which doesn't make it wrong to be angry) than about the more complex issue of faked videos and proper sex education and healthcare. Outrage is simple enough to cram into a FB post. It's too soon for me to go into greater detail on the stories and essays: I'm still sorting out my responses. I know that once I started reading, I wanted to keep going. That I'm glad I read the stories and that many of the characters--Audrey, Ellen, and Claire, in particular--will stay with me when I think about people I know. That they will help me give myself a break and hold myself to standards because, hopefully, I will be (at least for awhile) paying closer attention.

W&WR just reminds me that I disagree with more F&SF readers than I agree with and that I wish read more when I was younger. I can't make myself love certain books anymore than I can abandon books I love. However, thanks to the suggestions in this book, I have started The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and think I would have liked it if I'd read it at the same time I originally read Susan Cooper and Tolkien. Except maybe for some of the slow-going dialect in the earlier parts of the book. It's atmospheric. And the lead characters (brother and sister) don't have to automatically encounter potential romantic partners along with the rest of the story, a balance that it sometimes reversed to the detriment of the story in contemporary YA fantasy (IMHO, of course). W&WR reminds me of the way I read when I was younger and that is just as appreciated as the additions to my reading list.

Books have been finished and laundry has been sorted. It is a good time to slip into the kitchen for a snack. :)