When Less is More

THE DAY

Actually, this is about the whole bloody week, isn’t it?

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but there are times–especially when you realize what the structure of the book has to be or when you can do without a POV character you thought you needed–when you’re cutting and rearranging even as you write a lot of new words.  That can sometimes feel really self-defeating.  Like, you’re cutting reams and reams of material.  While I wrote about 16,000 words this week, I also cut an equivalent amount and that hurts.  It is, however, as my husband is always reminding me: no matter how well you may think this out, you are still telling yourself the story.  Yes, you’re thinking about it and if you’re not writing, you’re always thinking about writing, but you’re seeing the ideas for the first time, too, even if you’ve outlined (or jotted down stuff the night–or even hour–before).  I will say that things do always go much more smoothly if I chart out where I’m going first: who’s saying what to whom and why.  Again, this is where I think that writers who tell you they write only by the seat of their pants are lying.  You can’t, possibly.  You have to keep some kind of notes.

I was also thinking this week about life in general. While it’s true that you really can’t compare yourself to starving refugees or something–and there is always someone who has it much worse than you–I’m in a pretty good place, even if that place is Alabama.  I’m not in love with this place; don’t misunderstand me.  But at least I have food and a place to live and work I enjoy if it also drives me to tear out my hair.  That’s not nothing.  So I always feel a little privileged and whiny when I moan about how hard this is.  It is hard, but there are a lot of things in life that are, and at least I am doing this by choice.  (True, I have no idea what I’d do if I wasn’t writing–go back into medicine, I guess–but I don’t want to; that’s not my identity anymore.  I will always be a doctor.  You can’t beat it out of me.  But I will likely never see another patient–though never say never.)

Anyway…maybe this is my long-winded way of saying that the writing is going.  It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either.  Alabama isn’t even close to where I will spent the rest of my life–but it could be worse.

A sidebar: a lot of friends think I should be able to find a lot of inspiration down here.  Maybe that’s so, but I’m not feeling it.  By and large, where I am is populated by a lot of people with whom I have little in common.  Some of them are caricatures, and I’m sure they feel the same way about me.  But the sensibilities are very different and for many, the preoccupation with slavery, the Civil War, and civil rights…I get it, but it’s not where my head is.  It has no resonance for me, and for now, I draw no inspiration either.

Don’t get me wrong.  There was plenty of bigotry in Wisconsin–look at the trouble in Milwaukee, for example, part of which is driven by racial inequities but partly also due to minorities preying on other minorities (and if you doubt this, just go read Evicted some time; a lot of people are getting rich off the poor, and a lot of the rich are other minorities).  So I ran into it fairly frequently.

But here, it doesn’t feel the same.  I don’t know if I can even explain that, but there it is.  I see the injustice, but I also don’t feel it.  It’s like…no, I really don’t want to write a “Southern” novel.  I really don’t want to find a “Southern” sensibility.  I don’t want to inhabit that mindset.  I have my sensibilities, and for now, they’re rooted in the Midwest which I think I understand better.  Here, there’s too much simmering anger.  I met this guy from Madison (WI) the other day; he’d moved down here for the work.  But, man, he’d move back in a heartbeat and for all the reasons I understand–and you know, he said the same thing about the culture and mindset.  It’s just…different.

So I guess you have to decide if you want to understand it.  Me, I’m not sure I do; I have very little sympathy for a history and culture that, frankly, is fairly self-righteous and pretty bigoted.  Like, I met this black guy the other day and we get to talking, and he was the one who brought up that, you know, all that area around the hospital used to be black; there’s a slave cemetery there: “But they don’t care.  They just covered over those graves.  They didn’t move the bodies.  They didn’t care.”  (Although I could relate to that; no one cares about the Nazis who were here either.)  He also pointed out to me all the projects in town: “You don’t want to get car trouble here.”  And yet those areas are adjacent to a “revitalization” effort called Lowe Mill where they’ve got artists and musicians and whatnot.  But are there blacks there?  Very few.

Does that mean that EVERYONE and EVERYTHING is terrible?  Of course not.  But you have to be a transplanted Midwesterner, perhaps, to feel the rub, how grating this all is: how you have people who, at the drop of a hat, will rail against the North and talk about the Civil War as if it was yesterday.

It’s strange.

WRITING OUT LOUD
Stay Dead (started 5/05; Days 1-4, false start)

Day 1: 1000                 Day 23-26: 9450                  Day 51-52: 4500
Day 2: 1200                 Day 27: (novella) 2000      Day 53-57: 6000
Day 3: 1800                 Day 28: 2500                        Day 58-61: 10,200
Day 4: 1350                 Day 29-32: 8850                  Day 62-67: 11,250
Day 5: 1000                 Day 33: 3400                        Day 68-74: 16,110
Day 6: 2000                LONDON HIATUS (13 days)
Day 7-10: ~4500        Day 34: 3000
Day 11-12: ~5000       Day 35-39: 9,800
Day 13: 1600               Day 40-43: 10,500
Day 14: 2300               Day 44: 2000
Day 15-17: 4450          Day 45-47: 6000
Day 18-19: 4500         Day 48: 4000
Day 20-22: 5220        Day 49-50: 3500

Blog Post: 1110
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What I’m Watching:
Gosh, been a while.  Well, I watched Trumbo, which I found pretty entertaining.  Also finally saw Sophie’s Choice.  It’s dated but still quite watchable, and oh my, we were all so young then.  Of course, I’ve been watching the Olympics.  Every time Phelps stepped on the podium, I got teary.  Like, I’m glad I was alive to see this.
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What I’m Reading:
A mishmash; nothing’s holding my interest for long, so I’m reading, variously, Missing, PresumedJust Fine; and Infidel.  Why?  Like I said…nothing’s holding my interest.  It could be that I’m just more interested in my people now, I don’t know.
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What I’m Listening to:
No books for now.  Don’t know why; just didn’t manage to finish anything and haven’t found anything that grabbed me.

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