My alleged book is nowhere. The two characters that I like to write about are Liz and Mattie. The life of the story is there. I need make it more about them. But then, where would be my law plot?
Never mind that! What about my life?
Yesterday I had my mammogram. Usually, they make your boobs into pancakes. This time it was crepes.
A while ago I read about a novelist from Iceland who writes in a hut overlooking the ocean. He plans everything ahead of time, like a movie script. And then he sits in his hut and shoots the movie.
I don’t remember his name. But fuck him and fuck his hut.
All this to say that I’m pretty much in despair about my alleged book. The first draft was easy. I had a delicious feeling of irresponsibility. Try this! Try that! A fire! A drug overdose! An Episcopalian Funeral! A kidnapping! A riptide! A rogue wave! (I almost put a Whale into it. I’m serious.) And it’s just a horrible mess.
And here’s what I don’t get at all—holding information back. I always feel as if the reader’s entitled to know everything I know, as soon as I know it. I know I’ve quoted Trollope’s great passage from Barchester Towers on this subject. But there has to be some planning, right? And in the few Trollope books where a crime is the main plot (Orley Farm, Phineas Redux and The Eustance Diamonds), he does hold information back, at least for a while, but never in a way that makes you feel tricked.
On my way to work, in order to avoid the conclusion that I’ve permanently lost interest in the law book, I rode my bike through the neighborhood where one of the scenes happens. It was only a few blocks off my normal route, but even small changes in routine give your attention a nudge. I have no idea if this will add any life to the book, but it was more fun than going straight to work.
Last night for his second dinner Enzo fixed himself a bowl of Cocoa Puffs with whipped cream on top, and it looked like genius.
My writing is in a pretty hopeless state. I couldn’t even pass a quiz about the book I’m supposed to be writing. What isit about?
Work is hard and stupid and takes an amount of attention that I resent.
And at a class meeting last night, I volunteered to make 172 ounces of hummus and deliver it to a school event while wearing a suit of armor. Because I am an idiot.
I can feel my writing life slipping away. This morning I got up at four, as usual. (I know that sounds extreme but I go to bed at eight.) My coffee and computer were ready and waiting. Sister Liz Book 2019 Rewrite was open on the screen. I poured coffee and settled on the couch with my laptop. And then I just lay down and went to sleep.
I don’t think like a writer these days. I don’t have words running through my mind. I’m not sure what’s there instead.
I was about to write, I’m so depressed. But that isn’t quite right. I’m tired of writing that law book. I still get up at four. That feels like the one thing I can control. But this morning I just sat on the couch in the dark with my eyes closed drinking my coffee. Around five I started working. Then it was six and time to start the day.
Max, I miss you!
I miss the real you, who I adore as a man, and also the Max in my diary who I talk to in my head when I’m in diary-writing form. They overlap but aren’t the same, just like the real me and the character who writes my diary overlap but aren’t the same.
Teresa and I are reading all Jane Austen’s novels in order, keeping up with each other, more or less. We’ve both read them all before—but not recently or all together or at the same time as each other.
Teresa would have been great in CCS. She likes good things and talks about them plainly. When we finished Sense & Sensibilityand started P & P, she said, “It’s amazing how different it is.” (Better was implied.) Now we’re both in the early chapters of Mansfield Park, and Teresa said that the people don’t seem real. In Pride and Prej.even the caricatures—Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine de Burgh—were so real.
I suggested that we skip the rest of Mansfield Parkand just watch a BBC mini-series instead. She said she doesn’t even want to watch the mini-series, if the people are the same. And anyway, I’m inclined to finished the book. Mansfield Park is a phenomenon—a perfectly sustained mistake, and fascinating as that.
My own alleged book is not a perfectly sustained anything. It’s stuck. It’s not surprising me anymore. I don’t want to work on it. And I wonder if I’m just writing the wrong thing. Even the greatest novelist in English wrote the wrong thing now and then. There’s no shame in that. But I’d rather write the right thing.
I have an idea—probably a bad one.
To surprise myself into joyful activity on my book, why not write it in public? Why not publish it serially in my blog? And when I get stuck, maybe other people will have ideas, which I won’t like, but which will suggest things I’d rather write instead, other directions to take.
I told Teresa that I was stuck and asked her what should happen next. She said, “I don’t know. How about—everyone goes to Disneyland!”
Fuck it. Why not?
The school event that I mentioned a while back is upon us. I decided to just buy the hummus, but I still need a costume, something medieval.
A friend of Enzo’s at school claims to have ten-pack abs. The tenth goes down to his groin and therefore can’t be shown. Enzo says this is impossible. So they’re getting into body image insanity, poor dears.
I’m pretty much in despair about my law book. I keep starting little plot-lets, and then panicking because I can’t keep track of them, and then all my attention goes into explaining the plot (mostly to myself, but the reader is forced to listen), and explanations are a pretty harsh environment for any life that’s trying to grow.
I keep fantasizing about changes in circumstance that would allow me to Create. More Time. A Room of My Own. Fewer Dogs. No Internet. Larger brain.
But it’s my own Self that needs to be different. Oh dear, oh dear.
Right now circumstances are ideal. I’m alone in the house. Teresa and Enzo are out to breakfast. It’s Sunday morning, all fresh after a rainy night. The streets are quiet. Both dogs are asleep after their respective outings. A room with a sleeping dog in it feels lively and soothing—ideal for Creation. And yet—
I need a snack.
Enzo and Teresa are home now. I have to go to work. Yes, work, and yes, it is Sunday, and yes, dear California tax-payers, you are getting your money’s worth.
I’m writing without my glasses. Fuck it, what’s the difference?
I want to record that we stopped reading to Enzo at bedtime. It happened a few nights ago. Reading was late for some reason, and we decided to skip it. He went into his room and read by himself—the Fish Sniffer, if memory serves. And then we did it again. And again. And now reading is over.
My job has me in its grip. Yesterday in court, a lawyer treated my young witness like shit, and I didn’t protect him. It keeps going through my mind, along with what I should have said and done—brave, unrealistic speeches.
When I got home from the airport it was late, everyone asleep. The dogs woke up and barked in alarm, but before I got the door open, they knew it was me. I put everything down and hugged D-Day’s smooth wriggling bulk. He mouthed my hand and arm. Colin hung back, tail wagging. I scratched him behind the ears with both hands. Good boys! I’d been gone only three days, but my nose had adjusted to foreign air, and the house smelled doggy and comforting. (Usually I can’t smell my own house.)
My book seems far away and not interesting.
It’s 5:30. I just want to take Colin for a walk with a huge cup of coffee, be out in the morning air, not thinking about my case, but I know I will think about it.
I just stopped writing for a while, and I was doing my closing argument, partly out loud, partly in my loud head.
I’m going to be a poorly performing old person.
I pulled my right boob muscle doing a 5K obstacle course, and now it’s hard to take a deep breath. Coughing is a problem. I have to clutch my boob and then give these careful ahem-sounding coughs.
Pain is a pain in the ass. It takes up your attention, and attention is already in short supply.