Friday, January 21, 2011

Worlds apart

For the longest time, you have taken comfort in your observation that you are a composite of personality types, starving actors who, like your pal Digby Wolfe and his one-time roommate, Anthony Newley, owned one good suit between them, wearing it when auditions and interviews emerged.  You and your component parts live in the same body; although they own more than one suit between them, they have had to come to terms with what to do with a number of suits they have not worn for years, now that you are living in what you thought to be two worlds, the Old World of 652 Hot Springs Road, and the New World of 409 E. Sola.

There isn't the room for all your things; belongings collected over the years have been consigned to various fates outside 409 E. Sola.  In some cases, your interest in them has waned, perhaps not to the point of outright abandonment but candidates for the Undecided pile, that grand purgatory bordering the Rescue Mission or Good Will.  Your collection of Big Little Books made the cut; it now occupies a ledge under a commodious kitchen window.  The collection of colorful ale six-pack cartons did not fare so well.  Interesting graphics are one thing, space is another.

The act of moving may have been the trigger for the realization that you are living in more than the two geographical worlds.  You live in at least three worlds so far as your interests intersect with your ability to earn a living.  While in the process of trying to earn your entire living from your writing, you acquired experience if not talent as a painter's assistant (bad, very bad at coiling hoses), the manager of a parking lot, a gopher at a luggage shop, an auctioneer's assistant, a telephone solicitor, a carnival barker and booth manager, a newspaper person.  All these were good things to have done as a person who wished to write stories about working class individuals.  These times were the two worlds times, wherein you had these various jobs while aspiring to publication in sufficient measure to support you.
Reaching the makes his living as a writer plateau, then tumbling from it, led irrevocably toward the hyphenization of writer, editor, teacher, from which there is apparently no immediate relief, a forthcoming book and the deliberation with the publisher which of a list of three will come next, ignoring the ardent desire to get back to the novel in the works.

This high-class problem must be reconciled with your promise to take over three of your late wife's classes plus the weekend intensives you have fallen into giving with your literary agent, plus the pile of editing projects that seem to approach you with the same casual demeanor as a panhandler wanting to help you rid your trousers of those lumps of spare change.

This is neither a good nor bad scenario, not until you find yourself in the midst of a class or an editing job, wondering what is going on with the characters you have created in the novel or the concepts you have begun to address in an essay or review.  At those moments, you realize you are moving from the pleasure zones you encounter when working in rather than on publishing, when somehow the persistent momentum introduces itself to the point where you are organizing, administrating, assigning to others the tasks you most enjoy; you are in a sense promoted, but is it really a promotion, to another world.

When you are composing, the world about you is not neat, even less than it might be if you are composing in your favorite manner, with a fountain pen on a sheet of lined note pad.  Coffee, crumbs, index cards, books, and magazines are a sea frothing about you; it takes considerable time to clean the area after a composing session.  This is a lovely, expansive, enthusiastic world in which anything is possible.  It is even possible you will finish such a venture, which is to say complete a draft, whence you need to be doing as you are on your project headed for publication in July, revision.  Revision brings out in you such neatness and order and attention to detail as you never possess in other worlds.  The neatness and order apply to the finished manuscript, where you perform to an almost exact comparison the work you are performing in moving from 652 Hot Springs.  What ever were you thinking with those adverbs?  How did you expect anyone else to interpret that sentence when you had to read it aloud twice before you recalled the impulses that went into your having written it in the first place?

It comes down to this:  You don't believe having a neat desk or work area will in any way add to your niceness or efficiency as a person.  You do have implicit and explicit faith that revisiting the draft, even the one that got the editor onboard in the first place, will make the manuscript nicer in its ability to entertain, disturb, and educate.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

How I love revision! I remind myself of that when the first draft threatens to overwhelm. Thanks for the reminder that both countries within the world of writing, are where I belong.