Friday, September 25, 2015

Parallel Lines

Until you have begun working on a project, your notes are scattered about your living area, apt to surface where you least expect to find them.  The real organizing principals seem to come as the shape of the project introduces itself to you, reminding you how composition and life are lines, random at first, waiting to be drawn as parallels.

Both composition and life are filled with scatter, clutter, and surprise.  You are often distracted by both.  This means you are not the most time efficient person of your acquaintance.  This also means you tend to look at organizing principals with suspicion and the tendency to underestimate the amount of time the project will take.

Sometimes you wish for a more single-minded focus, even though you understand this will mean fewer notes, fewer notebooks, and fewer searches for a particular notebook with a remembered entry you made when you were being distracted by something else.

This is not an easy way to live.  It is an interesting way and a surprising one.  In it,  you end certain thematic speculations with the realization that you will have to live longer than you'd planned, if you are to have any chance at all of bringing these thematic speculations out of the notebooks and legal pads or paper napkins and onto a computer screen.

At one time, you thought you'd be finished composing and ready to transition by age thirty.  But when you saw how, as your use-by date approached, you were growing more interested in discovery than ever before. You wished to stick around to see the results.  You set your next timer at age fifty, which, at the time, seemed a safer distance.

Age fifty was not a safer distance; you knew that even in your early forties.  The world and your curiosity began moving along parallel lines and by about age forty-five, parallel lines became your way of pairing up seemingly unrelated forces. At the present time, you've given up setting a particular date the way you did before you were thirty,  You've stopped measuring longevity in terms of ambition, rather by curiosity.

Sometimes, when you are feeling caught up in the scatter, clutter, and surprise of composition, you become aware of LAX and other hub airports such as O'Hare, where you've heard of bloated traffic patterns, aircraft eager to come in or go forth.  

You feel a kinship with a traffic pattern; you recall conversations with pilots or traffic controllers, speaking of the equivalent of aloft aircraft flying laps about an imaginary track and the lines of outgoing aircraft on the ground, waiting to be cleared for take off.

These two parallel lines, composition and life, exchange nervous glances from time to time, as though checking to see if you're getting the hang of things, nudging you to hurry along.

Most of the book publishers you worked for were focused on two other parallel lines, one being a stream of product, which is to say books, the other line being accounting or profitability, by which is meant a rigorous focus on whether a given project, particularly one you'd acquired, earned out.  Did it recover the investment needed to bring it into the world, or was it in effect the kind of kid at the orphanage who is not adopted?

In such atmospheres, you did well enough, although there were times when you were asked to give accurate estimates for a project being ready to be launched when the best you could do was thumb through your notes on the project, consider your relationship with the author, give further consideration to the author's ability to accommodate, then make an educated guess.

Much as you love and enjoy the world of publishing and understand the need to earn out, you like your personal parallel lines better.  There is a pile of a hundred books on the floor near your clothes closet.  Next to it is a stack of note pads.  You'd like to think you can be finished with this project by the end of October, but there is also the probability that if you do finish it by the end of October, you will want to give it a read through, from page one to about page four hundred.  When you do, you might see something you hadn't noticed before.  October could well have to extend into January.

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