Shop Talk

I have been temping and writing (thank you to those who have edited my most recent stuff – I appreciate your kindness) and freelance editing. This last bit I have been doing a little less frequently than in Seattle which surprised me at first, but now maybe I have figured it out. Perhaps there are enough artists here that most people can have stuff edited for free by friends and such. I am one of those people after all. I should really be spreading out my business cards more and frequenting hip coffee shops where writers go to frustrate themselves over prose. But I digress.

I am bewildered by something I keep running up against in this editing world of mine. Now – just in case you are curious, or need something looked at, or have a friend who might need some help with the written word, let me explain how it works (at least for me). I get your piece of writing, whatever it is, it could be a book or an essay for school, or a non fiction piece you want to share with your friends. And then I look at it for grammar, word choice, clarity, structure, and I look to make sure you are saying exactly what you meant to say. I suggest where you can expand, explain, or delete sections, I ask you questions that might help you in the writing process. I basically workshop the hell out of your piece but in a more professional manner – without the comments like “haha. He’s a dick” I would write in the margins of my classmates stories.

Here is where my distress comes in: They always want me to like their work. And not just like it, they want me to “feel connected” to it. And they want that kind of feedback. They don’t understand that it doesn’t matter if I like it. And the thing is – it’s not like I do or I don’t. Some of the stuff I read needs a lot of work, yes. Some of the stuff I read isn’t going to be published anywhere and it’s not often that the writer even intends that. But it really doesn’t matter because this is a job. I edit. I love editing. I don’t assign a value to a stranger’s work. I don’t get invested. I try to make it as clean as I can and then I give it back. I try to explain that, sure, their work is fine but it doesn’t actually matter what I think, but they don’t want to hear it. They want more. They want me to feel what they are working on. Is this because I’m working with amatuers? It must be. No writer I know pesters their editing friends for positive feedback. That’s not why we get things looked at in the first place. I know where I rule. I want to know where things suck.

So I mix in positive with negative feedback, but I was doing that anyway. And I fake it. But it’s bothersome to get the pestering emails “What do you think? Do you like my work? Is it good?” It’s a school paper on a topic I don’t care about. Sure. It’s fine.

Kindle Dilemma

To Kindle or not to Kindle? That is the eternal question. I was very stoked about getting one for christmas, esp after seeing maris’s and how neat it all seemed. And it’s still neat and I will be using it, but not right now. Here is what I think the Kindle is good (great) for: Long plane rides – lots of books in a tiny carrier, travel in general (lots of books in a tiny carrier, hello pool side- just don’t get it wet), and the future. Yes. The future. The unfeeling cold, metallic future!

Why the future and not now you say? Well, first – I have a stack of books that are yelling at me to be read. A stack. Of real life page to page with a cover made of paper stack of books. And in my impoverished state I cannot bring myself to spend money on other books. Although – thank you Regina for supplying me with an amazon gift card to wipe away those fears. But even with that money I feel overwhelmed with the amount of reading material demanding my attention. Ok so – this must be the transition phase, no? What every new Kindle owner goes through? The weird inbetween place where I have some old and some new and must finish the old to move on to the new. Except… the Kindle is a little impersonal. Every books looks the same. Every book smells the same. Every book feels the same. This is weird and unfamiliar. And what about the whole bit of walking into a book store and feeling the books? Reading the backs? Reading reviews from book shop people? I know you can do all of this at amazon.com but it’s not the same. I don’t like clicking on links and trying to navigate the site and not see the handwriting of who wrote what (because I judge reliability based on scroll alone sometimes) and something about the whole process just doesn’t seem genuine.

But then again, ipods made music both easier and less hands on. And computers made communication easier and less hands on. But those things have revolutionized the way we live – some would say for the negative but the majority would say for the positive. And maybe we all just need some time to accept the future of books. The other thing is that maybe the publishing industry needs to shake things up a bit. Maybe book sales should be more reader to writer based and the needs for a third party should be diminished. Because although publishers do a great service with editing and marketing a book, they take a large amount of the profits. Could the kindle and the internet reduce those costs? Could they reduce the costs to the consumer – they already do. Like itunes with music, books on the kindle are cheaper. Would this increase readership? If books were easier to carry around and more accessible would more people read? I hope so. Although – the other aspect of books I am sad to see go – my ability to snoop on what other people are reading on the bus. With the Kindle there is no cover art and makes peaking over one’s shoulder incredibly awkward.

On Writing

I’ve been struggling with getting a nice routine down for writing. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before… but it’s true. I’ll give you all a minute to recover from the shock.

Ok back to topic – I thought that I would graduate and move and then feel this overwhelming compulsion to write and I would schedule my life AROUND writing. And that compulsion is there. But so is the compulsion to go running, do laundry, go drinking with friends, lay on my bed and stare at the ceiling, etc. And to be honest, last week was just not a good week for me as a writer. I felt really really defeated. Knowing me, as I often do (know me, that is), I knew that this was just part of my writer-cycle (As opposed to the lady parts version) and there are whole sections of days where I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing and the genius is flowing and then there are whole sections of days where I am unsure and then a whole OTHER set that says YOU KNOW NOTHING YOU ARE DOING NOTHING WORTHWHILE YOU ARE WASTING YOUR LIFE WITH NO AMBITION AND NO TALENT.

Notice how that last bit was all in caps? Yeah, it’s really hard to ignore. So when that happens I generally cry, get really frustrated, complain to friends about how i don’t know what I’m doing, how I hate this, hate this, hate this, and there is nothing to be done, just NOTHING i tell you. Emphasis on the insistence on complete inactivity to fix anything whatsoever. Fantastic.

Well anyways, the point is – that was last week. And the other part of this whole woe-is-me situation is that I wrote this book? And I haven’t let anyone read it? Because I don’t feel like I’m finished with it? But it’s pretty much my entire grad school experience? And because no one has read it outside of the program (And even then, only one person has seen the entirety) I feel like it kind of doesn’t even exist. And even though I was very very adamant about letting the book sit for a while and then returning to it with fresh eyes to get it where I need it, I have this thing where I start doubting my initial decisions as I begin to feel the pressure to perform or produce by well meaning, much loving friends and family. I also have this annoying habit of comparing my artistic life to other people’s artistic life as a measurement of where and when I should be. Which really doesn’t make any sense at all.

This brings you all up to date for what I wanted to tell you about today. So I’m riding the bus to work and it’s all warm and sunshiny out. And I start thinking about my novel. And it just hits me – a major plot change that will affect a lot of the book but will improve it ten-fold just lands in my lap. And it’s so shocking that I start grinning like a fool but also wondering WOW why hadn’t I thought of this before? And it’s so interesting because I feel like young writers get stuck in a rut with plot devices and comfort levels. Certain situations are just comfortable to write about because we know they work, we’ve seen them work. I was reading a round table article in Newsweek with Toni Collette (United States of Tara), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Sarah Silverman, Jon Cryer (Two & A Half Men), and Amy Poehler about the Emmy’s and being comedians and an aspect of what they talked about was writing and performing. And They talked about the completely outdated plot device of an answering machine and hearing a voicemail while doing something related in a funny way (sleeping with another woman while you’re girlfriend calls, etc) and how it just doesn’t work anymore. Who has an answering machine like that anymore? But yet, even in current movies or shows this device keeps popping up.

And this is relevant to my own work. A character in my book is dying and he is spending the majority of the novel in hospice. But why? Well, because that’s where people go to die. But why? Why is that interesting? It feels to me like it makes my life as a writer more difficult because now I have to overcome a boring scenario in an otherwise not all that boring novel, just because “that’s what happens.” But it’s my job to break those molds and not settle for the obvious, and that’s the rewarding, incredibly difficult part of being a writer.

So guess what? I was totally right about letting my novel sit and not letting everyone read it right off the bat, because now I have some really fantastic ideas that will break the story open and will have the reader going “oh… interesting…” vs “yeahyeahyeah, so what?”. So I’m officially back on the upswing of my cycle. Of course, I’m still not touching my novel until at least november, but I’m gonna jot down these ideas for safe keeping while I keep procrastinating on the short story staring at me on my desktop. I’ll keep you posted.

Writerly

I know in my description it says I am a writer but I don’t really talk about writing much. I am a writer, in a sense, because I have this blog and I try to look at the world a little differently and I try to express things in writing almost everyday, but I am also a real writer too. Short stories and novels actually. Anybody who is new should probably know that upfront. And the reason I am working at a bakery part time is so I can have more time to focus on writing and not come home completely mentally drained every day. Since I finished grad school about three weeks ago I have been working on a short story tentatively called “B-Ruce”. I don’t work on it every day but I do try and work on it several times a week and I am always thinking about it. It’s been a little more difficult getting into the swing of things what with the moving and the job hunting and the unpacking and just the general transitioning. But I actually am a writer, full time, and although I haven’t been talking about it much, it’s there. It is always there. And when I get done with this short story I’ll put an excerpt up and anyone who is interested can be emailed a copy by requesting one in the comments.

Thanks for the support everyone! Look for more writing updates in the future.