Measured Extravagance

12 April 2003 - 11:34 a.m.

You know, somehow my various excuses for not getting more writing accomplished pale in comparison to owls crashing into beach umbrellas. (Be sure to read the advice that follows, too.)

We actually talked quite a bit about mice, bats, pigeons, skunks and other unwelcome houseguests last night, so I suppose I could claim them as last night's distraction anyhow: the Beautiful Young Man and I went with a friend to The Alley Cat, a newish nightspot in our neighborhood. The BYM had come home stinking of smoke after his previous late-night visit there, so none of us were expecting much in the way of food, but my drunken chicken and his chorizo empanada (made with sweet potato dough - mm!) and D's enchiladas were all quite good, and the "fried avocado" appetizer was pretty tasty as well.

As for writing - I haven't managed to produce any fresh wordage over the past couple of days, but I have been spending spare moments figuring out structural stuff - the "what is there to this story besides a couple of people making smart-assed remarks?" sort of thang. I'm aiming for 2K next week; the novelists in the group have been cranking out 2K a night, but as I said at the very start of The Dare, I'm sloooow. I just end up with acres of redundant nowhere when I try the spill-it-out method, so much as I'm enjoying watching the other writers egg each other on with "I hate you"s over 1K vs 8K, 200/night remains plenty ambitious for me.

Besides which, lately, it seems like when I sit down to write I end up with something significantly different than what I'd had in mind when I started out. Not that that's bad, but for instance: last weekend, I realized the short story I'd started with The Dare wasn't going to fit the specifications for the market I'd had in mind. Not a problem - I'll send it somewhere else once it's done - but in the meantime, I'm still attracted to the original topic, so let's start stories #2 and #3.

The next day, I come home, look around my front yard, and realize I've got something that could fit the current Ampersand Project, so I work on it over lunch. By the time I'm done, it's a good poem, but no longer anything to do with the topic. Good thing the collab's optional...

A day or two later, I'm feeling decidedly unhappy with the drivel I've generated for the stories, so I decide to take a break and see what kind of riff I can make out of Geni's anecdote about odd club behavior. Instead, I find myself honing a somber little bagatelle a clef. Ah well, there's a venue for that, too.

Late Thursday night, I start to type a journal entry that spins into something too personal to post online (sorry). But the next day I mull it over and I realize: "Oh. That's what eating at character #3." (No, the story isn't autobiographical. But "all experience is an arch. . ." etc.)

'salright. Writing matters enough to me to spend time on it, and to work at doing it well if I'm going to bother with it at all (especially when I'm aiming to bother other people with it). So, yeah, I'm feeling more than a little irritated that the weekend-month-season remains crammed with other obligations (and, let's be honest, temptations), such that 200 words/night feels like a major accomplishment every time I manage it. And I'm going to be fiercely annoyed at myself if, with all this talk and effort, I don't find myself with two submission-ready stories by the end of the month.

But, looking over the week, I am reminded of what the BYM once pointed out: "You're doing this for fun, aren't you?" Why, yes, so I am. And it is fun, shaping clever and elegant phrases that weren't on the screen or the page before I took the time to pull them together. I do expect to finish those stories by May Day, but if I don't? it's still more story than I had at the beginning of the month - plus whatever else I end up writing to avoid working on said stories. It's for fun. That I can actually hope for publication and profit out of it as well - well, that adds to the fun.

(Have I also mentioned how everything I do these days seems to gobble up far more time than I anticipated? Including this journal entry? The plan for the rest of the spring is fewer posts (= more time to finish other things), so if there's a week or two between entries, worry not - just chalk it up to the demands of sowing ageratum or flirting with Texan bikers (such a hardship, I know) or blasting through word-count deficits.)

Two years ago: "I don't concentrate nearly enough. . ."

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