A lot of people hate it, loath its arrival and celebrate its departure. It’s all good and well for them. I can’t help, however, to wonder if they are missing the point of it all, the togetherness, goodwill and charity that seem so lacking in our world for the rest of the year.
Maybe it’s the food. As some of you are no doubt aware, food holds a special place in my heart. Growing up in a large, loud, food-friendly family I guess it means much more to me than just something to eat. To me it is symbolic of good times, of family togetherness and stopping to take a few minutes to pay attention to what is really important in life. But more on that later.
My foodiness aside, I’m lucky enough to have my birthday smack in the middle of “the most wonderful time of the year.” In my youth and as a twin, it served as a constant reminder of what a bunch of cheap bastards some of my relatives could be. But now that I’m older it seems all I want is a good day: to see my kids’ faces light up, to reconnect with family and friends as well as enjoy, of course, the mountains of holiday food. This drives my family crazy. My refusal to create a Christmas gift list beyond the, “all I want is a good day,” just sends their lips a-snarling and their eyes a-twitching! During one flustered moment, Mom just wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I broke down and said, “underwear and socks,” which is code for “No Mom. All I want is a GOOD DAY!” She showed me up, though. On Christmas morning she handed me two industrial-sized gift bags packed with tightie-whities and tubers.
My daughter got me good as well. Before going to the mall for gift shopping, she asked me what book I would like to get. Thinking myself very clever and cunning, I picked a book I really wanted to read for reasons that will be explained later, but ignorantly thought out-of-print: Miyamoto Musasahi’s The Book of Five Rings. You can imagine my surprise when BAM! there it was under the tree.
And now that we are out of the holiday season and have begun a new year, I consider it an ideal time for a little retrospection and introspection, as well as resolve to make our lives better in the coming year.
No, this is not an article about my New Years resolutions. I’ve long made a point to stay clear of that trite Bandwagon of Journalistic Death. Besides, now that the first month of the year is already behind us, that ship sailed a while ago. My resolutions aren’t all that unique anyway: get in the gym more, lose 50 pounds and get my cholesterol below critical mass by the 2010 Holidays so I can gain it all back again; finally return to my calling full-time in a town (Tucson) where there isn’t very much of a calling for my calling, to be quickly followed by an angry monkey flying out of my butt; and spend more quality time with the family.
No, this has to do with that Heaven and Hell of every writer: my next novel.
This will be my second novel. After some seven years of writing, rewriting and searching high and low for an agent or publishing house to help it into print, my first attempt at extended literature now sits in a box inside my garage, slowly collecting dust. I don’t consider it a waste, though. Every step to its creation was an invaluable learning experience that will serve me well in the development of the next work.
I can’t say writing the next novel was a New Years resolution, either. I’m a little quirky like that. My creative process in part lends itself to a little schizophrenia at times. For a long time now, I’ve viewed the images and heard voices in my head that will make up parts of the new work, discarding some, changing others, connecting the fragments into a general whole. Here and there, I’d come across or research a random vignette I felt would make a good addition to the work’s flavor, and put it aside for safe keeping until that voice in my head would say that it’s time. But as for actually putting some real time and effort I’m sad to say it hasn’t happened yet, until now, because just a few days after Christmas, I opened my eyes to the alarm clock and heard those two words in my head, “It’s time.”
And what is the story about, you ask? I can’t tell you. It’s one of those I’m-sorry-you-found-out-now-I’ll-have-to-kill-you-it’s-nothing-personal-it’s-business-you-understand things. I will say that it is a heroic fantasy and, had the first novel been published, it would have been second in the saga. I’ve gotten the ball rolling pretty well so far, too. I’ve just started reading The Golden Bough by James Frazer, a work I’ve only sampled in the past, and I’ve already finished reading both Rings and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
(Another Author’s Note: You ever been taught or read something by someone who strikes you instantly as someone who just KNOWS, that what they are imparting to you isn’t just some information they in turn were taught beforehand, but rather is, in fact, a part of them, that every sentence they speak/write is followed by the rolling chant of Gregorian monks? That’s what I felt while reading both Rings and War, and I’m rapidly developing that feeling again with Bough.)
The just-writing part I am beginning in earnest as well, but with a novel things are a little more complicated that a short story or blog post. While the overall story arc is on place in my head, the actual scene-by-scene plotlines are as full of holes as a politician’s campaign promises. My creative process isn’t like, say, Terry Brooks, a lawyer by training who writes in a very lawyerly way, with copious notes ending in just a couple drafts of prose (Sometimes the Magic Works). On the other hand, I’m not someone like Steven King, either, who writes what comes to him while in the moment (On Writing), although I do admit I am very envious of the prolific nature of his works. I think I fall somewhere in the middle, as well as borrow a little bit of both. What I have in my head will be easy enough, but to solve the holes will require the lion’s share of the research and plot outlining.
Still, once I’ve got the rough draft written (a feat I hope to accomplish by the end of the year) the work has only just begun. As I’ve mentioned, my creative process doesn’t work in a lawyerly fashion. The best analogy I can come up with is that of a sculptor. After all the research, plot-note taking and writing, I have my rough draft, a lump of clay on my workbench. And so begins the revisions and rewrites and editing. I’ll carve a chunk off here, add a sliver there, reshape and reform the work Chaos-knows how many times until I have something of which I’m reasonably not ashamed. Then, maybe I’ll let a few select people take a look at it and polish/refine it further until I feel comfortable with the idea of looking for representation.
Sounds like a lot of work? It is. Remember, it took me seven years the last time I made the Great Leap. But, that might be a bit misleading. In real time it was seven years, but take away working through college, taking on two jobs at once, giving myself a much-needed break from the literary toil and the like, I can say actual work time came out to be between 1.5-2 years, give or take. But I’d rather not wait that long for this one, so I’ve cleared the decks, as it were, to focus more completely on it. I’m not actively looking for new clients anymore, and have put other projects on the backburner, except for the blog, of course. I might even post novel update notes here, but in keep with the “whatever the hell I want” approach, I’m not going to make it the only subject I cover.
That’s it for now, my minions. Have a great Superbowl Sunday!