Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The beast rises from the muck

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This may be the summer I actually, for real, fall in love with writing. (I don't know how to do that thing where you cross out what you've just written, otherwise I would have crossed out fall in love and modified the sentence to say, feel really impassioned about). As soon as I finished my final grades I drug myself back to the coffee shop where, only a day earlier I had been grading and I've been plugging away at it pretty much every day since. Well, except my birthday weekend, pride weekend, the long, long 4th of July weekend, my friend's 40th birthday weekend, that one weekend in between my birthday weekend and pride . . .

Last night I had a totally startling moment of writing grace. I usually have one of these at some point when I'm writing something I really care about, even though I'm always convinced it will never come this time, where my argument rises up out of pages and pages of [mostly unusable]writing and stands there, dripping with mud and sweat and announces his presence. (yeah, the beast is always male. Weird, huh?) Instantly paragraphs rearrange--some sent reeling into the black hole of the recycling bin, others come forward to occupy privileged spaces, where before they were stuck in footnotes, others magically rise from sleeping documents and benevolently settle into places where I wouldn't have imagined them wanting to be. And there is peace in the land, and energy, and I begin to guard my time jealously, craving more and more encounters with my beast, now turned into big, beautiful, bouncing paragraphs.

This moment only comes after writing in about five different directions for weeks, hoping the different threads will all come together, but in the back of my mind knowing that's not how my writing ever works; making master outlines and reorganizing all I've written into different configurations, over and over; walking around with 3x 5 cards and a pen in my purse, pocket of jeans, gym bag, for when the sentence I've been wrestling with reorganizes in just the right way, usually when I'm in the checkout line at the grocery store, or on the elliptical machine at the gym; and stopping in the middle of a productive thought to pull every book I own off the shelves, glancing at them briefly, and stacking them next to my desk because I Cannot. Possibly. Claim. Anything. Without. Them. And, of course, this moment doesn't arrive until I've had several meltdowns, including

1)picking the wrong recovered document after my computer had to be rebooted and undoing an entire day's worth of writing, a day in which it seemed the beast was rising from the muck, but was only peering out from it, and

2)deciding I needed a new printer after not being able to print documents for an entire day, and that this was just another example of everything always breaking and nothing good ever happening to me. My gf, who is a closet computer whiz--really, she's a resolute MAC user, and yet she can dig into programs I don't even know my pc has and fix things--saved me a lot of money when she figured out what was wrong: the printer wasn't plugged into the computer.

So my beast has risen, and it feels like Christmas morning (or maybe Easter morning), and all I want to do is play with it, but I have to go to work (new student advising=summer camp for professors who hang out in the advising pit eating and gossiping all day and get paid for it) and then I leave for a week with my family in California tomorrow. I hope the beast waits for me.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Since I'm on the quarter system, I've only been done with school about three weeks, but this summer is already much, much, much better than last summer, for two reasons:

1. I am not just about to go on leave without a book project nailed down, which means staring down months and months of unstructured time just waiting to be wasted. Instead I started the summer already pretty deep in a chapter, and while the end isn't in sight--I'm stuck in the middle, halfway through a thought, but if I can dig my way through to the other end of the thought, the second half of the chapter is mostly written and just waiting for some close readings to substantiate a whole lot of suppositions. But I'm neither finishing the middle thought nor fleshing out the final ones right now because I stumbled on an amazing call for papers last week--a whole journal issue devoted to a topic I write and teach about all the time. And what thrills me most about this is that

2. It has a due date. August 1st. That's soon, but this is my area. I know this stuff. I sat down and wrote six pages off the top of my head almost as soon as I saw the cfp, and so I think I can do this. It's for a pretty fancy journal, so there's a huge chance this won't get published there, but I want to give it a shot, and if they don't want it, I'll try some other places because, writing this, I realize that I really need to write this essay, regardless of whether it ends up in fancy journal or not. It's something I've needed to think through and take a strong position on for a long time. The deadline makes me feel giddy, because it means I'll have August to not hate myself for not finishing the stuck chapter. So here's to incentive.