Roads

I want to retreat. I want to hide. I want to do what I did in August 2011, when I put up a virtual wall and didn’t nudge a single brick until 2013. Like every second semester senior I know, I’m knotted and bruised–horrified and excited and proud and out of my damn mind. We’re less than a week away from March. Two weeks from Wednesday, I fly home for Spring Break and quality puppy time. And then April will sweep in, quickly followed by May. Halfway through May I walk on a stage, and then I drive away. I’ll drive to California and I don’t know what will happen after.

And that’s okay.

But, you know, I can recognize it’s okay but still feel like my skin is being pressed to a flame, right?

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My rewrite isn’t a rewrite. It’s a rough (roughroughrough) draft. I don’t know how this happened. Back in November–or was it December?–back in that holiday mass, the original plot was pushed over the edge. Nine years and rejection and senior year and a professor urging me to write something new and an idea clucking at my ears, and I was ready to shove this absurd story aside. Ready to close a drawer, lock it shut, and open a new one. I cried a stupid amount. Like cried-cried. But then, within days, something clicked and a character was eliminated and a new character added in and the plot shifted, and suddenly I was rewriting and all was (relatively) okay.

But then this past weekend, I cried and cried and cried. Lately, it feels like, in my attempt to make the book better, my attempt to follow the urge, I broke the book. It’s so new. It’s so raw. It’s so doesn’t resemble anything it once was. It’s Scary Land. Last on Friday, finally, I hit a low, and I (again) cried and cried and cried. I told my mom I was done. It’s over, I said. But on Saturday–like in November or December–on Saturday, at approximately 6:57 PM, when I was reading and sweating on a treadmill at 24 Hour Fitness, a new thought arrived–a new thought that somehow gives me hope, two ideas that might just pull me through the end of this draft.

This new draft.
This rough draft.
This book that holds distant traces of the old, but, in truth, is ultimately new.

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I want to hide. I want to retreat. Because I’m in new-new drafting mode. In this mode, the last thing I want is exposure. Which is hard when you’re in senior seminar–in workshop with fifteen other writers, fifteen other well meaning writers yacking and analyzing and mocking and praising my fresh pages. Beautiful intensive workshop, when all I want is to put up my walls and write, write, write. I think it’s good. The challenge. The vulnerability. So I’m going with the flow, giving and receiving for another two weeks (surprise, my draft’s deadline is in two weeks). I’m in limbo, flailing in this odd place, the 130 page slump, flailing and trying to dance with the workshop, to listen, listen and take
it in and set it aside and not let the praise and hate stump me. I can do it. If I try. I can love it. If I let myself.

I meet Zadie Smith tomorrow. That’s cool.

So yeah, my mind is retreat-hide-retreat land, and my life is EXPOSEVULNERABLEEXPOSE. And I’m dealing with it. I’m dealing with it with pizzazz. I’m, you know, driving these raw roads, pretending to be a pro. Funny, right?

Right now, that’s all I have to say.

Happy almost Tuesday.

Park City, Utah

Park City, Utah. I landed in Salt Lake City on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday I was sick as you can be without being sick enough to merit a trip to urgent care. Park City, Utah. On Thursday, it rained and rained and rained and the sky slammed with light and thunder. It’s February. We’re at 7000 ft. A summer monsoon in the winter? What an oddity. The rain eventually turned to hail. Monday afternoon, I return to Colorado for Block 6. Seminar. Workshop.

But right now, I’m here. Park City, Utah. With my family. Supposedly, with time to spare.

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I have a tendency to do this thing. This thing where I stack my “vacations” with expectations–thousands of words on a page, hours dedicated to sweating, books to read, random tasks that have been sitting in my extended to-do list for longer than I dare to admit. So, I do this thing. And then I get sick. Or I get lured into the leisure of idleness. Or my family’s craziness sweeps me into their tide. And I think I need to stop doing this thing, because I only set myself up for irritation, kicking myself for not filling my quota.

The rough draft of my thesis (novel) is due in less than four weeks. The 40,000 word mark is on the horizon, swimming in the triple digits page wise, so, really, I’m doing fine. But I’m at this horrific place in the draft where I’m unsure of the remaining trajectory. I’ve done outline after outline–traditional, emotional, scene lists–but somehow, regardless, I’m still treading mud.

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Obviously I know the solution: write. Press on. Move forward, don’t flinch, push to the next moment. I know the solution. I do. But the last two days, since recovering from the flu of doom, I’ve refused to put what I know to practice. Why? To torture myself. To torture those around me. To milk my fears, or whatever you want to call the emotional habit to not write when I know that’s all I need to do. If I choose the wrong path for the book’s second half, well, that’s fine. I can go back and edit, revise, rewrite (as I always do). But I won’t know what’s right or wrong until I put the words to the page.

My family is out skiing. I’m not. One too many freak accidents on the slopes have deterred me away from strapping my feet into a board. Plus, ballet is too important to me (even more so now as it’s my last semester with the free opportunity to bend at the barre) to put my legs at risk of injury. And, well, I’m in crunch time: write, write, write. Right? Take risks. Write. Look at photos of my bookshelf waiting for me back home in Colorado for inspiration. Stare at the snow. Stare out a clear window blank eyed until a guy passes by and he stares back and I keep staring and he waves and I wave too. Write. Write some more.

I’m sorry this blog has turned into a relentless echo. I’m saying the same things in slightly altered forms month after month. My brain is saturated in this pursuit, in attempting to retell this one meek story (again). My life is an echo. Is that a bad sign?

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A week or so ago, the CC Senior Class Committee sent an email to all graduating seniors, informing us that we walk the stage in a hundred days, that our year’s quote has been chosen. A quote that I think is kind of perfect.

“Now go, and make interesting mistakes; make amazing mistakes;
make glorious and fantastic mistakes; break rules.
Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”

– Neil Gaiman

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Park City, Utah. Two more days.


Words to Remember

“Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties.”
–Bonnie Friedman

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Ass in the chair. Fingers on the keys. Why can’t it be that simple?
I have more difficulties than I can count.
Just. Must. Write, write, write.

And sometimes play in the snow. And sometimes freak out that you only have four more months of seeing that certain building every day. And sometimes spend too much time hiding behind Netflix. And sometimes water log your books by reading in the bath every night. And sometimes feel like this rewritefirst draft was the worst decision of your life. But then, sometimes, just fucking write.

Rewrite Whispers

After the sweep of my summer–those hours at my desk facing west, the late nights of typing, revising, drafting–my expectations are now skewed. I’d forgotten the give and take of writing, the crippling anxiety of a blank page, the ache akin to the moment before a panic attack.

This summer was a beast. I was a riding on a wave of adrenaline, of a schedule so full I didn’t have time to question my actions. I just wrote. I wrote every night and day until that draft of AFOT was done. (The title’s acronym is no longer AFOT, but for the sake of consistency and, as a nod to what the book once was, I shall keep referring to it as AFOT.)

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It’s December and I graduate in May and senior year is nearly half way over and, SURPRISE, I intend to rewrite AFOT (again) between now and April, when my thesis–new (and perhaps improved) AFOT–is due. I promised one of my instructors that this will be my last go at it, that after this rewrite, I’ll move onto the book that’s been waiting so patiently for the last few years.

After April, unless extreme circumstances arise, AFOT will go into the drawer for a minimum of five (three?) years and my attention will be given to my fourth book.

This fact stresses me out. It always hurts to walk away, even if only for a short time.

The thing is, it won’t be the first time. An earlier version, the version I penned at thirteen, was in the drawer (well, mostly in the drawer, it slipped out a few times) for 2008 and 2009. During those years, I wrote another book. It was decent. It gained significant interest, but that interest fell flat. I was sixteen, then seventeen, and it was urban fantasy and I couldn’t get my mind to fill in plot holes, and then emotional cracks formed in my real life, and as a means of escape, I needed to return to Audrey, to AFOT, needed to retell Audrey’s story because she was whispering in my ear at night and I finally understood a bit more.

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So I did a heavy revision of AFOT in late 2009. Again, an agent was interested, she’d requested the revision. Naturally, she disappeared, literally was removed from her management website, and that was that. I needed a break. I moved to Colorado Springs, and then to Humboldt County, and in Humboldt County, in spring 2011, Audrey whispered firefirefire, and I needed to know, was desperate to know. But at that point, for all of that year, I was sprinting to get into Colorado College–unable to produce much outside of coursework and applications essays and silly poetry and ranting blogs. So it wasn’t until summer 2012–after a sinus surgery that left me couch-bound for longer than I anticipated–that I was able to retell the story and bring in the fire. I wrote that draft in a month, then returned to school, where the Block Plan is such a beast that weeks often drip in one heave.

The heave of my junior year led to this summer. A challenge was sparked in June and I rewrote AFOT again–this time in present tense, at the suggestion of Ellen Hopkins–and I came closer to comprehending what happened that autumn, what Audrey did and didn’t do, what she said and didn’t say. But the fire remained elusive, smoke prevented clarity. I tried, I wrote until I couldn’t sit or type because of the physical pain, I took the book to the highest place it’s ever been. Yet I knew it still wasn’t there.

This September, I planned on letting AFOT brew for awhile. I slipped it into drawer-land with every intention of turning to my Mormon Book.

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But, of course, in November, I was sitting in bed, wishing I was asleep because I had to wake for Astronomy in five hours, yet for whatever reason was staring at the weather app on my phone–scrutinizing Colorado Springs’s highs and lows with Eugene’s and Seattle’s and Fairbanks’s and Trabuco Canyon’s–when a wave hit. It sounds so fucking cheesy, so absurd and trite, my character whispering, elements of the story smacking at random, but that’s how it works for me. I can’t plot. I sometimes have a to do list of things that might/should happen, but I can’t plot. I write for the same reason I read: to understand, to get to end, to know what the hell happened.

So I was obsessing over the weather, and the absurdest truth of AFOT glared into focus. A truth that requires, basically, a total reshaping of the original plot. A main character’s age changes by four years. A significant subplot disappears. Someone who died now lives. A relationship is reformed and dimmed, just a bit. A house burns. More secrets twist into view.

Right then, I changed my plans. Mormon Book, I promise, I’ll give you my time so very soon (somehow), but until spring, until the last May snow melts, AFOT deserves my attention. For a decade, I’ve been mishearing, blinded by a lie of a subplot, and not seeing the true stakes of the story. And now, now I’m more intrigued by the fire than ever before, more enraptured by its allure.

I still don’t quite know what happened. What spark fed the initial flame. But that’s good. It means I’ll have to write to find out. So give me the will to find summer’s momentum, to turn off the anxiety, to treat my carpal tunnel and accept my exhaustion but write anyway. I need to tell this story. For me. Me now, at twenty-two, and me at thirteen, who listened to Audrey’s first lie.

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On another note, last week was much colder than I anticipated (-14 at one point, still snowing now), as emphasized by the images of the snow I’ve posted as I wrote of summer and writing and total rubbish. Cold. Cold. Cold.

I’m officially prepared for Alaska.
I officially need to go to bed.

Chimes and Things

I’m struggling with time. I’m struggling with balance. I’m struggling with the chime on my supposedly meditative chiming clock that chimes every hour on the hour making every hour of my day feel like a ten minute foray. I’m struggling with my to-do lists. The daily to-do list. The week’s to-do list. The month’s to-do list. The summer’s to-do list. The You’re Only 21 Once (and for only three more weeks) to-do list.

Things keep getting thrown on the already heavy lists. Beautiful things. Favora for friends things. Annoying things. INFURIATING things. Necessary things. Potentially dream-making things. I love all these things. It’s amazing to have things. Responsibilities. Work. Ways to fill the bank account. Class. Education. Friends. Aspirations. Goals. Health. Things are good. Things are very, very good.

But at what point does the brain overdose on things to-do? Is crying on a trail because of the relief of a lovely view evidence you’re doing too much, that you need to give yourself more time to breathe, more time to simply fucking be?

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And why do I keep offering to take double shifts when my coworkers recognize it’s summer, it’s late July, it’s beautiful outside, and jump at the opportunity to go play? Why do I keep taking their shifts when I KNOW there is so much else I need to do in those hours? When I’ve already done my allotted shift and earned my needed money for the day?

I think I keep choosing the forty bucks for four hours spent behind a desk that’s not my desk because at least after those four hours, after that extra shift, I’ll have tangible evidence for the time I spent. I’ll have proof I tried. Reason for my exhaustion. With other things, other ways to spend my hours, there’s not always evidence. I have a feeling. I sometimes have elation. Other times I have mere frustration. I have words. I have less words than before. I have plot threads and character development. I have coursework that may or not receive an okay grade. I have sore muscles and a mysterious amount of calories burned. I have a dull thud of a feeling in my gut, a fear of unemployment in a year, a fear that my time spent will turn out to be a waste.

Which is silly. Which is just so fucking silly because it’s not July 2014, it’s July 2013. It’s today and I’m doing the best I can, I’m making the most of my hours, I’m doing what I know in the back of my I should be doing.

Because even when I take those double shifts, even when I choose the gym over my desk, even when I spend far too much time critiquing friends’ and classmates’ work, I still ultimately end up in my bedroom staying up too late, frantically pounding on my keyboard, frantically trying to put what I need to say, what I’m DYING to write, what my characters are SCREAMING on the page. And I stay up and I type and I do it for me and I do it for the possibilities and I do it because I’m not happy or healthy when I’m not feeding my dreams and I do it because it’s what scratches at the back of my neck all day, every day, and writing–writing not at work, not for school, not for others, not for grad applications or GRE essay preparation, but WRITING THE STORY THAT HAS BEEN TRYING AND TRYING AND TRYING TO BE PROPERLY ARTICULATED SINCE 2005–is the most important bullet point on any list I make, no matter my age or my pathetic bank account or my slipping GPA or my weight.

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I’ve completed many revisions before, most of which were for the same story I’m working on now. I’ve done rewrites too, where I worked from word 0, where I trashed all previous 55,000 words. I’ve edited and edited and edited and shoved once-considered-glossy pages in drawers only to pull them out a year later and tackle the sentences again. But this revision? This revision is something else–and not because of its potential, not for any reason other than that for whatever reason it’s hitting me harder. Every word tattoos my skin in an ink only I can see, tattoos that evolve as I play in the drafting game, tattoos very much like the the ones scarred in black on my arm and wrists that others can see in that they keep me sane, they keep me moving forward and not giving up, not hiding with the spiders under my desk.

I’m cracking from the summer’s weight. I admit it. I finally admit it. Professors warned me. Bosses warned me. My mother warned me. I took on too much. I tried too hard. I pushed too far. I admit it I accepted more than I should have, but I do not admit defeat. Not in the least. I won. All these days, these days that have at times left me sobbing into my hardwood floor that I sometimes wish were carpeting, sobbing thinking it won’t work, I can’t do it, all these days–this final leg of a run I’ve been sprinting since September with no break has only further proven where my passion truly lies. Writing. It always come back to writing. At the end of the day, it’s what I think about. At the end of the day, it’s why I stay up far too late. Writing is what softens the day’s ache, that slows time, if only for a moment. If only for a sentence-worth of time.

You know, who the hell knows where I’ll be in five years? I may be in grad school. I may be working. I may be teaching. I may be an admissions counselor. I may be a freelance writer. I may still be single. I may be very much not single. I may be broke. I may be comfortable. And, gosh, WHY AM I SUCH A DRAMATIC PERSON, but I have to say it, I’m going to say: none of that nonsense matters, those logistics, where I’ll be, my future career, whatever, because I know that no matter what I’ll be writing. I’ll always be writing. I’ll be okay. I’ll write as I wrote today. As I wrote yesterday and will write tomorrow until I finish this current revision.

And after I submit the revision? I’ll put the manuscript aside for a bit of time and continue writing. A new manuscript. New story. New characters. I’ll always write. That’s all I need to know.

So yeah. Here I am. Feeling better. I wrote this entry because I needed to rant. I needed to kind of cry. I needed to admit that I’m struggling. I’m pushing. I’m kicking. I needed to remind myself that my anxiety is silly. It’ll work out. It always does, as long as I keep getting up in the morning and pulling at the hours, yanking time, making the minutes work for me, ignoring the hourly chime and just write. It’ll work out as long as I let myself write and remember how equally important it is to stop, climb, sit, breathe, and take note of the world’s beauty.

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