Read essays from the December 2010 issue of Atenea!

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I recommend what I’ve read so far, “Boredom, Insignificance, and Death in Voltaire’s Candide, Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil and Paulo Coehlho’s Veronika Decides to Die beginning on p. 67.

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Writing a Synopsis Before I’m Even Finished

For my working novella, Slumber Citizens, I’m attempting to write a synopsis as I go along re-constructing the manuscript – even writing it before the work is finished. I’m moved to do this, I think, because it helps shape the work for me and gives me a goal to reach. I plan on finishing this revised manuscript by the end of this year, which is very near. This is a slow process and I feel guilty for skipping two days of any kind of writing. I allowed the ‘holiday spirit’ to get in the way. Watched too many movies and ate too much, and now I feel lazy. But I just sat down awhile ago and forced myself back into that individuated space, where I feel most myself and most fulfilled.

What makes for ‘collaborative writing’ – a new take (at least for me)

I’ve just received an offer from an editor to revise and resubmit a favorite story of mine, “Backwards” for possible publication. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to re-work a piece for publication. The first time was back in 2009 when I reworked a story called, “Schemas” in response to the editors specific suggestions, and luckily, she accepted it for publication in her anthology. Believe me, that story underwent many drafts and revisions, stemming back from my undergrad days. This particular editor has pasted the comments from 4 different readers, each pretty much saying the same thing – that the first 2 and a half pages (out of 4) are excellent, but then the ending falls flat. There are parts they believe where the narrator “tells” too much rather than sticking to tight imagery. Looking back at my story, a form of slipstream/magic realism, I would agree they’re on to something. I have noticed of late a tendency on my part to allow my musings to spill too easily onto the page; what I mean is I’m trying to make too much sense of the narrative and it shows. So, though I don’t look forward to the painstaking work and the possibility of re-rejection…I think I’m up for the challenge…

Something Like a Drinking Glass (From Specter)

You had just finished washing your car, and had just begun waxing when…

Yes. I heard “Honey.” Clear.

And you turned and no one was there.

And no one was there.

You’re not crazy.

Not crazy. No one calls me Honey like that.

You heard it in the shower too?

In the shower too. No one enters the shower with me but her.

And then there’s her photo…

No – the photo of me and her.

My mistake.

It’s okay. The only one with our faces cheek-to-cheek, like this.

Yes.

A photo in a frame the size of a quarter. Disappeared from its permanent place, right here on top of the antique stereo. I know what you’ll say.

That it’s simply been misplaced?

Yes, and no. I searched under every cushion, in every cabinet. Day after day.

And what does this say?

Say, would you like something to drink?

Oh, no thanks.

She collected jars. Jelly and jam jars. Pickle and olive jars. Scraped the labels off with a kitchen knife. And then scrubbed off the sticky stuff with a kitchen scrubber. And turned them each into glasses for drink.

That’s very practical. Did she entertain many guests?

No. I’ve kept all the jars and use them for drinking as she intended.

But the voice has stopped.

True.

And you’ve since found the picture?

No. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.

It says…

She’s telling me something.

Even though the voice has disappeared?

Voices don’t disappear. They dissolve. We posed cheek-to-cheek.

And you can still see the photo, inside of your head.

Clearly. Even after all these years. All I have left is Honey – in my head – like the picture you see, the memory. And the jars. There are too many of them to just disappear instantly. And though they come in different sizes and shapes, they’re each one of them transparent and generic, now that they’ve lost their labels. Can you see what I’m saying?

Clearly.

Her voice and our picture are gone. But I need these jar glasses because they lack clarity. I hold a jar glass in my hand, bring it to my lips, and it serves my needs, but someday it will be gone and I’ll drink from any other glass just the same. After all, a jam or jelly jar can easily be turned into something like a drinking glass.

I see.

Are you sure you won’t care for a drink?

Writing is hazardous to your health.

“…writing novels is an unhealthy type of work. When we set off to write a novel, when we use writing to create a story, like it or not a kind of toxin that lies deep down in all humanity rises to the surface. All writers have to come face-to-face with this toxin and, aware of the danger involved, discover a way to deal with it, because otherwise no creative activity in the real sense can take place.” – Haruki Murakami

I find Murakami’s vision of writing as a toxic occupation that needs to be dealt with to be true. He deals with it by running every day. I often feel that sick sensation, not so much when I’m actually writing, but when I’m either in that creative space – thinking about writing, or after I’m done with a project or even when I receive good news that I’m being published, some strange feeling washers over me, similar to that hazardous space of depression. I can’t really explain it in any other way. Murakami refers to the stereotypical and legendary figure of the artist who lives a hazardous life in order to write, attaining some sort of so-called “purity that has artistic value.” Some are driven to suicide. Why? I think I know why…the way I deal with the toxicity of writing varies – from biking or working out fiercely, to taking long naps or reading. I rarely turn to drink because that’s just not my thing. I admire Murakami’s fierce self-discipline – running and writing for 3 or 4 hours every day. That’s why he’s so prolific. I am forming a strict discipline on myself by forcing myself to write each day, and harnessing the painful feelings that come with creating from the inside out. What do you writers do to deal with the toxic hazards of choosing the writer’s life?