Monthly Archives: November 2008

9 Nov: This is not working

This daily reporting nonsense is not only making me crazy, it’s hurting my writing. I realized today that last week I pasted in a scene “as is” that should have been re-written — because I was anxious to report that I had made progress. Idiot. Eventually I’ll have to go back and re-write it. Or maybe delete it. But not now. Now is for going forward and making progress and reaching The End.

So the daily post part of the plan has been scrubbed. I’m not convinced anyone reading this is all that concerned about daily page totals anyway, just that I’m writing. The posts over here will go back to being about whatever, whenever.

For me, writing is not a race or a contest. And I can’t make it be something it’s not. I can’t sacrifice quality for volume. Sometimes writing means sitting quietly and thinking, plotting, seeing and hearing and knowing a scene before it turns into words on the page. I need to write it in my head first. That’s my process. It works when I let it. This month is about remembering how to put words onto the page again, and then regaining the discipline to actually do it. Thank you, Merry, for sending the poem. It made me realize I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just put it back on the cart.

I still have my (rather short) long-term goal, that feels amazingly good, and I’m still focusing intently on writing this entire month. I do kind of like the page count tracker thing over there in the corner, so I’ll leave that and update it as I go. It reminds me there is an end in sight, however distant. But if it becomes irritating, it’s toast.

My determination to accomplish this goal has not wavered. If anything, it’s stronger now than it was a week ago.

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7-8 Nov: a much needed break

On the 7th the week caught up with me, big time. After work, I had to do some stuff in preparation for a Board meeting the next day and then realized I HADN’T READ ANY FICTION FOR MORE THAN A WEEK! *gasp* No wonder I was feeling cranky. I was exhausted so I picked up the fluffiest book I could find and tried to read. Instead I fell asleep on the couch at an embarrassingly early hour.

The 8th was five and a half hours of meetings, with a break for lunch, and hanging out with some of my favorite people, other writers. Big changes on that front in the coming year. I’ve relinquished one responsibility [happy happy joy joy] but am taking on another. And while part of me is wondering why the hell I can’t just keep my mouth shut instead of saying, “Sure, I can do that,” a larger part of me is excited and happy about the new challenge.

But all that talking and listening just wears me out and I needed to hibernate for a while afterward to process everything. So I finished reading the fluffy book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

No writing. Didn’t even think about the book. And I needed the break. This effort is teaching me the truth of something I’ve always suspected but never actually tested: I am not a seven-days-a-week kind of writer. But I’m also discovering that there are times (of the day, of the week) when I had thought I couldn’t be productive, and I was mistaken.

Back to it.

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6 Nov: trying to focus

Re-writing. Heavy editing.
Trying not to drown in this muck.

New pages: 5-ish? I’ve lost track.
Total pages: 82

Write a blog post?
Oh please. I’m busy here.

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5 Nov: reflections on race

Here is a truth I rarely acknowledge about myself: Sometimes words and ideas get stuck in my head. And there is nothing I can do to get them out, to let others take their place, until I put them in writing. Sometimes it matters to me that others read them, sometimes not. Whether that is OCD or simply the mark of a writer, I neither know nor care. But these words were there and now they’re here. And tomorrow [today, by the time you read this] I will be able to regain focus and allow others to fill the space — with any luck they’ll be words that belong in the book I’m supposed to be writing.

For me, and for many people I know, the Presidential election was not about race. I can’t tell you how many times in the past months I’ve heard people say race didn’t matter in this election. I don’t think any of us were being disingenuous, but we were profoundly mistaken.

Anyone who knows anything at all about me knows I supported and voted for Barack Obama — in the Democratic primary as well as in the general election. In order of importance, I based my decision on the following: He’s a Democrat. I agree with much of what he said about issues. He is extraordinarily intelligent and articulate. He seems genuinely passionate about implementing change in ways that I think will improve this country. His spouse is completely awesome and she thinks highly of him. He’s young and energetic and charismatic, yet also calm and confident, a natural leader. And, oh yeah, he’s “black” and wouldn’t it be amazing and historically significant to elect a black President.

I didn’t vote for him because he’s black, any more than I would have NOT voted for him because he’s black. His racial makeup, define or describe it how you will, had virtually nothing to do with my decision. Neither, for that matter, did his religion.

Maybe I’m just terribly naive, but until Tuesday night I assumed the majority of people in this country felt the same. Oh sure, I know there are plenty of bigots and racists — all over the country, not just here in the South — who would never vote for a black person no matter the office. Especially not for the office that is arguably the most powerful in the world. I like to think those people are a minority. Then again, I also like to think I can eat chocolate with impunity.

But my assumptions about the importance of race changed Tuesday night, watching black people react to Obama’s election. Seeing Andrew Young, one of the most gifted orators of our time, so overcome with emotion he could barely speak. Seeing Jesse Jackson with tears streaming unchecked down his face. Seeing all the (predominantly) black supporters gathered in Chicago’s Grant Park, obviously in the grips of powerful emotion and overwhelming joy.

Okay, I know the Bush years were awful and many of us were desperate not to have four more years of the same, but these people were reacting to much more than having escaped the prospect of that.

And then I saw Oprah Winfrey in the crowd. She wasn’t there as a superstar. There was no hoopla, no bright lights spotlighting her, no reporters lining up for an interview. She was standing patiently with friends, waiting to hear Obama speak. Just another face in the crowd, her quiet presence so unremarkable it was stunning. And the expression on her face. I can’t even describe it. It was as if all her wealth and power and celebrity, all her very impressive accomplishments, were in that moment meaningless. Insignificant when measured against Obama’s achievement that night. She was there not as Oprah, but as a black person. Standing witness to what for many was an overwhelmingly important milestone in history. American history. Certainly I had known this event would be cause for celebration. Deservedly so. It was the depth, the intensity of emotion it brought forth that caught me off guard.

Right then, everything inside of me took a sharp breath and held it and became very still and then a quiet voice in my head said, simply, “Oh.” And I couldn’t believe I had not realized until that moment how very much race does still matter in this country. How very important it is, not just to small-minded bigots, but to those who have suffered, in too many cases are still suffering, because of it. And how very mistaken some of us were in our assessment of its continued weightiness.

Barack Obama was not elected solely by black voters. Millions of white Americans had to believe race was not a pejorative issue — in fact, many considered it to be irrelevant — in order to vote for a man in an election in which, for millions of black Americans, the race of that man was of vast importance.

And I can’t decide whether that’s ironic or hopeful or somehow just heartbreaking.

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4 Nov: being present in the moment

I tried to write, really I did. But how can you not watch history in the making? I wanted to be a part of it, even if from a distance. I wanted to see the numbers add up as choices were made and voices were heard. I needed to witness Andrew Young, a man I came to admire and respect during the years I lived in Atlanta, brought to tears and near incoherence by the significance of and his gratitude for this day. I needed to hear the graceful and gracious concession of John McCain and the eloquently hopeful acceptance of Barak Obama. It was not a night for turning off the TV.

There were numbers more important yesterday than pages in a manuscript:

  • North Carolina elected its first female governor, a Democrat.
  • North Carolina elected only its second female US Senator, sending a Democrat to fill a seat held by Republicans for the last 36 years.
  • It appears North Carolina narrowly gave its electoral votes to a Democratic Presidential candidate for the first time since 1976.
  • And the United States elected its first black President.

I’ve always been proud to be an American. Watching those results last night, I was proud of Americans.

There are times fiction can’t hold a candle to reality. I couldn’t not watch.

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