It seems there is a definite trend lately with the book. The things that tend to need to be removed are the autobiographical bits. Or, more precisely, the autobiographical bits that conflict with the actual story of the protagonist. For example, this was removed from today’s chapter:
One of my jokes is that the part of my brain that used to secrete gym
procrastination was entirely made of fat, and has been burned out of my
system. But, in truth, my current success exists because it was
designed to route around my excuses. Gym workouts occur seven days a
week because it doesn’t allow for procrastination. But it’s very
straightforward: if you go to the gym every day, the entire debate
shifts from if you are going to work out today to when you will work out today.
I have no qualms with what was written. In fact, the seven days a week example is something I often say when asked about my own seven day a week workout schedule. The problem? The entire book I’m writing concerns the character having found the secret to gym motivation. If you have the motivation, there is nothing to route around. But these words flow from me so easily, it was hard to pick them out as false. Thankfully, it happened. I do fear that some of my bullshit will seep into the book.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the book is my bullshit. I guess the goal is to make sure only the relevant bullshit stays. It is sometimes hard to pull back and see these things clearly, though. There is such a notion of fixing the text that is there rather than wondering what should be there, it seems an ongoing task. Every chapter needs to be re-read with a specific goal in mind. One pass to read for passive voice. One pass for transitions. One pass for pacing.
It was good to read in the Sunday NYT Book Section this week that… well, wait… I don’t think I can say it was good to read it necessarily. It was … comforting(?) to read a profile of Gay Talese (whose work I’ve never read yet) and his writing routine. One thing he has going for him is specifically how I have always envisioned working in the future. He has a small basement studio that is basically a small basement apartment under his house, with no phone, windows, or anything. He just goes there and works. But when it comes to his routine, he left me the impression that it may never get easier. The profile (the relevant portion of which I will paste here rather than provide a link, as the NY Times paid archive system sucks) said:
"I suppose there’s a part of me that resists taking the easy way,"
Mr. Talese said recently, sitting in his underground room and holding a
hand up to his forehead like a swami reading his own mind. "As an old
self-flagellating Catholic, I need to suffer, and something has to be
hard to be worthy."
Ms. Talese said recently about the
composition of "A Writer’s Life": "I can’t say he never complained, but
no matter how hopeless it seemed, he went down there every single day
and sometimes back again in the evening. I often read aloud to him what
he’s written, and with this book it was literally sentences and phrases
that he kept working over. I’d say about something, ‘That’s good,’ and
he’d say, ‘You don’t have any taste.’ "
Mr. Talese, who has
compared writing both to passing a kidney stone and to "driving a truck
at night without headlights, losing your way along the road and
spending a decade in a ditch," is a painfully slow worker — a tinkerer
and reviser, an obsessive typer and re-typer. He keeps track of his
progress, or lack of it, with memos and exhortations to himself that he
posts on white foam panels on the wall, and the ones documenting his
work on "A Writer’s Life," which took him almost 14 years to complete,
are a road map of detours, false starts and dead ends.
an entry from 1997, five years after the publication of Mr. Talese’s
last book, "Unto the Sons," about his father’s family in southern
Italy, when he still thought the new book would be a sort of sequel:
"This memoir-history-nonfiction novel … can be terrific … if you’d
get down to it!" and he adds, "GT, what other stories — and when are
you going to get back into print!?????????"
From June 2001: "Where am I going???"
In July 2002 he decided that he had he had lost his "voice," and started all over again.
September 2002: "I had made wrong turns … for every body I did, there
were two that I started and had abandoned … or that I put aside" and,
again, "GT, where are you going?"
So, on one hand, it’s good to know that my self-flagellation isn’t unique. Although, I will still cling with unchecked optimism that each book will get a little bit faster. If for no other reason than not repeating many of the errors of this book. I think that is my goal. I want my second book to encounter all new errors. Because the only way to not encounter new erros is to not attempt something ambitious, and what fun would that be?
And, speaking of writers who also take a while to crank out the words, my one-time teacher Tom Spanbauer has a new book coming out soon. Well, I say soon, in that it is supposed to ship in May, but Amazon seems to be fine shipping it now. We shall see, as I just ordered it today.
Anyway, it is called Now Is The Hour, and it is described as such: "The year is 1967, and Rigby John Klusener, seventeen years old and
finally leaving his home and family in Pocatello, Idaho, is on the
highway with his thumb out and a flower behind his ear, headed for San
Francisco. Now Is the Hour is the wondrous story of how Rigby John got
to this point. It traces his gradual emancipation from the repressions
of a strictly religious farming family and from the small-minded,
bigoted community in which he has grown up, during a time of explosive
cultural change. Transforming this familiar journey from American
Graffiti to On the Road to something rich and strange and hilarious is
the persona of Rigby John himself. Intimately in touch with his fears,
hesitantly awakening to his own sexuality, and palpably open to life’s
mysteries, Rigby John is a protagonist whom readers will fall in love
with, root for, and be moved by. Now Is the Hour is a powerful, vastly
entertaining story of self-awakening, of the complex bonds of family,
and ultimately of America during a period of tremendous upheaval."
I can’t wait to sink into Tom’s luxurious prose once again. He is such a treasure to readers, as well as to the many people he helps become better writers. Check it out.
Today was a perfect day. Wrote and edited for a good while, did a good workout (save for my iPod not being cradled properly last night, focring me to workout without music), talked to my grandmother, started the new Stephen King book Cell, cooked some chana masala, wrote a blog entry, and (projecting even one step further into the future now) took a nice relaxing bath to cap the night off.