Breakfast on the porch has carried me right through lunch and on into afternoon wine in the warm breeze and the protective shade. Company consists of two young squirrels robbing the bird feeder and I am so relaxed I don't even care. They are small and hungry.
I've read my way through several blogs of friends who write, trying to determine their preferences for book forms and publishing houses, self publishing, and forums for free or for pennies. While I miss the tactile joys of holding a book, flipping pages, underscoring words and phrases, I find my ereader serving many purposes, not the least of which is the ability to carry a whole library with me to the park, to appointments, to cafes, to the moon if I'm going. It's just too convenient. Books can't compete in this busy life full of so much that sitting curled up on the window seat rarely happens anymore. But I admit to loving my library. Book-lined shelves containing tomes I have not visited in a decade still soothe me, shelter me, make me feel, somehow, word-wealthy. If you should ask me where is my Robert Burns collection, I know, exactly. Ditto my Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads. Britain's Backroads. Tell Me You Love Me Junie Moon. The Family, Sex and Marriage. New England Pirates. The Derbyshire Country House. I visit them, dust them, pull them out and read a couple lines. But I sit parked by the coffee pot or the chocolate box with my ebook, needing no space on the counter, when my lap will do. And read and read and read.
I spent the morning slashing my memoir free of repetition, wordiness, low-impact vignettes, over working. Reading myself to myself aloud, in full voice and not whispering, I hear the clinkers, those words that shut down the thought full-stop, the forward movement, the heaviness, using someone's principle that if any word does not elevate or contribute to the sentence, whack it. Ha! I watched whole sentences disappear! Whack! Whack!
Giving up favorite tiny tales within the narrative is hard. Some of them are really, really good, so good that even I, the professional self-doubter, can know it. But they don't sell the story, don't propel it forward, and my trusty instructor tells me they can be part of some essay somewhere else in my writing, but to relieve the memoir of these impediments. She says the dreaded words: they are a distraction.So when the pen in my hand rips through it, I re-read and feel the work to be freer, unencumbered and I surrender the offending part to my trash file, retrieving them for insertion to an essay where they'll lead the band with their color and cleverness. And every day that I do this, the work is as hard as the previous time. I still live in the world of word-extravagance, not the space of where's-the-word-I-need. Words are still like gold coins to me; I loathe letting them go. Whack whack! Slash!
I have developed an imaginary reader. She is very unlike the interior editor some of us recognize. My reader wants red meat all the time. She knows no boundaries, plays no favorites, talks over me, points out her heart's desires, weeps and laughs and shouts "What's the point?" "Where are we going with this?" "NOW can you write it slant?" Who are you kidding?" "Oh please don't put that in there!" And other pithy phrases that tell me you won't like my writing any better than she does if I entertain the slightest dishonesty.
So I write for her. When she climbs out of her seat and starts pacing, I know I've got her. When she's curled around herself, hugging her arms against her chest, I know I've struck a nerve. When she sits sprawled with her eyes closed, chin up, I know she's lost in the story, and taut as a bow string as the tale winds out of my pen. But it is when her breathing's stepped up, and her fists are clenched that she and I have walked together into the swirling mist of memory where we watch our story come alive on the big screen of our melded minds.
Reading this, I see I have escaped from the tough assignment again, and need to return to it while I still have some motivation left, and an editor who wonders what's holding me up. After all, nobody's going to publish a rough draft, now, are they? It's back to the porch for me. And maybe a second glass of wine....