Friday, January 11, 2008

The best gift

Today was the first day I got to enjoy the best gift in the world--writing time. Yes, my mother-in-law stepped up to the plate and is taking the little girl off of my hands each and every Friday. After dropping her at her morning preschool at 9:30 I have about 5 hours of time in which to write before I have to go get my bigger boy from his school at 2:45.

Guess what I had forgotten?
Fiction writing is fun!

Guess what else I discovered?
I am very rusty. It has been a long time since I let my imagination be free. My brain is so used to multitasking with the small people and trying to keep five thoughts active at the same time that sitting down and focusing on one thing, one story, with no other demands felt really weird. But weird in a good way. Hopefully this regular Friday time will make me more able to turn on the writing mind when I have less time during the week.

So today I started working what I've laid out as my goal: by year's end, I'd like to have written a fairly complete draft of a YA (or children's) novel.

I'm proud of myself in that I didn't let myself get distracted by my surroundings--the house is still a sty, there isn't anything in the house for dinner tonight, my legs have not received the exercise that they really want (and they are getting a little twitchy now), and I haven't been reading all the wonderful blogs I follow.

What I did do was have a grand time naming characters, describing locations, outlining the movement of the plot and planning significant scenes, and doing some character studies.

But perhaps the biggest thing I did today was I gave myself permission to fuck up and make a royal mess of it. There is nothing more stifling than overvaluing your own labor. God knows that I'm not a perfectionist in other areas of my life, but perhaps because I read so much and am so used to cohesive, finished stories, it has been difficult for me to picture a novel as starting out messily. As soon as I told myself that what I write down can be flawed because it is a draft and there will be plenty of time for changes later, the words, ideas, and images started to flow. For all I know, next week I'll think up an even better idea for a novel and I'll chuck everything I wrote today. And that'll be ok because I've decided I am going to enjoy the process, and value all of it, not just the parts that end up in the final product.

10 best books?

Of the New York Times Book Review's list of the the 10 Best Books of 2007, I have read exactly none of them. Five of them, I don't expect to have read since they are non-fiction, but I'm amazed that not only have I not read any of the five fiction titles they chose, I haven't even heard of them. Granted, I have a pile of book reviews in the corner of my office that I haven't read yet because I've been pretty swamped with reading material which is a disincentive to prepare to obtain more reading material. Last year NYTBook Review chose a book I hated (The Emperor's Children) as one of its best so I'm not exactly holding my breath in the "fantastic-book-I-will-love-forever" department.

Anyone read any of them? Are they any good?

By Michael Thomas. This first novel explores the fragmented personal histories behind four desperate days in a black writer’s life.

By Per Petterson. Translated by Anne Born. In this short yet spacious Norwegian novel, an Oslo professional hopes to cure his loneliness with a plunge into solitude.

By Roberto BolaƱo. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. A craftily autobiographical novel about a band of literary guerrillas.

By Joshua Ferris. Layoff notices fly in Ferris’s acidly funny first novel, set in a white-collar office in the wake of the dot-com debacle.

By Denis Johnson. The author of “Jesus’ Son” offers a soulful novel about the travails of a large cast of characters during the Vietnam War.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bang for the buck

I received some lovely gifts for Christmas this year: cookbooks by David Lebovitz and Patricia Wells, a great little pan for making Ian's daily cheese omelet, a terrific down jacket to keep me warm and (hopefully) more cheerful this winter, but the gift that makes me smile every time I see it?This $9 human soap dispenser that Brian (ahem, I mean "Santa") picked up at the Museum of Contemporary Art gift shop. I don't know if it is the chubby body, the spherical head, or the little pursed lips that paah-too out a blob of soap, but this little guy pleases me every time I wash my hands.

Any surprises in your stockings that you want to share?