Drilling Down

Dear Millicent,

The fall, with it’s famous bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils, must sound the alarms of kick-in-the-pants nationwide. As you suggest National Novel Writing Month (I get head-achey at the acronym), I am also considering another internet regimen: Apartment Therapy’s Fall Cure.  The two are connected, and I’m very much considering joining you in the great novelwrite, and wonder if maybe we can create an overwhelming hybrid of sorts?

In your last post on Whip It, you asked about the ideal writing environment.  My honest answer is my sophmore dorm room, which was  the size of a cubby hole, and when I tipped my chair back, my head could rest on the opposite wall.  As I hopefully won’t be moving back into a u shaped space that held a twin bed, mini fridge and desk, I should probably re-adapt and get another program going.  As a mutual professor of ours recently mentioned, “space matters.”  I believe this to be true in the same way that teacups and good pens are pleasing; they can bring delight into the undercurrent, thus happily infecting everything.

Right now my desk and home resemble a comforting racoon’s den–comforting if you are that racoon (luckily, I am).  With a bit of distance, it looks piled and sticky. Functional, yes! Delight inducing, no. Apartment Therapy offers an 8 week focus to make things better.  The site insists it isn’t about style or spending as much as it is making sure one feels very good in their living space.  This week’s assignment is to get some sense of vision together.  They suggest pulling from environments you have admired (friends’ and neighbors’ houses, rooms you felt extremely good in), and to resist making a scrapbook from magazines and catalogues.  They want you to work for a feeling more than rigid ideal that might not fit.  I like this because money is not involved off the bat. Also, it doesn’t want you to be a style robot, as much as, dare I say it, your best self. Tim Gunn would approve.

I was talking to Mr. Carla Fran about these regimens, and my attraction to them.  He has very little interest, and I think might view all of this as another system of procrastination or exuberant timefill.  And it might be.  I do have about seven writing projects that need attention and wrangling. But, they are like the apartment: comfortable and piled.  I need some homework to get me through to the other side.  National Novel Writing Month and the Fall Cure seem like a good sidefocus to dig up all the scattered energy, and start the approach.

My one hesitation about Novel Month is admittedly weak.  I look at the site, and think that a real writer wouldn’t dare post their words there.  I hem and haw about pseudonyms, and then realize I am my own worst wallflower/firecracker: resistant because it seems earnest and uncool.  My punishment should be to include my middle name, and send my parents links to read every update.

What’s the great attraction to these regimens? Is it being told what to do? Is it that it gives a finite start, and a sense of community that promise there is an end and it all will be ok?  Is it a matter of focus and a steady hand?

I think I like it.  Of course, starting is always the easy part.

Back to the den,


The Body and The Mind

Dear Millicent,

Forgive me as I continue talking about the divine Ms. Sayers and her great character, the divine Ms. Vane.  I was reading a section that hit on a conversation we have had at least once or twice.  You and I have discussed the magic of our younger and less boy-ridden days, where our mind sucked up the majority of our time.   In college, all of my passion (all of it–except that which was spent on obsessing about music and movies) was pitched towards my work and books.  I didn’t know it yet.  It was only when it wasn’t all pitched there anymore, when credit cards and kissing became realities, that I noticed my work had fallen off.  I blamed it for a long time on stupid sex (and credit cards were their own song (tawdry) of innocence and experience).  I always think of Tom Robbins quote from Even Cowgirls Get The Blues that “all magic requires purity.”  This book was read at the height of my sharpened, celibate powers. I agreed.   I assumed my virginity was linked to my force as a scholar and go-getter.  This seems ridiculous, and yet, even now, a part of me believes it.  I did feel magical then.   Now I offer that the virginity part takes on little of it, but the passion, the compression of desire that demands the articulation of form,  has now been allowed to become a mist instead of a laser beam.    I also don’t hunger as much for sad songs sung by lonely raspy-voiced men.  I sleep better,  too.  But I miss it.  In ways, I think I might be muffins where I used to be magic.

Harriet has been there.

In the melodious silence [she is out on a walk, early morning, Oxford], something came back to her that had lain dumb and dead ever since the old, innocent undergraduate days.  The singing voice, stifled long ago by the pressure of the struggle for existence, and throttled into dumbness by that queer, unhappy contact with physical passion, began to stammer out a few uncertain notes.  Great golden phrases, rising from nothing and leading to nothing swam up out of her dreaming mind like the huge, sluggish carp in the cool waters of Mercury (243).

She goes on to write some verses that come from an inner voice that she trusts, “once more in her own place,”  and finds that

she had got her mood on paper–and this is the release that all writers, even the feeblest, seek for as men seek love; and, having found it, they doze off happily into dreams and trouble their hearts no further (244).

This made me feel better about things.  If such an apt description could have been written in 1936 by Sayers, then it offers proof that the struggle is real, and hearty, and never quite gone.

Meaning, it’s still there.  Which may explain the situation you and our mutual friend recently discussed: the enhanced productivity that occurs when in the midst of an unrequited crush?