Thursday, January 09, 2020

A New Year, A New Book, an Old Problem

Happy at Magic City Books in Tulsa

If you haven't been following the recent entries here on Type M, Dear Reader, you've missed some interesting observations about the joy/problem of writing and trying to have a life at the same time.
I lost a little height and slinked away when I read Aline's last entry wherein she said "I'm so impressed with fellow-Type Mers like Donis and John who have gone on with their determination to write every day, no matter what, right through the festive season."

Because guess what? Did I faithfully work over the holidays? No, I did not. And here is my perfectly excellent reason - I took a road trip back to my homeland of Oklahoma in the middle of December. It was the first time Don and I have driven back together since he began having health problems over ten years ago, and it was great fun (though more tiring than when we were energetic young things) We drove through our old stomping grounds, through the mountains of New Mexico past the Very Large Array and Pie Town, through Lubbock Texas, where we were married oh so many years ago, to Norman Oklahoma, where we first met in grad school and went back to years later to work at the University. I did an author event at the new Public Library in Norman which is a beautiful three story building, and the event was beautifully attended. I was told that I was the very first author to talk in the new building, and for the inaugural event featuring my 1920s era novel, The Wrong Girl, a jazz band played before and after my presentation, and silent movies were projected on the back wall above the cookies and punch. The very nice crowd included five - count'em! - five of my first cousins, along with the cousins-in-law and cousins once removed they brought with them.

My sister Martha and my husband Don

If that wasn't lovely enough, we drove to Tulsa the next day, where I was born and raised and near where all my siblings have returned after a lifetime of being scattered all over the U.S. and the world. I'm the only one still living away from the homeland. For now, at least. We spent five nights with my youngest sister and her husband in their new house. Oh, brave Martha. Can you imagine hosting relatives in your house for five days? Fortunately we all get along great and spent some quality time yelling at the television together. Don and I tried to make a point of getting out of their hair for several hours a day. I had lunch with a childhood friend, and visited with the great Carolyn Hart, who now lives in Tulsa. The other siblings did meet us for meals, etc. Middle sister and her husband drove down from Joplin to see us a mere few hours before they caught a plane for Florida and a Christmas cruise to the Bahamas.

On the day before we left for home I did an event at a new bookstore in downtown Tulsa called Magic City Books, also surprisingly well attended considering that it was icy cold and drizzling. I have to admit that I am related to about a third of the people who showed up. We had gorgeous sunny weather on the drive back to Arizona, of course. Then the instant I got home I became deathly ill and collapsed in a heap for several days.

The gist of all this is that I did not write a word for three weeks. I'm back in the land of the living again, and desperately trying to write. Desperate, because my editor wants to see at least the first 100 pages in mid-January.

VERY IMPORTANT POINT HERE. PLEASE READ. If you are a writer, you really should sit down and write every single day, because if you don't YOU WILL LOSE IT. I didn't write for three weeks, and when I finally got back to the computer, I had forgotten everything I ever knew. It's still in there somewhere, because it's been several days now, and I feel the muses stirring again. But let me tell you, I had a few days of panic, there. Oh, I wrote down words, crappy words, but they were words, and words can be shaped and smoothed and made uncrappy, because as you know, you cannot edit a blank page. Some writing days are good, and some make you question your life choices. As Barbara Fradkin said yesterday, "at some point the descent will slow, even reverse, and I will grind to a halt, forced to plod along and even climb again with great effort. Stories bog down and become mired in dead ends when one is a pantser. More and more forks crop up, with no clear path forward. The one principle I keep in mind (which is the same in skiing) is: choose the fork that promises momentum." And keep on going!


Anna said...

Donis, wonderful narrative and advice. My mantra, derived from mountain hiking and universally applicable to any sustained endeavor, is "Don't lose altitude."

Judith Starkston said...

I loved this article. So glad you had a great time on the trip. You'll get yourself back into the swing, but it is deadly to stop. But, you know, there is this thing called life.

Aline Templeton said...

sounds like a wonderful trip, Doris. Glad to hear you did take some time off after all!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Donis, I've been grimly determined to write my five pages a day since January 1. For five days a week. So far, so good. Nevertheless, I was relieved to know that other writers DO get sick. And so do the people around us. Good to hear someone fess up that sometime life intervenes.