Friday, August 07, 2009

Land of disconnection

My DSL at home has seemingly crapped out entirely, and now I can't even get a usable dialup connection. Given my work schedule which is packed with meetings and reference desk shifts, it looks like Wednesday morning is the first time a technician can come out and take a look at things. I'll try to do some more troubleshooting between now and then -- goodness knows I should be able to figure it out if it is anything at all on my end; I'm a good troubleshooter usually, and it's something I do routinely as part of my job so I have that particular brand of "methodical" down.

So, because I am an addict, I'm actually spending money to sit at [horrible corporate coffee place] and drink a [actually-not-half-bad corporate smoothie] and use their wi-fi. (The smoothie is the part that costs money.) I'll get through what I can before the annoyance of being in a room with other human beings, listening to music I did not select (Einstein here seems to have forgotten her earbuds), gets to me and I go running back to my cave -- er, my own house. I am so far behind on email, Facebook comments, etc. it's not even funny.

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So, Book Manuscript #2 has gone out to two of its first readers. The first one got back to me with very helpful comments the other day, and the second one gave me a call today to check in after a first read-through. So far, I'm getting pretty positive reactions, which makes me breathe a big sigh of relief. I'm getting some good suggestions too, and feeling pretty good about the next phase of this work. I envision a couple more small revision passes through the ms. and maybe one major-ish shuffle; I'd still like to get it down to a little shorter length than its current page count, but I feel like I'm on the right track.

I am a total process junkie. (As befits the stereotype of us feminists, actually. Heh.) I'm fascinated by my own writing, revision, & manuscripting processes. I'm fascinated by yours. I'm fascinated by anyone's creative process, really, if they write or talk about it with any kind of insight. (Yet another reason why I like Bruce Springsteen; in some of his interviews he's revealed a tendency towards a bit of process-junkie-ness himself, and he seems to be quite thoughtful about his own creative process -- maybe not something you'd expect from a rockstar, but there you go.)

Being aware of my own process sometimes helps me write things I wouldn't otherwise have known to catch. It's like I can see the poem coming from a greater distance, and because I catch it early instead of waiting until it's clobbering me upside the head, I'm able to be looser with it, catch language that is somehow closer to the untranslatable whatever that poetry is. It's more unmediated, somehow. Both more and less controlled. (If that makes any sense at all. Maybe what I mean is ... more aware, and less controlled.) And that affords me possibilities I would not otherwise have.

That's for individual poems. This business of a manuscript? A book? That's still new to me, even though this is the second one I've put together. (Third one, if you count the totally sucky one I put together and sent to like one or two places sometime around 1992.) The process this time around feels completely different than it did with the Firstborn, but I don't know how much of that is because I learned a few things the first time around & how much is because this project is a completely different beast from that first one. But I can't help thinking that what I've learned about the process of writing probably applies, on some level, to any writing -- whether a poem, or a book, or whatever.

I'm fascinated by process. There are few things I enjoy more than sitting down with a writer (or a musician, or any kind of creative artist really) and sharing notes. Everything from "so do you listen to music while you work?" to "how do you know when something is finished?" to "how do you let yourself be influenced without crossing the line into being derivative?" Not that those conversations generally get that interview-question-ish, but it's the sort of ground I love to cover.

I'm planning (tentatively) a trip to Cleveland this fall, in part to spend some time at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They have a big-ass Springsteen exhibit up right now, and it includes a lot of his notebooks. Yes, notebooks, as in the notebooks in which he worked on the first drafts of some of his songs. Since I doubt I'll ever get a chance to buy the guy a corporate smoothie (actually mister wealthy rockstar should really buy, now shouldn't he?) and pick his brain about his writing process, I'm hoping to gain some insight from peering at his scribblings, his doodles and deletia.

I'm sure that for some people, examining your own creative process is about as interesting as examining your own boogers. Some people are more intuitive and instinctive than I am, I think. I do overanalyze sometimes. But that's kind of like telling really bad jokes: it's OK, so long as you know you're doing it.

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Bla, bla, bla.

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Tomorrow I need to spend some time coming up with a thirty-minute set for my reading at the Writers' Center in Indy on Sunday. 7:00 pm, northside of Indianapolis - stop by if you're in the area! Drop me an email if you want driving directions. There will be an open mic following my set. I promise to stick around for the open mic - I hate it when featured readers bail on the open mic, though I understand why people do (open mics can be so... how to put this kindly... excruciating, sometimes). I'll be reading poems from Breach, but I'll be reading new work from both book manuscripts, too. I'm looking forward to it. Should be fun.


Jessie Carty said...

i love reading about the process of all kinds of artists so i thoroughly enjoying reading this :)

i'm back to working on a full length manuscript again and i'm trying to take all of my poems and put them into categories first before finalizing the manuscript.

i have done this before but i only put the poems into lists by title which isn't as effective because you don't actually have the poems in the FILE.

so the "themed" files that i am making are growing as is the - doesn't fit - so i can figure out where exactly is my manuscript.

ok i sound confused to myself!

and while doing this? i also watched the biography channels bio of bruce :)

Lyle Daggett said...

I write poems, by hand, with a pen, in a spiral-bound stenographer's notebook (the kind with the spiral binding at the top). Currently I'm working in two notebooks, one for a long series of poems that I've been working on since fall 1984 -- a major long-term project -- and the other for other poems. I carry the notebooks with me everywhere.

When I'm writing a poem, I work line by line, from the first line of the poem through to the end, crossing out and rewriting as I go. I don't do multiple drafts. If I get stuck somewhere in the poem, if I'm not sure what the next line should be, I let it sit and I wait till it comes. I've waited (depending on the poem) a few minutes, or a few hours, or a few days or weeks or months, or (in a couple of cases) as much as 12 years, for the next line. I have poems that I've completed and published that sat partly-done for years. When I've written the last line, the poem is done.

So in my notebooks a typical poem will have any number of lines crossed out and rewritten, sometimes several times, occasional words or lines inserted, and typically that will be the first draft which is also the final draft. The finished poem can look pretty messy in the notebook. I don't type a poem till it's done.

The cases where I've waited for the next line for years are the extreme instances. More typically it might take a few days or a week or a month or so from starting a poem to finishing it. And I have, sometimes, written and finished poems in one sitting. Now and then I get lucky and a poem comes out in one piece fully formed.


In your Library Thing sidebar, one of the books showing at the moment is Going Down Fast by Marge Piercy. I read the book years ago, sometime in the 1970's, and liked it. It was the first novel I read where the people in the novel reminded me of people I actually knew. I read a lot of Piercy's poetry during those years too, her earlier 4 or 5 books of poems, which I really liked.

Radish King said...

When Tom Beckett interviewed me it was most horrifying. I don't like to break it down at all but I did, eventually, after trying to sideswipe him with bad jokes and tossing my hair and stuff. I don't like it not one single bit but I did it. I'll never do it again. The interview (well over 10 thousand words!) will be in the next Galatea Resurrects. There's yer process for ya Anniecakes.


Radish King said...

I meant breaking down my writing process. Sheesh. I think it's because in some part I believe it's this stupid magic and if I talk about it the magic will break. I guess we'll see.

Collin Kelley said...

I hope by the time you read this, your DSL is back up and running and you have great comments from your readers on the new manuscript.

Christopher Hennessy said...

just a note to say thanks for the recent comment on my blog. I did indeed have a great time in Ptown.

word verif: Shers

A new pronoun?