January 26th, 2006


W is for Weary


Yesterday was a bit of a nightmare, as far as the whole writing thing goes. I'm trying to get the "final" ms. for Alabaster assembled. I needed to get it together yesterday, all of it, because I have so few days for Daughter of Hounds, which I know needs lots of work. But I spent hours in the afternoon finding two particular lines from Paradise Lost and the Duino Elegies that I want to use for Alabaster's opening epigraphs. That ate up a nice chuck of the day, especially since I somehow ended up straying into William Blake. And then I decided that I absolutely had to read through "Bainbridge" one last time. I didn't finish with that until after seven p.m., and it resulted in the discovery of a large number of new revisions I wanted to make to the story. After dinner, I spent two more hours on "Bainbridge." And realised, again, that I've lost even the ghost of objectivity with this piece. And I realised, too, that this is something fairly new. This constant revising is something I only started doing sometime late in 2004, when I was working on the page proofs for The Dry Salvages. And last night it was suddenly clear to me why this has happened. My writing style, my voice, has changed considerably in the last two or three years. I've moved away from the old "prose poetry" stuff. No longer do I linger over every single word, as I'm writing, until I'm certain that word and only that word can go there or there. My prose is looser. It's more malleable. I'm told it's also more "accessible" than it used to be. And that last bit would bother me, except that, if it's even true, it's only an accident that's ridden piggyback on this change, which has seemed, all along, to be a completely natural, if sometimes startling, evolution in my work. It has not followed from comments by editors or agents or reviewers (either real or the Amazon.com sort) or readers. It's just been happening, and my instincts told me to allow it to happen.

But, now I see that by allowing this "loosening up" of my voice, I've also opened the door to a sort of endless cycle of revision. I wish I could think of a better way of saying that. Anyway, yeah. Revision. Many word choices have come to seem rather arbitrary. It's almost impossible to know when something's "finished" these days. Indeed, I'm pretty sure nothing really is ever finished these days. I just finally reach a point where I stop or someone tells me to stop or I have to stop because I've come up against or over the top of a deadline. This is happening with "Bainbridge." It happened with "Pony." It's going to happen big time with Daughter of Hounds. And I miss the old certainty. I miss my fierce allegiance to my sentences. But I also know that going back would be impossible. If I'd changed for someone else, I could probably retrace my steps. But since this change came from me, there are no steps to follow back to that previous voice. Because the voice is indivisible from me. This is how I should be writing from this point in time. But the constant revision, it's something I've got to find a way to cope with. It devours time, and I fear I'm fixing things that aren't broken. It never used to be this way. I finished a story and, corrections of actual mistakes aside, it was finished. I didn't write in drafts, and now I almost do.

And now it's twenty-one days and counting. Three weeks. Slippery, slippery time.

I’ve seen bad things in bad places
what did I learn?
wallow in grime
tonight we’ll drink the sewers dry
we can’t function outside of these dreams of suicide

Whatever bug I was suffering from on Tuesday seemed to have run its course by yesterday afternoon. Today I'm fine. Spooky's having more trouble fighting it off. My amazing immune system strikes again.

We got out for a short walk yesterday, shorter than the walk on Tuesday. But we did make it as far as Freedom Park. The weather had turned cold and windy, but I wanted to see the flowers again. Spooky took some photos of our false spring (behind the cut):

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There's exciting news of a new dinosaur-like archosaur from the late Triassic of Arizona, which has been given the name Effigia okeeffeae. A bipedal crocodylomorph, and the new taxon was named in honour of the late Georgia O'Keeffe, as the type specimen was discovered near her home.

Have a look at the letter Z auction. It ends tomorrow. Meanwhile, there's a 613 pp. ms. with my name on it...literally.