Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drafting, pt. 7

Time: 10:27 a.m.
Music: "Sparks" | Tim and Sam's Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam
Mood: distanced

Being that these notes are so linked to my process in writing a book, I am depressed rather than upset with myself that the date between posts is so long. It means that it is has been over a month since I had any real time to pay any close attention to revision.

I've said earlier that sitting and writing involves a lot of self-manipulation. First drafts are easier because the only real hope is that you'll get an idea or at least an image out of the nomadic scribble. Revisions have a lot more at stake. You're faced with the decision that it's either worth it or it's not.

A friend of mine recently lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. The first time N and I visited him, we were nervous. Would he be tethered to a chair, drooling with pain killers? Would comments like what's the point fall out of the ethered silence? Rather, he bounded out on his crutches faster and fitter than I'd ever seen him. He'd barely slowed down before expertly leading the charge into a hug, the confident weight of which was joyous, and not, 'please keep me from falling.'

He knew what our gluey surprised eyes were asking, and he said: You either give up, or you don't. And why would you give up?

It seems simplistic at first, almost cheesy even, like some re-hashing of Shawshank. But I've been reading Albert Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus"--an essay solely concerned with the absurdity of living and the oddly logical path of suicide. In a sense, asking why would you give up is the only important question, and if I could say this without sounding cleverly cliche, the yes to continuing is already coiled inside that fetal query, an embryonic intuition that will become an idea, then an image, then something we can't live without.

So: my revisions leaned on a crutch this morning. It is small, but at least it is a yes, and so, for what it's worth: [from Chapter 1, in a section about being a paperboy at age 6]

I am terrified of knocking on doors. When anyone answers, their faces always suggest that they don’t owe me anything. We didn’t sign up for this part of the deal it looks like. Sometimes I stand on the steps for ten minutes, my hand raised but motionless. When I knock it feels like a kind of unwanted divination—that I’m always interrupting something grave. I listen for movement, for the placing, or dropping of something metallic, a click like hitting a pause button, and hear the muted slap of slippers on linoleum onto the stunted shag of the living room, getting closer, closer. On the occasions when no one answers, I think that it is my fault. It is as if they are waiting for the right person to call them back to the world, but it will never be the one who brings them the news. Still, when I hear no sound from the other side, a great weight leaves my chest. I run down and hop on my scooter before they realize that perhaps that noise that was haunting them was someone knocking.