Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Summer Rules

Summer rules. Or, to put it another way, play it as it lays.

Where I grew up, to shout "summer rules!" conjured drinking at lunch, no shoes, and water, in some form, as often as possible. A pool, an ocean. Sensuality.

Now it means writing time. During the school year it is very difficult to keep a novel in mind; though by not writing a novel, I did manage to write a few other long pieces this year, one just finished. Now it time for the novel. This summer won't be about much else. I have a few responsibilities, and fall classes to prepare, but mainly, I will be in this book. On this blog, I'm going to write about it--not the book itself, but the work of it. I never tire of hearing about other people's processes. I lean forward at readings when some unsophisticated person has the inexperience to ask, how many hours a day do you write, Famous Writer? I want to know, too. How many hours? Why do you stop when you do? Do you laugh at your own sentences? And so on. 

There's nothing really instructive in the answers to these questions, unless the answers are so extreme as to be the lodestar. For example, I recently read Haruki Murakami's What We Talk About When We Talk About Running. Oh, brother. I loved the book--I will say that. I have never read any other thing he wrote--but this one was enough to make me agree he deserves a happy reputation. But--oh, brother. It's about running, serious running, yes; but it is also about writing, and everything you must not do if you want his level of output and focus. You must not have any semblance of a normal life is the basic message. No nothing that doesn't support the writing. Bed before 8. A simple routine, never broken. Of course he's right. There's no balance in this work. No normal life. I sometimes ask my students to name me one recognized genius who cared for his or her kids. Not had kids--cared for kids. This is an angering question, because it asks--how much do you want of it? Not it--I assume you want it. But how much of it? What level of attainment? How massive and comprehensive a view of the times, or a time? What success at penetrating art and nature? How good at getting out of one's own way? 

I certainly wanted more than I have had, but that is my running book. A running from book, as it were. Here I am, with this book to write. First thing: I am trying out Scrivener. I have it set up so I cannot read what I am writing. This is good for me, because it means I can choose when to correct the sentences. If I see them, I mess with them. I hear them differently when I read them, and I try to match my reading sound, as opposed to the voice in my head. They are different. The voice in my head is more visual, whereas my reading voice is more poetic and rhythmic. I need both. But if I go for the rhythmic and poetic over the visual, there isn't enough emotion, and I get lost. Seeing things moves me. Hearing things delights me. I need to be moved first. Move my fingers.

So I chose a font I cannot read, which means I can look without reading, which is good. I don't look at the screen when I'm writing anyway, because I can't touch type. But I need some degree of orientation, so this method is perfect, for today. I wrote about 1000 words last night. I am back to night writing. Summer rules.


  1. How interesting, using a font that is hard to read while writing. I never heard of that technique. I will have to try it.

  2. Let me know if you like it! It helps me.

  3. I might try the hard-to-read font too. Not sure what to do about the children. They're not keen on neglect.

  4. Kids are very hard to work around. That's just true.

  5. Oh, Alice, I am so looking forward to reading about your process. Thank you for sharing it! I sometimes write with a Neo word processor. Great for avoiding Facebook and other internet time-wasters. It's lightweight, and has a tiny little screen, so not even the work itself will distract one. Off to check out Scrivener.

    As for children, I chose not to have them, thinking they would prevent me from working. Wrong. I know now that I would have been an all-round more productive person if I'd been a mother, so that's a real regret. I think we need to forget about ideals and just do the best we can. Writers of genius can't help but be the way they are, but those of us who value other things besides art probably aren't geniuses to begin with, so why sweat it?