Saturday, January 02, 2016

Happy New Year, writing inspiration, and the boulder in the cellar

Happy New Year! The resolutions and memes are still going strong:
Planning a process for planning another process. Bickering over semantics in a committee meeting, or worse: group-writing policy statements (LIGHT ME ON FIRE NOW). All of these steal our time.
 I didn't write as much last year because most of the year was taken up with smaller projects, a collaborative project, and the Laocoon manuscript, which meant lot of rewriting and revising but not as many new words.

As this blog's long-suffering readers know, the Laocoon manuscript took years of writing, editing, and fretting. It's now at the publisher (page proofs are coming next month), so it'll be out this year.

 But having that boulder of a manuscript meant that I always knew what I was supposed to be doing next.  There's an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show where Rob and Laura Petrie want to buy a house that seems perfect -- until they see the giant boulder that's in the cellar. It can't be moved and is a fixture in the house that they see every time they go into the cellar. It's an obstacle, true, but it's their obstacle, and they learn to structure their cellar around it. That's the Laocoon manuscript: the beloved obstacle that allowed me to focus on it and structure my writing space for the past few years.

But now, the Laocoon manuscript is gone, and this leaves me with the problem of the empty writing cellar. What do I do when I go to the writing space? Which project should I work on first? I have some promised essays to work on, some with deadlines that are quite soon, but I had those alongside the Laocoon manuscript, too. They don't take the place of the boulder, so to speak.

I'm starting by transcribing (to 750words & hence the research journal) a lot of the handwritten material that I wrote in the Moleskine notebook last year, omitting anything that went into the book revisions. It's the fancy kind that supposedly works with Evernote and is searchable if you take pictures of the pages, but I have never been able to make it recognize my handwriting.

I used to save the Moleskines for special notes and then realized I never wrote in them. Last year, I took to carrying the Moleskine everywhere and putting everything in it--schedules, conference notes, to-do lists, comments on books and movies, and daily records. Not all of it is going to be useful, but maybe it'll help as I look for the next boulder in the cellar.


nicoleandmaggie said...

Great job! There definitely is something comforting to knowing exactly what one needs to do. But it's also good to get 'er done. Good luck finding the next boulder!

undine said...

Thanks, nicoleandmaggie! I'm down in the weeds right now with all this transcribing but am sure that a boulder of a creative idea will emerge sooner or later.

Flavia said...

I've been keeping a notebook, too, these past few years (Moleskines don't work for me, but I'm equally particular about the kind); for a while I felt that I was just collecting random bibs & bobs, but at this point it's become a useful storehouse of observations. Patterns emerge, eventually, but I find I have to stare long and hard before I can see them.

undine said...

Flavia, I'm not as fond of this Moleskine as of my old one but couldn't find anything else that had (1) a hard cover with some elastic to keep the pages from getting folded up and (2) a size small enough (8 x 5) to fit into my pocketbook. The Rhodia ones I found had soft sides, and the spiral ones always end up with torn pages, somehow. The patterns will emerge, I hope.