Editing my Book is Scrambling my Brain (and other terrible metaphors)

skeleton with hand up to mouth as if thinking
Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

I’ve never thrown a boomerang before, but I understand, when you do, it’s supposed to come back, at least according to the cartoons I watched in the 80s. What it’s not supposed to do?

Let’s say I pull my arm back across my body and enthusiastically whip that boomerang into the air. It starts off at great speed, hurling through the atmosphere as I grin at its agency. Then, my smile falters as the boomerang does the same. It’s not turning as I’d expected. It’s slowing down, slowing down, drifting. Soon, it starts to break apart and the pieces fall away from each other in a lovely example of entropy.

It’s like throwing a boomerang on the moon, I assume, as a person more in love with astrophysics than comprehending it.

The point is, you start off feeling perfectly assured your toy will return to you, neatly falling into your grasp but instead, it escapes and disassembles itself, lost.

This is what happens with some ideas. I sit my coffee on my desk, pull my hair back, stretch my arms and flex my fingers. I go to town on that brilliant idea about parenting or privilege or where all the socks go — whatever. I create confident, directed prose for a few paragraphs. Then, it happens. I digress into eight different free-associative ideas, going from tulips to gender norms to the heat death of the universe. I type slower, there are long pauses. I wonder….

Where was I going with this?

I had a point, didn’t I?

Is this blog post turning into a book?

Oh, god, what is happening….

I stop typing, I stare, I get up to pour more coffee and never come back. It’s the heat death of an idea.

Heat death, as I loosely understand it, is not about a fireball explosion, ending all that we know, it’s about a slow dissipation of the universe’s heat so that all is evenly distributed — no clusters of temperature or particles remain to form galaxies, planets, atoms or anything interesting.

I, morbidly, find the idea of the heat death of the universe somewhat comforting. It seems like a really calm, zenlike state, not that any of us will be around to appreciate it. However, when it happens to ideas I’m trying to wrangle into engaging essay form, I find it really fucking annoying.

(This is a really good book on the heat death of the universe and more by Katie Mack — well written, in engaging non-jargony terms. She is an astrophysicist and a fabulous writer; I am super jealous. Please do NOT rely on my interpretation of her science, in any way, as fact. )

This happens to me a LOT lately.

Thoughts that seem so meaty at first, get flung forward in the name of progress and fall apart like a raw burger patty tossed carelessly across the backyard, missing the grill and falling into ground-chuck crumbles in the grass. (How many more completely unrelated metaphors do you think I can cram into one post?)

Why?

  1. It’s May, and there are too many end-of-the-school-year activities going on to allow me to focus.
  2. I cull an income from several different sources, which lends itself not to focus but to constant shifting.
  3. I have a book to edit that I am avoiding because going through a manuscript you wrote and have now read 106 times is as much fun as going to the dentist. (Don’t click on that link unless you want to see exactly how long I’ve been running away from this.)
  4. I have SO MANY IDEAS in my head right now, it feels impossible to choose one to sit with. Also, I am going through a bit of an existential writing crisis in which I’m not sure I can write well, and I’m not even confident I know what good writing IS.
  5. There are flies in my house, and no matter how hard I try to be cool with it (What are they really hurting?) their incessant buzzing and purposeless zooming around my office is making me feel murderous.

Have you enjoyed my long-winded explanation for why I haven’t published a post in four months? Because I have (for the too busy and also existential crisis reasons) been having a hard time making myself throw the boomerang. And when I do, it often doesn’t come back. It just hovers out there before disintegrating and becoming a general part of the microwave background of space.

This is terrible writing.

I’ve just taken up your time complaining and making excuses for not working whilst dressing it up in at least three disparate, messy metaphors, two of which I tried to tie together (a boomerang and the heat death of the universe, really??). The third burger-in-the-backyard clunkiness I just left dangling out there by itself.

You can tell by now, this little scrap of text is not going to have a neat ending. It is not calm or zenlike; it doesn’t feel anything like heat death. (Heat death is good? Bad? I don’t even know.) Editing my own book in May has turned my brain into an exploded file cabinet, with documents as disparate as tax forms and half-written poems mingling together in chaos on the floor, filling the room so you can’t even get in the door…

Shit, I’m doing it again.

2 thoughts on “Editing my Book is Scrambling my Brain (and other terrible metaphors)

  1. I have had the experience of editing my own book and trying to write another and I can agree with you 100%. I find it much easier to edit someone else’s book and have done that successfully a few times. As for my own, I know it needs more edits, but I’ve published and I’m trying to move on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES! I actually enjoy editing other people’s work. I’m too close to my own for it to be anything but a slog. You can pretty much edit forever, in a loop, and never feel like it’s finished. Here’s to calling it good and moving on. Good luck!

      Like

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