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

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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.

Getting Lost

Copyright: stokkete

I am really good at getting lost. As I’ve mentioned, I’m also not a very good driver, so maybe don’t get in the car with me. Ever.

Young and Lost

When I was a wee thing, younger than five, my parents sat on the sands of Galveston, Texas, and watched me frolic in the surf and dig holes in the sand with my chubby hands. They saw me collect shells that only a child of that young age would find remarkable. Then, they watched me walk off down the beach in the wrong direction, away from them. They waited for me to realize my mistake, but when mom began to lose sight of me, she hustled down the hot sand to retrieve me. I had no idea. Ah well, she’s young, they thought.

When I was thirteen, my friend, Cindy, and I liked to be dropped off all the mall where we would revel in our independence and spend all our babysitting money on nail polish and cheap earrings at Claire’s. One of the first times I was allowed this freedom, I got lost. We’d agreed Mom would retrieve us from the very same Sanger-Harris entrance where she’d dropped us off. We waited, and Mom didn’t show. Mom waited, and we didn’t show. After a lot of driving/walking around and missing each other in that pre-cell-phone era, we realized we’d been waiting at the wrong entrance. At thirteen, Mom decided a little advice was warranted:

“April, when you walk in the mall, look at where you are. Are you by women’s shoes? Luggage? Furniture? What floor are you on?”

Most people don’t need to be told this, but I did, and I still forget to pay attention to it sometimes.

Drunk and Lost

In my late 20’s, I attended a gathering at a close family friend’s new condo in East Austin, about the time the gentrification in that area was really picking up momentum. We were scarcely out of earshot of I35, but I still turned the wrong way out of the complex and ended up driving around two-lane roads bordered only by tall grass and trees in the dark for the next two hours. I had a cell phone by then. I called my then-husband, Javier.

“We’re lost!”

“Where are you?!”

“That’s the problem, dummy. I DON’T KNOW!”

I don’t know what I expected him to do. You couldn’t track phones back then, and he, stupidly, did not have the magical ability to divine where I was. I gave up, hung up, then I put my little red Dodge Stratus in a ditch. I rolled right off the gravel side of the road into a small depression in the earth that was not exactly a gully but trapped my car nonetheless. We may have been a little drunk.

Miraculously, after driving around for over an hour on unlabeled roads without seeing another vehicle, a car came by, and the group of guys inside helped us push the car back onto the road. About fifteen minutes and several more random-guess turns later, I saw a road sign:

“Ed Bluestein!” I yelled.

One of the special and maddening things about Austin is how half the streets have more than one name. Start driving down Bullick Hollow at one end, for example, and it’ll turn into RM 2222, Northland Drive, Alandale, then Koenig before it sputters out at I35. Ed Bluestein happens to be what Highway 183 is called at one of its more easterly sections. 183 would take us home.

Married and Lost

Once, when Jason and I first started dating, his cousin was giving me directions over the phone. Mike said, “April, you’re going to have to be the direction person in that relationship because Jason has no sense of it.”

Uh oh.

Jason and I have spent a lot of time driving around, missing exits and asking each other, “Where are we? I thought the restaurant was right here.”

Engaged and shopping for wedding bands, we drove all over the city looking for a Jared’s we swore we’d seen on Brodie. Or was it on William Cannon? Maybe the other side of 71? We finally gave up and went home only to find the Jared’s within spitting distance of our apartment.

Soccer Mom Lost

The advent of Google Maps on our phones changed our lives. We reduced our driving-around-in-circles-lost minutes by 60 percent. I still sometimes manage to get myself and my family spectacularly misplaced. A couple of weekends ago, I was responsible for all the driving for the soccer tournament because Jason was sick.

I carefully mapped out each location, saved them in Maps, checked traffic well in advance and left extra time for parking and finding, say, field 17 out of 35 when nothing is labeled. (Seriously, have you ever tried to find one field in a park/event center/soccer complex? It’s a Where’s Waldo? sea of numbers, nets, cleats and umbrella chairs.)

Saturday afternoon, Jack and I departed Gage’s game early to get to his, leaving my mom to ferry Gage home. My phone battery was dying, so I asked Jack to navigate us, ensuring he typed the address correctly. We’d been at the same exact location earlier that day for his morning game.

We took a lot of weird turns and ended up at the address on Pecan Street, where we intended, but somehow, it was a gas station now. There were TWO addresses that were THE EXACT SAME on that street. It makes a big difference if you leave the “East” off “Pecan Street” apparently. When I squealed up on two tires, delivering Jack to his game minutes before the start time, I was full of apologies, explaining we got lost then ran into horrible traffic. A friend teased,

“You know they didn’t move it after this morning, right?”

There you have it. I can get lost at age three on the beach within sight of my parents, and I can get disoriented in a brightly lit, well-labeled mall. I can misremember what is outside the home I’ve lived in for two years, and I can take a wrong turn while driving to a place I’d been THREE HOURS AGO. With GPS! It’s one of my many talents, so friends, if you ever find yourself just a little too well located, a little too sure of where you are in the world, hop in the car with me. Let’s go on an adventure.

How to Procrastinate in One Easy Step

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Photo by Viktor Theo on Unsplash

I’ve got a light form of writer’s block today. I cannot think of one single thing to post here. I have several things in my “drafts” section that haven’t been published. I just went through them looking for hidden gems — no jewels, just old junk. And a few things that are too personal to share. Maybe someday. I caught up on other people’s blogs I follow, hoping for inspiration. They made me laugh, made me think, but didn’t make me want to write about anything in particular.

There seem to be people in the world with a lot more energy than I have, like just naturally. This isn’t a new thing; I’ve noticed it since I was a child. There are people who run marathons, people who start new businesses and charities on a regular basis, people who get up at 5am, people who work full time, volunteer and have a family all at the same time.  Some are tearing their hair out, but a few seem to thrive whilst doing all the things.

I can accept that I’m just not like that. I need rest; I need to recharge. But sometimes it’s frustrating because I’d like to do all the things. Even casting aside all the things I think I “should” do, I can’t even get to all the things I want to do. That’s part of why a day like today bothers me. I’m already not doing all the things I want to do; now I can’t even come up with 500 words for a blog post?

Full disclosure, I am also avoiding editing my book. Yes, I’ve finished it. Woohoo! Now I am knee deep in the laborious process of editing, rewriting and rearranging. It’s kind of like slogging through a swamp with the task of clearing it out to reveal the rich garden dirt underneath. It is soooo not the fun part. So much so, I’d rather write a blog post when I have nothing to say and torture us both with it.

Well, the kids will be home from school soon, so I guess I’ve procrastinated long enough to avoid editing. Thanks for your help.

 

So I’m Writing a Book

 

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

And the first thing everyone asks me is, “What’s it about?” I usually respond with, “It’s fiction…” then I devolve into the existential meaning of my story in partially mumbled sentences and eyes glaze over. I decided I need an elevator pitch.

 

An elevator pitch is a handful of words you could deliver to someone in an elevator while they’re your captive audience for the short duration of the ride. It can be just five words but definitely no more than 20. Within that brief description, you’re supposed to communicate why your story is unique, striking, fresh and compelling. It’s supposed to make the listener intrigued in a “tell me more” kind of way. So here’s what I worked up:

A woman chops off her thumb one day and runs off to live in the woods, struggling to survive.

The thumb chopping part is both unique and striking. The struggle to survive is compelling. I’m fairly sure it’s fresh. I know I’ve never read a story like this before. Does it make you want to know more?

That’s the question I can’t answer. I am about 30,000 words into this story, and I waffle back and forth between thinking it is an awesome, adventurous statement on the modern world and thinking it’s utter shit. I can’t see the forest for the trees. So friends, help me out. Do you want to know more? I need honest opinions, not reassurance. Thanks in advance.