This is how I procrastinated this week and didn’t start the rewrites on my new novel, “Grace Notes:”
Went to bed on Monday evening, perfectly fine. Kissed the Sweetie goodnight, turned over. From the dark comes an ugly, raging flu. Fever, snot, pounding headache, wimpy legs. Despite a prophylactic flu shot last November. I’ve just come back from Asia. Bird flu. We’re just going to pack that thought away.
Is this my admitted soma flaring? (Not for nothin’ psychosomatic has soma at its roots.) I have white-coat hypertension in every doctor’s/dentist’s office; if my sweet doctor’s stethoscope should linger on me for more than a beat, I’m sure I’m in for grim news. I ate apples successfully before the allergist casually tagged it on the end of my little list of allergens. Now apples (and every piece of stone fruit) has me hacking, sneezin’ and wheezin’. A touch of apple core to my skin sometimes welts me. It’s wild.
I’m just going to put it out there: I loathe re-writing. And now my body has joined me in postponing the inevitable. To me, rewriting is like having finished knitting the entire back portion of a sweater while watching a movie, say, and in casting off, found to my horror that I’ve dropped a number of stitches way down at the ribbing, in the middle, all over.
It’s not that I think every word comes out of me in pearls. Not by any, any long stretch. Even though I do agonize over every word, worry every image, work and rework dialogue. God knows sometimes one paragraph has taken me a whole week to polish, to squeeze double meanings from words. Words that, when all is said and done, only I care about. People are looking for a good story, mostly. Many times I’ll convince myself the sentences are too ripe, the skin sheen way too purple. I cut and save them anyway. Just in case.
This was my darkest secret for a while, not rewriting much, until Marilynne Robinson answered a question by revealing — OUT IN THE OPEN — that she doesn’t do much rewriting. Marilynne! My girl. Incidentally, you can hear my friend, Roseanne Pereira, interview her here.
But, yo, I’m no Marilynne Robinson. My novel has major holes, the end’s rushed and unbelievable. There are whole sections that need the brutal pollarding the city of San Francisco gives its London Plane trees. I know this.
But, I so CRAVE the new. I cannot bear to revisit a book, a movie, a country, a dead relationship, the sameness of breakfast. I’m bored with my own work. Sick of my style, as I imagine a singer might sometimes be of her voice. I have, what we call derisively in my household, “an insatiable need to know.” Which has me saving unread newspapers. Which has me secretly planning to watch junk shows like Cops on the Fox Saturday night TV lineup. What? Like John Updike and Nicholson Baker haven’t written about watching that show? I know; I couldn’t carry the water for either of those two guys. I’m just sayin’.
Yet. The damn rewrite is due. In the meantime, my body has taken over. Iâ€™ve been out of work sick four days. This never happens. Iâ€™m so unaccustomed to being sick that I often have to give myself the sick test. Do you still feel bad after a shower? Are you whimpering? Is the bed calling?
Yes, yes, and yes. The doctor said I could feel bad for another week or two. My cough may worsen, she says. Well, c’mon, let’s just pile that on the load of guilt I’m shouldering.
The novel is waiting. I’ll try again to read the stuff tomorrow. My fever will flare, my cheeks will burn, I’m guessing; my head will pound with my pulse just like it’s doing right this minute. But, um, look how easy for me to be at the computer. Of course, it’s easy. I’m writing something neeewwwwww!
[tags]Grace Notes, rewrites, John Updike, Nicholson Baker, Marilynne Robinson, Cops, pollarding, San Francisco trees, stone fruit allergies[/tags]