Friday, December 31, 2010

Reverb 10, the one where I give in to myself

It's 11:01 a.m. on New Year's Eve. Since before my daughter returned from her dad's to my house on Wednesday, we've been discussing where she would be and what she/we would be doing tonight. She was going to a sleepover party at a friend's. No, the friend canceled the party. Wait, the party is on. No, my Girl decided to have her own party. No, she's tired of hosting the parties (plus, we don't have a gaming system, and the television in the basement rec room where the kids hang out when they come over is smaller than my head. OK. an exaggeration, but you know. It's tiny). But no one else is having a party, so maybe it would be all right.

She returned here, and we started cleaning.

But, no, it seemed no one could come.

"But maybe he and she and they and the others, but definitely not that one and even though we [she and her best friend] didn't invite her because we were experimenting to see if we could invite one of those two to separate events without them expecting the other to be invited, she thinks she's invited because her friend is invited, and, well, she is invited, so she's coming.

(I seriously love my kid and my life, but that was how our conversations felt yesterday. No wonder I had a headache all day.)

So, yes, we are having a little party. It's possible just my Girl's best friend will come, and she will most likely stay the night.

Could be quiet.

Could be rowdy, raucous, impossibly loud (I should probably warn my neighbor).

Whatever it is, I have a list of things to do that I'm not exactly in the mood to do.

I'd rather write.


On this last day of Reverb 10, I'm going to admit that even though I've been a brat about the whole thing, have been clawing my way out of boxes that are too small or running out of rooms where everyone is wearing white but me, and someone hands me a white jump suit and tries to get me to put it on, but I can't bring myself to because all I can think of is that time in high school chemistry class, 10th-grade, when I wore white jeans and no, I'm not going to share that (it ended badly) because I'm going to put that story into a poem, and I have lost the beginning of this sentence and can't seem to find my way to the end except to say that even though I've found somemost of the Reverb 10 prompts excruciating, they've set me to thinking about things, about myself. Honest thinking. Cruel and vicious thinking.

The beautiful girls who created Reverb 10 would most likely be appalled to know how I've been using the prompts to torture myself. But self-awareness is a good thing, and now that I've given myself a huge wallop of tough love (well, except there hasn't been much self-love involved), I'll settle down and start being kinder.

(Pardon me while I pour myself another cup of coffee.)

Today, between trips to the grocery store (pray for me. It's New Year's Eve. I hate crowds) and sessions with the vacuum, I'll write to more of the prompts that I skipped, out of order, but I'll write. I can't seem to quit Reverb 10, so oh well.


December 28 – Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

(Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)

I want to finish.

I imagine when I finish, I will feel a combination of relief, pride, panic, sorrow, anticipation for the next thing I can complete, amusement that it’s taken me so long, frustration that it's taken me so long, a secret thrill that my internal critic is wrong, fear that no one will want what I finish.

Although I claim not to be able to predict or want to predict how I might feel or how things might be (anti-manifesting), I've experienced what it feels like to finish before. I finished a novel once before, a dreadful draft of a dreadful murder mystery. I wrote the novel when my daughter was a baby. Wrote when she napped or slept at night, when I found something on television to distract her, when her dad made time to play with her. I wrote late at night when her dad was sleeping, too. I finished the novel at 1 a.m. one weekend, typed the last word on an ancient Apple laptop. I took a breath, smiled, turned off the computer and went to bed.

I didn’t tell anyone for days. I carried "the finishing" around with me like it was a lemon drop tucked into my cheek, perfectly tart, perfectly sweet. It couldn’t dissolve.

I never revised the dreadful murder mystery into something I would be willing to submit or share. Life had other plans, I suppose. My father got ill and recovered (and years later got ill again and didn't recover). Freelance editing took up much of my "not-Girl" time. Marriage was challenging. As my daughter grew, it became easier to draft poems than to draft chapters.

All that said, I know I can finish because I've finished before.

The things to do or think aren't really new. I've been trying new things for a couple of years. Slow and steady.

- trust the work by sharing it.

- trust friends I ask to read the work to be honest.

- trust self to accept the honesty and use it to help me finish.

- continue to let my characters write "Letters to Lizzie" because, man, when my characters get going and tell me what they want to happen, it seems possible that I could finish within a couple of weeks (I know this letter business sounds a little crazy and maybe confusing, but I'm going to write this for me, again, because that's the point of Reverb 10, right? I'm going to stop trying to make this pretty).

- write the novel-in-progress "backward." That was working pretty well until I set it aside to participate in National Novel Writing Month.

(I'd say participating in NaNoWriMo was a bad idea, but it wasn't. The story that started spilling out in November is related to the long-time work-in-progress and is further proof that there is an ending, proof that I can and will finish.)

- keep my promise to myself to treat my writing the way my friends, acquaintances, family members treat their day jobs. For example, my husband would not answer a call while he was giving a lecture in jazz history class. I will no longer answer calls or emails when I am in the middle of writing or editing a scene. Writing is my job. I happen to love my job. I should do it more.

- will not let myself feel guilty about saying "no" when people ask me to give time to projects that will not only distract me from my work but will be sure to exhaust me and make me unhappy. (part of the letting go prompt. didn't post that one)

- pick one fiction project and see it through to the end. If two projects are related (and I know they are), I'll work on both at the same time until they meet at the end of one and the beginning of another, but otherwise, I will stop hopping about like a deranged cricket.

(The above doesn't preclude work on poetry. I'll let myself write as much poetry as I want and need to write when I need to write it.)

- submit more work, really I will. My lack of submission isn't that I'm afraid of rejection; I've been rejected plenty and survived (maybe it's the word "submission"). I'm too lazy to match poems with literary journals. Can't win if you don't enter, so I will enter more. This is one of those promises I've made to myself day after day, month after month, year after year. I don't know how to make it a new promise, a new thought. Maybe I need to turn it into some kind of creative game that will make the submitting more appealing, that will remind me that sharing the work is part of the process. I like and need to share my work, though I'd write it even if I didn't. I haven't yet figured out how to make this part of the process part of my process. Only I can figure this out. I don't work the way anyone else works.

- pull up manuscript files, read through, allow myself to make changes if I feel the urge to make changes,

- write more by hand. sometimes putting pen to paper pulls more work out of me. am less self-conscious about how things might sound. the story glues itself to page and belongs.

- share work with my sister (this is separate from sharing work with my friends. It's a more personal idea).


My daughter still sleeps. It's nearly noon. I've been working on this post for almost an hour. Please forgive the self-indulgent rambling if you happen by.

(12:47 p.m. - daughter is awake and has been for a while. she is going through drawers and letting go of things she no longer needs or wants.)


(I keep editing this post. It's shifting from one thing into another. silly.)


  1. Thanks so much for commenting on the Square-Peg Reflections blog - but I've got to disagree with you--your writing has in no way sucked during reverb10!

    I'm so glad to have found YOUR blog - and I'm hoping your night turns out to be lovely. Amusing how much alike your conversation with your dtr sounded - to ones I've had with my son recently (and also the sleeping til noon) - it's a wonder we stay sane (we ARE sane, right? ohmy).

  2. I want to finish, you say.


    This prompt stumped me. I run a few workshops for a living; sometimes I invite people imagine something idealand then brainstorm about how to get there .... but I sort of ease them into it and it's a bit gentler and, and, and... honestly I found all the instructions woven into this prompt much to harsh and quick and more than I could swallow so I used that as my excuse not to answer it.

    But maybe part of the truth is I had not a single idea how to articulate what I want to achieve next year, it's too messy and abstract and enormous.

    But you've said it here, so clean and crisp.

    So I'm going to borrow it, if you don't mind.

    Screw the rest of the prompt and it's instructions. I just want to pick a few things that have been languishing around me for too long.
    And finish them. So I can move on. To other good projects.

    Thanks, sistah.