What I Will NOT Do in the Next Few Days

Here’s what I will not do over the next few days, or even weeks:

I will most emphatically and deliberately and stubbornly not read over the short story I wrote for a 9/30 postmarked deadline. No way. Because when I read it — which I will, but just not in the next few days or weeks — I will find typos and I will find horrendous prose and awkward transitions and plot flaws plus faulty character motivation ambiguous turns of phrase murky backstory…

The thing’s barely a second draft, but I submitted it anyhow. How’s that for silly?

Here’s how it went down:

Friday night, 9/26: Re-met various workshopping friends, one of whom recently acquired a small press. Said small press periodically publishes themed anthologies. The current theme: addiction.  I hear: Lisa, surely you have something sitting around that you can submit. Lisa, anything can be an addiction.

I dismiss the thought because I have nothing addiction-related sitting around.

Saturday, 9/27: Yet, I can’t help myself: I ponder…addiction, addiction. Perhaps retool that cool novel scene, the one between mom and daughter in a hair salon? You could say the daughter is addicted to her misery…nah, stupid idea.

That night, I feel a glimmer of something. A brand-spanking-new idea. Something a little twisted…

Sunday, 9/28: Glimmer is now a spark. Could be, could be. Sit at a picnic table with my trusty index cards and brainstorm until I have a semi-solid grasp of the story — at least I know the ending. That’s always a good sign. If I’m going to write this thing — feeling the pressure now because all of sudden I must make deadline — I must forgo further canoodling.

Write the first five pages that day. Don’t sleep well that night. The story needs at least another ten pages. Yikes!

Monday, 9/29: Hammer out the rest of the story in 11 pages. I’m a mad fiend at the computer. Don’t eat all day. Worrying that the story is over-the-top and unrealistic in a bad way because that’s what happens when the verbal does its vomiting. And what is it with my protagonist who turned into a Romanian immigrant? I let the worries go because, well, I’m just about out of time.

Stay up too late in bed with a printed copy and jot initial revisions.

Tuesday, 9/30: Deadline day! I must be nuts. I work through my revision notes which compel other revisions all the while eyeing the clock and ignoring the dog scooching her butt across the carpet. Don’t eat all day again. Doing my best here with cuts (not enough I’m sure) and rearrangements…And then I force myself to stop with that and read the story aloud because that’s what really helps. I leave time to read the story aloud a second time because that really helps. Feeling the stress now, the second read-through is too fast, know I’m missing things — and typos — yeesh, typos! — but I have to quit now.

Arrive at the post office with 30 minutes to spare (darn, did have time to slow down over the last scene after all) and want to melt I’m so relieved.

Aaaaaaah. Did it! And the challenge was good for me. Just what I needed, get the blood boiling, shake myself up…aaaaaaah.

Afterwards? Wine and bubble bath? Beer and friends? Wish I could say so. Instead, off to the vet to get the dog’s anal glands expressed. Ah well, perhaps a fitting end to a day in which I’d attempted to grow a story out of a “shitty first draft” (to quote Anne Lamott).

Pronounced “Gold” Not “Goold”

Pause a moment, and I meet writers just about anywhere and in unlikely guises. The school teacher in step aerobics, the barista who also paints, the sickly lyme’s disease victim, and the Egyptian professor with the bipolar wife.

I sometimes wonder whether the proportion of writers in the population is the same as it’s always been or whether, given our calamitously crazy, loud, rushed world, there are more people than ever craving connection and resolution and recognition and self-expression.

Earlier this week, a retiree stopped at my table to comment on my left-handedness. I sat outside Capitol Hill Coffee House, which serves a mean northwest-style spinach salad (hazelnuts and blueberries). The man wore a blue baseball cap with a Vienna, Austria, patch on it. He related a few tales from his hard-drinking sports-writing days and told me his last name, Gould, pronounced “gold” not “goold”.

Then, he noticed the marked-up manuscript pages piled near my salad. “Oh, you’re a writer,” he said, and pulled a trade paperback out of his leather man-satchel. Just like that, boom, a man with a book of his own.

Before sports writing, Gould was a World War II German POW. And he wanted to write about it. And he couldn’t find a publisher. And so he self-published. And now he carries copies around with him everywere he goes, even up a hill to his local haunt called the Cider Mills Restaurant & Lounge. He connects and hopefully resolves and possibly receives recognition and self-expresses.

And I thought: Good for him.

And then I thought: Huh…What about self-publishing? Or, at least looking into small presses that my agent didn’t bother with when she was peddling my manuscript?

Gould stopped to chat with me because lefties have always intrigued him. How random is that? Seemed like a sign somehow. I like signs — believing in signs it like following a make-believe funsy religion. I have no problem with that.