There is a small hole in the screen window of the room that I am staying in and I keep the windows open at night because it is hot and the night breeze is crucial to sleep. And so the mosquitoes attack me, and it is miserable. (I do not even have to explain to you why it is miserable.) So I finally bought bug spray and now I spray myself right before I go to bed every night, and I always end up coughing because that bug spray is some kind of chemical bullshit.
Anyway at some point in the night the bug spray wears off and they swoop in on me, the little monsters, and then I end up scratching myself in my sleep, not even thinking about what I’m doing, and then I wake up with welts all over me, early, 5 AM, 6 AM, and I can never make it back to sleep. Now it’s morning, now there’s light in the room, and there aren’t any curtains either, and I put a pillow over my head, but it doesn’t matter because the bites are still there and all my willpower is gone in the morning. So now all I am left with is my scratching and my head. All the endless thinking. It is always dangerous when I am left alone with my head early in the morning.
I need to write about writing this morning instead of writing about myself because I am getting really sick of myself, but I never get sick of the writing.
I am writing an essay about all the places I have slept in the last eight months. It is very long, because there are so many places, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to say about each place, what the important bits of information are. I am starting to feel protective of each place, because even though some of them are more important than others – like a place I stayed at for a month (Maine) is inherently more important than a place I stayed at for a night (Arkansas) – if I decided to invite them all into the conversation of this essay shouldn’t I at least be generous enough to let them all have their say?
But honestly there’s just not that much to say about Arkansas.
This essay is turning out to be very very long which is not the kind of essay I like to write necessarily but I guess I should just let the essay be what it wants to be right now and let an editor fuss with it later. Maybe they’ll have their own thoughts about Arkansas.
The other thing I am working on is this same book I have been working on since spring, ever since I finished the other book (it was called UPSTATE, which I maintain is a great title even if it was not a great book) and put it away forever. This new book is coming along so slowly but there is nothing wrong with any of it, any of the things I’m writing. Sometimes I just sit around and write little speeches that my narrator gives to herself just to hear her talk for a while. I wrote this last week:
There have been times I’ve dragged myself out of bed, plumped up my lips, plumped up my tits, and hauled myself into work thinking, Today’s gonna be a day everyone loves you. Today’s gonna be a day when there are tourists who come from all over the world to take your picture and men in fine suits will give you a wink. Today’s gonna be a day that you’re just a little bit famous. And it makes me feel better, it does. I know it’s temporary, I know it doesn’t mean a goddamn thing. But I know that it will soothe me. A little bit of love will rush in, and then wash away, just like the ocean. All those times I walked along Coney Island in the early morning, the tide rushing over my bare feet, and I was always thinking it felt just like love.
I also came up with an idea for a new quarter of the book that will break the whole novel apart structurally and then put it all back together in a new way. Last night Rosie took me out to a bar in her neighborhood and I was telling her about this new section and I said, “If it works it will be as if the narrator has suddenly opened her mouth and started to sing. It will feel operatic.” (Obviously I am really excited about this idea.) (Obviously I’d had a few glasses of wine.)
I am just really starting to fall in love with thinking about the structure of a book. I can see now how it makes all the difference in the world. My first few novels I was just trying to get the story down, listen to the characters and write down what they had to say, and that’s just as pure and important as any part of the process. But if you play with structure, that’s when you, the author, get to be in charge of the show. How you reveal the information makes all the difference in the world. You have to make room for both the emotional truth and the (hidden) authorial hand.
I should be generous enough to let them both have their say.
And now it’s 6:30 AM and there’s still an entire day of thinking left to do.
Two things I recently wrote:
I interviewed Jennifer Weiner for Salon.
I wrote about how to use Tumblr to connect with readers for Poets and Writers.