Monday, April 07, 2008

Change Is A'Comin'

Spring is here. (technically if we're going with the solstice it's been here for 19 days)

And with it, for me at least is coming the end of things, and the beginnings of others. School has less than 40 days (37 if my calendar in my head is correct. You can see the official count on my facebook profile). It's going to be a grueling month and a half to finish without going mad. It's that senioritis point where my brain is telling me that everything worth learning has been learned, and all the homework worth doing has been done. While at the same time my teachers are telling me the converse. And my good sense, knowing that I am only accepted into UofM's School of Information on a conditional basis until I graduate and give them my final and complete transcript, agrees with my teachers.

I had a conference with my Advanced Fiction teacher, Patty McNair, and we talked about where I was at in terms of writing. She was very insistent about digging out the deeper meaning in my work. What's it about? What revelation on life is in there. And I couldn't help but grow more and more defensive of the fact that, where I am at right now in my writing process and in the material I'm trying to finish, I'm not concerned with the "deeper meaning" and that I'm more concerned with just telling entertaining stories. She pushed that really that's not a great mindset to have and that we should leave the "entertainment" for people like Tom Clancy. I wanted to, but didn't say that in truth I wouldn't mind being Tom Clancy, having Tom Clancy's salary or comfortable lifestyle, and knowing that around the world millions of people each year are reading my book, and that yes, it might not make canon 100 years from now, might not be revealing of deeper meanings on life, but it's an entertaining page turner.

That night I was reading a column by Stephen King (one of my favorite authors) talking about the misuse of the acclaimed 4-star rating by film critics. In it he said something that resonated with me, and had I had this quote memorized I would've gladly pulled it out.

There's nothing wrong with having fun, and I sneer at people who sneer at summer movies -- in fact, I sneer at people who sneer at entertainment for entertainment's sake. I feel sorry for them, too. Riding that high horse has got to be uncomfortable, especially with a stick up your butt.

That article can be read here.

Our conversation went on to cover my process and how I have this frustrating tendency to work on a project, get bored with it, get excited about another new project, or just happen to glance at an older project and find myself interested in that once again. And then I drop the first project, move onto the new (or old) project and riff on it until it becomes not new and shiny, shove it aside and repeat the same process over again.

Patty asked me how anything gets done. And then I, trying to find a good response, realized that things don't, in fact, get done. Ever. That I, now finishing my second year at Columbia, with well over 500 pages of material, have only a few minor short stories to my name.

It bugged me. It wore on my mind. And then this weekend, pulling out the rider's story once more and sitting down to work on it, on a whim, cranked out 10,000 words. Today at work I formatted my novel with the correct margins, and page numbers and page breaks. It's over 40,000 words and 200 pages. This beauty puts me further along than I've ever been in a story, and it's a sweet thing indeed. I now have the idea that it's going to be close to 80-100,000 words by the time I'm finished. And that end has never looked so attainable as it does now. I find myself wanting to do nothing but sit and write. Lose six hours, like I did yesterday. Crank until my brain hurts as bad as it did last night, and then go to the bar, get a pint to celebrate, crash, and repeat the process the next morning.

I've also started running again. I'm out of shape, but I'm getting back into shape. It's a good thing.

With this fresh weather and the need to just DO boiling and burning in my mind I have a feeling that I've reached a new stage. The Nathan Enters The Real World (after 2 more years at grad school) Stage. Of course all this writing has put me behind in homework. Very far behind...