Monday, November 24, 2014

Time

We're always talking about this.  There isn't enough time.  We wish we had more time.  It takes a long time to write a novel.  We barely have time to write blog posts.  Time-turners are the coolest idea ever and I want one and I suspect Tyler-Rose wouldn't turn one down.  (Especially at times like these when the semester is careening to an end and she's recovering from missing some class.  She was sick last week, you see.  That is why there was no blog post last week.  She is better now, and that makes me glad, and I did not catch it, and that does too.)

But anyway:  time.  Not only is there not enough of it on a daily basis, but it's also something we confront as writers because, well, it does take a long time to write a novel.  Or (I hear you, NaNo-ers!), at least, a lot of time.  One of the few endeavors that takes even more time is another one we're invested in:  learning to write a novel well.


All that said, I kind of thought I had spent enough time thinking about time that I had thought about it in most of the relevant ways.  Then I stumbled across this quote of Ursula Le Guin from an interview in The Paris Review:

The whole process of getting old—it could have been better arranged. But you do learn some things just by doing them over and over and by getting old doing them. And one of them is, you really need less. And I’m not talking minimalism, which is a highly self-conscious mannerist style I can’t write and don’t want to. I’m perfectly ready to describe a lot and be flowery and emotive, but you can do that briefly and it works better. My model for this is late Beethoven. He moves so strangely and quite suddenly sometimes from place to place in his music, in the late quartets. He knows where he’s going and he just doesn’t want to waste all that time getting there. But if you listen, if you’re with it, he takes you with him. I think sometimes about old painters—they get so simple in their means. Just so plain and simple. Because they know they haven’t got time. One is aware of this as one gets older. You can’t waste time.  


It seems normal at this juncture for the college-aged writer to say she hasn't given much thought to the way the process of aging and mortality itself will affect her writing career.  But I'll be honest:  that is something I've thought about.  Le Guin can say things about it that I cannot, of course.

What she says is rather interesting and something I know I needed to hear.  I think Le Guin is saying here not just that having less expected time left in this life makes you realize you can't waste time as an artist; she seems to be saying, along with this, that mature artists know well what they do and don't need, what does and does not belong, and so they are not only driven to not waste time, but are also able to not waste time within their art.


The Nike of Samothrace.  This is here because I think there is a really cool analogy you could draw between what Ursula Le Guin is saying and the way we today see a lot of ancient art in a physically reduced state.  This analogy has invaded the blog post because it is past midnight and I am writing a paper on the Nike of Samothrace. 

As a seriously not-mature artist, what I take away from this is the awareness that I probably insist on including a good many things--be they words, sentences, scenes, or whole characters--in my work that are not actually needed.  I was already noticing this, to some extent, in part of my WiP, so it was good to hear.

On the other hand, affecting the mature streamlining of content that comes with age might do more harm than good to the work of someone as young as myself or Tyler-Rose.  The best we can do is probably just this:  to test every moment, every facet, and ask ourselves why it deserves to exist.  To be good about not wasting time, if not by the godlike vision of one who is in complete control of the craft, rather then by the disciplined testing and trying of each piece we include, so that whatever is there is not, properly speaking, a waste of time, but rather a splash of youthful decadence from that fountain of what we actually have in plenty, at our age, however much it may seem that we never have enough. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Excuses

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo.  I really wanted to do some sort of extra writing this month in honor of the event.  The (short-lived) plan was to write a thousand words a day and get my WiP to 60,000 words by Thanksgiving.  That would have been great.  But I'm not doing that either.

I have many excuses.  Many reasons to share with you that will explain why I am not, cannot, and even should not, write that much in the next few weeks.

Some excuses are good excuses and most excuses are bad excuses, as everyone over the age of three knows.  Feel free to join me in sifting out the legitimate excuses from the balderdash that follows:


Excuse #1:  My free subscription to the Online Oxford English Dictionary will expire in May when I graduate from college.  I will not be getting a subscription again in the forseeable future because it is outrageously expensive for private individuals.  This is the dictionary that allowed me, a few moments ago, to look up the word "balderdash" and learn not only that I was using the word correctly, but also that scholars appear to know almost nothing about its etymology--a fascinating fact.  Clearly, I should be spending my spare moments this November learning new words from the OED, because words are what writers write with in the first place, and come May I won't be able to learn any new ones.

Excuse #2:  November is the worst possible month in which to write an entire novel.  This month was clearly chosen by someone who was either living rent-free in an attic somewhere or imprisoned--and certainly not by a college student because if you are a college student, there is only one month worse for writing than November.  That month is April, and it is worse not because you have any more work to do than you do in November, but because Christmas is much farther away.

Excuse #3:  I have read so much Latin, ancient Greek, medieval English, and scholarly prose in the last two months that my own prose style is positively in flux and my normal sentence structure, which is at the very least shorter than all this, has been replaced by long, convoluted sentences in which I attempt to arrange words and ideas in ways that no sane twenty-first century native English speaker would arrange them.

Excuse #4:  I am a human being with all the normal limitations that accompany humanness.  Among these is a need for sleep.  I could easily write a novel as a college student in November if I stopped sleeping.  Also, just to address the well-meaning comments I can hear welling up from the hearts of coffee drinkers:  so far my experiments with caffeine have made things worse, not better, to my chagrin.

Excuse #5:  The word "chagrin" comes from the French word chagrin and can also mean "rough skin."  Similar words are found in Italian, Venetian, and Turkish.  The relationship of Turkish to Indo-European languages is a fascinating thing, by the bye. 

The fantasy shelf in a Turkish bookstore in Izmir.

Excuse #6:  I have friends and I like them and I want to see them sometimes.

Excuse #7:  The general business of things has caused me to neglect social media to the extent that my Twitter feed has basically become intermittent explosions of @LeVostreGC retweets.  (See my Twitter feed in our sidebar for a recent example.)  As everyone knows, a strong social media presence is how books get written and sold these days, so I would be better off spewing a few extra 140-character-long witticisms into the internet than adding words to my manuscript.  

Excuse #8:  I am busy learning.  Tyler-Rose had to write up a fake writer's bio for me a month or two ago, and in it she wrote that I "studied Latin and life" at college.  I really liked that line.  It's really true.  I am devoting my time here at school to learning how to use language, how to tell stories, and how to begin to understand the basic subject of all stories, human life.  It's a privilege (one I earned with a lot of hard work in earlier stages of my education, but still a privilege) and a blessing, and I would do well not to squander it.  These years of concentrated and purposeful education are going to be one of the main reasons why I have things to write about.  So I should probably do what I'm here to do, and write just as often as I can, and not worry so much about things like NaNoWriMo. 

Yes, we're still posting on Mondays.

[Blog post to come within next few hours.  Because I know there are multitudes of you out there waiting on the proverbial edges of your seats.] 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Time

Happy National Novel Writing Month: Day 3!!!!!!!!!!!! 

May the Muses bring much valor and strength to those engaged in that great and worthy contest.

I was going to write up some tips for the NaNoWriMo-ers today, but, as you may have noticed, I didn't blog last week and, truth be told, I didn't write much of anything else either.

So.

Instead of spending an hour writing this blog post, I'm going to go spend it writing some novel. Besides which, you probably shouldn't be on the internet reading blogs either. After all, it's NaNoWriMo. You have better things to do with your precious, precious time.

Get off the internet. 

Go write something lovely.