In Which Our Heroine Gives Up On Giving Up

30 March 2003

I don't write as therapy. That's a pretty important thing to me: that I'm not making my books into a series of whines about how this character represents my mom and how she made comb my hair on a regular basis when I was 8 and it scarred me for life. But I don't think there's anything wrong with channeling nervous energy into creating things, and there are only so many desserts and bread products and painted journal covers we can keep around the house.

And I finished the second draft of Dwarf's Blood Mead yesterday morning. Printed out one copy for here and sent a copy to first-readers with a slew of questions. (Maybe a slough of questions. Could be either, really.) And I promised myself I would not so much as reread a scene from the Not The Moose Book until tomorrow (that's today's tomorrow, Monday). So. Essentially two days without having a novel that I'm working on.


When I'm working on a novel, I always have something to do when my brain gets caught in a loop. Whenever I get into fussing about relocation or money or someone's health or wars or disease or famine or anything else I can't fix with immediate action, I can steer the brain into the current book, and books are big things, so the current book can generally take whatever I've got to throw at it. Short stories aren't like that. If I work on a short story full-time for a few days, I've got it drafted. Then there's the editing, but there's not as much of that, either. I can't get lost in a short story for long enough. It's immediately something to pour nervous energy into, but there's always the awareness that it will be done soon if I keep doing that.

So within half an hour of saving the second draft of DBM, I was jotting down a quick note for a scene in the Not The Moose Book. Of course. But I'm not working on it until tomorrow, dammit. I may have psychologically jumped from one novel to the next, but I'm going to wait to work on it for just one more day.

I have short stories to write, if I need to work. That should carry it, I would think.

I finished The Scar yesterday, and the more I talked about it to Mark, the less sense some parts of it made to me. Also, there was a lot of pus in that book. It was part of the plot, but it seems like Miéville always just happens to come up with a plot that requires less pleasant bodily aspects to come up with a vengeance. Maybe he sees pus as a natural part of life of more importance or significance than I do. I don't know. Anyway, it was an engaging book in its own way, and I identified well with Bellis' homesickness, and I liked how it was related to Perdido Street Station without being a sequel sequel. I think it's pretty clear that China Miéville and I have different ideas of what people are really like, so there were times when I thought characters were being pretty incomprehensible and the book seemed to be treating them as sensible. But maybe if I hung out with Miéville, we'd baffle each other from time to time. I have this experience with lots of people.

I didn't manage to read all the 2002 spec fic we own -- I didn't get to Chindi or Smoking Poppy (and how crazy is it that I found Smoking Poppy for $1 down in Fremont??? Ahem, sorry, off-topic -- if there is such a thing as on-topic around here). Mark says Chindi is like the rest of Jack McDevitt, so I'll read it later. I'm sorry I didn't get to Smoking Poppy before I made my Hugo nominations, but sometimes that's how it goes. I could have started it right away and held off filling out the form until I finished it, but it was more important to me to start Carter Beats the Devil and be able to return it to the library when I'm out there tomorrow.

And so far, Carter Beats the Devil is entertaining me quite well. It's a very interesting book, stage magic in the 1920s. It flows so far, and it's drawn me in pretty well.

Which is lucky, because I need something to read in the morning, and I've gone through my usual journals, and the paper hasn't arrived yet. I called their "my paper hasn't arrived yet" number, and there was an announcement about production difficulties delaying the delivery until 8:00. Ah well.

Mark and I went to a brewery in downtown Hayward last night for our date -- bless him, he was adding an element of decisiveness to my life right now. My food was not particularly good -- half a gorgonzola garden salad, half a portobello sandwich. The sandwich was okay, though strangely spiced; the salad was mostly nasty except for the gorgonzola. They had pickled some poor tomato to within an inch of its life, and the coating on the walnuts was entirely sugar. So if you're ever in scenic downtown Hayward, my advice to you is to skip the gorgonzola garden salad. Classy place, scenic downtown Hayward. It might actually qualify as classy-assed. There's still a Japanese place we should try at some point, to see if they'll let me have sashimi and veggie tempura in a bento (which they should because it's a totally natural thing to want, being tasty and all). But otherwise, I think we can generally give downtown Hayward a miss. And mostly we have.

"It's better than [City of Institution3]," said Mark. "Well, hon, I do appreciate your honesty," I replied. Sigh. We were weighing options in academia and industry last night and trying to figure out which academic jobs might be more worthwhile than which industrial jobs for him. We still have to see what all the specific possibilities are on both fronts. God give me patience RIGHT NOW. I keep turning over the different options in my mind: could I live with that? Yes. Could I live with that other one? Yes, yes. Could I live with that there? For a few years, probably. How about that one? Yes, I'd be fine. So we have branching pathways to more-or-less-fine, is the thing. Right now it's not the branches that bother me so much as the fact that I am not yet on one of them.

And as bad as I am at waiting (and what do I do for a living again? Oh, that was smart), I'm even worse at giving up. Which is bad. I mean, if I gave up entirely and just lay on my face on the living room floor chewing carpet and moaning for the next month or two, that wouldn't be so great, either. But if I could just go, "Aughhhh, I give up, it's too much, I can't take any more!" and stay in I-can't-take-any-more mode, I might accidentally let some of the nervous tension slip out before I decided I could maybe take it again. Whereas now, I think, "Aughhhh, I give up, it's too much, I can't take it any more! [pause] I said, I can't take it any -- oh, never mind, it's not doing any good anyway, I guess I can take it some more." See? I have no patience for giving up. If I gave up on submissions as quickly as I give up on giving up, I would have exactly zero credits to my name and no hope for the novels at all. But evidently I'm only a really big quitter when it comes to generic-all-around-quitting.

There are worse things, I suppose.

I am in danger of running out of address labels sent to me for free by charitable institutions soliciting funds. This isn't on the list of "worse things than being no good at giving up." It's just on the list of "things in my line of sight when I turn around in my computer chair": a sheet of wax paper with one label left on it. Also The Sagas of the Icelanders and the phone bill. Also my brand-new copy of Dwarf's Blood Mead, and also my thankfully replenished pile of scratch paper (also known as my old copy of Dwarf's Blood Mead). It seems kind of quirky to move with a pile of scratch paper, but I have the feeling that between these two drafts and the Not The Moose, we will. Unless lots of you request paper letters, and when I handwrite those, they go on the backs of old manuscripts.

I'm still trying to talk my subconscious out of the idea that we have to use everything in the cupboards up now so that we don't have to move gratuitous pantry items. By the time I get it convinced, I'll probably be wrong, and it will be time to start clearing out the cupboards.

But I've started looking around my immediate vicinity and babbling about it, so I think it's time for me to wander off and get clean and ready to face my day. And maybe see if the newspaper has arrived yet. Happy Sunday. It's the birthday of both Goya and VanGogh. I'm really not sure what you'd do to celebrate that. Something wild and crazy anyway.

Back to Novel Gazing.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.