Free and Obsessed

21 June 2002

Well, good morning. I had a Mastercard dream just before I woke up. It said, "Japanese lessons, pro rated from $19,000/year. Gas, $1.549/gallon. Running into sumo wrestlers on the way to Lake Tahoe, priceless." And there I was, in a gas station bathroom on the way to Lake Tahoe with three loincloth-clad sumo wrestlers.

And once again, I hear Heathah's husband Dave's voice in my head: "I don't think you should tell people your dreams, M'ris." Yeah, yeah. I can laugh at him just as easily in my head as in person.

I finished reading Unquenchable Fire yesterday -- good, but it was mostly premise/setting and very little plot/character, proportionally. And my land, can determinist characters whine when they get the chance! Still, I'd look for Temporary Agency, which is evidently the sequel. I started Foucault's Discipline and Punish (which has the subtitle "The Birth of the Prison," in case any of you were taking that in the wrong direction), and it's got me thinking about the evolution of the criminal justice system and where it might go next. I don't always think about work when I'm reading nonfiction. But it often works out that way. Luckily, I work in different genres in different ways, so I feel less like I have a one-track mind. Perhaps wrongly so....

I got home from David's yesterday to find that UPS had delivered my fruit leather! Yay! I love getting things in the mail. They feel like presents even when they're not. If Trader Joe's hadn't stopped carrying fruit leather near us in favor of their own pressed fruit substance (which has additives you can taste), we wouldn't have had to resort to this. And then we wouldn't have gotten magical fruit leather presents in the mail, so I guess it's all for the best.

I have figured out the real reason I don't do more freewrites. I keep saying, "I don't need more story ideas! I'm swamped!" And it's true that I don't, and it's true that I do tend to get them when freewriting. But mostly I don't do more freewrites because I'm not all that good at keeping the proverbial shit together right now. (Sounds much better to have too many story ideas, doesn't it?) I was looking at Wild Mind again, and the freewrite topics I opened to were "I remember...." and "Home." And I looked at them and went, "No, huh-uh. Absolutely no way."

See, first thing is, I don't write for therapy. Maybe you're going to write and tell me I should. And I will listen to your arguments, and I will still probably end up not writing for therapy. I write for story. If story is therapeutic, well and fine and lovely, but that's not what it's for. And yes, I know, freewrites don't have to have story already, you can get there in the middle or never at all, it's all right. But that is not why I do any of my writing.

Second thing is, I know that sometimes the best writing deals with the writer's obsessions. I do know that. But there is a time to say, no, enough, no, I'm putting that aside for awhile, and I'm going to write about something, someone, somewhere else instead. Because there is such a thing as wallowing. As writers, we're lucky in more than one way. We're allowed to wallow professionally. This is very hard for programmers to do, for example, or claims adjusters. And the other lucky thing is, people humor us when we do.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure that's so lucky.

Anyway, I'm usually pretty okay with my positive obsessions. My garlic press, for example. Scott was teasing me about how fond I am of my garlic press, but really, it's a most amazing contraption, so small, so ingenious, so frequently used. And, unlike the cheese wire, it works perfectly every time. So if I was to start a freewrite that felt like it was going to be a page on my garlic press, arright, off we go. But the last thing I need to write about again is home and how I miss it. The last thing I need is to sit at the table and sniffle about it. And there was nowhere else I was going to be able to direct either "home" or "I remember" last night. It's not just that they're problem topics, either. If I'd taken "bread" as a freewrite topic, I probably would have ended up on limpe or on the massive bread "sticks" from Fat Lorenzo's, and it would have gone from there.

Maybe that's what I need. Maybe if I did a dozen freewrites that were all obsessing about these things, I'd be able to go somewhere else with the thirteenth freewrite. Or maybe I just need to make them last longer, give myself a chance to get past the obvious obsessive topics and on to some less obvious ones. I don't know. But I keep a modicum of self-control in my life, and lately that's meant not doing freewrites as often as I ought to.

Not entirely sure what to do about that, either way.

They're cutting the grass outside. It's not supposed to get above 60. I don't feel like my summer clothes are my native dress, but I really do like them, and I would appreciate getting to wear them. I keep asking the world, "This? This is June?" As yet, the world has not answered. But neither have the neighbors, so I suppose I should feel lucky.

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