In a perfect world, I would be using time in quarantine to very productively write something magnificent. Because, seriously, what else do I have to do in these never ending stream of endless days?
I wish it worked like that, but alas…
My brain is a soppy mess of ennui. The fitful bursts of creativity I can eke out intermittently are mostly spent inspiring my whimsical mask designs. I have nothing left for stringing thoughts together. Especially the kind of elevated fancy-pants thoughts, and constant mental whirling, needed to write fiction. Everything in my brain is disjointed. A series of train tracks, with sections missing, on precarious trestles, liable to collapse under the weight of the heavy nothingness in the air.
And then I hear from a literary agent who requested my full manuscript.
I will admit that sometimes when I hear criticism of my book, my hackles immediately go up, and my overwhelming thought is “Fuck that shit. You’re an idiot.”
I have heard all types of critiques about my novel: that it starts too slow, that it starts too fast, that the plot is edge-of-your-seat-stay-up-all-night-reading exciting, and also deadly dull. My characters are vibrant, fun, and highly enjoyable, and also straight out of Beverly Hillbilly central casting. That my Appalachian dialogue is rich and authentic and entertaining and also nerve-grating and headache-inducing. The romance between my protagonists is realistic. Unrealistic. Requires spicing up. Needs toning down. That I do a fine job of showing versus telling and also that I use too much exposition and don’t let the novel unfold visually.
You get so much conflicting feedback that the only way to press forward is to trust your instincts and write what feels true.
You never feel like it’s perfect. But it’s good. As good as you are capable of making it at that moment. And you have to be content with what you’ve done, while always balancing the doubts that you haven’t done enough.
When I started querying my novel, I still had doubts about certain aspects of the story. But since the reactions to it never reached a consensus, it was hard to pinpoint what more I could do to improve it.
So anyway, the literary agent read the entire book. And then wrote me an incredibly lovely, long, detailed email about all its shortcomings, with very specific editorial suggestions that might make it something amazing. She called it “a gem in the making” and I am holding that very close to my heart.
And immediately her suggestions resonated with me. I read every one of them, my heart leaping out of my chest, thinking “YES! YES! She’s so right! She gets this book! She gets what I’m doing here! And I absolutely agree! I should start writing immediately!”
And then I immediately think “Oh my God, it’s too much right now. I can’t think about writing right now. I have one and a half functioning brain cells right now.”
And yet, I find myself deconstructing my novel– I liken it to tearing a puzzle apart, fitting pieces together in different ways, curious about the new picture that emerges. And, in my head at least, I’ve constructed a MUCH STRONGER beginning. A stronger beginning that frames all the other changes I’m going to make. I’m actually getting excited about writing again.
And that’s saying something, if it can cut through this heavy cloud of sadness hovering over everything right now.
I decided to buy new fabric. Some people are eating through their stress, others are drinking, some are crying, or binge watching Netflix. I’m stress crafting, and 100% cotton is my drug of choice. The Joann’s Fabric in Queensbury (47 miles away) had some garden gnome fabric I HAD TO HAVE. I also found some other awesome happiness-inducing fabrics, So Jeremy and I trekked up to the Back of Beyond for my fix.
They do no contact delivery–you drive up and they stick your bag in the trunk of your car–and off you go. So it wasn’t until we got home that I discovered that my gnome fabric wasn’t in the bag.
(Never fear, I found it on ebay and bought 2 yards.) But I was more than slightly displeased.
Since we hauled ourselves all the way to Queensbury, we stopped at the Target there. Pre-pandemic, I think Jeremy and I went to Target nearly every day. Neither of us had set foot in a big box store since early March, but Queensbury has far fewer cases than we do, so it seemed safe enough.
We donned our (now required) masks. Big signs posted on the doors said masks were mandatory and not to set foot inside the store if you felt at all sick. It was like something out of a Spanish Flu documentary, only it was in color and not black and white.
The internal Starbucks was barricaded closed. Everyone was in a mask. It was not the fun, breezy shopping experience I remembered. It was, instead, unnaturally somber. We were greeted at the door with a big sign stating what essential items were and were not in stock. As it happened, they had both toilet paper and paper towels–two items we had been unable to get in our grocery orders for the last month at Shoprite (despite weekly requests). So we headed to the household essential items and played supermarket sweep grabbing things we knew we’d need–laundry detergent, dishwasher tablets, sponges, pine-sol, and then hustled back up to the front of the store and waited in line to check out, six feet from other customers, waaay back between racks in the children’s section. Before we were allowed to go to the self check out register, an employee disinfected the ENTIRE checkout station.
It’s a surreal experience to be sure.
Then I was checking Twitter on the way home and saw that armed protesters had entered the Michigan statehouse and were demanding the state reopen.
There’s a similar protest scheduled for tomorrow in Albany. We live in scary times.