Status report: I still have to read through the introduction, but once I make any final corrections, it will be done. Today I received the final comments on Chapter 1. I’ll start on those tonight and finish them tomorrow. Then I’ll start putting the dissertation together. It’s going to be so exciting, seeing the chapters go together like puzzle pieces.
There are some things that are difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t done them. Writing a dissertation is one of those things. Anyone who has written one will understand immediately where I am, what it feels like. And what I feel like right now, anxious and unfocused and wanting so much just to be done. This afternoon I sent out a bunch of emails, and discovered later that about six of them had never gone through, and honestly, I felt like throwing my computer across the room. Particularly because the university email system doesn’t tell me which emails went through and which didn’t, so I think some important ones got lost. (It wouldn’t have been adequate to throw my computer across the room, would it? I should have driven into the university and thrown the server across the room.)
After finishing my work for the day, I drove to Concord and went to the bookstore and a couple of antiques stores. (The bookstore: in the local authors section, it has Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott, which I thought was pretty funny.) Then I bought myself some ginger ice cream and wandered around the old graveyard, having all sorts of thoughts about the brevity of life and how we have to hold on to the things we love, that make us feel alive.
Tonight I’m going to finish the introduction and start on Chapter 1. But first, here are some more quotations from King:
“Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”
I feel that way about writing. Even if no one were reading this blog, I would try to write as well as I could, because there’s a fundamental pleasure in doing it well. And that’s more important to me that anything else, than how many people read my writing or how much I get paid for it. One of the problems with real artists is that they don’t do it for the money, which means that it can be easy to take advantage of them if they’re not as careful as they should be. They do it for the project, to create a particular project. I wrote The Thorn and the Blossom in part because it was one of the most interesting writing challenges I had ever received, and I knew I would probably never be asked to write something like that again.
“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly-growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page.”
I think King is absolutely right to emphasize the importance of reading, and honestly, I wish I could read more. I have such a long list of books I would like to read! Well, as soon as this is over. (Around this part of the book, King has a joke you really need to be an English major to understand. He says that Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? should be titled Can You Possibly Finish It? Which I think is incredibly funny, but then, I’m a literature geek. And I’ve read Trollope.)
“When I’m asked why I decided to write the sort of things I do write, I always think the question is more revealing than any answer I could possibly give. Wrapped within it, like the chewy stuff in the center of a Tootsie Pop, is the assumption that the writer controls the material instead of the other way around.”
I think this is absolutely true as well – that the material comes to you, that it determines what you can do. An idea comes and you have to follow it. I’ve only ever been able to write for themed anthologies when I’ve already had an idea in mind that I could relate to the theme.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my life lately, because it’s in such a transitional process right now. There are a lot of different directions I could go from here. But the direction I want to go in is toward writing: toward becoming the sort of writer I want to be and think I can be. There are several components to that. One is making sure I have enough time to write. Another is making sure that I have a writing community, that I have writers I can exchange manuscripts and critiques with. And another is making sure that I create a life for myself in which I can be happy, in which I have the people I love around me, and a place that makes me feel as though I belong, as though I can be at peace.
Sometimes I’m terribly impatient for those things to happen. But I do believe in fate, and I do believe it’s taking me in the direction I need to go. And that I’ll get there.