Friday, May 07, 2010

Across The River And Into ...

I've been writing a lot lately.

Not here, obviously, but for work - for them - and then that other thing. That as-of-yet-unnamed-project I've been working on for some time now that, well, I finished.

It comes in at a fighting weight of 73,215 words. It's a big, beautiful thing.

Just last weekend I typed -30- and put it down. And then I picked it back up, and then I put it down again. And I've been doing so all week. I leaf through it, read a passage, decide that passage needs to be reworked. Much of it needs to be gone through, scraped, picked over and sanded down with a 60-grit thesaurus.

So, it's not finished. But there is a beginning and there is an end. Actually, I've already changed up the beginning. So now there's a new beginning that is better. There are bookends for all the stuff in the middle to lean against.

I'm not sure how you know when a project like this is finished. When it's sporting its best dust jacket and on someone else's shelf, I suppose. Someone you don't know. Or when you're so tired of looking at it and reading through it - again - that you finally shove it into the bottom drawer of your desk, on top of all those rejection letters from agents and publishers, like the softest down pillow.

But I have no right to complain yet about that process because I haven't been through it yet. I haven't dipped my toe into those waters to see just how icy cold they can be.

I've been trying to get through this other process, the one that takes place about 80% in your head and 20% on paper. To help me get through it I've been reading about writers and how they do what they do, about Paul Auster and about Ernest Hemingway. I'm reading a biography of the last years of Papa's life by his good friend A.E. Hotchner now, that great writer who wrote his own biography once, King of the Hill.

In Papa Hemingway, he writes: He owned one decent jacket, made for him in Hong Kong, two pairs of pants, one pair of shoes and no underwear. And I think to myself, maybe that's good enough to aspire to. Not to be able to write like Hemingway because that's a losing proposition, but to that simplicity. Parse it all down and see what I'm left with, see where so little will take me.

For now, though, I have a lot. 73,215. I'm not sure that'll be all, I'm not so sure how you know when you're at the end, the final end. But I do know that I'm exhausted, and it's one of the best feelings I've ever had.