This past week I have done a number of writerly things, none of which had anything to do with daily goals, word count, or any of that stuff.
It started off with finishing and publishing my violinist.com interview with Val Vigoda. I had been working on that for a while, first coordinating my schedule with Val’s, then interviewing her by Skype, and then once I had 90 minutes of interview material, getting it written down. I had done a few interviews like this in the past with people I knew through my orchestra in the Boston area, but this one seemed like the most serious, and I thought it had the potential to have the highest profile. For this one, I also worked with the site’s editor, Laurie Niles. She gave me what turned out to be very good advice, to shorten what was originally an almost-6000-word piece, down to 2500 words.
I freely admit, editing is not my strong point. I’m not only able, but eager, to banish my inner editor and just write whatever comes to mind. There are advantages to this approach: for example, I rarely, if ever, get writers’ block. But once my inner editor has been banished it’s hard to get her to come back. She’s gone, leaving me with some potential gems buried in a rather large pile of drivel.
The rough draft of my interview with Val wasn’t drivel (thanks to Val and all the interesting things she had to say), but it did go on. And on. For pages. It was very conversational in style, which was originally my choice for how to present it. Cutting it by more than half meant that I got rid of a lot of the back-and-forth between the two of us, and condensed both my questions and her responses into longer paragraphs (getting rid of multiple occurrences of “Karen:” and “Val:” at the beginning of sentences is a surprisingly efficient way to decrease word count!) This took time, and multiple pass-throughs that resembled a process Anne Lamott describes in Bird by Bird. I didn’t make it down to 2500 words, but I made it below 3500. I decided if I cut it any more, I’d lose something I really cared about. This version was okay with Laurie, and it was featured on the front page of violinist.com for a few days, and in the site’s Weekend Journal newsletter.
After that, I had a serious case of the letdown that comes from finishing a big project. My inner editor had come back for a visit from whatever beach she was frolicking on, done her thing, and was now tired. Whereas my writing buddy Pam Baddeley, who is in my Camp NaNoWriMo cabin and is also editing, crushed her original editing goal and set a new one. I am going to take Pam as my inspiration, but it may take me into May to do so.
Then, on Saturday, I had my reading in the Mountain View Public Library. There is less to write about this than I expected there would be. I think that’s a good thing; it means it went smoothly. I made it into a geocaching event, so a couple dozen geocachers came, as well as a handful of friends and family. I wasn’t as nervous as I might have been, before I started teaching middle school students and became more used to standing up in front of groups of that size. My voice didn’t shake, I didn’t start hyperventilating.
I practiced reading my story once before the actual reading, and the practice went well, as did the reading itself. I read aloud to both of my kids virtually every night before bed for approximately the first 11 years of their lives. That’s 22 years worth of reading aloud every day. They’re teenagers now and have outgrown bedtime stories from mom, but that’s a lot of reading practice. No wonder I’m good at it!
It was fun chatting with the librarian, and the people who came to the talk. A theme emerged when I was speaking. My story in the geocaching anthology, called “Bobbing for Bob,” is about pushing out of my comfort zone to find an underwater geocache with my husband. I was scared of being under deep water. We bickered. I didn’t end up retrieving the cache myself; my husband did. There was a strand of negativity in the story. People in the audience noticed the negativity, and so I wanted to address it, and why I had written the story the way I did.
It’s good to get outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. But it’s also good not to get so focused on the goal, the to-do list, and the collection, that you forget to enjoy the journey. I’m more of an enjoying the journey type of person. I write, and speak, about the pleasures of that approach. I think this is a good message for Silicon Valley high achievers–and for the rest of us, too.
The last writerly thing I did this weekend was attend the organizational meeting for a new writers’ critique group. I met another author, David T. Wolf, through our blogs, and it turned out he lives just up the peninsula from me. I invited him to my reading, and he came to it and afterwards he told me about the critique group. The group is just getting going, but it looks like it will be great: a diverse group of authors, all serious about their writing, 3 of us are interested in science fiction and are writing novels. It’s been years since I’ve been in a critique group, but it’s exciting! My inner editor needs to come home from the beach. She has work to do.