See more Monochromatic photos in the Weekly Photo Challenge.
See more Monochromatic photos in the Weekly Photo Challenge.
Home from Alpine retreat yesterday evening, slept all day today, preparing to sleep all night tonight.
I rest a little better knowing I left my lizard roommate behind in Alpine. I hope.
(Roomie was smaller than the lizard pictured here. If he’d been this size, I would have ceded him the cabin and slept in the car.)
Last night’s homework:
One page: Writer’s Diary.
One page: Clustering exercise
Five one-paragraph character sketches
Four one-paragraph novel beginnings (from photos taken this week)
One one-page novel beginning (from photos taken this week)
Optional but encouraged: Choose one short piece of writing to present at tomorrow night’s reading
And seventeen people call this a vacation.
P.S. I suspect this mammoth task has been assigned so we won’t have time to revise and polish. Beginnings are supposed to be bad. We have permission to write badly. But no one wants to turn in bad writing. So the instructor resorts to subterfuge.
Drove for seven hours, arrived only fifteen minutes before orientation, no time to change out of scruffy clothes before meeting instructor and classmates.
Dragged suitcases plus kitchen sink into a cabin at a 1950s-style motor court.
Foraged for food.
Prepared to fall into bed asap.
Picked up a novel, had to know how it ended, found out.
Turned out lights at 1:24 a.m.
Sat in class for five hours, writing, writing, writing.
Crashed in cabin, foraged again, crashed again.
Started on homework.
Who goes on retreat to do homework?
It’s been a pretty good two days.
We’re about to load the car. David is getting the cat hair off my suitcase so people will not think I’m a cat lady. First, however, he will have to get Ernest off.
I’m supposed to take my very favorite novel, not the one I talk about to impress people. I don’t know what my very favorite novel is. I have several. It probably doesn’t matter too much anyway. I have a feeling everyone in the class will show up with a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
There’s a long drive ahead, so I must hit the road.
Talk to you when I get back.
Last night, no matter how hard I tried to make the technician at the other end of the line understand that the problem was caused by a short in the ground wire on the keyboard, and was surely related to the March 30 keyboard malfunction, he kept insisting that my hard drive is going out, and he made it clear that if I wanted to get to bed before 1:00 a.m., I’d stop asking questions and agree with him.
Back in the good old days, when faced with equipment failure, I just asked my daddy to get out his pocket knife and sharpen my pencil. But now I have to wait for the external hard drive to arrive, and back everything up–and I don’t want to hear one word about not having it backed up already; the critical things are on a flash drive and in my e-mail–and then call the service technician and tell him I’m ready for him to replace the hard drive. Of course, he will have already have called me, and I’ll have told him I’ll call him after I’ve received the external hard drive and run the backup.
That was Plan #2. Plan #1 was to send the corrupted hard drive to the factory and lose everything.
It’s enough to turn one into a raving Luddite.
Then there’s The Chair. For the past two years, I’ve sat in a recliner, feet up, laptop on my lap, and typed away. The most discomfort I’ve felt has come from Ernest draping himself over my left forearm, and that’s not too terrible. At fifteen pounds, he’s not heavy enough to completely stop blood flow to my fingers. As long as he keeps his paws off the touch pad, I can work.
But now I’m sentenced to the desktop, which means sitting in The Chair. I love The Chair. It’s been in the family for over a hundred years. It’s an office chair. It wasn’t meant for sitting. A little while ago I sneaked upstairs and stole my husband’s vintage-1950s plastic chair with the wide contoured seat. It’s some improvement but I might as well make an appointment with the massage therapist while I’m thinking about it.
And what else? The Just for the Hell of It Writers meet tomorrow morning, and my critique partner, bless her heart, has decreed we must show up with fifty pages. Each. She has well over fifty pages of a coherent draft. I have a zillion pages of nonsense, rubbish, bilge, bunk, drivel, gibberish, hooey, hogwash, piffle, stultiloquence, and tripe. And that’s just the beginning. I haven’t even started on the adjectives.
Actually, it’s not all tripe. Some parts are decent. If they were adjacent parts, I’d be working on them now. But they’re scattered, and I’ll have to go looking for them, piece them together, and then fill in the blank spaces.
Furthermore, I’m sick of the characters. I’ve known them for a long time, and you know what they say about familiarity and contempt. If I had my way, I’d knock off the whole bunch of them: Miss Pinksie and all the suspects and Molly and her cousin Claudia and the Rat Butlerish love-hate interest and those cute twins. And the goat.
In addition, last week I received the Silver Lining Award, which made me smile, and here I am frowning before I’ve even had time to pass it on.
And to top it all off, I need to lose 900 pounds. By Monday.
The way things are going, that’s more likely to happen than my turning up tomorrow with fifty pages in hand.
In summary, writing is Sheer Hell. It’s a Vast Wasteland, like the tangle of cholla, prickly pear, dead brush, and dried grass in the photograph at the beginning of this piece, with splashes of yellow flowers and green trees representing false hope in an ever-widening wilderness.
Not that I’m complaining, of course.
The photograph at the head of this post was taken at Paisano Baptist Encampment, near Alpine, Texas, during the Texas Mountain Trail Writers Writing Round-up. Paisano is a beautiful place. The opinions expressed in this post reflect the writer’s thoughts about writing and not about Paisano or the TMTW retreat. In fact, she likes cactus and dried grass and would love to drive so far back into a mesquite pasture that she can’t find her way out, an unlikely event in 21st-century Central Texas.
I’m home from the Texas Mountain Trail Writers Writing Round-up. Post-retreat blues–why do retreats have to end?–have lifted. Fatigue from hauling suitcase, duffel bag, and a stack of books halfway across Texas and back has vanished. Euphoria from seeing a basket filled with real homemade biscuits sitting beside a pot of gravy has settled.
Delight at hearing Blair Pittman tell stories about his experiences in Terlingua and the Big Bend, and then making a spur-of-the-moment decision to swing through the Park before coming home remains.
Resolve formed while listening to author and editor speak about writing balks, needing a good swift kick, which shall be administered forthwith.
I told a little fib in that last post.
I said that before the Texas Mountain Trail Writers retreat in early April, I have to write a 500-word story.
The truth is, I don’t have to. It’s optional.
Then why do I put myself through this torture?
I do it because retreat participants will get to read their stories around the fireplace. And then the stories will be collected and included in the next issue of TMTW’s annual publication, Chaos West of the Pecos.
I refuse to be the fireplace spoil-sport, and I’m sure as all get-out not going to miss an opportunity to see my words glued between the two covers of a publication.
And then there’s the other thing. It’s fun. It says so in the retreat literature: “This is fun, and optional.”
Despite having written myself into a hole I can’t crawl out of, writing “A Day in the Life of a Rancher’s Wife” is fun. It’s like creating a puzzle and solving it at the same time. I’m partial to puzzles.
But fun and writing seldom appear in the same sentence, at least sentences that come from writers. Red Smith said to write you have to “open a vein.” E. L. Doctorow said writing is “a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” Colette’s husband locked her in a room to make her write. He wouldn’t let her out until she’d produced something he could sell (under his name).
I don’t have it that bad. My husband doesn’t lock me in, I have most of my marbles or at least know which pile of paper they’re under, and I’m not anemic.
But because I’ve yowled around to family, friends, and acquaintances that writing is equal parts wormwood and woe, I have to stick to the story. Claiming the TMTW assigned a composition is a minor fudge, but it’s enough to convince them I’m suffering. They remember senior English.
Confession over, I’ll end this post and move on. There’s a hole I have to write myself out of.