I’ve Been Waterin’ the Yahd

Sometime back in the 1930s, my grandmother picked up the telephone receiver just in time to hear the Methodist minister’s wife, on the party line, drawl, “I am just wo-ahn out. I’ve been waterin’ the yahd.”

To the layman, the statement might not seem funny, but my family has its own criteria for funny.  And so those two sentences entered the vernacular.

They were used under a variety of circumstances: after stretching barbed wire, frying chicken, mowing the lawn, doing nothing in particular.

My father would fold the newspaper, set it on the table, and announce, “I am just wo-ahn out. I’ve been waterin’ the yahd.”

I am wo-ahn out now but not from waterin’ the yahd.

Last night David, the family’s official printer, printed the manuscript of what I’ve been calling my putative book. It runs to over two hundred pages, 51,000 words. It isn’t finished–far from it. There’s more to write, scenes to put in order, clues and red herrings to insert, darlings to kill. All that stuff. And more.

However, for the first time it feels like I can stop calling it putative. No longer supposed, alleged, or hypothetical. It’s looking more like a potential novel. Possible, Even probable,

Now, about being wo-ahn out.

Last night I started putting the manuscript, scene by scene, into a three-ring binder. That required using a three-hole punch.

I hate using three-hole punches. I hate fitting the holes in the paper onto the binder rings. They never fit properly. Getting them on the rings requires effort. It’s tiring.

When I went to bed, I was all the way up to page 37.

Then I woke at 5:30 this morning. Instead of turning over and going back to sleep, I got up. I just couldn’t wait to get back to organizing my manuscript.

But I didn’t organize. I managed to drop the whole thing and then couldn’t pick it up. I had to wait for David.

By the time the notebook and manuscript were back in my possession, I was sick and tired of the whole thing. I played Candy Crush.

If I’d had any sense at all, I’d have gone back to bed. I was sleepy. I felt awful. I needed to sleep.

But did I go back to bed? Noooooooooooooooooooooo. That would have been the act of a rational person.

I stayed up added to my sleep deprivation.

I could go to bed right now. I could conk out and tomorrow feel ever so much better.

But will I? No. Because I’m too tired to stand up, too tired to put on my pajamas, too tired to pull down the sheets.

I am just wo-ahn out. I’ve been waterin’ the yahd.

***

Look above the notebook in the picture and you will see the tail of William the Cat. I lay on the bed all afternoon doing trivial, unnecessary tasks. William lay on the bed all afternoon and slept. He should be writing the book.

 

 

 

Tampering with perfection & #ROW80 Report

Tired
Tired

I am so tired I ever could.

Because last night I waltzed up to the watermelon buffet and chose

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique

If I’d been taking naps, #1 would be only a memory. But there’s more to do.

Weeks ago, I edited out a couple of sentences but later realized I’d removed a bit of necessary information and created a contradiction. The error would be so difficult to resolve, and the lapse in logic was so subtle and so trivial, and the remaining text flowed so smoothly that I thought about saying, with Walt Whitman,

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;”

and leave it alone and hope no one would notice.

But someone always notices. Sometime, somewhere, some reader would say, But the character says this is going to happen, and this doesn’t happen, or maybe it does, but whatever happened, she never says another word about it, so it sounds like maybe both things happened, and she should have told us… 

So I tried a number of fixes, none of which pleased me, settled on one, and moved on. In a few days, I’ll go back and try again.

Just wo-ahn out
Just wo-ahn out

In moving on, I went from editing/revising to tampering. The official word is polishing, but I tampered: with words–thank goodness for thesaurus.com running in the background; with phrases; with sentence structure… Tampered with things better left untouched.

Tampering–especially when you think you’re polishing–is doomed to fail. It usually takes place near the end of a project, when you think everything is perfect, but not quite. So you make one little change, and then another, and another, and soon, part of your brain–the part where judgment lives–shuts off and you go on automatic pilot. You keep on clicking that mouse, cutting, pasting, copying, deleting, inserting…

Do this long enough and you can drain the life out of a story.

I’m most likely to tamper when I’m tired. I was tired last night. I should have watched Acorn TV or read or, better yet, given in and gone to bed at a reasonable hour. But I didn’t. Hyperfocused on the manuscript, I lost track of time and stayed up long after midnight. Then, in a perverse turn of events, I woke today up at 7:00 a.m.

So, as I said at the top of the page, I am tired.

A deadline approaches. I need to finish that story.  First, though, I’ll let it rest. Several days. A week. Until I’m sufficiently rested. Until I don’t hate it with every fiber of my being. Until I’m detached enough to distinguish the good from the bad from the ugly.

#ROW80 Update

The July 20 Buffet

The original Buffet was meant to cover 80 days beginning with July 4, not just a few days or a week. Some haven’t been completed. Number 5 is on-going. So nothing changes.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
    Tried but didn’t finish, might have created a monster instead. See above, if you haven’t already.
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique–Nope.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”–Nope.
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
    Still reading Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover, 68 pages to
    By Mutari (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsgo. I used the calculator to figure that out. I didn’t have to. I can still subtract in my head. But I don’t want to think that hard. Sad.
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    It’s Wednesday and I’m posting.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.–Nope. I don’t know why, but nope.
  7. Take three naps a week.–Nope. And I’m so sorry I didn’t.

###

The July 27 Buffet

They don’t change much. The point of the buffet, per shanjeniah, is to have choices and plenty of them. So I’ll add more watermelon.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  7. Take three naps a week
  8. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m.
  9. Cook at least one decent meal for David
  10. Spend an afternoon at the Blanton Museum of Art
  11. Play the piano
  12. Dust the piano
  13. Get rid of ten things a day
  14. Collect and organize books
  15. Shred

###

A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

To read what other #ROW80 writers are doing, click here.

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She Likes Me, She Really… Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Snoozing chimp
Snoozing chimp (Photo credit: World of Oddy). [Not my cousin MV]
I’m sharing a hotel room with my cousin MV following this afternoon’s bridal shower for our great-niece and this evening’s dinner with great-niece’s grandfather.

(Don’t waste time on the relationships. Only the cousinship applies here.)

MV crawled into bed early, turned on the TV, and channel surfed, but could find nothing interesting.

“I need someone to read me a story,” she said.

I volunteered to read the latest version of my Molly manuscript. She said something like, “Oh goody.”

Booting up the laptop, I located “The Definitive Summer 2012 Version” (so named to distinguish it from the other 3,243 Molly files) and crawled onto the queen-sized bed opposite hers. And I began to read.

I had reached the last paragraph of page 11 when I heard snoring.

Could this be, I thought, an omen?

And if an omen, is it good or bad?

I never stood on ceremonies, but–when your own blood kin, whom you’ve known for over half a century (wow!), whose infants you fed and diapered and lugged around as if they were your favorite baby dolls, for whom you served as target for the all the slings and arrows of outrageous cousinhood she let fly–like the time she was visiting you and she got all wasp-stung picking Kentucky Wonder beans off Mr. Armentrout’s fence and went to bed with an ice pack on her hand and in the middle of the night she laid it on your mid-section just to see what you would do and you were only sixteen and she was thirty and old enough to know better–well, when your own blood kin can’t stay awake to see what happens at the end of chapter one, then you might do well to find something to take the place of novelizing. Like playing Bookworm for eight hours straight without guilt rather than with it.

So. I sat for a while in contemplation, and then I emailed several friends for opinions on the omen question, and then I checked what’s happening on Facebook. And about the time I got to the fifth cat picture of the evening, I had remembered several circumstances that might be called extenuating:

1. MV liked the very first draft I wrote and keeps telling me I’ve ruined it and I need to toss all my (years of) revisions and bring back the original. It’s nowhere near publishable, but she liked it.

2. She laughed at all the right places, or most of them, while she was awake.

3. She’d had a long day and was tired.

4. She might have been motivated by revenge because I told her she was old. Which I’ve done several times on this trip. Like when she wanted to lift my suitcase onto the luggage rack for me. I mean, my doctor has referred to me as an “older person,”* but she’s been eligible for the senior citizen breakfast at IHOP for years. And just minutes ago, at midnight, she racked up another birthday.

In short, it’s possible her untimely entry into the land of Nod is a non-ominous omen, having zilch to do with literary criticism, and therefore no reason to get my knickers in a twist.

I’ll interpret it that way anyhow.

About paragraph #9, above, MV woke up and walked to the refrigerator for a bottle of water. On the way back to bed, she noticed me sitting on the sofa where I am still parked, composing.

“You’re not going to want to get up in the morning,” she said.

“I never do,” I replied.

She didn’t ask what I was doing, so I didn’t tell her I’m writing about her. I didn’t tell her about the photo I’d already chosen to illustrate this piece either. She’ll find out soon enough.

She’ll also learn what happens to kinfolk who fall asleep during a dramatic reading of Kathy’s Perfectly Polished Prose.

*****


Happy Birthday, Mary Veazey!

*****

* But he did it only once.

*****

Photo of Snoozing Chimp by World of Oddy via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).