A Postscript To This 365-Day Project

If you have arrived here, and wonder what this project was about, here’s the scoop: a group of writers vowed to write (or vowed to try to write) daily, agreeing upon monthly topics, and sometimes working within restricted forms and wordcounts. We started on January 1, 2018, with a serial story. The sidebar breaks down the monthly challenges. There are also links there to the other bloggers’ pages.

I would suggest that you continue reading, if you want to, by forcing the blog to revert to chronological order (WordPress’s formatting has to be worked around!). Simply hit this link, and you should find yourself back in January, starting at the beginning, ready to follow the journey. You can also link to individual months, reordered chronologically, in the sidebar.

 

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December 31/365 At The Close

Brilliant Venus and a sliver of moon this morning, 5:50 AM, no one should be awake and yet we are. Dogs and Kim in the dark, in the cold, stamping feet to keep from thinking about how thin pajamas are against winter. I look back at the windows of the house, as if checking to make sure that haven is still there, and will be there again in five minutes, as Sabine takes her time, and Rufus waits. In winter I am aware of breath more; in the blackness the sound of my lungs thunders.

The last day of the year.

I feel the expectation of all the memories that New Year’s Eve brings, and the apparent necessity of sharing those thoughts with others. New Year’s Day is the altar call of American culture – our collective embracing of saving grace, cleansing and wiping the slate clean of all our flaws, while not dealing with them constructively. A random day, unconnected to the natural world, or even to our multitude of religions, a day selected by Romans long dead, for bureaucratic reasons. Tomorrow all over the country people will start diets, stop smoking, walk around a block, call their mothers, and resolve a million different ways to be better people. Then they won’t.

At last, Sabine finds relief, and we storm into the house. I think, as I often do, how much a blessing heat is. Simultaneously I think, many are cold. My mother would be proud of me, that I cannot experience joy without sorrow. I start to form a resolution in my head about making things better…and stop myself. If I will do a thing, then I will do it. I will not plan to do it, for therein is the flaw. Only the plan is done.

So on this last day of a year, a day like any other, if I will be, then in the being will be the proof. The words will flow, or not. Friends will be found, or not. Coffee will definitely be made, right now.

 

December 30/365 About Writing

While wasting time, I stumbled upon yet another treasure trove of intelligent broadcasting that I can stream on my TV. (NOTE: I’m one of those irritatingly proud people who like to tell everyone that we’ve UNPLUGGED from cable TV and are only streaming WHAT WE WANT TO SEE now. We say this as if that means that we’re only indulging in premium, intelligent, witty, informed programming, where in fact we are streaming total muck just faster than cable-bound people are able to watch. This post, however, is about something that is truly high-brow and yet amazingly entertaining.)

There appears to be a happy convergence of debate and thought called IQSquared, or Intelligence Squared. The episode I stumbled upon was a debate concerning which writer was the preeminent novelist of the 19th century: Dickens or Tolstoy. Immediately, I had a few bones to pick because, well that’s what readers do. But since the structure of debate is fundamentally male, pro or con, right or wrong, it makes some sense that we should posit two leviathans, two male whoppers, against one another. What drew me in was that one was Tolstoy, always Tolstoy.

I know I would not like the man – do not get me started about his goofy religious thought or the bizarre unfairness that his greatness depended on his wife handwriting those novels over and over – Jesus, man! Hire a fucking clerk or give her a byline! But I fell into War and Peace at thirteen, and came back changed. I wonder what would have happened if I had read it in Russian, given that I assume something must be lost in translation. Would I have burst into flame, spoken in tongues, or become a mystic?

The format of the debate includes a cast of good British actors reading the texts and breathing life into the characters. Dickens gave the actors more to work with, as far as variety and peculiarity, but Tolstoy pushed them into translating souls. Watch for yourself, if you have an hour and a half to spend, and see if you agree. (Or you can fast-forward to Tom Hiddleston and the childbirth scene from Anna Karenina, at about 1:05 or so.)

December 29/365 About Writing

I have a section of my library shelves that still contains all the books I’ve collected about the process of writing, of being a writer, of thinking like a writer. I marvel how little I consider taking a book off that shelf for a look. In a sense it’s the conscience of my book collection, my Jiminy Cricket. If I actually read the words contained in those books, then I’d become a keeper of them, responsible for them, and perhaps need to apply them to my life. So, could I just make them go away in the next clean-sweep before the library book sale? What!? Do without the collected wisdom of Eudora Welty, William Gass, Stephen King, Gwendolyn Brooks, Christopher Isherwood, John Gardner, and E. B. White? I may not dare to open their books these days, but the writers on this shelf inform my idea of who I am as clearly as my family’s genealogy.

I do dust them, as regularly as any other book.

Today, just because I need something to write here, I open Brook’s Young Poet’s Primer, a 15-page tome that is thinner than a Broadway showbill. The text is a list, a starting off point for discussion and instruction about things every beginning writer needs to know.

“1: Use fresh language.”

What a mouthful that idea actually is, Ms. Brooks.

December 28/365 About Writing

In four days, there will be 365 entries and this project ends. Then I will hand it over to my son to help with formatting the blog so that it displays chronologically, and has more useful search buttons. And it will then become static, a thing done and finished. I don’t know right now how I feel about that, or even how I feel about the collection as a whole.

Writing plagues me. Reading soothes.

Amos Oz died today. I watched an interview with him on PBS where he talked animatedly about how the muse worked with him. He started with characters, always with fully-developed people interacting in his head, creating dramas, long before putting a single word on a page. I thought, how very Jewish that seems, to have a whole shtetl in your head, how loud it must get as the dynamics build, and how this would motivate a writer to get to work. Anything to get these people out of your head!

No one is in my head right now, no voices but my own.

I cannot put a finger upon the thing that works for me. I cannot touch the center of the moment when a word forms that seems right, and then the next that simply belongs with the first. There is in this process a mystery, and there is in it also a basic flexing of a muscle, an exercise of some part of the brain that needs to be trained. I am in bad shape, flabby, a lazy person at heart who would rather curl up in the safe arms of a book.

I rely too much on the mystery.

 

 

December 27/365 Wistful Things

Remember the long boring days, when we were children and there was

NOTHING TO DO

and we

WISHED THE TIME WENT FASTER

and it didn’t?

I would have paid almost anything to get one of those days to spend with Duncan now. Just a wonderful long sunrise to sunset when the hour hand would barely budge, and the whole day would stretch out before us as stubborn and fixed as those Sunday afternoons long ago.

Instead, the morning hours raced by, and before lunch he was on the road.

December 26/365 Happy Things

Antique stores must hate people like me. I wander through them with no intent of purchasing anything, no money to spare really, and entertain myself with laughing at the bizarre belongings of long dead people. No dealer cares if I used to own ten troll dolls, if I won’t purchase their one (a sadly bedraggled purple-haired fellow); no one wants to hear my opinions about decorating with dead animals, when their shop is full of moth-eaten deer heads and a stuffed weasel. Conor and Ivy wanted me to come along while they looked at jewelry and strange bits of military stuff (I am still unclear about what exactly they are in the market for), but I didn’t want to follow them around the warren of shops.

So I wandered alone among the gaudy plates and faded photos, I fingered the fox stoles and peered into the glass cabinets at tiny tin soldiers and plastic reindeer. I found some lovely etched wine glasses from the 1930s and an oak box with seven drawers. What is it that makes cabinets with multiple drawers so enticing? Why do I covet the furnishings ripped from old pharmacies and dry goods stores, where slots and cubbies meant for hardware or medicines or embroidery needles promise places to put everything? And must all the clothes be so very small? I found a lovely pair of gloves but could not waggle a single finger into their delicate shape. In a booth full of Asian “antiques” (all looking far more likely to be products of modern factories), I found some pretty teapots, but none covered with hundreds of cranes like the one that my sister gave to me, the one that needs a new lid. I didn’t find another miniature Santa and sleigh, nor anything remotely close to it. Conor pointed out that my Kmart-purchased flour and sugar canisters were offered as antiques, and I have to admit, I did buy them about 40 years ago, so perhaps they are.

We wandered until the announcement was made that the stores were closing in ten minutes. No purchases by us. The dealers were probably glad to see our backs.