My Writing Process Includes a Lot of Melodrama

Oh, lord, remember everything I said about how great it is to get older, more in touch with yourself, more at ease with your foibles?

It’s bullshit.

I got two really solid, good in-depth responses to the manuscript today, both of which get at the same things from different ways. And I have had to flail along the length of the couch all evening, flopping in despair about how I cannot possible fix those issues because I’m just not that good of a writer.

Even if I had a million years.

Therefore, I will just burn the manuscript and go back to not working on my quilt.

Like I said, my writing process includes a lot of melodrama.

Writing, I think, is a lot like walking a tightrope without a net. Once you get the hang of it, and are way up there in the air, and your body just kind of reflexively knows what to do, you are, occasionally, still going to slip. And you will fall. And you will stay there for a moment, with your arms and legs wrapped around the wire, and you will be sweating and you will be shaking. And then, you will get up and finish your routine.

And you will not have actually fallen as badly as you might.

Shoot, some folks in the audience might not even know it was an accident at all.

When You Find You’re the Scapegoat

I read Charles Maldonado’s piece about unions in the City Paper this morning and I’ve been thinking all day about his wife waking up to the fact that, as a teacher, she’s The Evil that Must Be Dealt With of the moment.

Jenny’s very basic problem, as I took it, was that she stopped believing that people were grateful to teachers, and beyond that were mindful of their interests, or at the very least weren’t particularly interested in demoralizing and terrorizing them more than what’s normal. That isn’t saying that she didn’t know, intellectually, that there were a lot of anti-teacher politicians, even a lot of moral human beings who must have been the ones who voted for them.

But something shifted that night, and on a gut level she got that she was the momentary It, the thing that would be railroaded and marginalized for the sake of some ultimately low-rent gain, another bad deal made by our state government. In this case, it was easier school board negotiations — for the school boards — and another few years of guaranteed travel per diems and black-tie fundraising dinners for the most vitriolic members of the legislature. More importantly, though, she got that a lot of humans were buying into this, and so now there wasn’t much anyone could do.

The whole thing is good, but that’s the part that’s stuck with me–that it is true that, in the end, teachers will be villified and further disempowered and all that will come of it is that your kids’ teachers will be further demoralized and a lot of GOPers have a line to put on their campaign materials.

You’d think there’d be easier, less destructive ways not only of reforming education, but of getting those campaign words, than turning on teachers.

But I guess not.

When we’re struggling to fill teaching positions in the coming years, remember that people are happy to be low-paid and respected or well-paid and loathed, but they tend to shy away from careers in which they are low-paid and loathed.

When I’m Queen…

I think that it’s a pretty natural human impulse, especially when times are tough, to just want someone to tell you what the fuck to do, to make unilateral decisions, especially ones that bypass the rules in order to get things done. I mean, shoot, I can remember arguing, probably in this very space, that Bush had a moral obligation to bypass state and local officials and get into New Orleans and rescue some people.

I still believe that’s true.

But watching Obama go into Libya without congressional approval or watching Haslam trying to turn the making of our drug laws over to a commission and out of the hands of the legislature, I’m feeling like the most dangerous impulse leaders in a democracy can fall prey to is the desire to short-circuit democracy for the sake of expediency.

I still believe that, when it comes down to American lives, as it did in New Orleans, that impulse is correct. But when it comes to making war or… well, it’s a war on drugs, right? So, when it comes down to making war, that impulse is always wrong. You should be accountable to voters, especially because you will be risking the lives of some of those voters.

I honestly don’t think this is something Democrats have been better on than Republicans. It’s a non-partisan issue–people with that much power have to be on-guard for the scary ways it corrupts you. And acting, even in what you believe is the best interests of the People, like a dictator?

That’s corrupting.

That’s corrupt.

Wait, Wait. Is This It?

Okay, people, I swear, after this, I will not bug you about it for the rest of the week. I will just let it stew and see what happens after my subconscious has been able to churn on it.

But I think I’ve been trying too hard.

What is my book about? It’s about a Methodist minister’s daughter who is turning into a flock of birds. That’s it.

The pitch? The sentence or two designed to make them want to read more? Something like:

When Hannah Sims learns she’s turning into a flock of birds, she expects to hear some explanation from God. After all, as a minister’s kid, Hannah grew up in a family that was regularly receiving and conveying messages from the Big Guy.  This time, though, God is keeping His mouth shut. The Devil, however, is talking, and shopping at her same Walmart and dancing, awfully close, to Muddy Waters.

My only question is–Does that read like the Devil is dancing too close to Muddy Wa… Oh my god, I’m sorry. I just had to stare off into space for like five seconds imagining the Devil and Muddy Waters slow-dancing. Why did I not put a scene like that in the book?!


And Yet Another Open Letter to Ron Ramsey

Dear Ron,

Man, you did a good job picking a communications guy, because I don’t remember hearing from you half this much when you were, oh, running for governor. Now, I know, we already discussed how you have put that unfortunate business out of your mind, but let’s just sum it up by saying that you were the scary crazy guy who grew more coherent the longer you talked, there was another scary crazy guy who grew less coherent the longer he talked, and Dana Carvey, all lining up to take on a Democrat who seemed perpetually disconcerted and tired after waking from being put on ice 50 years ago. (“Wait, Democrats like gay people now?”). You didn’t win.

But, I’m writing not to pick on you. Well, okay, not solely to pick on you.

I’m writing to commend you on standing up against the Governor’s “Let’s just let some appointed smart guys tell us what to do about meth” plan. You’re scary and often incoherent and I’m not sure you’ve actually thought through a lot of what you say, but you are an elected official in a representative democracy. And you get that. It is your job and the jobs of your colleagues, all of whom are accountable to whoever bothers to vote, to craft the laws the govern us.

Letting a commission make laws?

It’s not just, as you say, that the proposal “abrogates our authority to those commissioners and I have a little problem with that,” it’s that the proposal abrogates the authority of the voters, removing lawmaking from the realm of public debate and accountability.

I’m sure it’s easier to run a benevolent dictatorship than an unruly republic, but Haslam didn’t get voted in to run a benevolent dictatorship.

I don’t know if he quite gets that.

So, I am grateful for your efforts to remind him.