And then after this I have the yarn for an afghan for C and his wife. So, I guess I’m assuming it’s going to be cold and/or rainy for a bit more.
Four generations of Phillipses rot in the ground in Battle Creek, Michigan. I dream so deeply and frequently about my grandma’s house there on Bradley I worry I haunt it.
Battle Creek has always been a kind of mythic place for me, where all the stories my dad told about his childhood took place.
So, I’m excited that “Battle Creek” is supposed to be good. I can’t wait to watch it.
I walked the dog! I left my house and moved around outside! The dog pooped! Outside.
On the one hand, it looks good. On the other hand, I need another skein.
I teased the Butcher too much this morning and hurt his feelings. And now I feel like a cad. But he’s always telling me that I ruin my meanness by not sticking the landing, so I don’t know.
We’re having a fight because he thinks the dog is getting fat, so we need to feed him less. I don’t think the dog is getting fat, but I think that, if we’re concerned that he is, we could take him to the park more and switch him to a higher-protein less-grain food. And stop feeding him pizza crusts.
But I’m being unreasonable.
I did accuse the Butcher of having Doggie Dismorphic Disorder, but our fight was really about my ongoing midlife crisis and my feeling like he has a life on my dime while I sit at home and fret about how to keep things together. Because I feed the dog and, lately, have been the one walking him. So, I feel like the Butcher is accusing me of not taking proper care of the dog while he does nothing to take care of the dog.
Which is objectively not true. But it’s a fight about being trapped together during a long winter.
So, you know, ugly stuff.
And I don’t really want to be a more outgoing person. But I’m jealous of the ease at which he meets people and how there are always people who want to hang out with him. And I want things to happen for me, but I feel instead like a big old weirdo just spinning my wheels.
Can we go ahead and give the costume designer an award? Look at these pictures!
I’m really excited. I love Bessie Smith and I love Queen Latifa.
Well, yesterday was kind of an existential low point. But, as they say in The Crow, it can’t rain all the time.
And tonight I’m going to make the Butcher a scarf. Then I will finish up the hexagon afghan.
I haven’t been able to walk lately. The weather’s been shitty. The house looks like a garbage tornado hit it. And I’m just down. I was telling a friend this morning that I feel both like I’ve failed to accomplish anything with my life and failed to protect myself from fools. And that just feels kind of unbearable.
The refrigerator leaks. The oven door is still busted. I’m missing a hubcap thanks to all our new potholes. But I need to do my taxes before I spend any extra money. So, I just have to live for a while in my rickety state of crap.
I told the Butcher this morning I feel like I’m having a midlife crisis. Like the kind of midlife crisis that leads people to come home with convertibles and 20-year-olds. So, put car theft and kidnapping on my list of things to do, I guess.
I’m 40 years old and I still don’t have money. I have more money than I used to. But I still can’t fix my problems when they happen.
I don’t know why it burns me so much, but it does.
Also, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that Project X has been pushed back again.
I don’t know what I’m doing. I really don’t.
–I spent the afternoon at the retinologist. All looks fine. He thinks the flashes are some other, old-age thing. Since I hate new things, I am afraid of dying (not being dead, mind you, just dying), so I don’t appreciate the reminders that there’s no going back.
–I massively improved a story this weekend by changing a “one day, last summer” to “yesterday.”
–The weird thing about being a writer is that you never really know if no one wants to publish you because you’re not very good or if no one wants to publish this particular story because it just doesn’t strike their fancy. This feeling, apparently, never goes away.
–I am about to have a ridiculous number of crochet projects in the works. I’m stalled on the hexagons until my yarn arrives. I promised the Butcher I would make him a scarf. He has now procured the yarn he wants for that, so I have to set aside everything and knock that out this week. But, in the meantime, I have started a stripey afghan.
–They’ve switched the generic on my birth control pills and I dislike it for a couple of reasons. One, they’ve given the pills a slight minty flavor. I don’t really want my medicine to taste like weak breath mints. I find it disconcerting. It doesn’t taste like it can possibly be doing anything. The second is that it doesn’t really curb my PMS, so I got all weepy on Sunday because the Butcher took the dog over to his friend’s house and I was convinced that the dog would like this friend better than me and never come home.
–I miss walking in the mornings. I can’t wait for the mud to subside.
One thing I was struck by when working on the Scene piece, which I didn’t write about but tried to indicate indirectly, was just how much work was happening for social justice in families. JC Napier’s parents, for instance, worked really, really hard to get James and his peers educated for a Nashville they could barely imagine and never got to see come to pass. James worked his ass off for a Nashville he never got to see come to pass. Each generation working to make a better future they would never see. They moved the ball down the field, but they often knew they wouldn’t be alive to see if they scored.
And it strikes me, watching these families working that long game, how important it is for white supremacy to pathologize black families–to tear them apart and then pretend that torn apart is their natural state–because the nation gets changed because of the generations’ long strategies of black families. Someone willing to work toward a goal she will not accomplish, but that her grandchildren might, is really powerful. Normally, you break a person by destroying their ability to reach their goal. If they already know they aren’t going to reach it, but that they just need to make some strides toward it and trust that it puts the next generation in a better position for when they set out for the goal, how do you break them?
If you can’t break a person working toward something for his family, you throw his family into disarray.
Partly because I’m bored and cabin-fevery, but partly just because I stupidly read the comments on my Scene story, I’ve been mulling over why someone would bother to read a whole story only to complain that she didn’t really find those figures worth a story.
I mean, once you realize you don’t give a shit about the story, why keep reading it? And once you realize you don’t give a shit about the story, what do you think you’re accomplishing by making a public remark about it? Differences in philosophy–“I think you should have covered x, not y”–or anger at my being incorrect–“That’s my dad and you made it seem like he believes x, when really he believes y.” I get. I even get, to some extent, “Wow, this is really bad writing on a good subject.”
But I am fascinated by the “this story just didn’t do it for me” approach to commenting. The world is not a critiquing circle. You’re not obliged to comment on everything.
I’m really torn. On the one hand, I love that the internet has given people I wouldn’t otherwise ordinarily hear from a way to communicate with me frequently. And I do think that there’s been an important democratizing effect. Everyone can have their say.
But that doesn’t mean that we need to hear from everyone on everything. Like, if you read something and you’re like “Well, that didn’t really suit my taste,” that’s an important bit of information for you–the person who has to decide what kind of stuff is worth your time and energy–but unless you’ve asked me to write something specifically for you, it’s not really my business or my problem if it didn’t suit your taste.
I might be reading too much into this–I have spent a lot of time in my house lately–but I really wonder if this isn’t some manifestation of white supremacy–the assumption that everything created is created for you and, therefore, your realization that something doesn’t suit you does seem like a problem the creator needs to know about.
I don’t know. It just strikes me as such a weird approach to thing that I wonder about what motivates a person to persist in doing it.
Also, just to give you some context, remember that I just finished the never-ending afghan February 1st. Which I started before Thanksgiving. Now, granted, I have been cooped up in the house all week, so I’m doing more crocheting than I might normally, but here it is February 20th and by lunch, I’ll be ready to piece this one together.
I won’t be piecing it together because I’m out of charcoal yarn and I’m not driving anywhere until it gets back above freezing. But I could.
And there was a lot of end tucking!
I made it into work, but the phone is out and the internet is spotty. I’m staying just a couple more hours and then I’m going home. And probably not coming back until Monday.
I was cooped up in the house for three days writing. Now I’ve been cooped up in the house for two days because we’re iced in. I’m going to try to get to work today just so I can have a change of scenery. I don’t know why something that is so awesome when you elect to do it–sit around on the couch, snuggling with the dog–is oppressive when there’s no other option.
But it is.
I have gotten a lot of work done on my afghan, though.
I got to see the edited version of the thing I broke myself writing this weekend. I think it’s really good. It makes me want an editor all the time.
I’m going to look at it again this evening, but I think my big thing is done.
I don’t know that I will ever want to do that again. Not that quickly, anyway.
I’m pretty frazzled.
I asked the Butcher to make sure that I didn’t leave this house until I had this thing done. His strategy for making that happen seems to be to have left in my car for… I don’t know. I did laugh, though. The fridge is filled with Dr. Pepper and he’s gone.
There’s no clearer “You have no excuse not to write” signal.
I think it was Barry who once said to me, “If you want to do something, say yes immediately, and then figure out how you’re going to do it.” At least, when I’m saying yes to something I have no fucking idea how I’m going to pull off, I hear that advice in his voice. My brain is giving him credit for it, anyway.
So, this is just to say that I’ve said I would do something rather large in a very short amount of time. I said yes yesterday and it’s going to be in print next week.
So… yeah. If I seem a little scattered over the next few days, that’s why.
It was nice to not garden last year, but I feel weird about just letting parts of my yard become weed-infested crap holes. So, my plan is to simplify. Except for the peonies, the big bed is going back to lawn. I’m going to run a jessamine up the bottle tree and, yet again, plant some hollyhocks along the shed and hope they come up. I don’t know why it’s been difficult to get them to come back there, but it has been.
I’m moving the hydrangea from the front yard, I think. When they were put in, there was a giant tree in the front yard to give them some afternoon shade, but that tree’s gone. So, I’m going to move them to the north-east side of the house, where a hydrangea is already flourishing. I may put a climbing rose in that spot and let it drape across the railing.
Then I need to plant the front bed. I need to till it first, but I’m hoping to replace all the crap that died last winter. We’ll see.
The Butcher claims that the loop the dog and I did was only a mile and a half and he can’t explain why it took me an hour and a half to walk it. I just don’t think it’s physically possible to walk a mile an hour. I think you could roll that fast. Now, granted, I did have to take pictures and fight with the dog and traverse a huge canyon and a lot of mud, so I guess that built in some time.
But I also think it’s pretty obvious that I fell into some kind of time anomaly. I thought I was taking a forty minute walk, but, bam, sucked into an alternate dimension.
Ha ha ha. You can tell I’ve been listening to Welcome to Nightvale while I crochet. I’m embarrassed at how long it’s taken me to realize that podcasts are the perfect thing to listen to while crocheting. I’ve been putting documentaries on in the background before now.
I’m really pleased with the octagon afghan so far. It seems to be working up fairly quickly. My only concern, and it’s minor, is that I’m using up a ton of the border color and may need to go buy more.
And the walk, I think, knocked loose some things. I think I know what my Grassmere story is going to be. And I think, maybe, I’ve found a historical figure that will take me thought the part of the Nashville book I’ve been stuck on.
So, who knows? Maybe I was sucked someplace where writing ideas happen. Who can complain about that?
Well, it’s been an interesting weekend. Most importantly, I went out to Bells Bend with the dog and walked around. It’s still surprising to me that this is a real place and I get to live here. The especially cool thing about going out there this time of year is that the river is visible, because few things have leaves at the moment.
I kind of feel like I should say something about the mess going on in the comments. The truth is that I don’t really know what to say about it. I appreciate everyone’s concern, though.
Last night, I was reading about book structure, at least the book structure this thriller writer swears by. And I love shit like this. Tell me there’s a formula, a pattern, and I will learn it and then riff off it. I crochet and cook. I can do what you tell me to do and still feel the end result is mine and something to be proud of.
His argument was that a book should have a structure that goes something like–introduction for 1/4 of the book leading up to the first pivot point, when we meet the problem the protagonist faces and it sets him off on a new course. We then go through the second fourth of the book where the protagonist retreats from his problem and tries to solve it, but cannot. Halfway through this second fourth, we should directly see the full power of the antagonist. This leads up to the mid-point, where something happens that moves the protagonist from reactive to active. Then the third fourth is spent dealing with the protagonist’s demons (which I guess should have been established in the first fourth) and getting his shit together, leading up to a point where it seems all is lost. Then there’s a point halfway through this part, right after it seems like all is lost, when we see the full power of the antagonist again. All this leads up to the second pivot point where the protagonist learns the last bits of information he needs in order to act in the last fourth.
One thing he said, which I really appreciated, is that no new information should come into the book as the story is resolving. Even if it’s information we didn’t know before was important, it needs to be there before. So, the killer cannot gain a twin brother who was really doing the killing all along in the last 30 pages unless there’s been hints to this before the last fourth of the book.
I don’t think that’s a hard and fast rule, but it’s definitely one I prefer. Otherwise, I do kind of experience it as cheating (unless done to humorous effect or to make some kind of commentary).
But I think you can pretty immediately see how this can’t be some “universal” structure that underlies all stories. For one, it presumes a really specific kind of protagonist–one who is able to learn more and more and who then is able to act on it. A lot of horror depends on the tension between learning what’s going on and not being able to act on it.
It also assumes there’s “a” hero or protagonist.
It strikes me as a pretty heroic set-up, with the hero being male and singular.
But I do like the idea of thinking through how your protagonist is going to change throughout the book and building up to those changes and dealing with the fall-out from those changes. (And I also love the “keep new things out of the end of your book!”)
On a related note, I read this incredible short story yesterday about Elvis and Jesse Presley, which does not follow that kind of structure at all. Because, if it were just a matter of plugging things in to a pre-existing form, it wouldn’t be so hard.
It has been… not exactly comforting, but maybe a little bit comforting, to be approaching the age my parents were when I was stalked. The question I have has the hardest time making peace with is “How could you let this happen?” and now I see how this is all the amount they knew about how the world worked. These are all the skills for coping they had.
I was thinking about coming into math class and the teacher telling me that my stalker had left his notebook. She said, “Your boyfriend left his notebook. Why don’t you go bring it to him?”
And I flipped out. I stood up and sent my desk skidding across the floor. “He’s not my boyfriend.”
I remember her looking at me in utter confusion and annoyance. “Well, he says he is.”
Like that settled the matter. The dog had peed on me. I was his tree.
I wonder if she has any regrets. I wonder if she ever realized something was wrong.
To me, even now, the most upsetting part of it was the utter loss of control over the narrative of your own life. The feeling of knowing you have one life–where you hang out with this group of people and you aren’t dating anyone, even though you’d like to–and a lot of people believing you have a different life–where this guy, who you’re terrified of, is your boyfriend–just because he says so.
I felt, often, like I was suffocating under the weight of his fantasy of me. Like the longer it went on, the harder it was for me to have my very basic understanding of myself respected by other people.
I guess that’s why the bystander stuff in the Vandy case bothers me so much. A lot of people saw what was happening to me and either didn’t recognize it for something they needed to worry about or actively sided with his version of events. As if it was just “he said/she said” and not “he’s doing things/she said.”
I had a thought, last night on the drive home, about turning the material from the first part of the Nashville book into something fictional. Just let Isaac Franklin flourish and bloom into the monster he is and see what happens.
I don’t know where that fits into my goals for the year. I guess I’ll mull it over for a little while longer.