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Entries in Dante Alighieri (3)

Monday
Mar052012

Reflections on Week Two

[Read the finished story here!]

That one felt like work.

Dialogue comes much easier to me than prose, so I cheated around my block by making the story in the voice of someone (the parental "we"). It helped a little, but I still spent the first half of each writing session staring numbly at my notebook, wondering why, if in fact writing is "my passion," isn't this more fun?

I talked a bit about fatigue last week, and that certainly contributed. I also set a nice trap for my perfectionist self by basing characters in the story on actual people with giant bodies of work. Again and again, I felt like I couldn't possibly write more until I had done more research. I would resolve to spend that evening reading random selections of Dante and Blake. And then I wouldn't. And then the next day I'd feel underprepared... etc. etc.

One of my teachers in grad school, Carlo Gébler, advised us to do the research after the first draft's done, because too much research at the start can turn into procrastination. He'd make note of the things he'd fudged or simply skipped to keep the story going, and afterwards he'd know exactly what research he needed to do. Until this past week, I'd always subscribed to the opposite theory: immerse yourself in research; take copious random notes; realize that you can't possibly start this story until you've found out about x, y, and z; become overwhelmed; admit defeat; ponder the futility of it all.

This time, though, as with last week, there was no time for my usual self-defeating processes -- I forced myself to work with what I knew (which wasn't much -- Dante wrote The Divine Comedy and Blake wrote Songs of Innocence and Experience, which included "The Tyger") and invent the rest. I also wanted to model the story on another I had read in college about Jesus as a small child in suburban America. Something about how he used to toss the halo around like a frisbee. I could not for the life of me find this story or figure out who wrote it, which was ultimately a good thing, since I had no choice but to let whatever I'd retained from that story inform this one without feeling influenced or intimidated by it.

Anyway, despite all of this (or perhaps because of all this), I think the story turned out well, and with a punchy ending that makes me smile. But please, please, let Week Three be easier...

Tuesday
Feb282012

Fatigue

These have been my mornings lately: Tired, coffee, work, 2pm doldrums, more coffee, second job, exhausted, go to bed early... CANNOT SLEEP! CAFFEINE REMEMBERS YOU!

Next morning: very tired, more coffee... etc.

I skipped my writing hour this morning. I know, I know. But caffeine held me in its anxious embrace until half past midnight last night. When the alarm went off at 6:30am, I think I actually said aloud "Oh god no" and then hit snooze until it was time to get ready for the day job.

Later, I tried an experiment wherein I chugged all the coffee I would typically have over the course of a day before 10am. It made for an eye-spasmy morning, a kind-of buzzed lunchtime, and a fatigued evening. Now there will be sleep. And then writing. Yes. Sweet, sweet writing...

I made a little progress on Week Two's challenge before my second job tonight. I decided that it's going to be a short prose piece, not a poem (this is for the best), and will feature Dante and Blake as fictional characters. So poets 500 years apart rather than 1300, but it's the spirit of the thing that counts, right?

Monday
Feb272012

Week Two: Poets 1300 years apart being compared.

Dear god. What...?

I think I remember where this came from. It must have been during David Daniel's Introduction to Literature class, and though I forget exactly which poets we were comparing, I remember thinking how strange it was to tear writers away from their place in history and compare the words they'd written on the merits of their words alone. 

I mean, how many words did Shakespeare invent? Even 700 years ago, Dante didn't have access to "pious" or "radiance."

(Or "multitudinous," but I guess you don't often find opportunity to use that one.)

Anyway. I have no idea what to do with this. Quite the "inauspicious" start...