A sometimes half-arsed record of the process of writing in its' variegated many forms.

Friday, July 17, 2009

trying to think things through on a subway platform (pt. 1)

So, I was sort of taking S. Bellow's advice last Thursday. In James Altas's biography he quotes a letter of Bellow's where Saul writes that in order to overcome writer's block he says he goes to the movies every day for a week. Which I really love. Course, I don't have the time or the inclination (in terms of available movies) to go to the movies every day for a week, but I figured it would be good to get out of the house and my own head and try and get over a sort of obstacle that I've found in the way.

That obstacle being, of course, trying to edit a piece of work that's overly sentimental, and, as it turns out, is substantially too 'small world', uninteresting in it's current form. I don't say that just to be self-deprecating. When I wrote the first draft, as a first full draft of a novel ever completed by me, I suffered from a usual symptom of first novelitis in that I kept the world of the novel too small. Now, the fact that there is too be a series of three novels (and potentially more, as there are concurrent storylines for both the male and female protagonist, but we stay with the male as narrator, etc.) makes the need for a larger world just that much exponentially bigger. It does seem that you need to expand exponentially in order to fulfill the requirements of a longer work.

So, I've been doing little bits of actual editing. Both going through the work on the computer and doing a full dress edit, as well as working through a printout copy and doing a sort of minor tweak edit. And, as well, I've been doing substantial conceptual, world creation, work in terms of making the characters more interesting, breathing more life and detail into their half-empty forms, and expanding and coloring in their world.

But I'd been sorta' stuck a little bit recently. I was having trouble fully gearing up and getting into the fight because I was realizing just how much was going to have to be rewritten (most of the material [very little of the original 1st draft is going to be alive past draft two or beyond). It's a daunting task, especially as I'm also trying to gear up to start the 1st draft of the second novel and can't wait much longer.

So, as I said, I decided to take Bellow's advice and go to the movies. The two choices that I somewhat fumbled between were Woody Allen's Whatever Works and Kathyrn Bigelow's The Hurtlocker. Ultimately, the fact that the hurtlocker was playing at the cinema right in the area where I've set some of the novel (the place where the protagonist works is a fictional bookstore close to the Loews Boston Common) decided for me. And what a decision.

Clearly, the intensity of this movie had something to do with the explosion of ideation that occured after. Although, as I was walking from the Park St. T I did have a few interesting ideas about personality and how the main character's personality is dis-integrating (as in breaking apart and not entirely of his own control) for various reasons and also the idea that it would be both fun and unusual to try to warp yr own personality to make yrself the antagonist. In something. It being that a little dash of anti-hero might be useful for the complexity of our protagonist, Thomas. And that that anti-hero element comes out as a result of this dis-integrating personality.

So, I was having a few thoughts as I went into the plush theaters three stories up at the Loews by the Boston Common. And then The Hurtlocker got underway. Holy effin' shiite. That movie is an intensity of tautness and tight wrapped, adrenaline filled life of a solder grit and realness that hasn't been seen very often committed to film. The movie doesn't preach or moralize about the characters or who's right or whether the war's right, it stays with the individuals and examines what it means for these three people (mostly) to be experiencing this war now.

And partly the experience is traumatic for the audience because the realness of the violence is so close and not outlandishly cartoonish. So, there's this distance that you might naturally feel to your own emotions as numbness is a common response to trauma, so there was this numbness for me, but a numbness that was hiding that deeper well of (potentially) hysterical emotions of trauma. Which started to come out as the movie went along, and I became more invested with the characters. By the end, I was feeling it all deeply, all scrunched around in my big, comfy movie sofa chair with my feet up on the back of the empty chair in front of me.

So, part two will be the ideas that organically sprang from the this experience as I made my way through the Boston streets and subways to my house. The power of the ideation that grew out of the experience was such that I was having trouble navigating public spaces but was afraid to let them fully out of my range of concentration lest I lose the jist. It was really tough.

And a side note: Is it true that no woman has ever won the best director Oscar? If so, I think we've got a viable candidate (as this is one of the best movies I've seen in years and certainly one of the best war movies ever committed to film). There's been a slight shift in the masculine nature of film direction, but let's push that even farther and break that barrior. Anyway...