08:51. A shameful hour to be writing, in her books. And even worse, in that the clocks had gone backwards an hour, so the actual time was even more decadent, nearly ten. But what was actual time? In some part of the world, it was dark still; she would imagine herself there.
Here she was on the gorgeous wide expanse of white. She had nearly given up the idea, yesterday, very nearly indeed. Such shame had fallen through her like a knife, at revealing so much of her self, her simplicity, her duplicity, the simple sadness of her soul, which had no right to be sad. She who in theory had all, all that she had ever dreamed of having, though truth be told, her dreams had always been simple enough. Just the prince, just the children, just the castle; though the real-life castle be a two-bedroom house; and there was yet no fountain with dolphins cavorting, as she had once drawn as a child, in the front yard; but yes, look again, there was! A small, octagonal free-standing pool of steel and plastic, such turquoise plastic, such a bright jewel; it was the sea, their own bit of saltless sea in the middle of this sea of rolling green. And they themselves were the dolphins. And in the end of October! It could hardly be believed.
Once, an October in this same place some years ago, it was so cold that to sit here now, in this same place, would be to freeze, to sit with fingerless gloves might be the only option, teeth chattering; but then it was not her here, instead it was her mother-in-law, her belle-mère, “beautiful mother,” the Great Spider; no no it would never do, to call her that upon the page, but only in her mind; anyone would misunderstand it, not understand the depth of it, think it was speaking ill of the dead, when it was not that at all, but a great respect, an homage to a weaver, a builder, an understander of orbs and continuity and a surviver in a world where it had been to eat or be eaten, to escape such terrifying childhood circumstances, to escape, to beat a path of her own, to build a home from what sticky threads she could gather, to retreat to a forest to escape the concrete —
what was the word. Impossible to think it now. A chain-saw was wrangling its jaws just meters outside the walls of this den; if there were no walls she could throw a stone and hit it; her ears were burning from the noise, since the walls were so thin. A tree was being limbed, or dying, she couldn’t bear it, but someone had to do it she supposed, or we would not be warm, the taller trees would not grow, or the fruit trees would overgrow and obscure the skyline, which stretched across forever between the two windows now appearing in mind. Those two windows, the ones in the front bedroom, when they’d first arrived here, on this place, as chance and planning would blend to have it, now 11 — 11! — years ago.
He’d said it, her prince — whispered, she imagines now, against the outer ridge of her ear, or breathed the words upon her neck softly, from behind; but perhaps more likely jovially winked, from arm’s length away: “Plenty of ‘scope for the imagination’ here, don’t you think?” — quoting a favourite novel character from her youth.* And she did think so, and fully agreed with that whispered or winked trace of words which fell in just the right place, and at the right moment. Every time, he’d done it this way; we’d seen a place, a neglected, nearly unliveable place, and he’d see my eyes trace its bones, seen my heart leap to my lips as I feasted on a view or some spot of beauty and potential, and he’d crystallize it there and then, he would take action, say the perfect thing to draw my commitment into a perfect circle of need and longing; he’d capture my desire to possess whatever beauty I perceived, to make it mine, to own it and use it.
Now she’d slipped into first person; it would not do. Chainsaws have a way of dividing reality from fiction. Which is it? In any case? Reality or fiction? The ethics were always a concern. One that had prevented her for years, from writing fiction. So much fiction, she felt, had harmed her. But who was she to feel so hard-done-by, so woebegone? Her life was in fact perfect, was it not. To her it was; mostly. Was that all that mattered?
The chainsaw blares again; another tree will fall, or just its limb, or a part thereof. She is glad she cannot see.
787 words. She checks, for she gets tired now of trying. She almost gave up on the entire idea yesterday; such selfishness should not be entertained, such brazen wantonness, this bizarre and narcissistic urge to produce art, when there was work to be done. Farmer Boy, yes, the mother from Farmer Boy, that book she was now reading to the younger children in the evenings, this was a mother to be admired, to imitate, to emulate. But that mother had existed 150 years ago. But she was not a fiction. Or was she? Laura Ingalls Wilder, that amazing mother too, how had she done it? How had she dared to write of reality, to write the everyday things but *of her own time*? The enormity astounds her now and gives her tingles throughout her body. But in fact, in Farmer Boy she writes not of her own time, but of a time 65 years before. And of the family of her husband. That stalwart oak of a man, her husband’s father. That — what? how to describe him? — that small, rough gem of a boy, that shaft of molten light forging to steel — that farmer boy, in the book, who’d become author’s husband, one day? Such an ache, to imagine the small arms, working, working, always working and learning to be ever truthful, much as the body wanted to lie, to avoid a whipping from the father, or a whack from the teacher’s ruler. How could they have born it, back then, those boys? How could they have?
The hoop skirts of the women and girls, as they bustled behind the men in the fields, or as they pushed through the narrow farmhouse door-frames to serve platters of food, of home-raised birds, of home-made preserves, how could those skirts have even become a fashion? In that time when every stitch had been by hand. Every garment, even the cloth of those garments, made by the sheering of one’s own sheep, the treading of one’s own spindle, the threading of one’s own loom, the pushing of one’s own thimble. Impossible to conceive. But yet we can. Because one woman, sometimes, chose not to weave with threads, but instead with words.
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1133. The rest will have to come later. The water overflows its well and becomes far too self-absorbed for a spell.
1180. A bit of editing always adds words, and never decreases them. Why on earth? It makes no sense.
Now she’s ready to write the sunrise. This is how the morning went:
First, there had been the day before. The shame, the disappointment in herself, the feeling of subtle attack, of passive-aggressive harm. Then the feeling of a solid friend, and then another, and then another still. The friends were so important to her success. It was their own bravery she had to draw from; their own daringness to stand within themselves, and to own the fact of their existence. All she had lost, within her own ability to shine, would be absorbed from whatever excess of light they had to give, whatever they offered to her from their store of gifts. She would weep with gratitude, and yet weeping would not do. She hated herself for her own weepiness, but not really. She only hated the way others would despise it.
So yes, moving on and on. There was this turbulence and sense of shame, and then a sense of giving up, upon a project that seemed after all a waste of time. And then it was already lunch, and time to eat, to put something in the body besides coffee and words and the sight of stars and moon, and then it was time to clean up and prepare backpacks and water bottles and analyze the state of hiking shoes for a good number of feet, and then it was time to rush outwards from the safe enclosure of their home, to find herself suddenly in the back seat of a car that always seemed to drive too fast for her liking, to find herself swaying from side to side as curves were navigated and a kind of sinister, bludgeoning music cracked upon the membranes of her skull. But at least there was the comfort of the young boy beside her, small shaft of light becoming steel, and the one beside him, and the other in front of her, and another behind, each bigger and more or less hardened, and the joy of most of them, at experiencing this speed, this hammering music.
She wanted to control all and everything, finally; but found that she could not. She could only control the way she viewed it, the way she wrote about it, the things she chose to say or not say, the people she chose to give everything to, and the people she found she had to steel herself against, to learn a sort of reluctant self-protection, to find herself, in fact, becoming the sword she’d always warred against, the moment she picked up her pen.
09:51. 1629 words; still not quite there, but it feels a natural end. And still I didn’t write the sunrise!!! Which is what I’d meant to do, when I first here arrived. Why, oh why, can every moment of a day not be written? And does it have value, if it isn’t? Sometimes it seems not. But the moment it’s experienced; to see that wide, motionless cobalt sky, with such grand flings of pink-floss jet-stream trails of time in cloud, to know that people — yes people! — made those traces high above, the crisscrossing patterns in air — it’s unwritable, it’s unbeatable, it’s nearly unbearable how much joy the sight brings. And then the softest nose of the donkey, the thick, short, course fur of its cheek, as one walks by and it brays such a woeful cry, such a desperate lonely cry, and one stops, and searching for long grass finds none, and instead picks a wilting mallow flower, palest pink, and strokes it upon his nose, and stares into its huge, baleful black eye, and sees nothing but oneself, tiny and glassy, reflected within.
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* The above-mentioned favourite novel character and the phrase “scope for the imagination” was of course from the Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M. Montgomery.
09:55-ish. My friends, I hope you will join this festival of words which I hope (and by *no* means promise) to continue through the month of November. I thank you sincerely for yesterday’s appreciation and support, without which today’s effort would likely not have even been attempted. I hope to see any of you who also would like to try (just try! even if it’s only for one day! that’s how I’m doing it!) to write 50 thousand words in 30 days, over at NaNoWriMo (5 days till start-time!); I’m @NadineJL on that site, and would be happy to connect, under whatever name you see fit to use there, for whatever length of time you and/or I choose to exist there.
You might also like to read this older piece of mine on Medium, for “pantser” tips (keeping in mind that while I may have written many words, I’ve yet produced no finished book, perhaps due to the deep nature of my pantserishness; so it’s at once a bit odd and a bit “yup,” that I published it):
Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Book (a.k.a. The Pantser Method of Book Writing) (Sept 29, 2018; Medium.firstname.lastname@example.org [5-minute read])
And also, this piece from a reader named Jaclyn, of a blog called “Lightning Droplets,” who hit the like button on my first NaNo-related installation yesterday, and who, it turns out, is also participating this year. Really well-made article. I have used some similar “tips and tricks” myself, so I know they work.
NaNoWriMo Prep for Pantsers (Oct 15, 2019; LightningDroplets.wordpress.com)
p.s. One last thing: I also want to again mention the fiction of my blogging friend Akarsh Jain, whose stories from India I absolutely adore and am inspired by, and whose willingness to let me see “behind the curtains” of his methods (during a series of question-and-answer sessions on my blog and on his, and via email) helped unlock some understanding in me that no formal book-reading had yet been able to do. Please check out his stories, and prepare to be entranced by them!
A Fine Balance (Blog, 2015 – present; akarshjain.wordpress.com)
Oh and thanks to new WordPress buddy @DustBunnies436, for recently joining forces with me on the NaNo site, and for hitting the like button on one of my older posts, which reminded me of Akarsh’s inspiration. :))))) They have an amazing blog, too. (If I may use “they.” Currently at dustbunnies.home.blog — “Mental Dust-Bunnies: an old fart and their gender.”)
Edit, 11:35: Published at 11:11, as both chance and “carpe momentum” would have it, but returned and fixed several, but not all, small grammatical errors, just now.
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Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. Thank you for reading. ❤︎