In Writing News - I’m one week and 16,000 words into the new novel. I owe much of that word count to a handful of Twitter friends, busting out word sprints of 20 – 30 minutes throughout the day. There’s something about the joint effort, even with virtual strangers, that is motivating. Because writing is, by nature, a solitary act, we can get mired in our own muck and talk ourselves out of exciting and productive work. I’m trying to keep myself accountable this time around – to myself, my NaNoWriMo buddies and most importantly, to my novel.
I had a serious slump on Friday, writing next-to-nothing and Saturday wasn’t much better. But today, I jumped over the stuck point and was able to push through three more chapters. With the exception of the nagging feeling that I’m telling the story from the wrong POV, I’m feeling good about the progress I’ve made and how the story is unfolding. My shitty first draft (a la Annie Lamott) is well on its way.
In Reading News – I’m 2/3 of the way through Jim Beaver’s “Life’s That Way”, a memoir spanning his wife’s illness and the aftermath of her death. Because it was written as a series of e-mails to loved ones as the events were taking place, there is a rawness to the writing that is wrenching. Incredibly engaging and some seriously brilliant thoughts on grief.
To balance out the intensity of Beaver’s book, I’m finishing up Christopher Moore’s “Lamb; The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” and starting in on Diana Rowland’s “My Life As A White Trash Zombie”.
In Other News – My oven has been repaired, I’ve acquired a cat named Fraidy and I get to see my godchildren in Monterey next weekend. How about you?
I’ve been twiddling my thumbs this week, waiting for the beta-readers to finish their beta-reading so I can get back to the revisions on the book. In the meantime, a new story bloomed and I dove in head-first, hoping it would keep me from obsessively checking my e-mail, awaiting feedback. That said, here’s a sneak peak at the new project, tentatively titled “Dancing The Macarena With Jesus“. It is, of course, a super-rough draft so please keep that in mind as you go.
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It is finished. Ok, so finished is probably the wrong word, because there is still much to be done: chunks to cut, bits to add, fleshing out in some parts and simplifying others. But with more than 80,000 words behind me, I’ve reached the end of the first draft of “The Complicated Geography Of Alice” and the end is somewhere I’ve never been before.
The popular school of thought on such things is to set the project aside and work on something else for a while. Weeks, maybe months. I haven’t touched the manuscript for six days and yet I can think of little else.
I’m distracting myself with two books, Stephen King’s “On Writing” and a friend’s unpublished novel which is thankfully engaging enough that I can get lost in it for an hour or two every day. Still, the story is nagging me …glaring errors that must be corrected, the lack of continuity from the 1st to 362nd page, the where and how of cutting out approximately 20,000 words … there is so much still to be done.
Other writers have recommended that I work on some new project while this one distills, but any other story I could imagine at this point wouldn’t feel important in the way that this one does. There’s a sense of urgency that I can’t shake. There is a world outside my door in which transgender children and their families are struggling to make their way through a society and a system which are not yet ready to fully support them and I cannot help but hope that in some small way, this story, our story could help.
Perhaps it is arrogant and self-important to believe that what I have to say will make a difference. So be it. I would rather finish what I’ve begun only to find out that I was wrong, than tuck the manuscript away and move on when I might have been right.
Yesterday, while wandering through the wonders of the internet(s), I came upon an essay by Stephen Ira which was (specifics aside) a critique of media portrayals of trans people. The article gnawed at me all day and by this morning, once I was able to untangle my internal response, I realized I feared that in writing and sharing our story, I am furthering that narrative.
“This construction of the emotionally tortured transsexual does another important job: it normalizes trans suffering. Much of the emotional suffering that trans people have to deal with is a result of cissexism. Lack of access to medical care, disrespect from family and peers, and constant media reminders that trans bodies are worthless and require frequent monitoring/destroying. But if cis people create the impression through media that suffering is trans people’s natural state, they can erase the real cause of trans suffering: cissexism.”
I am acutely aware that I come to this with my own privilege and I struggle to walk a fine line, speaking about though not for my child and the trans people in our life. I write about doctors, psychiatric professionals and school administrators, those who who were helpful (the few) and those who weren't (the many). I write about family and friends, those who rose to the occasion with unexpected acceptance, and those who could only see her as some kind of Other, whether a soon-to-be victim of violence, a mentally unstable child or a slave to sinful things. I write about her friendships with older trans women and about the emerging generation of trans people we knew, living lives full of hope and promise.
As I wrote two years ago in a sharp-tongued memo, I do not believe that Ashlie's gender brought about her death. In this way the narrative of “The Boy Suit” is perhaps false, but the larger story, the one I wake up every day intent on pounding out piece by piece, is one that I hope addresses in some ways, the cissexism that Ashlie and those like her face.
Despite the desire to remain an ally to the trans community, the fear nags at me that perhaps I am doing more damage than good. No defense of my work should undermine the experiences, ideas and reality of the very people I seek to support. It is a fine line and I suspect that I will continue the struggle to find myself on the right side of it.
I've been writing for an hour first thing every morning this week and it's been a productive process, knocking out a chapter every day. What's interesting is that this morning process seems to jump-start my creativity for the rest of the day. I'm going about my business and little bits of story just pop out. They're out of order, incomplete and utterly unadorned but they're story nonetheless and I go running back to the computer to get them down before they flit away again. As evidence of this process, I give you a piece of “The Ginger” which spilled out inconveniently in the middle of cooking this afternoon…
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