November 14, 2011
The cat is adamant about me not writing tonight. You already wrote, he’s saying, pacing back and forth between the keyboard and the screen. The cat here is not a metaphor, though he might as well be; at least he’d be useful that way. “I feel like something is blocking my writing,” I say. I just deleted two sentences here because they were cutesy. And now this post is writing itself. I just deleted two more sentences, one of them starting, “I’m so sick of New York City,” because it sounded whiny to me. I just read an article about a middle-aged couple who were sailing in the Indian Ocean and were captured by Somali pirates, and held for over a year in huts in a village before they were ransomed. Sick of New York is a privilege, not a problem.
First too cutesy, then too whiny, and now I deleted a few more sentences because they were getting too meta. Oops, just wrote and deleted another one, I don’t know why. It probably wasn’t very good, which isn’t stopping this sentence from hanging around. Just killed three more for being braggy and too pleased with myself. It took three tries to come up with the words “and too pleased with myself.” I put my head in my hands for a minute and nothing happened.
I was washing my foot in the shower the other day, and I was thinking about extremities, and I just deleted two attempts at ending this sentence. My pinky hit caps lock. Washing my foot, and thinking, am I feeling the sensation in my hand or in my foot or both, and I stood there holding my soapy foot for a minute, first trying to put my attention in my hand and feel the foot with my fingers, then switching to the foot, feeling the skin activated by the touch of the hand. It was both and it was neither, and once again I give up trying, after several attempts, to end this sentence with another clause.
Maybe that’s the problem, maybe the problem is that I write the way I write so much and so often that it’s all just typing now. Fill in metaphor here, add another independent clause. Start sentences with “maybe.” Getting too meta again. People say, “I could do x in my sleep,” and I have actually tried it. I have tried to write in my sleep. The phrase “I have tried to write in my sleep” sounds so formal because I did not (didn’t) use a contraction, which is what I do to indicate that everything I say is very lofty and should be written down by a scribe with an ostrich feather pen into a gold edged, leather bound book on a velvet pillow. Pillow is purple for nobility. Ah, the no articles thing, I catch myself doing that all the time. Masculine writing. Terse. Cat’s on my lap again. See? No article. I often reread business emails before I send them and realize that every sentence starts with gerund — “Thinking about our conversation, wondering if you’ve got time to meet” — but who? Who is thinking? Who is wondering? Why do I efface the I? That was “why, why” before I cut out one of the whys, a feminine repetition. This is a sexist thing to say because I was trained at an early age to associate gender roles with modes of communication. “Looking forward to it,” I say. Am I describing a random action that applies to an unknown party? Is it prescriptive? “Looking forward to it…is what you should be doing.” “Enjoying archery…is a great way to get exercise and learn to kill people at the same time.” No implied subject, no articles, no personal pronoun. Lean writing.
Just wrote and deleted the name “Cormac McCarthy.” I didn’t finish The Road. In the publishing world, as I learned when I worked at Kirkus Reviews, book titles are in ALL CAPS and not italics, but on the internet that would be yelling. There is no reason to capitalize the words “all caps,” because it says right there that every letter is capitalized, that’s what the phrase means. Changed it from “that is what the phrase means,” because the no contractions thing gets stiff quickly. If you just made a “get stiff quickly” joke in your head then you are qualified to write for a sitcom with a laugh track, because almost all the laughs on TV right now are at boner jokes. The cat is driving me bananas, stepping into and out of my lap, laying down on the mouse so I can’t hit “save draft,” purring to beat the band. “Driving me bananas” and “to beat the band” are archaic phrases I must have picked up as a kid from watching I Love Lucy. TV titles, on the other hand, are always italic, and I had to fight to keep myself from adding another adjective in front of “archaic.” Totally, thoroughly, adorably, ridiculously archaic.
Now I’m trying, too late, to come up with a point. I guess I thought it would be interesting to look at the process of composition, but if I wanted to do that I should have let all my botched, cutesy, whiny, braggy sentences and clauses remain, and just strike them out, like I’m about to do to the unnecessary “I guess” in the previous sentence, the only purpose of which is to make me seem folksy, because god forbid I should be self-assured. It’s a policy of mine not to capitalize the word god unless I’m talking about someone else’s. I deleted another long sentence about monotheism, didn’t leave it and strike it out, because it was potentially offensive, me spouting all ignorant. “All,” too, is supposed to be colloquial, so you know we’re friends; the “you” there is a direct appeal to your vanity. This is the seamy underbelly. For years I thought it was “seemy” and I had to do a search for it now to confirm that it wasn’t. Apparently it is now part of my policy say “do a search for it” instead of “Google it.” I know there’s a word for the phenomenon whereby a brand name stands in for the generic — Q-Tip, Kleenex, and I was going to say Xerox but I might as well say Metamucil because nobody under the age of twenty-five knows what a “Xerox” was — but I don’t know what the word is. I could do a search for it, but I’m going to bed instead.
I was about to hit “save draft,” and then it autosaved.