It’s been a mixed week, productivity-wise. On the one hand, I did complete the rough draft I was hoping to wrap up, but on the other, the short story revision has ground to a merciless (or, more accurately, divergent) halt.
What am I working on this week?: This week, I’m going to start tackling a new short story edit for a completely different story. I’m pretty sure I can get this one to submittable form without cracking my head against a cement mental-block, so we’ll focus on that. If I’m inspired to do so, and if it wants to essentially write itself, I might consider dipping into the divergent rewrite of the above-mentioned story, but I am not going to knock myself out on it. It’s taken four years to get to this point, and it can wait a few more if necessary. I’m ready to move forward on something I can actually get submitted! (Plus, I’ve got family visiting this week, so I’m not anticipating a whole lot of productivity…)
What’s inspiring me this week?: I just finished If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes, and I am still in awe. This may be one of the best books I’ve ever read, let alone this year. It’s so visceral and emotional, Himes is so amazingly good at bundling the reader up inside the character and making you feel 100% of what he’s going through. It reminded me of the first time I read Crime and Punishment, only–obviously–set in L.A. in the ’40s. An amazing read. If I felt like American high school kids could grasp and appreciate it (hell, I don’t think I would have fifteen years ago), I’d make it required reading in a heartbeat. While the dynamics of race in the 40’s were a bit different from things today, it still informs SO MUCH of what’s going on over here. Seriously, this book–on multiple occasions–left me shaking with frustration, rage, relief, and horror. It’s absolutely beautiful. Terrifying, but beautiful, and having read it, I feel like I understand US race dynamics a little bit better. Brilliant book. I only wish I could ever write such an intensely reader-character connected story!
What am I avoiding this week?: Not avoiding so much as intentionally setting aside and seeing what the girls in the attic can do with the combative short story revision. I feel like I’m on the verge of moving up to the next learning plateau (exciting!), but I’m not there yet (frustrating!). I can tell the story is decent (and several years ago, I would have been thrilled with it), but I also know in my gut it could be so much better, deeper, and more complex. It’s kind of singing a one-note, at the moment. That said, I’m hyperaware of not wanting to paralyze myself with perfectionism, but I also don’t want to settle for “fine” when I know to compete in the marketplace, it’s got to be the best I can do at this point. (Read: not perfect, but competitive!) The girls in the attic are saying they really want to rewrite the whole thing with a different POV and a slightly different tone (which is, admittedly much closer to how I originally envision the story). I’m not looking for perfect, but I’m definitely looking for something that can be editor’s-desk cage fight ready against the pros I know are crazy talented.
I’ve been trying to focus on reading a lot of fabulous short fiction, too, which I think is doing a great job of fine-tuning my inner shit-detector. I know I can get other things polished and out again in a reasonable amount of time, so I’m just shifting focus and letting this one come or not as it likes for now.