Monday, June 13, 2011

Writing it Out

I’m submitting a piece to an anthology about sharing—women helping women. How women have inspired me, listened to my ideas, encouraged me, etc.

I found out about it through litquake. I wasn’t going to do it because I didn’t think I had enough time to come up with something before the deadline. Then on deadline day, Jane Ganahl (one of the co-founders of litquake) sent out another email about it. I love this kind of stuff—it’s right up my alley with the sharing thing. I still felt stumped on what to write but the email seemed to suggest that it might be more of a soft deadline, and felt obligated to inquire about it. Jane wrote a very nice introduction to the anthology’s editor for me, and the woman agreed to let me submit two weeks after the original deadline.

Still no inspiration for a specific story.

I wanted to write about my writing partner Rachel, because I think we work really well together, giving feedback, accepting feedback, even when we’re both applying for the same grant. But we’ve only been writing partners for a couple of months, so I don’t feel like I have enough material.

Four days before Deadline II…

When I’m stumped like this, I often take it as an indication that I’m trying too hard. Trying to fit the idea-peg into the wrong sized hole. It’s corny, but I usually fall back on a “what does your heart tell you?” way to jigger the lock. (I’m pretty sure that’s not the word I want to use.)

Three days before Deadline II…

I’ve decided to write about Cathy Coggins, the infant development specialist at Alta Bates, the one who helped us with the twins’ language delays. I spend a couple of days trying to figure out how the idea will play out.

The day before…

It’s a 1700 – 3000 word limit, which used to be nothing for me back in the day, but with writing so many blog posts that max out at a 600 word limit, my condensing skills are better than my story-telling ones. I end up with a skeleton essay that kind of works but mostly makes me cringe. It sounds so fake.

The day it’s due…

We’re going to the Tuesday playgroup and Chiara and I have a little habit of going to buy coffee/milk with a straw before it starts. We get to the front of the line and that’s when I discover that I have left my wallet at home.

After the playgroup, we go back home and the babysitter comes for a five-hour shift, my writing time. A quick phone call to the bank lets me know that my wallet has been stolen and between my three credit cards, over $600 has been charged in gas and BART cards. I also have to go into the city to pick up our camera, which I left at a friend’s birthday party over the weekend. And I have to pick it up because the next day we are flying to Florida.

I spend my writing time cancelling credit cards, closing my checking account, opening a new one, driving into the city to pick up a camera, and engage in three different litquake meetings, although I did fit in some writing when I was waiting at the bank and then later between camera-pickup and database meeting.

Long story short, I do not finish the piece or submit it.

The next day we fly to visit Matt’s parents in Florida.

The day after that is Matt’s dad’s birthday.

The day after that I work on it for a bit and submit a story that doesn’t make me wince but it also feels…broken.

I figure that’s the end of it. I’m just glad that I got it off my plate and can go work on something else. I felt obligated to follow through on my commitment, didn’t want to drop the ball completely. And I’m OK with ending up in the slush pile.

Then today I got an email encouraging me to keep working on it and submit again. I get the feeling that the editor didn’t read my first draft, I think she just doesn’t want to bother with something incomplete and has a little time to wait for something better.

So now I have to go back to the broken piece and fix it.

This has been such a weird boomerang of extenuating circumstances, both on the side of interfering with the completion of the essay and the submission of it.

And now, since baby pictures are cute, a picture of Wagner having Under the Table Teatime.