The time has come to come clean. For the last several years, on scraps of paper, and little journals, and USB keys that have traveled hither and yon, where yon is Suriname and Costa Rica (twice), and Nicaragua, Seattle, San Francisco, and Argentina (several times) and all kinds of other places, some of which had really great waffles, I have been dragging around a book.
Not just a book. My book. The one I’m working on. A memoir. If you’ve been reading, you know part of the story, in fits and starts. Girl turns ten, girl’s father dies. Girl spends period of time mourning, then looking, then forgetting, then blammo, girl is about to turn the age her father was when he died.
And then all hell breaks loose.
I am so pleased to report that despite strong personal superstitions to the contrary, I did not die when I was 39. I turned 40, like you do, with just the right amount of fanfare (none), and a piece of grainy cake a teenage girl gave me at Anakena, a very lovely pink sand beach on Easter Island.
And then I had to respin it all, because damn, that was alot of panic. And also, because now I’m older than my father. Huh. Young punk.
The book process flows fast and furious, then grinds slowly to a halt. Then stops. Sometimes goes backwards. I think a glacier (sans global warming) is the best analogy, slow, plodding progress, then a giant edit that cuts 20 pages. Or maybe it’s more like the bunny hop. Forward, back, forward forward forward (cue music).
I’m working on the second paper edit, where the workflow goes: Write for several years, toss a bunch, start over, finally pull it together into one big file, edit until your eyes bleed, then print it all out.
Go to Argentina for a week, and during that time, edit (on paper) everything you’ve written, with circles and arrows and words that not even you can read. Then input it all, making changes and rearranging, and drinking a lot of coffee as you go.
Then write the chapter topics on little scraps of paper, and, while drinking a minty raspberry juice at an adorable new café that despite all odds, has popped up in your neighborhood, put like kinds together, like some kind of psychological test (or like the one they made me do at the embassy, grouping pedagogy and English language textbooks together). Figure out, after all these years, that there are five major sections to the book. Rearrange rearrange rearrange. More editing.
One more print out, one more long period of paper editing, this time at the beach in El Quisco Norte, and again at a house with two dogs and a cat where I procrastinated this project so hard that I ended up with 24 apple empanadas, though this was actually ok, because it was for work. Also, delicious.
Now I’m inputting this second set of paper edits. Where am I today? Page 21 of part 3. What does that mean? I have no idea. I could plod along like the little engine that could, or I could, as I said to a friend yesterday (at the same time as she did), “fall into a hole.” Creative processes people. Damn unpredictable.
How long is the book? Long. How long is the accompanying file of text I’ve cut? Just about half as long. How long is this process? At times, it seems eternal. A friend recently said to me, “llevas harto tiempo con eso” (you’ve been doing that for a long time). He was talking about the book. He’s funny, only partially informed, and totally correct.
So that’s why I’ve been ausente of late. Deep in the book. At times tidily and with great precision, and at times like one of those people in the windy booth with all the paper money flying around that they try to shove into their pockets to see how rich they can get. Except with a miniscule probability of financial gain.
In my free time, I’m working, which is mostly writing, and some traveling, cooking, and eating. I also worked on a podcast piece for a friend here who is moving along in the audio production world. We know each other from elsewhere on the internet, but she interviewed me using this piece as a starting point. It was a great experience. She’s sensitive, easy to talk to, had done quite a bit of research, and also (perhaps most importantly), made me think. I actually had an aha moment while talking (though I don’t think you can hear it).
If you want to know more, give it a listen. It’s about photography, nostalgia, dead fathers and coincidences. Which sounds just about right. The production is all her, Silvia Viñas. Look out for that name. In English and Spanish.
Thanks for your patience. And just so you know, clicking publish today is the scariest thing I’ve done all year. Though the year is young. There is time for much more scary. And writing.