Today was a good day. Writing went smoothly, and I actually remembered to alternate between working and taking long walks rather than banging my head against the brick wall expecting it to soften. Crema in Harvard Square makes a delicious bright espresso, so light it almost tastes bubbly. I’m working with a secondary character who’s a lot of fun; my main is a complicated and powerful woman, but limited by her social position and psychology, while this supporting character has different avenues available to her. I can already tell she needs a bigger part in the story, and I’m looking forward to writing those scenes.
The Dharma / Fantasy book I linked yesterday has me trying to appreciate embodied time—its descriptions of Dogen’s concept of uji (being-time, which I don’t quite understand but is something like awareness of time as an element of beings and events rather than a container for them) remind me of good martial arts instruction, no big surprise there, and of Venkatesh Rao’s notions of tempo and narrative-driven decision making and agenda planning, which is a bit more of a shock. (His book Tempo is an enlightening read, as is his blog Ribbonfarm.) I’m trying to pay attention to writing as a process, a gerund—keystrokes and language and posture—which is wonderfully liberating, especially considering the unusual anxiety I’ve felt while working on this book.
A bit of explanation: I don’t usually feel worried as I write a book. This is the, what, eighth-and-a-hafth book I’ve written (counting the one I’ve tabled until I’m finished with Current Project, which is marinating comfortably in the back of my mind at an act break around 70,000 words or so), so I have a sort of sense of the process now. But, probably because I’ve spent so much of the last two months talking about writing and Why I Write Such Excellent Books and Why I Am So Clever (as Neitzsche would have it), I’m feeling self-conscious, like the caterpillar that kept tripping over his feet. Have I done this before? Is this impressive enough? The more I can live in the time of writing words, the less that other stuff troubles me. This is something like Keats’ Negative Capability, I guess, only approached from another cultural direction. ([That property]… which Shakespeare possessed so immensely… the capacity for being in mysteries, & doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.)
Similarly, when I’m walking around, I’m trying to be aware of the walking-ness of the moment, rather than of other factors, like destination. (Moving body as a process, not, or not just, a vehicle.) I’ve been checking my smartphone less, and I’ve been absent from Twitter. On the one hand, Twitter is an excellent platform, and contains fun people. On the other hand, I don’t think I have quite the level of attainment required to participate cheerfully in the datastream, rather than viewing it as a distraction…
Wow, that ended up being a long read, and with no real point, other than: time is strange, and we always experience it stuck in bodies. And I’ve been writing all day, and I’ll be writing most of tomorrow. Good progress, good fun. Hope you’re all well, and don’t mind a few rambly thoughts about metaphysics and simple Buddhism. Ask a Max who spends most of his day wandering the city to keep you abreast of his thoughts, and you see what you get. It’s all of our faults, really.
(On other notes, WordPress fullscreen + Chrome / Mac Presentation Mode produces one of the sleekest text editors I’ve ever had the fun to play with. Fullscreen mode, where were you for me years ago!)