I feel good when I get close to what is probably the end of a long project—especially the project I’ve been working on for the last year, a sequel to Professed. I can see it the end—I think. It’s there. Might take a couple of more weeks to get there—or maybe three—or maybe a couple of months—or, who knows? Willpower is not the source of productivity. Life gets in the way of art, sometimes. But—the end is there, and it’s closer than it was at the beginning….
Follow along if you want: I’m documenting my daily progress on twitter @lowellmickwhite #amwriting
Of course, once I write THE END! in my notebook, it’ll just be the end of the first draft. There’ll still be a lot more work to do….
But I’ll think about that later.
In the meantime, work is also progressing on the long-awaited story collection. It will be out soon!
I’ve had more flat tires than anyone I know. There are probably several reasons—mainly, I guess, because I’ve driven many miles over the years. I was formerly a professional driver, a cab driver, and tires would go out on a fairly regular basis in the cabs I drove. Also, for a while I lived across the street from the facility where the Austin laundry chain Kwik-Wash repaired their washing machines, and the street and alley were littered with little machine screws, and it seemed like every month or so I had to pull those damn things from my tires. And also—in my impoverished youth I drove a lot on lousy cheap used or recapped tires.
The worst flat I ever had was in June, 1994. It was the day OJ Simpson went missing. I was driving north on I-35 to attend a writing workshop at the University of Iowa when my right front tire blew out. Man, that sucked. It was about 105 miserable degrees that day, and I-35 was as usual scary busy and I had to crawl around on the hot gravel changing that tire worried that some fool was going to smash into my pickup on the shoulder…though eventually I got the tire changed and I made it to a motel room in time to see OJ’s low-speed chase.
Flat tires make appearances in my writing, of course. Here, in the story, “Bad Guts.”
“Why don’t you just change the tire?”
Anyway—boom boom boom. Flat tires have always been a part of my life.
So I wasn’t too surprised when I looked at my car the other day and saw this:
Yes, that tire is flat. Unfortunate, right? But—I know what to do. Change the tire!
But then I was faced with--this:
Yeah, the spare was flat, too.
Luckily the guy across the street heard me cursing at the Tire Gods and came over with his portable air pump, and we got some air in the spare and I got back on the road.
But—it could have been worse!
Yeah—three flat tires at once. May, 1983. A personal record!
So last week a Young Scholar asked—What did you do for spring break when you were in college?
I had to think for a minute. Well. I went to Florida one year—1977. That was fun. Met a girl from Birmingham who called me her Yankee College Boy. Then, other years…I guess I actually didn’t do very much classic Spring Breaking. I was in Austin most of those undergraduate years—I didn’t need to go anywhere to have youthful adventures and madness and engage in energetic ne’er-do-wellism. I’d go to the Armadillo, I’d go to the Continental Club, I’d drink beer and go for drives in the Hill Country….
(Advice to Young Scholars: You don’t want to do now what I did then.)
Then another Young Scholar asked—What are you going to do this year?
And I didn’t need to think about that!
I’m going to SLEEP!
Yeah. Sleep. It’s been a long semester. I’m really tired. I’ve been doing a lot of Stuff. Maybe too much Stuff. And I’ve got Stuff to do—I have a book to write, I have completed books to submit, I have a book to edit for ABP, I have about 70 papers to grade, I need to get my car inspected, I need to go to Walmart….
But first I’m going to take a nap.
My newly-discovered formula for success is
REST = PRODUCTIVITY
In my own Young Scholar days I of course enthusiastically followed Warren Zevon’s advice to sleep when dead (“It don’t matter if I get a little tired!”), but as an Middle-Aging Scholar I’m finding that more rest means more Stuff done….
I usually don't date my notebook entries, so it can sometimes be hard to identify when I wrote something, or what I was writing about. And of course my handwriting doesn't help. As below.
Okay, I know that top part is from a Walt Whitman poem, "To You."
As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give the like carefully to you;
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing the songs of the glory of you.
Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the east and west are tame, compared to you;
These immense meadows—these interminable rivers—you are immense and interminable as they;
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution—you are he or she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution.
A pretty good poem! So maybe I was at the annual Walt Whitman celebration at Lone Star College and heard someone read this poem, and I tried to transcribe it? The rest of the notebook entry sounds a bit Whitmanish too.
Who knows? I am a deliberately endless mystery to all.
Larry Mellman, at Adventures of an Errant Mind, has posted a—fine, erudite, smart—review of Professed.
"Each of the characters is suffused with a wonderfully unique humanity….We may laugh at them, feel sorry for them, be shocked by them, want to slap them sometimes, but we never hold them in contempt and that is [White’s] stunning achievement in this book, I think."
You know what to do: buy it, rent it, check it out of the library, say nice things about it.
The new edition of Professed is lovely--as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.
Read it! And once you've read it (of if you've already read it) go over to Amazon or Goodreads and say something (good, bad, whatever) about it....
Here's a reading I did at Malvern Books a couple of months back, along with the Great John Domini and the Greater Alysa Hayes. I read a few short sections from Professed that deal with--grading.
Tropes Themes Things Stuff
At the end of Fall Semester 2015 I was reading student creative writing portfolios when I noticed a surge—a spate—of stories about young people getting engaged.
The stories were all pretty much the same—girl and guy out for dinner, then they take a walk around the neighborhood, and then the guy suddenly drops to his knees and offers the girl a ring, and the girl cries. The end. There were six of them out of one class.
I realized I had noticed similar spates of stories over the years, and so I was inspired to start keeping track of what I was reading. Just a simple list of whatever the writer appears to think is important to their story. And—I love it. All of it—all of the stuff my students write about, good or bad or whatever. Some of what I notice is thematic (boring engagment stories), and some of it is just stuff—things—that gets repeated in multiple stories. I’m aware that it’s a highly subjective list, that a different reader might well notice different things, or classify the things differently. Yet I just find the list fascinating and wonderful. I wish I had been keeping records like this for the past 15 years or so…..
Anyway—here is the list, based on approximately 251 stories my students have written this last year….
(Listed as (ranking): (thing) | (number of examples))
1: real place | 88
2: student | 56
3: love/misc | 52
4: drugs/drinking | 49
5: violence/misc | 44
6: cell phone | 35
7: meet cute | 32
8: job | 31
9: driving | 30
10: eating | 29
11: sex/lust | 28
12: kid focal | 27
13: texting | 27
14: depression | 26
15: weather |25
16: waking up | 24
17: non-pet critters | 24
18: car wreck | 22
19: kids | 22
20: waking up/beginning | 22
21: memory | 18
22: grief | 16
23: pet | 14
24: social media |14
25: breakup | 14
26: death/parent | 12
27: dream | 12
28: music | 12
29: friendship | 11
30: murder | 11
31: death/misc | 11
32: death/self | 10
33: ghost | 10
34: religion | 10
35: war/military 10
36: gltbq | 10
37: light out for territories | 10
38: nature | 10
39: cancer/illness/injury | 9
40: sexual assault | 9
41: sports | 9
42: start with dialogue | 9
43: knocked on head/Pippen | 8
44: death/spouse-fiancé | 8
45: divorce | 8
46: death/child | 7
47: magic realism | 7
48: psycho | 7
49: stalker |7
50: aging | 7
51: games | 6
52: kidnapping | 6
53: mental illness | 6
54: death/friend | 5
55: death/grandparent | 5
56: getting engaged | 5
57: reading | 5
58: tv | 5
59: theft/robbery | 5
60: computer | 4
61: death/sibling | 4
62: death/suicide | 4
63: fantasy | 4
64: vomit | 4
65: farming/ranching | 4
66: amnesia | 3
67: jail | 3
68: infidelity | 3
69: motherhood | 3
70: cadaver | 2
71: jewel thieves | 2
72: politics | 2
73: pregnancy | 2
74: race/ethnicity | 2
75: shopping | 2
76: western | 2
77: travel | 2
78: writing | 2
79: visual art | 1
80: birth | 1
81: coma | 1
82: drowning | 1
83: dystopia | 1
84: fairy tale | 1
85: funeral | 1
86: psychic | 1
87: reincarnation | 1
88: torture | 1
89: trains | 1
90: homelessness |1
91: generations | 1