October 8, 2011


Writing is so hard, really. I think I used to think it came easily because I didn't know what I was doing. Not that I really know now. But, somewhere along the line, I think I've gotten accustomed to the act of self-criticism--something that absolutely eluded me during my time at Santa Cruz. Faulkner advised that we kill our darlings, and I think I'm just learning it now, after five or so years of writing with intent. It's horrifying to admit you've been so arrogant, but yes, absolutely so. I think some of this is coming up because I'm attempting to rewrite completely a piece I first tackled three years ago. It was part of my senior thesis for fiction writing at Santa Cruz, and I read a portion of it at the graduates' reading. And I thought it was pretty great.

It wasn't. It was chock full of darlings, so choked with them that I'd sacrificed scene for pretty summary and repetition. Just a mess from start to finish. An exercise in wordplay without an ounce of structure or restraint. What a nightmare. Also, it had the worst title imaginable, something I remember commenting on at the reading itself: The Winter Ham. Don't even get me started.

It's an amazing thing, to get some years between you and the things you have loved. Whether they be people or the ideas of people or the mere shadows of people you once met. Be they places or dances or songs, impermanent as tide. Some things get stretched and faded and some just get distilled. They come through time reduced but not the lesser for it. I took sick glee in slashing through that old piece today, wreaking havoc of all things beautiful and indulgent. Delete delete delete. It's probably a fitting project, given the nature of the week. I realize now, days after the anniversary, that perhaps what's bothered me so much about this one is that if Laura had lived, she would today be as old as I was the day she died. All of twenty-two. Someone asked me how old I am this week and when I said twenty-five I saw her half wince and force a smile. But it's okay, I wanted to say. It's well earned. I come through this week with some goals, better realized given the task at hand. I am seeking discipline. In writing, in trying, in hoping. Because these things aren't so easy, really, though we make them sound that way sometimes.

God. The Winter Ham. I can hardly believe it.

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