Monday, June 12, 2006

So far today I'm on track.

If only I could manage this every day. I got up this morning, put in about an hour of house-organization, and sat down to pitch. Excitingly, I did something I have NEVER done before: pitched a story cold, to an editor I do not already know. It was for a magazine that I've never worked for, but would LOVE to (not the least because I would fiiinally not be trying to relate to sex-obsessed 23-year-olds). So I'm reeeally hoping to hear back, but -- eh. Trying not to hope TOO much, as my Friday pitches are so far unanswered.

It just feels like so much wheel-spinning, because I don't get paid to pitch.

Another editor asked me to fill out a pitch I had made to her, and I've been doing that -- chasing down leads and getting some preliminary interviews -- but it also feels hollow, because this same editor asked me to do some research for a story for her last issue (she comes out quarterly), and I literally put in days at the New York Public Library poring over an archive that sounded interesting to her. I made the classic freelancer error: convinced there was a story in it, I did a ton of work for free, and when, in the end, she decided there wasn't enough for a story, I just ended up feeling resentful and awful.

Now, again, she asked me for story ideas and picked one to be fleshed out; as I interview people and chase down leads, I wonder if this is more enforced-volunteer work. I really have no patience for this crap. Having worked on a masthead, I know from experience that the best story ideas, the ones that fit into the lineup, are the ones generated in-house and assigned. Just give me the effing assignment, that's all. Don't take weeks of my life and drain them of earning potential. If I had that kind of time, I'd be spending it writing my novel, not asking searching questions about loft parties in Bushwick.

Ah yes, the novel. I had a revelation this weekend: I could do a three- or even five-book arc with the story that's been cooking on my back burner. In fact, I think it would work loads better if I spent more time on various aspects of my heroine's life that were glossed over in the original version. To write it well, I need to take a couple field trips down to South Jersey and really commit four hours a day to teasing out the storyline. For that, I need a genius grant...

Ugh! I don't mean to sound like a writing-pussy. You know: those people who say things like "I have a hell of a book in me if I could just find the time." To those people, I usually point out that Stephen King wrote Carrie on a manual typewriter that he balanced on his knees in a closet of the trailer he shared with his wife and small children, in the two hours of the morning (5-7) before he went to his job as an elementary school teacher. The old pull-yourself-up-by-your-typewriter-ribbon story, the Great American Novelist's dream. Oh, but it's hard to follow through on when it's you in that closet with the Underwood balanced on your kneecaps (figuratively, natch -- I have an ibook named Blanche). The myth inherent in this parable is that if you're a writer, you write, because you must; but in fact, sometimes you really need to clear your mind and have (emotional) room of your own before you can get the good stuff onto the page.

I'm so full of shit. If I just stopped blogging and started writing, I'd have a coupld chapters banged out by the 4th of July. I hate myself.

Anyway, the point is, today I got up, did work, did Yoga, and made myself lunch, which is how it's supposed to be. And yet I'm still filled with self-loathing. Good lord, what is the point, and why did I not go to law school?!

4 comments:

ThursdayNext said...

I ask myself the same question each dad. My mom and dad saw how miserable I was during my first year of teaching and they screamed, "We will pay for law school!"

Ladies and gents, always listen to mom and dad.

As for you, procrastinator, do NOT stop blogging. This could turn itself into something else...

the beige one said...

Like Peter Gabriel said, "red rain is pouring down all over me." He also said "don't give up," which'd be more appropriate in this scenario.

I wonder if your S. Jersey is anything like my Port Townsend, a little pocket of the world where I can actually focus on simply writing. Is there any way you could make a regular visit down there? I usually go for a weekend a month/every other month.

Hope you land some of the pitches.

Madfoot said...

This could turn itself into something else...

Oh, that old chestnut. What are the chances! Every blogo in the sphere thinks his/her navel-gazing deserves a $500K advance. I refuse to hope. Hope is the beginning of disappointment.

I wonder if your S. Jersey is anything like my Port Townsend, a little pocket of the world where I can actually focus on simply writing.

Ah! No. I'd be going to South Jersey to do reseach on the Pines, a mysterious pocket of the world where the Jersey Devil is purported to float around. If you saw the Sopranos episode called "The Pines," you saw the pines.

When I really need to focus on writing, I go anywhere where there's no internet connection. Then I spend the whole time fidgeting. It's sad.

Starchild said...

My children, this is WHY:
.....because law school sucks and the people are a-holes. like, for real, lying, cheating, a-holes that will go on to be successful lying cheating a-holes making mi-zillions of dollars as partners in big city law firms while you struggle to make ends meet at a non-profit job that you enjoyed at one time but that re-defines the meaning of the words NON-PROFIT for you personally, and you end up deciding to chuck it all for the fun of cuddling puppies all day long. And when people say, "but Leigh, you spent all that time and money in college and law school, and now you're not going to be a lawyer any more"
you start wondering "WHY YOU WENT TO LAW SCHOOL"
(all the while realizing that you'll always be a lawyer now and that people are too stupid) see, still an a-hole.. and a lawyer....