Rinse the Tolstoy Off

It’s Tuesday, and the kids are back at school. I should catch up on laundry I didn’t do over the long weekend, I should load the dishwasher, I know as soon as breakfast settles I’m sure for a run in the rain. So much to do, an empty house to do it in…

…but all I want to do is write this funny little book about a woman who buys a cursed ring for a Halloween party and ends up with a smartmouth, extremely hot genie. Oh, and another one about an amulet maker. I can see today is going to be a Pomodoro timer type of day.

So. I read The Kreutzer Sonata Variations after I read War & Peace, and I have to say, Tolstoy is kind of ruined for me. It seems like his hypocrisy and misogyny just got more and and more virulent as he aged, which should not surprise me, but somehow I expected…more from him.

I know, I know, product of his time, and all that. The same man who wrote the heartbreaking scene where Rostopchin gives the poor boy to the crowd can contain the same man who wrote the ugliness of the protagonist of the Kreutzer Sonata, human beings are complex as fuck. It’s going to take a while for me to be able to read more Tolstoy without being furious, though.

I’ve shifted to Taken at the Flood–not Agatha Christie, but an examination of the Roman conquest of Greece. I am amused that one of the reviews calls it “biased” and says “read Polybius and Livy instead.” As if those two weren’t a weensy bit biased themselves. (This is like not realizing that Shakespeare was writing for a Tudor audience and had to badmouth the Plantagenets.) I had mad thoughts of attempting the Brothers Karamazov, but I think I need to rinse the Tolstoy off before I can manage more Russian lit. Generally Dostoevsky is more my type, but still.

So. Wordcount with a genie, then running, then setting my timer and alternating between more writing and the work of keeping the household from sinking into a mire of filth. All in all, I’m swamped. Which is, after all, just the way I like it.

Onward and inward, then.

Shifting Gears

what i do So when you sit down to write a particular story, and it makes you physically ill, and you keep trying, how long do you go before you decide the sheer misery isn’t worth it?

I’m not asking for a friend.

It appears my particular answer is “about a month, all told.” About a month of dreading working each day, sitting down, struggling to type a few more words, and my stomach suddenly feeling as if a blowtorch had been turned on inside it. I am unsure whether I have grown more stubborn or less, because I’m not used to stopping a book because it physically pains me. I’m used to just powering through, as I do in so many parts of my life, disregarding any damage because I’ve promised, or it’s necessary, or I’m just too goddamn intractable to know when to quit. I appear to have finally reached my limit with this particular book.

To be fair, this book has been years in gestating, and has had a tortuous path at best. I’m just…finally…done, I think. No matter how much I want to finish it, it’s not worth the cost. I can’t afford to lose this sort of working time on something that makes me stagger into the loo and retch from sheer pain.

A factor in me deciding to stop hurting myself was an editor I trust saying to me, “What would you write if you didn’t have to write anything? That will be our next thing, because you work best when I let you just run.” Which led me to start working on the thing I really was looking forward to, and wouldn’t you know, I had forgotten what it felt like to be excited to sit down and work. I’d forgotten when it felt like to not have my stomach lit on fire and crawling out through my mouth while I typed.

I have found (shockingly, I know) that I rather prefer not feeling that way. I suppose I’ll have to chalk this up to “lesson learned.” It’s been an extremely expensive lesson all the way around.

In a month or so I will make a final decision about that poor book. It may be that I just need some time away. I’m hoping that’s the case. In the meantime, I’m going to work on things that don’t make me physically ill.

And that, as one says, is that.

Find the Funny

summer queen Well, I’m feeling better. Partly because the damn holidays are over, partly because the high-level anxiety and huge black hole of depression have both retreated, partly because I’m back at work, and partly because the Selkie visited recently for a cuppa and a long chat. It’s nice to be able to trust someone. (By the by, her book Trueheart is on sale today! If it sounds like your thing, go show some love!)

I have been rather en garde lately. Even my formidable agent has commented upon it. “You’ve been burned,” she says. “And sometimes you don’t even want to turn the stove on, because of it.” Pretty apt. I take some things to heart I probably shouldn’t; a risk of being human. After so long in publishing I have very little patience for some things, and it shows. The risk of being seen as “prickly” or “unapproachable” or “mean” is less and less off-putting, mostly because I’m forty this year and I do not have time to fuck around with that bullshit.

Anyway. Feeling better, that was the subject, right? I was provoked to deep laughter twice this morning, which is a good sign. I like to laugh, especially instead of screaming. Yesterday there was an incident involving shoes in the Little Prince’s gym class. I spoke to the teacher this morning, and wonder of wonders, the kid we suspected know EXACTLY WHERE TO FIND some missing item, though he DENIED STRENUOUSLY any part in moving it from one place to another. I laughed so loud I think I scared the teacher. The second was an ongoing Facebook joke about “Say what again!” ; it’s rivaled only by the ongoing one about “Apologize to my mule.”

I laugh daily, though it may not seem like it. Often, it’s the best response to an absurd situation, of which there are many in my life. (Especially when I am wearing no shoes and a tree-climbing rodent is involved.) Then there’s the fact that I live with two amazing pint-sized (except one is taller than me now, my God, where does the time go?) comedians. Then there’s the dogs. I can amuse myself mightily just by narrating their days.

Still, I haven’t found much career-wise to laugh about for the past few months. Which could just be a function of my sense of humor contracting. One doesn’t last long in publishing if one can’t giggle at heartless, bumbling absurdity.

My mission for today is to find the funny things. I may even have to engage in film therapy–for example, Blazing Saddles, or Life of Brian. Either will do, I suspect. Above all, I need to put on my goggles and loose my whitened knuckles a bit. Soon I’ll be finding everything in my office (not to mention the rest of the house) hilarious again.

Over and out.