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the wip :: work in progress
Friday, February 21, 2003
So nine days of reading, translating and thinking about what I'm trying to say with this novel. I need to now revisit the character sketches and study why they are who they are and how this affects the plot, or if it doesn't, why not. Although I'm not writing in the traditional sense of writing content for this novel, I've spent a lot of time taking notes, transferring notes, studying notes, and just simply mulling over the story and characters. After an afternoon in the reference section of the local library studying sculpture techniques and traditions, I started thinking about how it must have been for Antonio to leave the US and go to Paris to live but not know any of the language or culture (outside of art). Even though this happens just after WWII and there were a lot of Americans in Paris (to the degree that the idea is a classic joke now), I realized that in a very small way I could relate to the experience of wanting to belong to a place but not really belonging in the same way as someone who is born and bred in that environment. My experiences in Montreal aren't too far off what my principal (and absent) character might have experienced. That had me thinking about how silent and introverted (or, on the other hand, frustrated and belligerent) one becomes in foreign environments. That he is an artist and that he expresses himself visually removes part of the burden of self-expression purely language-based people carry. This is an essential and defining trait that I didn't clearly acknowledge at the beginning of that spurt of writing.

Another problem is Caroline, the widow. She represents that strange "what is love" question no one ever really seems to answer. Perhaps this book isn't about the answer but more about finding the answers; whether or not they do can't seem to be the point, although this open-ended non-resolution is a frustrating approach, and tends to be a cop-out most writers grab when they don't know what to do with their story. There is a fine balance between finding an ending and simply deciding not to give the story an ending because life can't neatly be summarized, but the irony is that life does have an ending: death, the neatest, tightest and most indisputable summary all of us will eventually experience.

The third question is not one that perfectly relates to this experience of writing a novel, although it is not perfectly unrelated either. Everyone and their brother seems to be writing a novel. Read any blog or talk to any person, and you'll find a budding novelist. I'm beginning to wonder if writing a novel is a form of free self-therapy since writing has been likened to problem-solving, and fiction tends to be related to personal fact. All of my questions begin with "Why?", the sole remnants of a theory and philosophy-based education, and end with "I have no fucking clue," although, if I'm honest, I suspect I do have some answers to those niggling more personal and less philosophical questions. My writing is not about being published. I've been published and paid for writing. My writing is about expression and problem-solving, about finding a way to translate the truly non-verbal in such a way that what is said makes some sense; at its core, its about communicating with others and seeing or feeling that glint of common understanding. Living in Montreal highlights the lack of understanding amongst people of different races, places and languages, and the tension and sometimes violence that ensues. I've felt a tightly controlled venom on the part of certain francophones, and I've learned it comes from a place of ignorance usually as a result of not being privy to the entire picture. But is the entire picture even possible in this over-stuffed world? History can't be effectively learned because the books are now so big and the facts are too plentiful and people are just too damn tired doing what they need to do in order to survive. So they rely on a media that can barely keep its facts straight and is more interested in sensationalism than in creating a community of constructive criticism.

I'm tired of the tension produced by linguistic conflict, as overt or subtle as it can be. I'll extend that fatigue to religious, racial, class, etc. conflict, too. But being the child of immigrants who still speak with the sweet warm and familiar accents that forever set them apart from others, I recognize now that struggle is as simple as a child who cannot yet speak but has so much to say and is still finding the words that make sense.

Finally, it's now time to make certain lifestyle decisions. Being a writer, I need to create a certain environment conducive to creative writing, and stress, financial or otherwise, kills your energy and enthusiasm, so it makes absolute sense to find work related to the experience of writing and that allows me to sharpen the tools. It makes sense to find writing projects even though I've resisted the idea, imagining a serious drain on the small creative reserves I feel I have. To write about things I don't want to write about so to make money to pay the rent makes less sense than working in a call centre where not a single creative brain cell (but a whole lot of patience) is required. To prepare coursework or teach subjects that only vaguely interest me serves less purpose. Reading, studying language and technique while learning about a myriad of subjects is getting warmer ... Last night I began work on a French to English translation. It went very quickly. The only glitch is my lack of knowledge vis-a-vis the structural engine of English. I'm a French lit and theory major. Now it's time to play catch up on what everyone in the world assumes is my mother tongue.

Posted 11:34:20 AM:: home

___________ Monday, February 17, 2003

Can't write.

Posted 12:21:32 PM:: home