On Teeth and Failures

"You will never forget a person who came to you with a torch in the dark." -M. Rose

It’s been a minute… I’m always amused that when I make plans, life throws obstacles at me. In this latest case, my dentist decided my jaw had healed sufficiently that it was time to come back in for the next step in my oral surgery series at the end of November. And we had an unexpected house guest early in the month. And of course all the cooking that comes with Thanksgiving–even though I only contribute appetizers these days. (And my nieces’ and nephew’s appetites have hit that uncertain point in adolescence where they eat … strategically? I came home with a LOT more deviled eggs and hot artichoke dip than I would have ever guessed, given how popular those offerings have been in the past.)

So. No NaNo win for me this year. And, honestly, I’m starting to think I’m an experienced (dare I say, trained?) enough author at this point, that I’m not sure I will again. These days, I spend much more time considering where I’m going than just running with the next random plot twist to pop into my head. I’m still only at the halfway point of this novel, and have yet another new deadline.

As part of my process change, I now read out loud to hubs for his feedback. Reading out loud is also effective at pointing out where language is repetitive, weak, or stilted. It’s just slow. And coordinating our schedules to make it happen is also an interesting exercise. But so far, it really does seem like my writing continues to improve book over book. (If I’m allowed to say that myself. 😀 ) Hubs is also massively helpful when I’ve backed myself into plot corners. That last was my real downfall in November: I couldn’t figure out what would make an effective bridge between the plot point I’d just completed and the next plot point… in two chapters. I spent a week just considering possibilities.

Along the way, I read about things like the dangers astronauts face from space radiation; research on a global fertility crash; and all the ways humans have tricked themselves into believing in time. Then there was the excerpt from a new book that talked about the storied history of women’s work in the kitchen. Given the experiences I’ve had with my Instant Pot, there was a lot of resonance in the thesis that our labor was always assumed, and never offset by understanding the impact of those hours we’re obligated to work outside the house.

Which ties logically to a summary of ten well-known authors who had interesting day jobs. Counterbalancing that was an author who documented all the ways the American Dream is killing us. Particularly relevant in my experience: the profoundly ingrained “sense” that if you work hard you will be rewarded, as well as its toxic corollary that if you’re facing hard times you must be lazy and are therefore available to exploit. Taking that argument a step deeper, that “billionaire-ism” could be a religion, I ran across this quote:

If you find yourself in possession of one billion dollars, and keep it, then you are willfully refusing to stand in solidarity with the whole of the rest of the human species.

Tom Whyman, November 5, 2019, “The Outline”

These thoughts all play through my mind at night as I weave plot points and worry about my day job responsibilities. So I lie awake with relative frequency. (Shout out to @farmgeek who tweeted my WHOLE mood today: “Spare a thought for all the struggling writers of dystopian sci-fi having to compete with this current reality.”) So articles that reinforce my sense of being a congenital night-owl, or that talk about the romance of sleep are particularly apt to catch my eye. Or an article on the nature of consciousness that concludes after a thoughtfully logical argument that:

Consciousness may be fundamental in nature—an inherent aspect of every mental process, not a property constituted or somehow generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain.

Bernardo Kastrup, September 19, 2017, “Scientific American”

These things all weave into my storytelling in ways obvious and subtle, and underline my feeling that each of us is in some way an individual stew, brought to boil at different temperatures and pressures and flavored to range from spicy to bland… to disastrously burned and congealed. I’m glad there are enough Dodo videos in the world to remind me of the good people out there, but I’ll warn you now, the assholes in my stories will be dealt with appropriately to their crimes. If I can just finish writing the book.

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