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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Ditherings (in lieu of New Year's resolutions)

Detail from one of Kim Vanderheiden's pieces
for a poem in The Book of the Red King. It's interesting to have
an as-yet-unpublished book that already has art made
for some of its contents by several artists.
I don't think that has ever happened to me before.

I seem to be full of ditherings rather than resolutions, so I thought that I would make a list of my dithers.

Dither no. 1: I have broken with all novel-writing tradition (all of mine, that is) and stopped writing a novel on p. 145. For months! Usually I am a raging maniac until I finish. (Quietly a maniac, though. I keep it to myself. Also the related dithering. I'm still a good wife and mother and All That.) But. What is going on? Am I caught in a dither-quagmire? Do I even remember what the book was about?

Dither no. 2: That zany y. a. book I wrote years ago for my youngest, the one that needed about a two-week polish. Why don't I get back to it and spend two weeks? Or should I?

Dither no. 2: What on earth should I talk about at the Buechner Workshops at Fuller? I have come up with a remarkable number of topics, all highly ditherable and even dirigible in a few cases.

Dither no. 3: What is going on with The Book of the Red King? Is it accepted or not? (This is not my dithering, but there is dithering--or at least methodical tortoiseosity--involved.)

Dithers no. 4-5: Where should I send Rave, the collection of unleashed praise poems? Where should I send the new manuscript of formal poems? Dither, dither, dither... To my surprise, I have sent each to a contest (how resolute and surprising and anti-dither), but that's just spitting in the dark along with a thousand other poets, so what's the point?

Dither no. 6: Should I do something with my tiny stories? Should I not bother?

Dithers no. 7-8: What about the short stories? And the ones for teens? Yes? No? DITHER!

Dither no. 9: Should I bother to go back to having an agent? Yes, probably! No, I simply hate doing things like looking for an agent, and my first two (one deceased, one parted-from-amicably) just fell into my lap (in the usual manner of hackneyed speaking--nothing literal there) so really I don't hate looking for an agent because I have never done it. But I have heard rumors. Dark rumors. Nasty rumors. Rumors of woe and discouragement and despair. And so forth. Also on the no side: I am too agreeable. Too easily persuaded. Too n-i-c-e.

Dither no. 10: I've turned down some reprint offers and want to do my own reprints for a few books for which I hold rights reversions. However, this involves a good deal of research and work, and as a result, a mountain of dithering about many little decisions. Nevertheless, dithering surely will not last forever, right? Lemme dither about that a minute.

About dithering.... Do I dare to eat a peach? Yes, I do, thank you, Mr. Eliot, and I'm fine with mermaid songs. What I'm not good at is quarrying time, marketing, keeping my writing room tidy, and juggling-and-balancing all the demands of motherhood, wifehood, cleaning-the-house-hood, and all other relevant and irrelevant but needed hoods on the very tippy-tip of my nose.

And this is the end (or is it?) of the Dithers.


  1. The fact is you're already eating a peach. And you're wearing your trousers (or possibly some other garment) rolled. And lots of other things. You're doing the liberal arts thing and worrying that you're not doing it in a mech. eng. way. The key is in the way you've written this post, as if simultaneously scooping your way down the Oahu Pipeline. That's in Hawaii, by the way, the sort of place you'd tend to fly over, in economy class.

    Your life is so full it exhilarates you. But you're American and you distrust exhilaration. You want to be taken seriously - to take yourself seriously - and you are; certainly by me and a number of other devotees who leave their flowers here in Comments, shriven of their plastic wrappers. Because that's the way flowers should be treated. What we don't take you is solemnly (See the effect you're having; my grammar's shot to ribbons.).

    Reprint offers? Agents? All in the fullness of time. Remember what Christ said about the busybody housewife (name escapes me); in effect it was carpe diem. And your are carpering lots of diems. Forget the Puritans, no that's wrong; be as puritanical as you like but always with an admixture of hedonism. In effect, do as you are doing. New Year resolutions are for those with time on their hands.

    But then you knew all this anyway. You're quite smart really and it's I who am left filling up acres of The Palace At 2 AM.

    1. Haha! The benefits of being obscure include being able to tap-dance around my blog without a thought of anyone noticing.... But of course a few people do!

      Every now and then I feel guilty about ignoring the things One is Supposed to Not Ignore. I'm having a bout of that right now. That is, "you were supposed to get a new agent long ago," "you turned down reprints but were too lazy to do anything about them yourself," etc. Dutiful stuff that I haven't been dutiful about....

      My Puritan girl went through a day of the early American horrors and is now upended. What shall I do with her next, I wonder? Right now I'm reading, trying to remember exactly who she is and how she responded to tribulations. I like her all over again, so far. But I am afraid her life looks like: 1. Down 2. More down. 3. Cinderella hour 4. Down. Maybe that's too much down! But perhaps events will evolve in her favor, despite the rocky beginning.

    2. p. s. Martha? "Busy about many things?"

      Glad you don't take me solemnly. I can't take myself that way! But you do take me seriously. And I appreciate that.

      But I do need to re-think my organization or lack thereof. It's harder to organize time when so many adult people are under the roof. Lately I have been wasting the wrong kind of time. No. Wasting it incorrectly. It's very important for someone who writes to waste time in the helpful, needful way.

      So there's an acre for you. Now I'm going to go walk the treadmill because I can't possibly deal with all the ice and snow.

  2. If it's any consolation at all I have many things that I dither over getting done. Okay, that's probably no consolation. On the other hand I have found a solution to a lot of the angst this can cause.
    Sometimes I realize that the enormity of dithers can be reduced by just deciding to focus on ONE of my dithers.
    Occasionally I actually do get something done, but even if that doesn't quite happen I am only dithering over the one thing.
    Personally, I think you'll do just fine.
    With your mouth full of peach too!

    1. I am about to hop on the treadmill. Afterward: more reading of the semi-abandoned novel. Break to tidy the house. More reading after that. I might be (ponderously) getting underway. For which, Yay.

    2. Note that I said I was getting on the treadmill to Roderick Robinson, an hour ago... But now everybody has either left the house or is asleep, so good-by! Off I go--

  3. The agent search, for me at least, has not been nasty but it has surely been an exercise in repetitive disappointment (either "This isn't for me, thanks and good luck elsewhere" or plain old silence).

    I also have a treadmill! I hate my treadmill, and I suspect it hates me back. And yet we keep seeing each other.

    1. I've already burned up a motor and a belt. But I only use it in the winter. (This winter is so icy that I've taken a few slides already and am fearful of falling.) Actually four of us use it, so...

      I just don't want to do the agent thing! I am spoiled, utterly. But I probably need one.

  4. Thank you for re-visiting Tone Deaf and scattering rosebuds; they are helping me get through the hard winter. With regard to your worries about the (temporarily forsaken) novel and your Puritan girl, here's No. 6 in Kurt Vonnegut's ten rules for writing:

    Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

    1. She has already endured a great deal... The late 17th-century in the Massachusetts Bay Colony offers a great deal of scope for misery.

      Hard winter is right. Too much ice and snow underfoot. So cold and breezy here that I wore long johns and pants under a dress today, plus assorted other layers, then a hooded down coat and hat with a hooded Little Green Riding Hood cape on top. Brrr.

  5. Please don't abandon the tiny stories. They are magnificent and unique in terms of form. Like little savoury puff-balls that explode in the imagination. A literary form of netsuke! If published, I would carry a copy in my pocket on those days - and there are too many of them - when I don't have time for a full, hour-long (or longer) reading session I would use one 'tiny' a day to keep me sane!

    All artists dither. (Or more truthfully, the best ones do!) Half finished projects are completed in the fullness of time, or not. For all the projects that reach the finishing line, there should be a scattering of those that do not. It's natural, and moreover I believe there is no real wastage, as any creative process, whether completed to dissatisfaction or abandoned, leaves its mark on what comes next. I know you know this. You're just playing here, being self-deprecating and funny. And here I am rising to the bait. Well, it's always good to re-examine. But now I must off to some of my own dithering.

    1. I hope your dithering is fruitful! And of course it is, one way or another. Yes, I believe in scattering many seeds along the path. Some will sprout and be unexpected flowers or trees, and others will not sprout or will not thrive. And that some works are bridges to get to another place.

      Maybe I will get back to the tinies this year. I ought to take a look and see what I have. All I know is that there are a lot of them! Howard Bahr and I talked about doing a collection of them together at one point. Interesting thought.

      And I like the idea of a literary form of netsuke. I have a couple of mother-and-child netsuke. One is lionish creature and kit (pup?) The other is a mermaid and child. Both given to me when pregnant by Michael.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.