Sunday, September 28, 2014

Double XP Days for Real Life, Editing Snag, and a Brief Book Review

This weekend, the game Neverwinter Nights is offering double experience points, so of course it’s my moral duty to my avatar to get at least a few hours of game play in. As I was running my burly Orc warrior around graveyards and slaying necromancers, it occurred to me that we need a double-experience day in real life. This would be an occasional day in which you get extra credit, extra pay, extra servings, and extra attention for simply showing up and doing what you’re supposed to do. Compliments are extra-nice, serving portions are doubled without the extra calories, small daily accomplishments are punctuated by triumph horns and ticker tape, and you’re guaranteed a bonus for completing routine tasks. I think it would go a long way towards keeping the populous motivated to continue sweating it out on the giant hamster wheel of industry. Same as in Neverwinter, these days would be announced on short notice and over at the stroke of midnight. Everyone would go to bed full of brownies and self-esteem, cheers echoing in their ears.

Speaking of self-esteem, I have hit a slight snag with the editing of my novel. Which is that I think my novel is a big hoovering pile of suck. I don’t how I went so quickly from “This editing thing is a lark and I don’t why everyone says it’s such a big deal” to “Argh! I want to burn this damn thing and throw myself off of a bridge”, but that’s where I am. I have lost all perspective. The whole story seems completely nonsensical and I’m absolutely convinced no one will to want to read it and everyone who does will laugh at me. And I don’t want to feel that way about my precious. Writing coach Robyn Fritz says that a book in progress is "a living, real being ready to partner with you to bring it into the world and find its audience—and yours." This rings true to me, so I don’t want relationship issues with my novel. Maybe my novel and I should go to couple’s therapy. Perhaps my novel and I need a little time away from each other to think things over. I did go against prevailing wisdom and starting editing right after I finished it. Most writing sites advise waiting a long time, re-reading it in full, and then starting the editing process. But I don’t want to wait “a long time” because I want to get it done. I don’t want to be that person who spends ten years working on a novel only to finally abandon it. I don’t want to be somebody who babbles endlessly about a project that everyone secretly knows they’re never going to finish. Plus, I must get something substantial out into the world before I die since I don’t have any kids and I fear obscurity in death and have a powerful urge to leave my mark on this world even if it’s just in some small, unimportant, chick-lit sort of  way.

Speaking of not having kids, I finished comedian Jen Kirkman’s book, “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself.” I wouldn’t say that the book “chronicles” her life as a child-free comic, because Jen doesn’t seem to have a sense of linear time or a preoccupation with ordering events. She writes stream-of-consciousness, which I enjoy. The book covers a bit about her upbringing and her early days in LA struggling to make it, but mostly it talks about the experience of being willfully childless, and all of the horrible things people are willing to say to you about that decision if you’re a woman. She’s tells abhorrent stories in a hilarious way, she’s personable, and I relate to her a lot, but as a willfully childless person myself, I reached the point a long time ago where rude, thoughtless comments don’t elicit an emotional reaction anymore. I just eke out a tight smile, endure the insults, and wait to roll my eyes until I walk away from the offender. When I was younger and in the process of planning a wedding, I was shocked and angered by the constant heckling and threats about how I would regret not having kids and how I would never know real love. I participated on a forum for the child-free, because I felt really isolated and needed the support of like-minded people. I cried at the casual rudeness of strangers and questioned my mental health. And over time, it just stopped bothering me. I don’t take it personally anymore. I think not having kids was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. I don’t know where Jen is at with it now, but I suspect at the time she wrote the book, she was still processing a lot of outrage and genuine hurt feelings over people’s reaction to her; primarily the accusation that she’s selfish (which is something I still hear all of the time about myself.) She takes down the ignorant in a savagely smart and funny way, but for me, reading it felt like revisiting a struggle I’ve long left behind. Still, it was totally worth a read, and I laughed out loud at least once per page, so I give it three typewriter ribbons.

--Kristen McHenry

1 comment:

John Socrates said...

A brilliant post and a higher level of discourse and writing you use that I enjoy very much. PhD level is so much more fun to read than high school, you know!