Monday, August 2, 2010

how I'm spending my summer vacation...

My summer feels a little bit like a swirling vortex of unfinished projects.  And it's okay...I think.  Summer is still in full swing, and I have to remember that it's not like my world will come crashing to a complete halt and snow will start falling the day school starts.  I mean, the snow thing is unlikely.  (Because undoubtedly, I will have to endure two or three weeks of sweltering heat in my classroom full of stagnant, sweat-laden air and floor-to-ceiling windows full of sun...)

BUT REALLY.  I'm editing a book.  This in itself is a vast, uncertain project that sometimes feels like going backwards.  So far this summer, I have spent at least five or six straight weeks reading my book, thinking about my book, talking about my book, ignoring my book, making color-coded plot and character notes on endless streams of dot-matrix paper for my book, writing TWELVE THOUSAND words of notes (so far) about my book, and...I have yet to change a word of the actual book.  The best part of all of this is that even though the process is overwhelming and...well, overwhelming is probably the best word I can use, actually...right now, at this moment, I actually feel eager to dive in and make this book better.  And possibly more importantly, I feel confident, like I might have the ability to do so!

I'm also painting my back deck.  This project is surprisingly similar to the editing project.  Both of them are bigger than they first appeared.  Both of them involve broad strokes that require courage and vision and tiny, fiddly little details that require patience and sustained attention.  Both projects are taking a lot longer than I anticipated and include hidden work that nobody will ever see but without which the end result will be less likely to stand the test of time.  Both projects have been delayed by rain, so to speak.  Both projects mix poorly with rambunctious children.  Both are about making steady improvements.

The nice part about the two projects is that they play well together.  I do some of my best editing while wielding a paintbrush.  Many times I have reached a mental obstacle in my editing process--or probably more accurately, I have found myself unable to focus my attention on editing (i.e. I fall asleep or find myself on the internet in the middle of a sentence), and I have left the desk and headed for the deck, only to return later with some of that obstacle chipped away by the brain I thought was fully occupied by brushing and belting out songs playing on my ipod.  Somewhat sadly, this doesn't seem to work in the other direction--my subconscious has so far not managed to paint anything while I'm on the computer.  (But psssst! Brain! If you should manage to start doing that, I encourage you to focus your attention on that damned lattice!)

In all likelihood, the deck will be finished well before the edits.  Luckily, I live in an old house, and there's always another project.  Likewise with writing.

In the meantime, we're off to play in the sandbox!


Kristan said...

Well if I can only pick one, I would rather you finish the book than the deck. :P

But I'm glad the deck helps you with the editing, in its way. I often find the most tedious intervals of my life (commute, walking the dog, etc.) to be the most mentally productive.

simmone said...

i like your dot matrix paper - and I am glad I'm not the only one who goes back and forth ...ya know, I love a summer project :)

Lisa said...

Oh how I can relate to this. I've just finished draft one and have so far to go.

Today, I ironed.

elissa said...

Kristan, oh, I totally do my BEST thinking while doing mindless driving, especially long drives when the kids fall asleep and stop asking me questions, haha.

simmone, I got a box of this dot matrix paper from my mom's insurance agency when they updated like a decade ago. it was supposed to be for the kids to color on, and yeah, they do, but I think I've gotten the most usage out of it with my plotting and editing and other notes. a completed manuscript is, for me, really difficult to SEE. it's too big, somehow. the banner format helps me feel like I'm looking at the big picture.

and Lisa, ironing whut? does not compute.

Robby said...

Editing sounds so fun! Painting not so much.
Editing sounds strenuous. I would rather paint. I need to go edit myself now.

Nomes (inkcrush) said...

i love dot matrix too :)

are you rnjoying the editing? sounds so mammoth. i am scared. i have only ever done editing and re-writes off beta suggestions, not for a real live editor...


elissa said...

haha Robby, I think you should PAINT yourself, not edit! I like the unedited you.

Nomes, I'm an endless reviser, so I guess it's okay, though this has been the hardest time I've had yet with edits, and I haven't actually started tinkering with the actual manuscript. Melanie has this amazing way of asking questions instead of telling me what to do...I'm adjusting to this method, and I can tell it's going to amaze me in the end--if I can hold up my end of the deal, which I alternately believe completely and doubt wholly, hahaha.