Process letter to my advisor:March 22, 2007
How have you been? This is my first packet and it contains three response papers and twenty pages of my creative work. The annotations are for The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, and House of the Sleeping Beauties by Yasunari Kawabata. The creative work for this packet contains a rough chapter from my novel Stalking America. I wasn’t feeling very good about my process this time, but feel a little better now that they are all printed out. “Done” is better than not done after all, right? I think the majority of my problems were due to my current headspace and the fact that it was my first packet. I had a hard time knowing what was expected or how long it would take me to complete the work.
This has honestly been a hellish couple of weeks… I know that’s probably not what you want to hear, but it’s true. My job at the school “realized” that they had classified me incorrectly at the beginning of the year and had overpaid me around $3000. They are now planning to deduct that amount from my paychecks until the amount is repaid, but my contract only has about $3000 left in it… so if everything goes their way I’ll be working the rest of the school year for no paycheck. It’s all pretty depressing and I’m tempted to just walk out and never return. I need to contact my union representative. We’ll see!
This isn’t a sob story. I’m actually doing fine more or less and am just exhausted. I’m working on a plan to simplify my life, so this shouldn’t be an issue in the future. I just penciled that into my day planner. Simplify life.
What I’d like from you is good solid critique. I need to know what I’m doing wrong, what works, and what I need to focus on more. My annotations ended up being a lot harder to do than I think they needed to be. I’m not exactly sure why. I think I was looking for something a lot deeper that the quick turnaround didn’t allow for. If you have any advice please let me know! I don’t feel like they are very inspired… and they mostly felt like pulling teeth.
I really enjoyed The Naked Civil Servant, but had a hard time finding ideas to sink my teeth into when I went to write the annotation. I tried to play around a little bit more with Invisible Cities. House of the Sleeping Beauties was easier to get into. I honestly wish I had more time to do a deeper reading of these books. I felt rushed like I needed to log so many pages per day to meet my reading quotas. I fantasize about sitting on beaches lazily reading books and formulating insightful responses at my leisure… at least I have summer vacation to look forward to. The reality is I spent the last week helping angry teens recover their lost video projects when computers crashed.
For my creative work this packet I wrote a twenty-page chapter in my novel Stalking America. The book is about a teenage kid whose name we are never told. His mom is getting married and she puts him on a train to go visit his dad back east. The story is all related through his eyes. He is literally telling the reader his story and interpretation of everything he’s seeing. The story mostly follows him on his train ride back east and maps his internal life and interactions with various people on the way. This isn’t as straight forward or direct as it sounds. At some point he’s going to unexpectedly get off the train early and unhinge the narrative. I want this part to basically go surreal for the remainder of the novel, but to make it fit with the structure of the story.
Another element in the story is a reality television show called Stalking America. Whenever the main character talks to another character it’s usually him telling them about this show. When he thinks about life his stories are varied and go all over the place, but when he talks to somebody else… he usually brings it back to this show. I want the TV show to seem more real at this point than the narrative.
The show is about a group of people who are competing to be vanity stalkers. People apply on the show to be stalked by responding to a personals ad, so they can know what it might feel like to be a celebrity or just quarry. The stories follow a number of different characters on the show as they stalk their stalkee and document the process.
For my creative work I had planned on writing a different chapter. One of the main structural chapters that will basically dictate the next stage of the novel is about this man on the train who tells the main character a story about how he once accidentally dated a ghost. He didn’t know that she was a ghost when they met. In this story he tells the main character that ghosts become obsessed with whatever led to their death. They fall in love with it. For example if a person was stabbed their ghost might become obsessed with knives and eroticize them. At dinner they might easily become distracted by the cutlery like how small kids often tune everything else out when a tv is on… Needless to say, the guy’s relationship never stands a chance. You just can’t compete with death sometimes.
Anyway, I sat down to start working on that chapter during this packet and realized my notes were over a year old and I wasn’t “feeling” it. I also felt too emotionally exhausted to tackle this scene that essentially sets the tone for so much that happens later in the book. I felt like I wore myself out and used what little spare creativity I had hacking together my annotations. I don’t think I could currently capture what needs to be said or do it justice. It also all felt a little too heavy handed. This story needed to feel like a dream, but still logical. If I tackled it now I think it might sound more like a badly translated how-to manual. I think I need to work my way up to the story and get back in the mood.
Instead what I did was rework a bunch of notes into a different chapter. This chapter documents one of the main characters from Stalking America named Claire on her first foray into stalking. This story is loosely based on a friend of mine who became obsessed with some actor right around the time she inherited some money from a car accident. She decided to see if she could actually figure out a way to meet the guy. Other than the obvious stalking tendency she is very well adjusted person. Her story became the meat of this chapter although I think a lot of the details sound a little too contrived (the irony is that the fakest sounding elements are the ones that most closely resemble her story).
I’m not overly pleased with the tone in this chapter. The writing style reminds me of The Valley of the Dolls or something like that for some reason… The structure was also weird for me to get into. The main character (a 17 year old boy) is relating a story that he watched on a TV show about Claire telling a story about her friend… so it’s somebody telling a story about somebody telling a story… yeah. Oh but the reader doesn’t know it’s the main character relating this information yet.
It was also the first time I’ve started writing on this piece in almost a year, so I felt like a number of things were just kind of clunky sounding and that I was too heavy handed with what I was trying to say.
I also know that there are some format problems with everything I produced in this packet. It was kind of an uphill battle, but I’m hoping it will become easier as I get more used to the routine and solidify certain elements! Wishful thinking?
How has your life been? Please tell me it is stable yet exciting! Is there hope?