Process Letter to My Advisor 3.1February 13, 2008
How are you? I’m just settling in to Buffalo. You know that I moved here a couple weeks before the residency, right? I’m still enjoying the novelty of not knowing anyone here. The space is huge and really amazing (although I wish they would stop sawing the concrete under my window while I type). I’m slowly recovering from the move across country, the month spent in LA hoping the house would sell in Washington, flying to Florida for the ACA residency, jetting back to LA, then driving out to Buffalo. Did you ever see Hedwig and the Angry Inch? I kind of feel like Hedwig when she’s plopped down in Kansas in the trailer (I just watched that… don’t usually throw Hedwig around as a metaphor for my mental state, but it’s fresh in my mind).
I’ve been in this weird place where it’s really hard to produce anything. I just want to take information in, not put anything out. I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries. Tuesday night was all the election stuff then I watched Why We Fight, (thanks to the magic of the NetFlix cue) then the next morning all that stuff about the tornados. Heavy days.
I’ve been having extremely bad performance anxiety with my writing this semester. I had kind of a rough semester last time and it’s left me feeling damaged. I used to be able to sit down and just write; like that maybe I was a better writer before I started learning all this writing. Maybe it’s growing pains. I produced some writing that I think worked towards the end of last semester, but this semester I feel like I’m starting over in many ways. I’ve been reading and researching a lot, but everything that comes out feels forced and clunky. I guess what I need from you is support, but I also really need solid critique. I keep second guessing stuff, which makes it muddy. I feel like my writing can be too heavy handed, but then people say I don’t go deliberate enough. Writing feels like math lately.
Right now there’s a lot of stewing of ideas going on, but anyway, what I’ve been thinking about. I’ve decided to go back to the original idea for the long critical paper about Cooper with a focus on his punk characters, and will try to bring the Darby Crash stuff back into it. I need to keep it simple though or I don’t think it will work. I am going to do a short email interview with Cooper, and that will either go into the paper or just be research. Maybe I could focus on my abilities as a curator and simply curate the paper? Hmmm, that’s deep. Who better to write about Cooper than Cooper? Wouldn’t you rather read about what Cooper thought about himself? No? He also came up with the idea that I should open the paper up Exquisite Corpse style to his blog. Nothing sounds like fun reading like a twenty page Exquisite Corpse! It would be very experimental… Are you sure? I’ve been reading several collections of essays on Cooper, so the groundwork is at least happening for the paper. That’s good, right?
Okay, down to business. For this packet I have included annotations for The Blithedale Romance and Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. The copy of Blithedale I picked up is a Bedford Cultural Edition, so it has a lot of secondary material and primary source accounts on the suffragist movement and prison reform. There’s a lot of information there, and I might annotate one of the essays at a later point. The Weschler was a smooth read. It’s an interesting exploration of Irwin’s work, but I wish I had more time between the reading and annotating to let the ideas seep in more. Towards the end it gets rather platonic, which I’m not sure if Irwin would agree with, but it was similar to Plato’s metaphor of the cave. The idea of the cave fits very closely with some of the themes I’d like to explore at the end of my manuscript, so we’ll see how those ideas influence it later.
For my creative work this semester I went back to the first chapter of Stalking America that I presented in the advising group. At this point I felt the need to go back and get the first chapter to a point where it felt really honed, so I can continue to develop some momentum. The first thing I tried to do was to go through and strip out a lot of the qualifying type language that people seemed to have problems with. In some places it feels like I stripped some of the rhythm out as well, especially early on. Another thing I did was to try to translate a number of the passages into dialogue to work on the flow. I experimented with the format and couldn’t stand the way all the quotations made the dialogue separate from everything else. I want the dialogue to be more like a wash of collage where it’s not completely separate from the kid’s ruminating. I also want it to not be absolutely clear who is saying what. I tried to anchor it in, so the reader gets cued who says it, but this will become more useful later on when the overheard conversations start melding in more. I didn’t want the hierarchy of what comes from where, so much. It all needs to feel like it’s coming from the same material. Does that make sense? It kind of all rolled out a little too matter of fact, so I tried to fracture the telling in a way to engage it a bit more… But is it working? Anyway, I’m second-guessing everything. I’ve pulled it apart and overworked it too much to be objective.
I hope you are doing well and look forward to hearing what you have to say.