Everything has come to a head.
There is no aspect of life that has not undergone some sort of turmoil; had to be evaluated; had to be dealt with. The balls were all tossed into the sea and now they have to be guided back to shore.
A day and a half spent in Hawi, in the northwest corner of the big island, yielded a thorough and disheartening reading of Hugo. It’s not that the book is a mess; it’s just not “right”, and for a perfectionist that’s a painful discovery. There are matters of tone and personality that have to be addressed. Dropped topics. Disappearing characters. A small cocktail gathering of different narrators…
The latest rejection arrived after I returned from Hawi. Doug called on the day of my birthday party to read through my mail to me. I asked him the standard question: “Is there anything addressed to me, from me?” The answer was yes: DEARTH was rejected by Zoetrope. This one was my faithful hold-out. I thought for sure it was going to be a good match. (Let that be a lesson to all you optimists and dreamers.)
A few days after arriving back in SF, an email from my accountant yielded shrill news on the economic front: my tax bill for 2008 is equivalent to all the money I’ve earned this year. Funny; when income is low we call it ‘nothing’. When it’s a tax bill we call it ‘exorbitant’. Still, it’s hard to draw blood from a stone, so I’m going to have to get creative in order to figure out how to pay it.
There’s this urge—and I can only speak for myself. It’s an urge to find in life a fundamental stillness that will counteract all the inevitable and inescapable noise. The search is complicated by ambition. It’s complicated by the bad habits we grew up with. The lack of training. Obligations. Struggling focus. Competing desires. Matters of faith and inhibition…
For me, Hawai’i is that stillness. Should be that stillness. But when there’s a daily stream of people working on the house—only 1 or 2 at a time, mind you, but hammers and questions and power tools that drain the battery bank; and when the house and garden project list grows and I don’t say no; when I break to swim when I should be writing for another hour or two; and when a client who wants to pay me a little money calls…All these things I appreciate and enjoy and don’t actually mind: when they come together as a steady flow of activity, though, their tiny distracting capabilities turn into a confluence of disruption.
There is a nothingness to writing that must be undisturbed and preserved at all cost. It’s the most difficult part of writing: trying to have a life while at the same time trying to write. It’s difficult to convey this to people. I suppose it’s hard for non-writers to understand that when the flow is broken it can take minutes, hours or days to recapture the motion. That tenuous, beloved rare confluence which comes from creating something out of nothing flees like a handful of fireflies and you’re lucky if you can re-capture at least one.