The Fog

Today I’m wandering. Out to the lake at first, where the fog had settled torn and silent over the water, and the only sounds were my own footsteps and the jingle of my little dog’s tags as she slipped through the forest, her plumy tail up like a flag to lead the way. I was frightened off the path by a stranger with a bigger dog, and ripped my pants on a blackberry bush trying to find my way back. Afterward I sat in my sweaty clothes, sipping hot coffee and scrolling through my pages to no particular end. It depresses me to see how dark my story has become; you are what you write, and there I am. That’s my brain at work, spinning this psychosexual mind fuck with everyone hurting each other and themselves, everyone dead at the end. And the end is the beginning, which means something today that it didn’t yesterday.

I wrote my quota of pages and wandered into the kitchen with Bruce on a loop, where I made a complicated stew that’s simmering now on the stove. I should be lonely here in the empty house. I want to be lonely. But more than that, I want to be alone—with my ugly thoughts and my nasty mind, and this cast of characters who just can’t seem to get off unless they’re fucking each other over in the process.

I lost my protagonist today. She wandered over to the dark side and I can’t even bring myself to mount a rescue.

What do you hate about your writing?

34 responses

  1. What do you hate about your writing?

    So many things. Mostly its tendency to travel down a useless tangent for 50-100 pages before I realize that a story isn’t working. That and a penchant for forced humor. But I do embrace the dark side.

    • Wasted pages make me crazy, too. I have this habit of writing a whole bunch of garbagey stuff, then plucking scenes out of it to build a new draft. It’s the only way I can stomach the loss of usable material. If I went through my first draft simply cutting pages away, it would make me feel as if I had failed. I think I’d lose heart.

      • Exactly what I do. Once I realize I’m off on a useless tangent, I’ll go through the excised pages and create files of material that might possibly still be used. Makes the cuts go down a little easier.

  2. Ahh that there is also quite a lot of fucking and death, a lotta language which I still seem to get off on, way too much Ghana it’s as if I never left. At least you’re doing it, I’m traipsing around noisy cities with a writer’s hungry eyes and empty pocket.

  3. What do you hate about your writing?

    Like a mindless tune looping over and over in my mind thinking about it never, ever, leaves my head. I seek distraction and when I find it, it becomes more fodder. Fuck fodder I want silence.

      • Funny you should say that.
        I go on vacation next week and I am not taking my computer but I am taking my Kindle. I am promising myself that I will use it to read, not write. I am also promising to stay away from all sharp objects filled with graphite, ink or colorful gel. Along with all the soaps, shampoos and lotions which will be left for me to take, I’m copping the writing pads BUT I promise I will use them only after I return home.

        BTW I live in the woods, my neighbor lives in a tent and I have a fire pit over which I cook way too many big fat s’mores.

  4. “You are what you write.” Not so much. Even writing essays or memoir, the narrator is a created self. That said, I always used to think about Stephen King —- whoa! that guy! But of course it’s not him. And how about the latest dark darling, Gillian Flynn? She’s a sweetheart of a girl from Missouri, and yet her Dark Places was so dark I had a hard time finishing it.

    Averil, I so admire that you can access this part of yourself.

    What do I hate about writing? The same things I love most about it: the quiet, the isolation, the blank page, the way I can spend 4 hours reconstructing one paragraph, …..

    • I agree that the narrator is a created self, but still it’s a creation of the writer. Gillian Flynn’s essay on her website talks about how she was not a nice little girl, and King doesn’t remember writing a lot of his earlier books because he was so coked up and wasted on booze. Writing isn’t a full representation of who we are; it seems to me more a distillation of the best or worst of us, the essence of us.

      Obviously I love both of those authors, not in spite of their darkness but because of it. But I do think their books probably hit close to center mass.

      Sometimes I dig my own darkness, too. But not today.


  5. I don’t know if we have a mind meld going on but, I was planning to write about my characters, in a different way, but particularly about protagonist, b/c I’m having a hard time getting her on the page. I feel like she’s so damn passive, and when I try to think of ways to fix her, it doesn’t work with what I’ve done with my antagonist. (pulls hair)

    What do you hate about your writing?

    Right now, that damn protagonist. And the inability to move this story forward b/c I keep doing what Teri talks about – rewriting stuff, endless tweaking, endless worrying over one stupid word even. But, on the other hand, it’s that part I can love too. Love/hate relationship – aren’t we all there?

    • Mine seemed really passive, too, at first. So I gave her a tragic past and now she’s so fucked up that I fear I may have gone too far.

      Writing is HARD.

      • Indeed! Funny about Gillian Flynn…I thought what if my protag isn’t the nice girl I’ve made her out to be? Hmmmm. And then you come along with the tragic past… double hmmmm. I’m not tapping into her full potential…that’s for sure.

    • Hmm, that’s a good one. But you have a LOT on your plate, and you still manage to write and blog prolifically and really really well, so it doesn’t seem from where I sit like you’re giving it the slip.

  6. No matter how strange we become, and how big our dog grows — there will always be a stranger with a bigger dog.

    I am two writers. Here in blogworld I am Harry, officially at least, but then I notice the Other Me creeping in, making his stupid thoughtful comments about stuff. He is pushy and insistent.

    Really? Eat shit and die, Harry. You’re weak.
    What I hate about Harry’s writing is how meaningless it is. He thinks everything’s a joke, and barely gives life — and therefore books — any respect at all. Also, the way he just writes stuff down. So easy isn’t it, when none of it matters? With his little word count flapping about his fugly bearded face, like so much sparkling bullshit someone set fire to in a cow paddock.

    What I hate about Other Me’s writing, is how slow and serious it all is. Since when did a story have to mean something anyway? How about, you know, have a bit of fucking fun you fat turd. And when I say fucking fun, I mean, you know, some fucking, which is FUN. Seriously, get laid mate, the veins in your neck look about ready to explode, and I bet that ain’t all. And it’s all so slow…I can write a whole book in the time you waste on one pissy chapter. Which you will agonise over for the next year, putting a comma in and taking it out, like as if that stupid shit matters.

    You know what I hate about my writing? All this infernal internal argument. Why can’t we just get along?

  7. If you’re going to the dark side there is no better company than Bruce and Post Punk Kitchen. They will keep you from complete and utter madness. As will your humor – a critical talisman on this journey.

    • I adore Post Punk. Last night I made the coconut-lemon bundt thingamabob from Veganomicon and can I tell you it’s a miracle any of the batter made it into the pan. I could have sat there on the couch watching The Newsroom and just had at it with a spoon, that’s how good.

  8. What a lovely image of you and your dog and the fog and your solitude. Averil, I’ve said it before, but you are a true artist. Making art isn’t a walk in the park.

    What do I hate about my writing?

    Lately, I don’t seem to be accessing that “thing” that connects the darkness to the universal. I just finished a draft of a fairly ugly little story. The pain in it (thus far) feels very surface and available for cheap shots. Next draft I’ll be pushing against that ugliness for something richer. Ugh.

    by the way, have you heard about the Bruce doc coming out?

    • YES. I’ve been having the same problem with the ugly bits of this story. Sometimes I think I’ve broken through, other times I think I’m still missing the mark.

      Thank you for the Bruce link. I hadn’t heard about it at all.


  9. What do I hate about my writing? I think it’s a common complaint: that the really cool thing in my head isn’t nearly as cool when it’s hammered out in words on paper.

    The opposite is also true though, and it’s what I love about my writing: that I didn’t know there was this cool thing in my head until it suddenly appeared in words on paper.

  10. I hate that I can follow what feels like a really decent writing spurt with a torrent of words that don’t even fit together. Everyone says I should write them down anyway just to keep the muscle working, but those words don’t feel like they ‘destroy’ to ‘build up’. They just hurt and make me want more cookies and ice cream. Sometimes it feels like it’s my writing or my health — the physical and the mental.

    So far I can only write when it feels right. At those other times I can edit, thank goodness. And that baffles me.

    • Writing does hurt, I don’t think there’s any way around it. But writing when you feel like it is fine, especially when you can spend your off-days editing. Those are two completely different functions, thank god.

  11. I hate that it will never live up to my expectations. How no matter what, I keep ending up in a place where I feel inadequate and unintelligent and shallow.

  12. I hate that I can never get it close enough, touch the toothache with my tongue. I dance around and the vision in my head is so far from the words on the page. You know when you’re having an argument with someone you love and you know something is bothering you but you don’t know exactly what so you pick at all of the nonsense instead? Yeah, it’s something like that.
    I need to write truer than I know how.

    • May I recommend writing under a pseudonym? Whether or not you publish that way, it’s an enormous comfort to imagine that no one has to know what you’ve written. I have found it enormously freeing, and though my cover has long been blown, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The pen name was my Dumbo’s feather and it got me over the worst of my fears.

  13. The curse of the poet: I hate that I can’t see beyond the taut but ultimately meaningless phrase that I use when I can’t figure out how to end something.