At work, we approach the end of the fiscal year, which means I must use up my remaining vacation time, personal days, and sick leave, or they vanish forever. No rolling over, no being paid for them. So, I'm taking them here and there, as I always do. I start the fiscal year being worried that I'll use up my time off too quickly, and I often end the fiscal year trying to figure out how I'm going to take my leave. I'm lucky, in many ways.
Yesterday, I spent most of the day at home, with my spouse at work, which meant I had lots of time to focus on writing. I even got some poetry submissions out into the world.
While I work on poetry packets, I love to listen to NPR, and yesterday was a treasure trove. For those of you who read my post yesterday and wished for more on Harriet Beecher Stowe, you should listen to yesterday's broadcast of Diane Rehm's show. She interviewed David S. Reynolds, who has just published a new biography of Stowe and her culture, along with the New York Times piece that I referenced in my post. He was just as fascinating during the long interview as he was in the short piece.
Then, Terry Gross interviewed Stephen Colbert on her Fresh Air show. In addition to his satirical and comedic talents, he also has musical ability. In fact, Stephen Sondheim told him that he has "a perfect voice for musical theatre." You can see him for 4 limited days (today, Thursday, Sunday, and next Tuesday) in the filmed version of Company that he was part of earlier in the year (go here for details).
We shouldn't be surprised--the man went the theatre school after all, and what theatre student doesn't dream of musical theatre? O.K. plenty. Still, it was fascinating to hear about how he prepared, about his experience with voice lessons. He says that singing lessons are "like doing yoga but for the inside of the body." He talked about learning to turn his head into a bell.
It was a fascinating interview, and I loved every minute--so much in fact, that I've listened to it again (how I love the Internet!). He talked about his experience with musical theatre as being "bungeed into an old dream." I love that image.
I know a bit how he feels. A few days ago, I remembered that I hadn't sent my novel manuscript to a friend who wanted to see it because she never got the finished version. So, I dug through the computer files and read the end of the likely file, just to make sure it was what I thought it was.
I finished revising it in March of 2006 and haven't looked at it since. Reading the last 40 pages was an interesting experience. I had written it, and thus, I remembered it, but not with the freshness of someone who had just finished a draft. Frankly, some of it I had forgotten.
I still loved the part I read as much now as I did then. So, your next logical question: why did you never do anything with it?
I had written several manuscripts before, one of which I sent to at least 20 agents. I got some positive response, along the lines of "We like what you sent, but it's not quite right. Let's see what you write next." The smart writer would have sent that manuscript to those agents, right?
Yes, in some ways. But I hesitated. I knew that if my manuscript was picked up and published, I'd need to do a lot to support that novel. I knew that the incarnation of the job I had then wouldn't really let me do that. I knew my heart would break if my book got remaindered after 3 months. I knew that I'd damage my chances for future publication if my first novel didn't do well.
Or maybe I was simply scared. Or tired. It was 2006, which meant I'd just come through one of the worst years of my life, 2005, a year replete with 2 damaging hurricanes, job changes for my spouse, the drawn out death of my mother-in-law. By March of 2006, I could hardly make it through the day, much less mount the effort it would have taken to propel my novel to publication.
And now, in the intervening years, we've seen all sorts of new ways to get one's writing out into the world. It's dizzying.
It was interesting, reading my old novel, sorting through some short story manuscripts, wondering if it might be time to revisit fiction again. Part of me thinks that with the time limitations that come with a full-time job, I should continue to focus on poetry. Part of me thinks that I can only do so much, and I'm wary of spreading myself too thin.
Part of me wants to take voice lessons and bungee way far back into older dreams that I've let go of completely. When I was young (18 and younger), I had all sorts of creative dreams. I wanted to write, I wanted to paint, I wanted to make doll clothes, I wanted to act, I wanted to film things, I wanted to make jewelry, I wanted to be an inventor (but what to invent?).
I miss the exuberance of youth, the sense of unlimited possibilities. I haven't lost that exuberance completely. But I am aware that I will only live so long. When I was pre-18 years old and slogging through the drudgery that was high school, the days often seemed interminable, the months endless. Now, the years zoom by; I look up, and it's been 5 years since I finished a novel and put it aside, thinking I'd get back to it soon.
Phoebe Cates Friday
5 days ago