Sunday, October 16, 2011

Now I get it...

So, first, getting clipped by a car stinks. It hurts, too. Last Thursday I was trying to cross the street (in the crosswalk, with the light), when a driver started to make a left turn onto the street I was crossing. Since she nicely yielded to the two other pedestrians who were not three steps ahead of me, I (foolishly?) assumed that she was yielding to all pedestrians, and not just a lucky few. Wrong assumption. At any rate, my left side, especially the arm I landed on when the car's bumper knocked my legs out from under me, has been smarting a bit. Typing has been a challenge. But things are better today, and I feel like I can get through a post pretty well.

I haven't been idle while recuperating, though. In fact, I think I've really gotten some good solid work done. I just had to do that work with paper and pen and my good arm.

A few years ago, while I was doing an independent study, my instructor mentioned that the larger piece I was working on was very "Sebaldian" (referring to a writer I've mentioned here before, WG Sebald). I was flattered, of course, but kind of bewildered as well. I didn't understand what he meant. I think part of my confusion was due to the fact that the manuscript I was working on was heavily influenced by Michael Ondaajte's Coming Through Slaughter. I must've been too consumed with that novel to see anything else.

Fast forward a few years. I've read more Sebald. More importantly,--I think-- I started reading Teju Cole's Open City, a novel that feels very Sebaldian in its own right, and Cole has pretty much fessed up to the fact that he's influenced by Sebald. Cole's novel is slightly more accessible than, say, Austerlitz, or Rings of Saturn, and perhaps that's why I recently had a wonderful little epiphany regarding my manuscript.

I realized that my protagonist is wanderer (or a flaneur if you're James Wood), just like Cole's Julian, just like almost all of Sebald's protagonists. She's walking around a city trying to sort things out. Just like the main characters in The Emigrants, or Vertigo. That's what she's doing and I didn't even realize it. And suddenly, I have a focus (and trust me, focus is kind of what I've been lacking with this manuscript for an embarrassingly long time). It makes so much sense to me now and I feel as if there's direction and shape to it. I'm excited about the story again, which is a huge relief. I was getting worried that I would never finish it. I was getting worried that I would never want to finish it. Now I'm excited. Now I'm consumed again. I'm waking up in the middle of the night and scribbling down ideas. Pieces of the story are coming faster than I can get the words on the paper sometimes.

And that's the real reward of writing. This kind of I'm-not-in-control-of-this feeling. The way the story is just emerging, whether I'm ready for it or not. Not all of it is Pulitzer-worthy. Some of the ideas and storylines and scenes are going to be crap. But, boy, does it feel great to feel like the well is full again.


Okay, off to rest my pitching arm.


  1. maybe you should get hit by cars more often?

  2. Way to go Bobbi. Keep working. It's very exciting.
    And, do you need a good lawyer?