Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A letter home: 25 July 2012

My dearest Emma,

Greetings from the sunny-for-once Island of Rain. Up until Saturday I don't think we had experienced a precipitation-free day since May. Often that precipitation would come in the form of constant, heavy rain that found its way into every tiny space of our ancient roof, and down through our ceiling and walls.

But these things are quickly forgotten when the sun shines, Emma. With genuine summer weather, barbecue grills are churning smoke almost nonstop; people are wearing as little as possible, and sometimes far less than acceptable. Windows are open. On trains and buses, the people not wearing deodorant are all too obvious. And suddenly one finds the energy to take on all those projects that had somehow gone ignored when the sky was permanent grey.

In the past few days, Jenn has painted the bathroom, rearranged our storage area, and magically found more space in the kitchen. And both of us have discovered a new joie de vivre toward planning next summer's wedding.

Wedding planning, Emma. This is what I do now. After spending most of June looking at various potential venues, Jenn and I are finally settled on a date and location. We're getting married in a 145-year-old church that isn't a church, on the shores of a bay that is not a bay. It's amusing that we spent so much time looking at other places, because Jenn was hinting at the Norwegian Church as a venue even before I had proposed. 

I suppose my initial reason for hesitation was the fact that it is not very Britishy, what with the Norwegian flag flying out front and a quaintly outdated-looking picture of King Harald V hanging in the room where we'll have the ceremony. But, the more I think about it, the more I like it. The white clapboard building is reminiscent of the churches seen in small Upper Midwestern towns. With the flag of Norway, especially, it reminds me of Minnesota, and in that tenuous way I will feel connected to home on my wedding day.

Hopefully friends from Minnesota will come to strengthen that connection. And hopefully, for their sakes, the weather will cooperate. The odds are not very good of any single chosen day in Britain being sunny, of course, but that doesn't stop me from wishing for it. I'll be asking my American friends to invest a lot of time and money to come here, and I want so much for it to be worthwhile. I want them to get a chance to see the best possible side of Cardiff/Wales/Britain. I want them to be able to sit on the deck next to the church, sipping their beer or wine or Pimms, looking out across the water of Cardiff Bay, and think: "Damn. I'm really glad I came."

If it does rain, the church has a sturdy roof, and plenty of booze will be stocked, so we'll make the best of it. But, oh, how I hope for good weather, Emma. 

I also hope to win the lottery, because weddings are crazy expensive, yo. Jenn and I will have to take out a loan to pay for the thing. 

Or maybe my book will become a massive hit. I am close to finishing a rough draft; I think that by 10 August I will have a "complete" book. Then I will spend one to two months revising and editing before shipping the thing off to an agent. Who knows what will happen after that. Maybe success, maybe failure. I feel exhausted by the idea of the latter.

It exhausts me to know down in my soul that even if I never get anywhere, I will insist on always writing. I can picture myself at the end of my life with a dozen or so mostly unread books to my name, can feel the sense of having all that time and effort having amounted to so little and yet being grumpily resigned to the fact that I would not have done things differently. I can't imagine myself as something other than a storyteller, Emma.

Though, having said that, I find this letter difficult to write. I find that my capacity for writing things extraneous to my book has diminished lately. I'll sit down to send an email to a friend, or compose a blog post, and the words don't seem to form as I want them to. I start a sentence, change my mind, start a new sentence, change my mind. This letter to you, for example, has thus far taken three hours. I too easily lose my concentration and that makes me afraid that my writer's block might come back.

I spent most of 2011 doing nothing, and I think the experience has spooked me. I fear the creative version of Steve Blass Disease. I am afraid of losing that intangible thing that somehow orders the words just so. You can have all the mechanics -- grammar and spelling and structure and so on -- but in writing something well there is also this magic something that happens in your brain. The words flow together and it feels like a drug. And that's the thing I struggle to get these days. And when I struggle, I worry the magic thing is gone and that I should stop writing. Because the world has already too many bad writers. But then I think: "What the hell would I be? What the hell else am I if I don't write?"

There are questions that lurk, like memories of terrible headaches, in the back of my mind. I can't really get a handle on what the questions are to be able to make any attempt to answer them. But, for the time being, at least, I am writing. Perhaps it is just that I have been writing so long without feedback that the doubt is starting to win. Such is the nature of writing a book, Emma. I have so far spent roughly nine months working on a project that no other person has seen a word of. The only critic is myself at the moment and that sets up a situation where self-doubt runs rampant.

"Is this any good?" I'll think. "Well, yes, I think it is good. But, of course, I would think that -- I'm the one writing it. But what if it is, in fact, not good? What if I'm sitting here churning out crap day after day?"

So, in summary, I am churning out crap and planning a wedding. And the weather is nice. That's about it. How are things on your end?

I remain your faithful friend,

PS - Please send nude photos.

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