This Year I Rewrite My Novel–Part III, Against Death (and Other Stuff)

“Now begins the hard work. Now you have to go through your book idea by idea, character by character, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, and finally even word by word, submitting it to many, many levels of analysis and critique.” (Walter Mosley, This Year You Write Your Novel)

Does life ever get any easier?

Once you’ve jumped one hurdle, you hit a next. But this time, the hurdle might be shaped like a cone instead of a rectangle, your shoelaces may be untied and you may hear your small dog yelping for attention in the stands. The rise in your insurance rates may be startling, and you may have thought Avatar would win, even though you didn’t really like it, but would like to continue to go on your jaded track thinking that of course, if Hollywood could reward James Cameron for Titanic, it could do it again and again and again.

But he didn’t win. And your shoes are untied. Or the laces may be frayed. And your dog’s yelps become a little higher-pitched, a little more expressive. And all you can see is the tremendous cone-shaped obstacle that you must straddle, in a highly-unladylike fashion, to get over, or it’s over. The game is up.

Everything on this entire planet seems plotted against you–you and your novel.

A few nights ago, a very beautiful and thoughtful friend of mine confessed that sometimes she spends entire nights in her bed worrying about death and particularly–because of the unbelievably sad and calamitous state of the world–death by earthquakes.

If an earthquake were to happen, she would run outside into the streets. This would prevent being killed by her lovely hundred-year-old house filled with the tiniest and most charming attention to details including a thumbtack-sized wooden mouse which holds a tiny ear of corn in the center of her dining table.

But she continued by saying, “I mean, isn’t everything about death? Isn’t that what it“art’s all about? Death and dying?”

As she said this (and I drank more wine), my eyes fell on the flickering flames and the melting wax in the center of her table, and the tiny mouse with his tiny ear of corn.

For me, art honors death (as well as many other things), but it also argues against it. Through writing and reading (the details and the language and the meaning), life is not just more cognitive or spiritual, but it is also truly sensual.

The details–”paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, and finally even word by word.”

If the house does not kill you, something else will.

So, “now begins the hard work.” But when does it ever end?