Recently, I have been resisting working on “Back outta the World. Oh sure, I can tell myself that work has been busy. True. I have been paying more attention to the blog. Also true. This afternoon I spent a good deal of time letting as many people as possible know that I have just appeared on a podcast.
All the above are true. Yet if I truly wanted to find the time and energy to keep revising, reworking and refining “Back outta the World” I could have.
I have made good progress to date and may have found an editor to take on the manuscript after I have finished this revision. As some of you may know, the novel and the current revisions were written almost 25 years apart. That dynamic provides a unique vantage point to take stock of who I was and what I felt and thought about life a quarter century ago. This is a common theme is my blog: that the writing is so often secondary, a byproduct of working on one’s mind, body and soul. That said, I sometimes I look foolish to my now older self. A good sign, I think. In other passages I see myself and mutter, “That’s me, alright.”
In “A Commotion in your heart-notes on writing and life“, Barb Shoup says that ‘The first tool in any revision toolkit is putting the manuscript away for a while.” Maybe I went a little overboard in waiting over two decades between revisions. That book is not pictured above. The book in the photo I found at a yard sale in Bloomington, Indiana for $.50 cents. Both have proven valuable but the main take away from this post is from “Art and Fear.”
Whatever the case, I am enjoying the hell out of communicating with my younger self. But, the above resistance came as I approached a part of the revision that caused me to look at myself as who I am, not who I wanted to be.
In BotW, Jay is several weeks into his road trip and is becoming accustomed to not knowing what day it is, and not setting the alarm clock. He is about to head out of Chicago on the next part of his pilgrimage westward with his companions when he stops on a busy corner to observe the commuters boarding one of the many buses that are stopping there at rush hour:
‘They are on those buses. Jay has just seen them and they have glanced over at him, while waiting for the bus to move again. From nowhere came the feeling that Jay wanted to be one of them. He stood on the sidewalk of a huge and purpose driven city and staring into the bus of strangers, and he felt unsure, afraid even, of his life and where it was taking him. It struck him that he’d rather be stable, in his own routine, heading home to a familiar living room.‘
For that moment, Jay wants to give up the road trip for the boredom and security of the daily grind, which those bus commuters are bound to. It seems safe. It presents a good place to be. He pictures himself momentarily living that routine specific to his own life. But, isn’t he on this trip, isn’t’ he heading back out of the world, to avoid just such a fate? Jay only comes out of these thoughts because he is clinging to the hope of a second meeting with a beautiful female wanna be rock star who may be down the road in Louisville.
When I read that passage it struck me, these 25 years later, that I am happy to be like the commuters on the bus on that corner in Chicago. I like the five day routine. I like shutting down the work day and the work week and doing things on the weekends just like most everyone else.
In fact, that stability and routine has enabled me to create a consistent, predictable and productive time to work on Tripio, and now BotW. When I was living out what was the source material for those novels, certainly BotW , I fancied myself a mad Beatnik or a wondering Henry Miller type. I’m not though. I thrive on exactly the type routine based life Jay is running from in BotW. I need that stability so that I know where and when I can write, exactly where and when I could and can get back into those manuscripts and make something better out of them.
The question that has me stuck for now is, “How did Jay know? Jay knew me better than I know myself, even though he was younger me than the theoretically wiser me that I am now. A little confusing and unsettling to be sure. I think that this is why I have been resisting moving deeper into BotW. I know I will keep at it. I have no choice. But I am just a little afraid of what Jay is going to tell me about myself next.
‘May I help who’s next?”