I’m sitting here at a patio table in the middle of State Street in Troy in the autumnal cool heat of August, sun filtering through trees and hot on the blacktop but my table canopied by leafy trees, not oak or maple I don’t think, though I wish I knew more botany, as pleasant for sleeves as bare, and up the avenue of cars slowly rolling by, beyond the crisscross alternating traffic on Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth, I see the long stone staircase, The Approach, steeping the hill to the lowest gradations of my alma mater’s campus, and though I can’t see it through the interdicting trees I know just beyond them is the Carnegie Building, the hilltop’s frontispiece from which I, erstwhile its four-year bowsprit, so often looked out longingly, either between classes or to get stoned or on lonesome nights, at these streets as they so stoically upheld, through scorch and snow, gale and torrent and blight and centuries, this city’s slope to the river.
It is so critical to me to render this place to be so beautiful as mythical in my work (a novella) that I’m almost paralyzed by it—to figure an Eden as a mere mortal is a task that brings me straight to conflict with my human and writerly limitations. It’s not my only roadblock to work on that piece, but it contributes. The real challenge for me is that I feel like I only worked out how I wanted the novel to sound, and where its pathos was, and how to write fiction, about ten chapters in, and now I’m torn between whether to refactor the early stages to fit the later ones, or to use the whole thing as a learning experience before tearing it down and building on stronger foundation. I’m leaning towards the latter, but I’ve been leaning since I finished my draft in 2018, and have yet to earnestly sit down to the work.
I’m living in Brooklyn now, down in Flatbush, and in the time I spend not writing that piece (which is how I measure all units of time) I’ve been journaling, and taking photos, and making music, and getting involved with organizing circles, which has included writing political pieces for publication. I’m working . . . which is enough to pay the bills. This means I time off every week which I spend getting milkshakes with my friends and agonizing over the fact that I’m not working on my book right that very second.
I went through what we’ll call an episode which necessitated my departure from Austin to move in with a friend here for a few months, but after therapy, laying on the beach, and at risk of sounding trite, reformulating the relationship I have with myself, I am feeling a lot better and more functional and my days feel less dire. I still battle with what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-ism but that feeling’s persistence through good times and bad makes me think that it’s an inescapable question that I’m just going to have to get comfortable living without an answer to—or perhaps its a question that can only be answered in hindsight. (As if I haven’t said this to myself a thousand times,) I think I just need to set concrete schedules, deadlines, and word count objectives with myself on concrete projects, and hold myself to them rigorously in order to feel like a true “writer”, or to feel like I’m making the most out of this part-time-work period of my life which I know won’t last forever, or to feel internal validation, or, you know, whatever the fuck being a writer and feeling good and fulfilled about it at twenty-seven with no major works published is supposed to mean, lol. Though it comes at an internal cost, I don’t hate the resulting motivation that comes with the feeling that my life’s work is woefully incomplete. It just means I have to keep writing and not die yet, and both of those things seem to be working out so far (I’m knocking on wood with one hand as I type with the other—do me a favor and give your desk a rap as well). . . .