Paper journal entry 10/10/96


Drifting – pain – autumn’s cool air.  People surround city streets, the majestic banks of nobody, glass towers, palaces of low-frequency shudder.  Tensile tear of sharp metal scales of black, bleak, black, mumbling jets.  I hear one pass now, every night, every night since they took the cranes so near and yet so far I thought it would hit my house during the windstorms, if my house didn’t hit it first.

Implanted lies, bullshit on a chip.  I slit my flesh deep, probed with the cutters for any subdermal circuitry.  Nothing.

Watch me play all 28 instruments with one button.  Am I a musician? It’s all on ROM.  Beethoven’s 9th.  But I pushed the button.  I did.  I’m the musician.

It’s Antarctica, but you’ll have a good coat and some gloves, so don’t worry, -60F will feel like a cool summer breeze in Arkansas.  No, you don’t have to exchange your money.  The strip bars, McDonald’s, and Gap stores all take US cash.  And American Express.  No Discover, though.

And in Iraq, we use Internet Explorer.  Check out our new website, where you can click Saddam Hussein’s face to hear the sounds of Scud missiles being launched at your IP number.


Next book done

I finished my next book yesterday.

26 pieces.  38,845 words.  It has a title, but it may change.

I’m not really done done yet, because I have to come up with a cover (which I hate) and a book description (which I also hate) and maybe think about a new title.  I also have to do the interior design, which is easy.  But the text is done.  It’s not getting any extra stories, and it’s not getting reworked to add in that alien abduction subplot or love story.  It’s done.

The book is similar in structure to the last one, which means it was a clusterfuck to put together.  This kind of book is essentially plotless, short pieces or cogs or lumps that are put together from smaller pieces, paragraphs torn from free-writes or inspired by tweets or built up from notes taken on a phone.  The little scraps become big slices, and the slices get moved and rearranged and connected until they are big pieces.  And then the big pieces are arranged and reordered and sometimes split back apart and cannibalized and dropped.

To give you an idea of how much cutting was involved, at one point a little over a month ago, the 38K word manuscript was just over 100,000 words.

My last book was done on 6/25/12, and this one was born soon after that.  I actually had a few false starts on other things, ideas for books that fell apart after the outline stage.  I keep these outlines, and maybe later one of them will get revisited and become an actual book or story.  And I keep the scraps of writing that come out of them, and some of it ends up in other places.  A sizable chunk of this book is made from pieces of a stalled book about alien abduction.  Other parts are from an aborted book that examines my childhood in Indiana, which I stopped writing when I decided I didn’t want to write about childhood or Indiana.

The biggest drive on this book was to do another book similar to Rumored.  That didn’t really happen, but I started chasing that this January, and kept at a daily writing quota.  On 1/13 I had 47,252 words in this manuscript.  On 4/3, I had 100,390.  I wrote every single one of those days, even the days I was on vacation, off of work, or sick.  There’s a piece of advice attributed to Jerry Seinfeld (although I can’t find the exact quote from him, just thirdhand references) that the best way to get shit done is to set a daily goal, and then mark each day on a calendar that you do the goal, and aspire to not break the chain by skipping a day.  My initial goal was to stick with adding at least 500 words a day to this draft for a month, and I stretched that to almost three months before I shifted my focus from writing to editing.  So in that sense, the book is already a success.

I didn’t write another Rumored, and I didn’t write my Infinite Jest.  This book is about half the size of Rumored, and somewhere between my last two in length.  I think that’s fine.  But the eventual goal I keep chasing is to have a book that’s around 100,000 words long, and has a solid nonlinear structure, but still has enough plot to make people not freak the fuck out when they read it.  It won’t be a fully-plotted murder mystery thriller thing, because there are enough of those out there, and that’s not what I do. I don’t know what that is, but it’ll happen.

I’m now entering the horrible postpartum depression that always follows when I finish a book.  I always wonder if people will like a book after it’s done, and think about what should be next.  I still have all of these release-related tasks, and I’ll probably play a lot of bass just to think about anything but writing.  But I need to do some post-mortem and write down what did and didn’t work for this book, and then seriously start thinking about the next one.  I have some vague ideas, but nothing solid.  I need to get enough of an idea in front of me though that I can start up that Seinfeldian chain again.

Anyway, I’m happy to get the ninth notch carved in the wall.  (Nine books written?  Shit.)  More news on what’s happening with it when I can tell you more – stay tuned.


Mister, if you don’t shut up I’m gonna kick one hundred percent of your ass!

It’s been like a month since I’ve made any kind of update here, which can only mean one of two things: I decided to go to Mexico and write about the drug trade, and got myself killed by Narcoterrorists, or I’m deep in the middle of writing a book and feel all of my energy has to go there.  And it’s the latter, this time.  So there.

I think I have a title for this book.  I think it’s close to done, but I now need to read it four times and find all of the mistakes.  It’s what you would call in the software world feature complete.  Maybe not, but close.  I’m pretty sick of it right now, which is a good sign that I’m done with it.  So there’s that.

I don’t remember why, but I pulled out one of my paper journals the other day and read it.   I journaled obsessively in spiral notebooks from the end of 1993 up until a couple of years ago, at which point it sort of fell off, as my life became far too boring to chronicle, and all of my energy went into other writing projects.  I regret that, and wish I would have done what I did for years, filling at least a page per day of a standard college-rule notebook.  I was reading this journal from 1996, which was amazing.  I guess I consider that a non-year of sorts, because it wasn’t as big of a deal as 1995, when I moved to Seattle, or 1999, when I moved to New York.  1996 was the start of a pretty relaxing period for me, with a steady job and a steady girlfriend, a regular routine and most of my writing on autopilot.

But, reading the journal, I realize it wasn’t.  I was perpetually single at that point in life, and really struggling with meeting people in this new city.  I had a couple of out-at-second-date situations, and this one dating situation with a girl that went to U of W that absolutely crushed me.  I had all of this dental work done, and spent a lot of time chewing up mass amounts of Tylenol to combat the shoddy work this dentist did to my teeth.  And I really struggled with my first two books.  The grand total of this, by October or so, was a crippling depression, a near-suicidal run where I really didn’t know what I was doing and how I would come out of the other side.  It’s strange though, because when I look back at my history from a high level, I sort of remember going to a new shrink at that time, but mostly just remember leaving my first job and settling into a more 9 to 5 gig where all of my coworkers were older with kids, and that I mostly read a lot of books and published a zine.

What’s really interesting to me about this period is all of the entries I have surrounding Rumored to Exist.  First, there was a lot of puling about the direction the book was taking, and the challenges involved in writing it.  There’s one set of entries, which maybe I should scan, which is a long numbered list of all of the problems I had at the time with the writing, and what needed to be resolved before I could continue.  And then a week later was an entry talking about why I needed to kill the whole project.  And a week or two after that was a post talking about how I’d completely restructured the book.  This continued for something like six years, so the feeling that I’m in over my head on an endless road with this book I’ve been kicking around for about 9 months doesn’t feel so bad to me.

Speaking of, I should get back to it.  I would really like to wrap this thing up in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned.