You all wouldn't know it unless I tell you, but you're about to do me a great service. My horoscope for today tells me to rally my troops with my planning and enthusiasm, because they'll follow me anywhere. I'm not actually going to ask you to go anywhere with me, but I'm going to pretend that you're following along while I write this next piece of prose that I must write in order to earn next year's keep--or, rather, to earn the right to hitch myself to someplace prestigious by paying out the keep I've already earned.
This one should be the easy one: it's about what I've already done, what I am already doing. But I am choking and whimpering a little bit in the face of having to do this thing. These are old, old fears, freshly freighted with new tasks I worry I won't get right. I am a big believer in Anne Lamott's concept of the shitty first draft. I introduce that concept to my friends and students whenever I get a chance. But when it comes right down to it, too big a part of me hears the voice in advance saying, "Wow, that's shitty," and I cannot be cavalier about it because that's not how I am.
My horoscope for yesterday told me to clear my head of unnecessary materials--including self-doubt--and so I'm about to pretend that I'm explaining my research to you all, rather than to an audience ready to refuse me with a snarl. And while I talk to you, my skin will thicken up again, which is what my skin does when I talk to curious, interested people. Like the custodian who talks to me at midnight and wants to read my book. Or the student who says, "I didn't know that's what you've been working on all this time." Or the woman who asks me to hurry up and get it done so that she can read more than just one little piece. The people who say we all love your work. My beloved Brooklynite who writes to say, "Lady, you should write for pay." My poet friend (soon-to-be-Alabaman!) who asks to see more work, who tells me where I might send photographs. My excellent friend who looks completely perplexed when I worry aloud that my writing about my own work is dry and dull.
And when my skin is thick again, all will come right once more. It's working already. And this new novel Heyday is lighting up the end of the tunnel.
It took me almost two years to realize that I can see the river from this office window. But there it is, going along and going along.
As will I. Right now.