What a great -- if weird -- week.
I finished off Fair Play last Thursday, and then I had about a week to catch up pretty much everything before I dive back into Boy With the Painful Tattoo this Monday. I am very eager to get back to Kit. When I left him, life was falling down around his ears as usual.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“It’s good. The sprinkler is repaired and I’m unpacking…everything. How was your flight?”
“I spent longer getting through security than in the air. Did you have trouble…” His voice seemed to dip and then I heard female laughter and noise in the background. J.X. said distantly, “Very funny, give me my phone, Samantha.”
Ah yes. Conferences. Networking. Socializing. Shenanigans. And more shenanigans. Shenanigans were how J.X. and I had met.
His voice came back on, loud and clear. “Sorry about that. Kit, I got a call from Nina. She sounded upset but I couldn’t understand what the problem was. I was thinking maybe if you went over there?”
“If I went over there…where? What? Where there are you talking about?”
“To Nina’s house. To see her. To see her and Gage.”
Nina was J.X.’s ex-wife. Gage was his nephew. J.X. had married Nina, his younger brother’s pregnant girlfriend, after Alex died in Iraq. He had done this for the sake of his very conservative family and her equally conservative family and the unborn kid. It was noble in a soap-opera-ish way, but it wasn’t the kind of nobility that I understood or approved of.
Also, though the gesture had been quixotic and J.X.’s feelings for Nina were platonic, the one time I’d met her -- over Christmas turkey -- had convinced me that Nina’s feelings were not so clear cut. Maybe not clear cut at all. She didn’t like me. J.X.’s parents didn’t like me either. Possibly for the same reason. And the kid, Gage, disliked me with all his little heart.
“And I would do that…why?”
“Because I can’t and you’re family. And…”
“And this would be a good chance for you to get to know them.”
I laughed though it came out sounding more winded than amused. “I hope you’re kidding because there is no way in hell I’m going over there. They can’t stand me. None of your family can stand me, and the last thing Nina wants is your gay boyfriend showing up.”
J.X. made an exasperated sound. “Kit, you’re family now. That’s important. A lot more important than whatever it is you’re thinking at this moment. I know it’s inconvenient and maybe a little awkward, but it’s also a perfect opportunity.”
I cannot pretend this little speech of J.X.’s did not irk the living hell out of me. So much so that I actually couldn’t speak for a few seconds.
I managed to swallow my anger before I choked to death. “Putting aside my thoughts -- and feelings -- for a second, I am up to my ears in boxes. Yours included. We’ve got the furniture company delivering the bed this afternoon. We’ve got the satellite dish people arriving any minute. There is no food in this fucking house. So whatever this unspecified emergency is with your ex --”
“She’s not my ex.”
“Yeah, actually she is. And if she can’t spell out what the problem is for you, it’s a good bet I can’t solve it for her. Even if I had the time -- or inclination -- which I don’t.”
There was a pause before J.X. said grimly, “That’s pretty blunt.”
“Not really. Blunt would be to point out that we’re not family. We’re living together. And it may or may not work out.”
I’m not sure what his response was -- I’m sure he had one. I’d never known him to let me have the last word. But I got it by default that time. I hung up.
Then I tottered over to the nearest stool -- J.X.’s contribution to our kitchen furnishings were tall bachelor pad bar stools of leather and steel -- before my knees gave out. I was shaking with a crazy rush of anger and adrenaline and alarm.
Also shame. I was too old to be hanging up on people like an angry and inarticulate teenager.
Not my finest hour. Or even my finest one and a half minutes. But this was what I had been afraid of from the first. That we were going to commit to this madness and it wasn’t going to work out.
So that’s right where I left Kit about eight weeks ago.
I wanted, needed to make every minute of this break count because when I am writing everything else falls by the wayside: email, promotion, laundry, groceries…showering. Okay, I probably should not have admitted that last one.
It turned out to be a hugely productive break. I think I got more done in six days than I’d managed in six months. Anyway, I forget why, but I started sorting through boxes of old floppy disks. Originally I used to handwrite everything, and then when I learned to write directly to a PC, I used to print everything out (there went a forest or two), but eventually I got to the point when I used to write and save files on floppy disks alone. So boxes of disks -- apparently every revision got its own disk. There were all kinds of stories I’d forgotten about: the ubiquitous 3 - 7 chapters of various abandoned projects. I used to “get bored” with a story (meaning I’d hit the part where actual work was required) and drop it for the next brilliant idea. Even after I was a successfully published writer I still used to do that, which is so bizarre to me now. That lack of discipline.
But then I wasn’t trying to earn a living at writing. I could afford to abandon six out of every seven projects.
There was some very interesting stuff there, though I don’t know whether I’ll do anything with it. Then yesterday, someone was asking whether I’d ever blogged on Show vs. Tell. I was sure I had, but I went skimming through my old LiveJournal posts, and I didn’t spot anything. What I did notice was how much more time I used to have to blog and chat.
Those were enjoyable days -- chatting with readers and other writers about writing and books and publishing -- and whatever else caught my attention. It wasn’t merely the amount of free time I had to visit, it was also the amount of time I had to write thoughtful and reflective posts. I still blog and I still spend a lot of time interacting and chatting with readers, but I could see the difference.
This isn’t a bemoaning of the good old days. Everything changes and this seems to be a common pattern for writers. We extensively journal our initial experiences and our first literary forays -- look, I just invented the wheel!!! -- but then, if our careers take off, we get too busy writing to manage much more than brief but regular check-ins.
I don’t read the same way I used to either. It’s much harder for me to get through a book now days. It’s very hard to turn my writer brain off, so while I am trying to sink into the story, I am also considering how the writer is handling various elements -- versus how I would handle these elements. It’s easier with vintage stories for some reason, easier to turn off my analytical brain and just read like I used to.
Anyway, I have no idea what all this is in aid of. It’s not just me changing, LiveJournal has changed too. It’s not the vibrant, active community it once was. It’s interesting because we tend to believe that however things are at any given moment, is how they will always be. And yet we have plenty of evidence to the contrary. So often change is incremental, so we don't notice until we look back.