a dire warning
I blogged this at the defunct Uncle Zip’s Window, under the title “peripheral vision”, in early 2007:
A new book stalks you long before you begin stalking it. You’re faintly dissatisfied by everything you think or do. You pick quarrels. You get halfway through a short story & though you know where it should be going it won’t go there. It won’t go anywhere. You become obsessed by an idea in science you don’t quite understand. You become obsessed by an idea about people you can’t quite articulate. You become obsessed by a film you would have hated a year ago. Suddenly these things are connected but you mustn’t look at them directly. You shouldn’t try to see the connection in all of this, because it doesn’t want to be seen yet. Later you’ll be able to write down whole paragraphs that come to you, fillet your content files, rummage through your ideology for something that links the news flash to the obscure biography to the sentence you wrote in a barely decipherable code, half off the edge of the page in the middle of the night. You won’t find anything yet. You mustn’t push. Starting a novel is like charming a feral cat. Move too quickly & it will punish you with days of absence & you will have deep anxiety. For now try to keep still. Keep it in your peripheral vision. None of that kitty kitty kitty.
While I was writing it, I was ignoring just about every piece of advice it contained. As a result, I lost the idea I was stalking. In the middle of the same process–indeed working with some of the same material–I’m hoping that this time I’ll listen to myself.