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In case you haven't noticed ...

In case you haven't noticed ...
By Amanda Kabak • Issue #9 • View online

THE GRIND
I think a lot about, well, a lot, but in my writing life, aside from character and setting and conflict and metaphor, I am preoccupied with the idea of improvement and its evil but essential twin, criticism. I have talked about how writing is the most joyful and terrible thing going, kind of like having a perfectly good trip go very very bad, descending into paranoia and despair.
I get to bring worlds and people to life and live parts of my day in my imagination, sometimes even vicariously living what I’d only dreamed of experiencing. At the same time, in order to make these stories come to life for you and to push them toward the lauded pedestal of “art,” I have to try to find everything I’ve done wrong with my words once I get them down on paper. I have to see what’s not there and mercilessly cut what doesn’t belong, no matter how much I may love a particular phrase or scene. I have to do this again and again, discovering how misguided I’ve been or clumsily I’ve written or how far from my mythical idea of the story I’ve drifted. I have to detach tens of thousands of words from my ego and sense of self as a person and a writer and tease out all of its (unending) terribleness.
As you may imagine, this can be … painful. Unrelenting negativity is damaging, and I can easily hurt myself with the judgement I make of my stories. The stories are not me, but they came through me, which can make that distinction hard to hold on to. This isn’t just true of those of us trying to make art: as necessary as self-judgment is for growth, it can stunt us as well.
Life is a balancing act of accepting and pushing. Of warm kindness and tough love. Of hurting and healing. Self improvement and awareness have always been critical to my idea of myself as an active, engaged person, but knowing how to celebrate and enjoy where you are right now even though you might still be far from where you want to be is something we all need to master before all else.
AROUND THE NEXT CORNER
A story I’ve been working on has recently gone off the rails, so I’ll have to stage a rescue mission to figure out the track I’m supposed to be on and make the right shifts to get there. However, there was a little part of it that made me laugh probably too much.
Diane wasn’t keen to show off her Cooking Light, but she flashed it just long enough for Doc to see. “I’m trying to unlock the mysteries of mushrooms.”
“I didn’t know they were mysterious—I mean, besides the fact that some are food, some are drugs, and some are poison.”
“I’m trying to figure out how to make them delicious.”
“Ah, more power to you.”
“You’re not a fan?”
She seesawed a hand back and forth. Diane noticed she had a small dimple on her chin and freckles on her nose and the tips of her ears. “I’m mushroom Switzerland.”
“How diplomatic of you.”
“They still have an army of sorts and mandatory service for men, though it’s not as extreme as Israel’s.”
“So they’re aggressively neutral.”
“Oh, yeah. Their cows are ready to go like that,” she snapped, sharp and loud.
“Beware the lactose intolerant.”
Doc smiled, then. It was wide this time and full of large teeth that didn’t seem exactly comfortable staying in line.
OUTSIDE OF DRAFTSVILLE
I have been absolutely obsessed with a BBC/HBO show, Gentleman Jack. It is about a woman who lived in the first part of the nineteenth century in northern England, Anne Lister. Miss Lister’s not just any woman, though. She was a landowner, business woman, intrepid traveler, obsessive diarist, and a lesbian. She wrote millions of words about her daily life, some of it in code, and her portrayal in that show is masterful. In addition, I’ve been reading some of the diaries themselves and a “companion” book that spawned the series of the same name. She was a fascinating, intelligent, snobby, curious, and determined woman who I would love to have over for dinner … as long as I could temper her energy with several glasses of wine.
As always, I’m still loving any ratings or reviews for my books. A simple click on a star even without a review blurb goes along way.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Amanda Kabak

Writer of software and literature - Novels: UPENDED and THE MATHEMATICS OF CHANGE. Denizen of the in-between. In ardent pursuit of making an impact.

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