Lately I've been thinking of something that my late friend Barbara Seranella said on my show (it's in one of these interviews). She said when she was reading, to friends or to her critique group (of which I was a member), she didn't want to just hear, "Interesting," or "I like it." She wanted to silence the room.
That's a tall order, I know, and yet I find I've arrived at another crossroads with this novel I've rewritten for the umpteenth time. Who cares? I find myself thinking, and saying. And mostly I'm looking into myself and trying to figure out if I indeed care. The theme of this latest novel has grown stale, and now I'm thinking of shelving the entire thing. (And probably thinking entirely too much, which I always tell my students and writer friends: Stop thinking so much!)
It doesn't help that I receive so very many books in the mail to be considered for the show, and so many of them, while formidable, do not silence the room--especially the self-published books. (I really wish folks wouldn't send me self-published books. There are just not enough filters--editor, copyeditor, proofreader, etc. etc.--to polish the work to a high sheen.)
Yesterday on a long car ride, I found myself saying to Brian and Travis: "I just don't want to waste more paper on something that doesn't silence the room."
Of course they both thought I was outrageous. Writers use paper, Brian said.
When I wrote Pen on Fire, I, in effect, silenced the room. And I didn't care which editor or agent said there were too many writing books on the shelf, I was going to get it out there, no matter what. My students needed it--well, wanted it, anyway--and so there was a greater good.
I'm not sure I have that same drive with this novel. And that drive is what carries you over and through.
As Judith Thurman said on my show in this wonderful interview, it's like the Shawshank Redemption, digging your way through a brick wall with a fork. You've got to be committed to your project this deeply.
So as well as enjoying the holiday and cookie parties and Christmas Eve Mass and hopefully more snow in the mountains, I'm going to spend these next couple of weeks dwelling, and playing around with a few ideas on the page.
What will you be doing? And what do you think about silencing the room? Is this something you think about?
Out at my brother-in-law's, his sweet horse, lovely dog Max, and a snowball tree.