Archive for July 6th, 2007

A wrinkle in time

I love the blog convention of designating pseudonyms or initialisms for frequently-referred to people and institutions.  Flavia‘s alma mater is INRU, for Instant Name Recognition University; I tend to forget that Bitch Ph.D.‘s son has a name other than PK (for Pseudonymous Kid), since PK is such a cool pair of initials.  I’ve looked forward to using this convention myself, of course, but how will I choose?  It seems so audacious to tag family and friends with new handles (*cough* George W. Bush *cough*). 

Today, however, I had elevenses with a writer friend.  I don’t see her very often, and in the Venn diagram of our lives, there’s only a tiny area of overlap–nor, I think, does her circle intersect with those of any of my other friends (that I know of).  It might even be a bit much to call her a friend, given that we’ve only seen each other on five separate occasions that I can think of, except that when we do get together we have wonderful, cut-to-the-chase conversations that strongly resemble the conversations I have with my closest friends. 

So, since she probably won’t be making regular appearances on the blog, you’d think I’d be able to get some nicknaming practice on her.  My first thought is that she is a Writer of Heartbreakingly Beautiful and Incisive Fiction (WOHBAIF). 


My next thought is that based on what little I know of her life, she seems to keep pretty focused on essentials.  She has lived and worked in the same apartment for a long time.  She keeps her overhead low, which I once heard Grace Paley give as an important piece of advice for writers.  She seems to be a relatively solitary person (though again, I’ve only met her on five occasions, and know none of her friends).  These habits seem to facilitate her writing (I’m not recommending this to you, just observing that it seems to work for her).  She’s not an ascetic; she is startlingly beautiful and rather stylish in a casual way, and today was carrying a charming, brightly striped designer handbag.  She gives off the air of someone who knows who she is, which is always a powerfully attractive quality.

So I think for the moment I’ll call her the Stylish Hermit. 

Is that awful?  I’m afraid it is.  Well, push on.

The Stylish Hermit is closing in on the completion of a new book that has been some years in the making.  She remarked that she feels that she’s wasted a lot of time in the writing of this book.  I suppose that a sort of smirk passed over my face, because she added hastily, “I know that everyone thinks they waste time when they’re writing, but I’ve really wasted time!” 

I don’t think I succeeded wiping off the smirk.  Everyone does think that. Everyone is right.  Where everyone goes wrong is in thinking that they are worse than everyone else. 

It’s hard to distinguish between wasted time–time you burned up doing dumb stuff you regret and didn’t benefit from, even in terms of diversion or refreshment–and time you needed to let something develop.  Is any draft a wasted draft?  Generally, no.  Even if the draft makes something worse, it may be a stage you had to pass through.  Your worst draft may end up teaching you something. 

The time spent sprawled on the couch rereading a favorite book instead of accomplishing something that you meant to accomplish?  I haven’t the heart to call that wasted time, either.