Grace came to me today, while I was hunched over a keyboard. She had a flashlight in her hand, the one we keep in the bathroom to check throats. She’s seen a lot of this one recently.
“Daddy,” she begins — and I can’t possible convey the genuineness and simultaneous 5-year-old-ness that this is delivered with — “can I use this at night to check to see if the fairies are in the house I made for them?”
Fairies are a big deal around here. Grace made a house for them, a small box colored on all sides with doors and windows cut out. She’s sure that they are real and that they come to visit at night, and I don’t have any ambition to convince her otherwise. Far from it.
Also strangely real sometimes are pieces of satire from the Onion. A friend revealed to me this nugget, satirized in 2001, about how George W. was actually aiming to start wars, cut taxes, and send the country into recession. It’s all funny, except that it all seemed to come true.
Also very real right now is writing. It’s hard. I remember fondly of a day when I was finishing my dissertation. Not just getting close to finishing; I remember the day that I wrote the last chapter. It was about 13 pages, I think, and it just spilled out. Last chapters should be something that is practically self-evident to the author, but at the same time it was as though it all just kind of revealed itself to me, so that in a single draft I just composed the whole things in an afternoon. It was euphoric.
Okay, I’ll remind myself that there were other edits, the run-ins with the thesis editor, the nerve-racking printing process. Still, I wrote that last chapter in more-or-less a single write in an afternoon. In an office with no windows, complete focus, concentration, and coherence.
The contrast today is in realizing that writing is really hard. I’ve started to try out prototypes, as I’ve come to think of them. Does it work to phrase this as a conversation? How do we posit the notion of our alternative conference? How do we analyze the impetus for our dissatisfaction with other modes of professional work? How do we even organize the text’s contents? This was so much more clear with a dissertation. I was told what chapter 3 should be (the methods) and chapter 2 (literature review) was copied and pasted mostly from my comps. Now I have the freedom to write what I want, but it’s a bit like being out in some wilderness, wondering which way to go. In this case, I don’t so much want to find my way back home as I want to find something interesting. I have to accept that I’ll be doing a lot of wandering.