I know I haven’t really been around during the last couple of weeks but I have a good reason. I was technically on vacation. Well, it was more of a staycation really but does that matter? There were adventures. There was relaxation. There was a lot of fresh air and clarity. We walked 200+ feet above the Hudson Valley. We went to the beach and the aquarium. We walked through a lovely garden at twilight. I found a bunch of books I thought I had lost. Even better, I found a never-been-used-except-for-a-few-doodles-my-mom-did Moleskine notebook in the basement of my mom’s house. It’s now my new planning notebook, because it’s not so large that it’s unwieldy but not so small that I can’t write comfortably. Long story short, I barely did any writing since I wasn’t really home. And when I was home or in the midst of a car ride, I was either reading or daydreaming while looking out the window. So I didn’t have very much to report in the meantime. And the writing only began in earnest on Monday.
I was having some issues with the new novel the other night. I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in. I wanted the book to sort of be a portrait of loneliness but also not. Since I find art to be so evocative when I’m writing, I made a file of inspirational pictures. It consists of photographs concerning the subject matter (more of the physical subject than the emotional) as well as paintings I thought I could work off of. Then I took out my planning notebook and started mapping out what I wanted to happen. Right now, I have about 18 plot points, which seems like a good amount to start with. Last night, I came up with a new section and wrote it down, then as soon as I put my notebook away, I came up with a better way to incorporate the idea and had to write that down. The whole purpose of being on vacation and not really worrying about writing was to just relax and let the novel’s purpose come flooding. I’ve also been really inspired by the idea of “singing sand” as well as music made from the frequencies emitted by the planets and sun. The sounds are eerie but meditative and I’ve been doing a fair bit of my writing while listening to that otherworldly music. I like the effect all these bits of inspiration are having on my writing.
Since I’ve been terrible at posting, here’s a piece for the novel that I started the other day. The piece is inspired by a trip I took to Montana in 2006. My cousin and I were exploring a ghost town partially-open to tourists. At one of the stores that was boarded up, I peeked through the smudged glass and saw a porcelain doll staring back at me. Only the doll’s face had been painted white, including its eyes, so that what I encountered was a face entirely blank except for the slightest hint of features. There’s also a little inspiration drawn from La isla de las muñecas, which is the super creepy doll island in Mexico. If you haven’t seen the pictures, look them up. The entire island is covered in dolls. Dolls hang from trees. They’re arranged everywhere. Why are they there? Their purpose is to appease the ghost of a little girl who drowned and has been haunting the island ever since. I’ve been wanting to incorporate those stories into something for years and I think this is the best way I can. It’s about dolls but not about dolls. The end result is a 2,700 word block paragraph with dolls present but not taking over anything they shouldn’t.
“Beneath one of the motel room beds, I find a porcelain doll with its eyes painted shut. Really, the eyes are painted white, smeared with what looks like whiteout to keep there from being retinas or pupils. If I tilt the doll just the right way, the eyelids close together in mockery of a blink. Out in the clown cemetery, there is a cactus overgrown with abandoned doll bodies. I didn’t put them there. They were nailed on long before I came trudging through the dunes. I keep a white sheet draped over the dolls so that when I look outside, I don’t have to see their gnarled faces. Their cheeks are cavernous, broken around the mouths so that their lips look too large for their faces. The doll beneath the motel room bed has suffered the debilitating loss of its rubber cheeks weakening. The infrastructure has fallen inward, creating a sunken quality to the face. I hold the doll by its right ankle and carry it through the hallways until I reach the kitchen. I go directly to the oven and throw the dolls into the back of the metal cavity. I turn the oven up to 475ºF and walk away, leaving the doll to melt into a coagulated mass on the oven floor.”