#258: Windows and Commutes

#258: Windows and Commutes
North La Salle, Detroit, MI

The windows! Are in! I have, on my desktop, a photo of the house taken Friday afternoon, and I keep staring at it and thinking about both what’s already done and what’s still left to do. Next up: new entry doors, various carpentry and plaster work, and the last of bits of masonry, all while the electrician rewires the house. I’m trying, also, not to think too much about what’s not included in the scope/budget of this renovation but will be DIY projects later on (like decorative shutters for my new, beautiful windows).

My daily word-count goals have exhausted their usefulness. They were great for generating new material, but now’s the time to go back to the beginning and read for rhythm and momentum, and not guilt-trip myself because I spent an entire day revising (and trimming words) instead of producing new ones. There are still gaps that need to be filled, still scenes that need to be discovered, but I’m going to let them arise out of revision.

Barbara Kingsolver has some things to say about revision. It’s “the part of the process when art really happens. Once you know where you’re going, you can back up and tilt every scene in just the right direction.” This bit, from the same article, is also a good reminder:

Writers work successfully in so many different ways, I never assume that what works for me is best for someone else. But if a common denominator exists among us, it might be attitude: the enterprise of writing a book has to feel like walking into a cathedral. It demands humility. The body of all written words already in print is vaulted and vast. You think you have something new to add to that? If so, it can only come from a position of respect: for the form, the process, and eventually for a reader’s valuable attention.

Speaking of cathedrals. I made it a point to spent a full day writing at the DIA on Friday. That’s our big art museum here in Detroit (with free admission to residents of the three surrounding counties!). Upon arrival I made a beeline for Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” murals. Friends, I sat there, on the floor with my back to the wall, for maybe a full hour, and wrote in my journal, and listened to the sounds of museum staff and visitors echo off the marble and up the frescoed walls, and saw at least three things in the paintings I hadn’t noticed before. It was glorious.

I’ll tell you this, too: I’m used to working from home, and the morning drive to the museum felt like the closest thing I’ve had to a commute in some time. And one thing I do miss about having a commute is that gradual mental reorientation from Home to Work. The transformation, you could call it, from one version of myself to another. Where at the apartment I try to invoke that transformation with a haphazard combination of drinking chai, letting the dog out, and walking ten feet from my kitchen to my desk, I found that the ritual of traveling from one place – one context – to another, some distance away, wrapped in a cocoon of my own solitude … well, it had a distinctly different vibe to it.

I guess all that’s to say: maybe I should go to the museum more.