I’ve always been a bug about pacing in fiction, not always mastering it but definitely obsessing about it. I have no idea why I never applied that to my life. I’ve always gone full tilt at what I wanted, swinging between exhaustion and hypomania, probably because of the hypomania, and then in June my heart said, “Fuck you and this madness” and tried to quit on me. Now I go full tilt at something for about ten minutes and then my body says, “We’re done here,” and I sit down. The weird thing is, I like it.
Studies have shown (some study somewhere always shows something) that happiness is relative, by which I do not mean your relatives make you happy. I mean that your happiness with an experience depends on what you’re comparing it to. Is right now not as good as the best time in your life or is it much better than the worst time in your life? There’s your relative scale for happiness. I’m wondering if that’s why older people are so often reported to be more content. We’ve lived through such hell that a stretch of relative calm and well-being seems like nirvana. My personal approach is to look at anything that’s making me unhappy and think (1) Can I fix/solve/stop this? and (2) If I can’t, is this worse than the worst time in my life? It’s never worse than the worse time in my life, so happiness returns.
Diaries are very important if only for entertainment; as Gwendolen says in The Importance of Being Earnest, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” And that’s before you get to the sense of nostaligic shame that sweeps over you when you realize how completely lame you were back then (“back then” being twenty years or twenty minutes). But the most important thing about keeping a journal is that it actually is good for you. The study I cited when I taught was done on college students; not only did their stress levels decline when they journaled for a month, months after they stopped their levels remained lower. That’s good stuff. I buy journals because they’re pretty and never use them because I blog, which is not the same thing because I can’t put my deepest thoughts and fears here.
I’ve been reading Pratchett’s Watch series which has been interesting because although I’ve read the first three–Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, and Feet of Clay–a dozen times and loved them all, I barely remember the last four. I remember Night Watch being exceptional, but I can’t remember details, and the others I only have vague recollections of which means it’s like reading new books. Oh, and I’ve been reading my own book-in-progress and it’s fun, too (yes, I got rid of the godawful sex scene). So I’ve been having a lovely time.
I have been thinking about reputation, both in real life and in fiction. I’ve always thought I’ve gone through life angry and defiant about reputation, my basic approach was “If you don’t like me, then the hell with you,” except when I look back, it wasn’t anything of the kind. I worked really hard to build a reputation as a good teacher and then as a smart, original writer. I didn’t care about the superficial stuff, people telling me I was no lady (really? when did you notice?) or sneering at what I wore (except for the shoes, I had a shoe thing), or laughing because I wrote romance (most popular genre in publishing, laugh all you want, Monkey People), but I cared a lot about my professional reputation as a teacher and a writer. I think that’s where Nita’s coming from, too. She can handle being Odd Dodd; she can’t handle being thought of as a crazy, lousy cop.
It has just occurred to me that puzzles make me happy. The Washington Post has great crosswords that start out easy on Monday and are real killers by Sunday, and they make me happy. And there’s the jigsaw puzzle on my iPad that Krissie got me hooked on. And then there’s Monument Valley . . . . I’m thinking it’s because those are all problems I can complete or maybe they just make my brain feel good. Whatever, this week I am happy there are solve-able puzzles in the world.
So I don’t want to write the first sex scene between Nick and Nita. I need to know if I’m just being lazy/a coward/prudish (the last is not likely), or if it’s really unnecessary. Plus this first scene is not very good even for a discovery draft. Actually the second one isn’t very good, either. ARGH. So the first of the scenes below happens after the nightclub stuff I posted months ago. Then Nita takes the dog out in the next scene, omitted here, and Bad Things Happen, and then she talks to Max in the bar before she goes back up and falls asleep, also omitted here. She does not mention the sex in either scene nor does she think about it because both of those scenes are in Max’s POV. The second scene below is the fourth scene in that sequence, when she goes downstairs the next morning and runs into Rab. The question is, does skipping the sex feel like a copout? Tell me no. Also tell me why the first scene is so awful. And the second. Well, you know, the usual.