Late Night Listening To Music

What the hell am I supposed to be writing?

I’m in that part of writing a novel where you have written the first draft, you have read it, you have measured it, and you have found it wanting.  I’m past the joy of accomplishing the first draft.  I’m in the deep weeds trying to remember what the hell this thing was supposed to be about in the first place and find my way out of this maze.

My solution is to add a whole new set of characters.  Actually, it isn’t a whole new set of characters it is a group of characters that were in my initial preparation of the book.  It isn’t a complete wholesale rewrite either because of how I constructed the narrative with parallel yet non-intersecting stories.  Trust me it makes sense in my mind.

The idea of the structure comes a little from The Sweet Hereafter.  That wasn’t intentional, but it is such an important book to me, that it just sort of happened.

Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t.  I’ve learned a lot from this whole process.

It’s just late night and I’m listening Billy Bragg’s “St. Swithin’s Day” over and over again.  I’ve found when I get stuck and can’t figure out what direction to go in with the writing (and more and more my life) I do two things.  First, I try to do what Hemingway said he did when he got stuck: Write the truest sentence I can think of.  Second, I listen to music that has that truth Hemingway spoke of.

That is the thing that was most disappointing in rereading what I wrote.  It doesn’t feel like I let myself tell the truth.  I got close and danced right up to it a few times, but I didn’t quite get there.  (“Must I Paint You A Picture” is now playing)  I realized I hadn’t even come close to telling the truth when I bought and listened to Jason Isbell’s new album Southeastern.

The rawness and honesty of every song on that album is what I aspire to find in my writing.  It is heartbreaking to see how close it is I’ve gotten in some passages of the book, yet I see how I turned at the last minute.  I have to find that place.

So, I sit and I listen to Billy Bragg, The Clash, Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Public Enemy, Fishbone, and others hoping they can help me find my version of that truth.  The ugly, necessary thing we turn away from because it is too hard and reminds us of our own failings.

“…virtue never tested is no virtue at all.” – Billy Bragg


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