Last weekend, we cashed in the Groupon that I gave my boyfriend for his birthday (in April) and spent the morning in a surprisingly awesome glass blowing workshop at a local studio. While the only actual “blowing” I did was in the form of Breathing Through My Fear that what I hoped would become my New Favorite Glass (seen here) would break before it ever had a chance to decant so much as a drop of wine, we did get to pick out our own colors, and “help” as a small cadre of experienced glass artists coaxed vessels and vases from glowing blobs of molten orange nothing with pointy tools, spinning poles, and ever-helpful gravity, a great friend to the glass blower.
Except for when he is her enemy. Before we got to jump in and play with solid fire on a stick, the artist who opens her studio to us neighborhood rubes gave a brief and flashy demo to help establish expectations and give us an idea of what we were in for. While she blew and spun and swirled and fancily attached and detached various appendages to the Demo Goblet, she talked about Glass. About the science that makes it predictable enough to work with, and about the petulant personality of the medium and the thousand and one variables in the process that make the outcome of every piece unique and surprising. Tapping the finished project off of the pipe on the end of which she’d been spinning and shaping it, she broke it, then tossed it I-don’t-remember-where with a casual Oh, well. You win some, you lose some, she had illustrated, possibly on purpose, and she explained that part of the appeal of working with glass was that even if she sets out with a very specific plan, she never knows exactly where it will take her.
Drawing comparisons to my own writing process was easy and obvious, especially at the tail end of National Novel Writing Month. I started the month with an idea of what I wanted my characters to look like, what I wanted them to experience, and what I wanted them to get out of it, but then you get up to your elbows in a race to 50,000 words and stuff just starts happening. Fifty thousand words is a lot to produce in thirty days, and sometimes you just have to keep your fingers moving across they keyboard to keep them piling up, whatever the cost. People say things they shouldn’t; they sleep with people they’ll wish they hadn’t; they find themselves doing things like publicly declaring undying love for has-been Swedish movie stars or playing old Bessie Smith tunes on the ukulele without fully understanding how or why. A lot of the wackier stuff ends up smashed on the floor during rewrites, yeah, but some of it sticks, like stray bubbles in the glass, and it is of course these “flaws” that give a piece — of glass, of music, of writing — its personality.
November has long been one of my favorite months. For a fat guy, there’s only so wrong that a month of which one day is dedicated by an entire nation to loading up on gravy can go, and for the years that I lived in San Francisco, Friends Thanksgiving was such a highlight of the social calendar that we could barely stock up for it at Trader Joe’s without strangers begging for invitations. Then I discovered National Novel Writing Month, which gave me an excuse to be actively, wildly creative while essentially blowing off my Real Life; I fly very little, do very few dishes, and go days without getting out of my pajama pants. I get to write about mermen and drag queens and princesses; about murder and blackmail and sex; about the clubs in Australia, Christmas in Nebraska, and life on the lam in Guatemala, and it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks about any of it.
And this year, I reveled in the serendipitous joy of heralding the release of my first novel, itself a onetime NaNo project, during the most novel-rific month of all. We had parties, fun people surprised me by coming to them, and I signed books, quaffed champagne, and savored the moments when people laughed at the funny parts of what I read out loud. Of the time since I cranked out the first draft as my very first NaNo novel, Kiss Me, Straight has spent some being heavily edited and painstakingly rewritten, some being summed up and shopped around, and some just sitting on my hard drive waiting to find a home. I have always had faith in these characters and in their story, but, as we all know, house hunting can be a long and demoralizing process. Until you find the perfect place, as you eventually must, and the book is there now, doing its thing. While it sat around my hard drive, and even while I rewrote vast swaths of it, I knew where it was and what it was up to (almost) all the time; now it’s out of my hands and out in the world and all I can do is wish it well on its way. I wrote the very book I wanted to write, and no other; I gave it the tools — the story, the people, the imagery — that I knew how to give it, and it will take the 2-star review from the chick who didn’t finish it along with the Fives from the people who love it and take them wheresoever it may wish to go. It has made me proud, and I jumped at the opportunities to celebrate it during this, its release month, as they arose. (You want something to celebrate? The eBook is 30% off at JMS Books all month long!)
Now that it’s December, I have kind of a lot to do: I have a short story to rework, a new novel to edit into submission, and a suitcase to pack, since I take once again to the skies tonight. But I’m not scared of it. Well, a little bit I am. But after an entire month of socking it away — of loading up on good food and great coffee, and playing bingo and listening to live jazz and writing about Hawaii — I’m ready to open up a can of Awesome on the projects on my list and on the airplane and get shit done. And even if this year’s crop of Holiday Travelers should drive me to drink, as is often their wont, at least I’ll be able to come home and do it out of a ridiculously awesome glass, misshapen and mine all mine.
A fabulous way to end the year! Good luck with the re-write of this year’s NaNo novel.