By Sandra Novack
I don’t know about you, but I spent Christmas and the pre-holiday season drinking red wine and eating spoonful after spoonful of cookie dough. This has left me with the serious problem that is my ass. Pounds, Girlfriends. I have put them on! I am excessive. An all-or-nothing girl. And this ass situation, it has also left me wondering why I even signed on for that gym membership that I haven’t once used the entire month of December. Did I mention it was expensive? I am wasteful. I am wasteful, fat, and boozy. We’re not swimming in dough over here (well, cookie dough, maybe).
This isn’t even half of it. I am a pretty neurotic person. Rest assured: Once you go down that road of dwelling on your bad traits, you just get heavier. Soon you’re feeling like you have more bad habits than anyone else you know. You start to get nervous, even fidgety. You start deflecting, using the more removed ‘you’, when what you really mean is ‘I’.
So since this blog post was starting to depress me, I decided to talk about how bad habits can sometimes also be good ones. Focus on the positive!
1) Fussing! So I fuss. So what. In my early drafting stage, I am the queen of writing the crap out of a sentence. I try and find just the right words, just the right rhythms. I can go at one line ten times over, then ten times more. This is not the best habit. Whole paragraphs, entire scenes might be cut. I have lost many good words. While part of me thinks, What a waste!, the process slows me down and often makes me more methodical. As I read over a draft, I fall into the rhythm and language and both become part of the story landscape. Plus, I am a writer prone to some serious bouts of discouragement. When I read too many bad sentences, I fall into that even deeper problem of despair, thinking, I can’t write to save my life! At least when my sentences feel smooth, I can stay invested. Does this make my process slower? Yes. But it takes what it takes (to keep going).
2) I don’t write in any linear way. For years I considered this an annoying habit. All that extra time to organize! I’ve often wondered why I couldn’t have a more disciplined mind. A logical one. You know the kind, where one thought follows the next, orderly? That’s not me. From one paragraph to the next, I can write things that seem unrelated, things I know will end up in different chapters. The good aspect of this, though, is that it allows me to work through juxtaposition, which usually leads me to see the ‘big picture’ in more complex, associative ways. I can layer a lot. I can build structure.
3) On the subject of red wine: I never write (as in actually write for my publisher) under the influence. Oh sure, I might e-mail or call friends under the influence at 6 p.m., but they’re usually under it, too, by then, so all is right with the world. I will admit that some of the best lines in my novel came after two (uh-hum) glasses of wine. Many writers know that liminal place, where we are in this world but flirting with another (liken it to peyote). To be fair, I’ve also jotted down some lines that were terrible, too, and frankly some lines that were just illegible. Still, occasionally there is a gem!
4) Given how long this post is already, I should fess up to overwriting. I will always be more of a ‘full’ writer. Just like my ass situation, my sentences also want to expand. I wish I could be leaner from the start, but it just never works out that way. Call my writing a robust 8 and not a skinny 3, and let’s just embrace it and move on.
5) I love animals. Find me on Facebook and know I am nuts over all things with fur. How, you might ask, is this a bad writing habit? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that ‘animals are automatically sentimental’. In early writing classes, my teacher would say, “Sandy, geesh, another dog?” So I love my dog. Most people love their dogs. Maybe someday I will just get this out of my system and write an entire book about a big white dog, who will happen to be just like my giant white dog , Chloe (who sadly we had to put to sleep last week, at age 13). Sniff, sniff. If you didn’t get a holiday card or even, in the case of my husband, a present (well, okay, he got ONE present), that is why. I’ve been weeping. Yes, and it was over a pet. Is there no place for this in literary fiction?
Anyway, no one says just because a dog or cat appears in a novel or story means the scene is sentimental. It can be more interesting, like:
“Do you love me, Jane?”
“No, you don’t. You never loved anything but the toy poodle.”
Okay, that was just off the top of my head (and not the best). Still, this year I am concentrating on making my bad habits just work better for me. Why all this New Year’s guilt? Celebrate those bad habits! Have red wine! Eat cookie dough! Embrace your size 8 ass! Friends, we live in a tough world. I say: Hey, whatever keeps you going.
I will leave you with a picture of Chloe, who was not a poodle but a Great Pyrenees. To her I say: Until we meet again, my dearest friend, know that my love travels with you.
Sandra Novack has a fat ass, loves all furry creatures, and drinks red wine. She also writes novels. You can follow her on Facebook. When you friend her, please tell her you met her here!