Because you have all been holding your breath all summer, allow me to offer a little update on my progress to date. I hit 150 possibly-usable pages recently and that feels like a pretty big deal to me. However, it also has me wondering: just how long is this thing going to be? I’m asking you, fellow prose-writers: what’s a standard length for a manuscript like this? Given, of course, that I am ultimately going by the “it needs to be as long as it needs to be” maxim.
Besides counting words and pages, besides slogging through, I’ve been messing around a little with formal aspects of the memoir this summer. I keep using the word “organically” to describe how I have always wanted this to grow, and I’ve gone back and forth between pruning the thing back into dedicated shapes/chapters and letting it go to seed and sprout where and as it will. That’s where I am right now, in fact, letting it grow wild and rangy, only providing some staking where necessary. This means I’ve let go of the project of pushing through whatever chronologies try to assert themselves, and instead have been bouncing about, snooping around whatever part of the room of my memory I feel drawn to on a given day. This feels better. This feels like me–both the good part (able, maybe, to hold at once several differing concepts/ideas/narratives/pies –okay, not pies, but pie has been on my mind today) and the not-so-good part: scattershot, fragmented, distractable.
Forsythia are my favorite spring flowers, that riot of yellow that challenges the endless grey of central PA wintertime. I’ve always loved them, even before I lived here, and it’s one of those things in my life abut which I have *very* strong opinions. About most things (social justice stuff being an important exception) in my life, I can see more than one side. Few things elicit in me an absolute, visceral response. For instance, I cannot have coffee with milk; it must be cream. And I cannot have tea with cream; it must be milk.
Likewise I cannot abide forsythia pruned neatly into box hedges. It makes me crazy to see it–all that joyous, reaching color constrained, shunted. Sad.
Let it all grow, I say–the wilder, the rangier, the messier, the better.