November 09, 2008

How I spent my weekend

I worked on my manuscript this weekend. Doesn't that sound impressive? You too can dazzle your friends with that kind of statement. Here's how: just print out a bunch of stuff you've written and stick it in a manilla folder. If you want to be really ambitious, you can buy a black binder with a special clippy thing. You don't have to actually work on it, just carry it around and refer to it as "my manuscript." Yep. You will be amazed how much credit you can get for just carrying around a bunch of papers.

The drawback is that once in awhile someone might ask you to actually come up with something to read from the manuscript. It happens. For instance, next week, I'm going to a conference in Southern City Where I'm Hoping It Will Be Warm. And I made a commitment long ago, like last spring or something, to read a chapter of the manuscript at the conference. I had, theoretically, months and months of time to write this chapter, including the whole summer, but it wasn't until after election day, after I was able to breathe a sigh of relief that our country might finally be headed in the right direction, that I looked at the to-do list on my desk and thought, "Oh, yeah. Guess I better write something."

So that's what I've been doing. I began on Friday by taking out a clean new manilla folder and a fresh yellow legal pad. (I seriously have some kind of fetish for office supplies.) I wrote the title of the chapter — Snake Dreams— on the side of the manilla folder. I didn't write anything new, exactly, because that would be way too much work, but I've been piecing together bits of writing, including some old blog posts — mixing, matching, and re-arranging in hopes a theme will emerge. I guess I'm hoping that the theme will in some way match the title that has already been inserted into a printed program for the conference, but I don't let those kind of details worry me too much.

I keep reading the pieces aloud, a habit that has stayed with me after years of writing poetry, a practice I find very helpful even though it makes me look like the crazy woman who talks to herself. I keep changing my mind about which pieces I want to include. I keep coming up with brilliant new ideas. Like ... maybe I should wear a cape to the conference! Wouldn't that be cool?

My husband is out of town, the weather has been dark and rainy, and it's been a good weekend to stay at my desk. In between bouts of writing, I've hung out in the living room with the gang of teenage boys, who are having some kind of geekfest with laptops and light sabers, and who say, "That's what she said," so often that I'm worried the phrase is going to sneak into my chapter. Although come to think of it, sexual innuendo isn't such a bad theme. Maybe I could work it in there....

25 comments:

ScienceWoman said...

So glad to know that it's not just scientists who do this. If I carry my manuscript and the reviewer criticisms around enough, will the two just spontaneously meld into an acceptable paper?

Blonde Niece said...

Nice ending line...
Thought I'd be the first to add the,
"that's what she said" to it.

jo(e) said...

Blonde Niece: (Laughing) Nice. See, you can really add that line to anything.

Hey, I could have used your presence this weekend. I felt like I was living in a cloud of testosterone.

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

Maybe I could work it in there....

That's what she said!

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

Blonde Niece said...

Dang - she got there first. :-)

jo(e) said...

So it's not just adolescent males who see sexual innuendo everywhere ....

Yankee, Transferred said...

Your whole family is funny.

JM said...

stupid feed reader! I was totally going to say "That's what she said" but someone beat me to it (....?)

Addy N. said...

I have an abandoned paper that I need to get back to and finish, so maybe I'll try your carrying-it-around approach! I actually HAVE to do that to get back to a point where I can work on it anyway... Thanks for the inspiration!

Aliki2006 said...

Work it in there--I bet you can!

I like to tell people I'm working on my novel, especially after I've pulled it up on the computer screen, stared at it for a few minutes, and moved the cursor around a bit.

Lomagirl said...

If your conference is by any chance in a city that JR and Sue Ellen inhabited, let me know.

Anjali said...

Love the manuscript line. Will use it myself with the hopes of sounding impressive!

jennifer said...

Oh, please, please wear the cape!

jo(e) said...

Lomagirl: I had to google JR and Sue Ellen to figure out what city you were talking about. But nope. I'll be in Southern City With a Woman's Name, with a brief stop in Southern City that Burned Dramatically in the Movie Gone With the Wind.

jo(e) said...

Jennifer: (laughing) Yes, I'm thinking of going with the cape. The question is what to wear with it. I could wear the purple velvet cape, since I think it looks more professional than the bright red one, but can I just wear black pants and a white shirt underneath? Or do I need to go find some spandex?

Bardiac said...

Mmmm, office supplies.... (gazes dreamily into the pen selection area)

YourFireAnt said...

Hmmm. She who spends too much time in Comfy Chair may not get book done in time for Southern Conference.

Try dark chocolate.

;-)

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

A cape goes with anything. If you're wearing a cape, you can forego the black pants & stick with the mor comfortable jeans-fleece-and-sneakers.

Just be sure not to get the cape stuck in the jet's engine on the flight over.

jennifer said...

I agree with Jennifer; capes go with anything, but I think black pants/white T are a good combination with a purple velvet cape. Or a gray sweater, if it's chilly. With a red cape, well, you have to go all Black. I mean, you just do. I have very specific ideas about this, and I don't know why. Maybe I should start a manuscript on SuperWomanWear? Kindly ask someone to take a picture for us, pref. with cape billowing behind you.

Artist Friend said...

I know this conference--there will be actual scientists there. And people who wear, like, jackets and stuff. They won't get the purple cape at all, but maybe it'll be good for them. I'll be there too, by the way, and I'll start writing my paper tomorrow. I swear to God.

Bridgett said...

Shoot, now you've gone and blown the secret about how to work on a manuscript without actually writing anything. (That's pretty much what I've been doing this week.)

julieunplugged said...

I love you! I relate to everything you write. Wow. My "manuscript" lurks in my computer. Never finished, bits and pieces attempting to work together.

Too often, I get going and suddenly think: This would be a good blog post. Whoosh... it's gone. :)

So good luck on actually getting somewhere, which I know you will cuz you're a super caped writer!

Jennifer said...

I recently took a deep breath and decided to call the bunch of poems I'm working on a manuscript. I put them together in a folder labeled "The Manuscript." I don't know if anybody else is impressed, but I find I do take myself and this project a bit more seriously now that I've weighed it down with a ponderous title.

If there's a cape, I want to see a picture...

Maryjean said...

Wow. You're really testing my American geography. (I live north of the River that Divides Two Countries, One of Which Now Has A Decent Leader and It Isn't My Country.) I've often (okay, once in a while) thought of compiling my musings into something. Now I realize that I just need a manilla folder. Like you, I share a love of all office supply things.

Sarah Sometimes said...

will you please please please send me an e-mail sometime that explains the joke (or just tells it)? I was mystified the first time this came up on your blog and I am again....

have fun in Southern City (you are probably already there...)