Friday, December 2, 2011
on finishing the novel
Me being the ritualistic person I am, the over-celebrator I am, I took some time to decide which glasses, and I finally chose the thick ones with the little starbursts etched in, the ones Stephen's grandmother gave him [left to him?]. Stephen always says Grandma Betty was the person who most encouraged his art, who taught him to "see." [She makes a tiny appearance in my novel, and Stephen's art makes a huge appearance.] I took the glasses the two steps out into Stephen's studio and handed him one. I said, "I've signed the painting."
Stephen says he knows a painting is finished when he looks and looks and his eye doesn't show him anything to change anymore. Then he signs it. He knows he'll continue to fuss with the painting after it's signed, sometimes for a long time, before the coat of varnish goes down, but for him, once he's signed it, it's finished. I know I'll fuss with the novel, and if it has the luck to be run through the ringer that is the agent process and the editor process and the publication process [a pact cosigned by Mephistopheles would help], I'll be doing much more than fussing with it, but for me, the signature's gone on the painting.
Funny thing, mentally signing my work. I spent so much of my childhood and young adulthood hating myself that things like my name left a bad taste in my mouth just because they were mine. I almost never said my name out loud, and writing it down was like writing the name of that bully "friend" who used to ridicule you and made you ride horses in fourth grade [smelly].
When I started workshopping the novel, the writers in my group would jot little wrap-up notes at the bottoms of my pages: "Gigi, this is..." Me being the ritualistic person I am, I would go home and consolidate all their notes into a master set of pages, making sure to copy their marks and comments exactly, including any spelling errors [don't ask me why], but in the beginning the one thing I didn't include was my name. I don't know when I started copying my own name down in these pages, but I do know that when I did, it was with the knowledge that the goodness of the process of really learning to write, and the loveliness of these amazing writers, not to mention Stephen at home, had helped me get to a place in my life in which I didn't hate myself anymore. If nothing more than this comes from these five years [six?] in Tom Spanbauer's basement [and that pact cosigned by Mephistopheles], it's still a wonderful, wonderful thing.