Serpent Blog

Three Days of Anguish 
My God how I struggled. I really had no idea what I was doing. When I read these journal entries that are now 7 years old (and I am reading them for the first time since) I can see myself in a state of mind that is not comfortable for me to revisit. How much have I really learned since I wrote the first draft of Serpent Box? perhaps this looking back was not such a good idea...

Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Higher Grounds Cafť, San Francisco


It is a marvelously clear day, so bright and so very cold Ė an astounding 37 degrees and a big translucent moon is visible low in the morning sky.

I am filled with so much trepidation and doubt about this current section of chapter 30, which I have been laboring over for two days now. If I allow myself to think about it outside my writing time, I feel incredibly stupid and silly and small. Who am I to write such things? Who am I to try and envision God, let alone translate that into words? I am afraid that I will fall flat on my face here and that this particular section will be excised entirely. Each night since, I try to will myself to have the dream again but it doesnít come. It may never come again and may have been a once in a lifetime thing. I cannot tell you how much this is affecting my confidence.

And now I wonder if you ever read these things. Not that it matters. I write these to you but I write them for me and once they are sent I never read them again...

I know this is going to sound silly, but I think the problem might be my pen. I have lost my good ones and need more. The pens I have now are inferior and I am not having much luck with first drafts here on the Mac. Today I will get more pens.

Maybe we should talk soon. It might be a good thing. Iíd like to hear what you are doing. I donít even want to do any talking, I just want to listen. Whenever you feel the urge.



Thursday, January 31, 2002
Tullyís Coffee Shop, Polk Street, San Francisco


My day is in disarray. Had to bring the car in for service this morning and am thus not in my favorite place and not at all in my rhythm. Iím also worried about Zak (my dog), who has not been out today, and when I think of him there at home with his head upon his paws waiting, it breaks my heart.

Iím not sure what I will do this morning or how much work I will get in. But it is strange that one can never really tell how itís going to go on any given day until one tries. This is why we must write every day, religiously. Oneís mood before starting rarely reflects the outcome and quality of the dayís work. Yesterday I took a long walk downtown and wound up writing on a granite chess table in a public park Ė this at 2 oíclock in the afternoon, which is past my usual stopping point. So, while routine is always crucial, one cannot become handicapped by it or so rigid that you become closed off inside. If possible, the story should always be at the back of my mind and I should take every available opportunity to work on it. Does this bore you? Iím afraid it bores you. It is rather trivial and idiosyncratic.

And hereís the real point of todayís letter: I am so scared of the territory I now enter. This book has gotten too big for me. Jacob has gotten too big for me. He thinks now that he has seen an aspect of God, if not God himself. He has passed all the tests of not just a believer, not just a holy man, but a prophet, bordering on biblical proportions. He might just be a prophet Andrew, and what if he is? There are dimensions to this I never, ever expected. The ramifications in terms of my story and plot are mind-boggling to say the least. I must get a hold of myself. This was to be a simple story set in a simple time and place and now I face the possibility that it may not be so. Should this boy grow up? Will he ever be old? Will the story wind its way into the present? Should it? Or should it come to a screeching halt as he stands on the cusp of possibility? How does one control the story when so many things could happen? How do you know what should happen? In short, how does one learn restraint? How does one practice restraint? Iím afraid that I donít know how to write small. I am so worried that I am over-writing - pumping this thing full of combustible gas. All peaks and no valleys. Too much, too fast, too crazy. Oh how I wish I had a mentor, a wise and benevolent Prometheus figure, an Obi-Wan, someone to pat me on the wrist and tell me how silly I am. I promise you this my friend, if by Godís will this book is done, and if I ever manage to make this my living, I will help young writers. I will seek them out. I will do my best to pass on whatever it is that I learn, or at the very least I will just support someone. Hemingway said that ďSome writers are born just to help another write one sentence.Ē This will be the motto of my Ďclubí.

Wish me luck, pray for me, light incense and toll the ceremonial gongs. I am alone in the wilderness and the devil nips at my ear.



Friday, February 1, 2002
Higher Grounds Cafť, San Francisco


Iím juiced up and all ready to go today. Itís seething in me, but I donít want to jinx it so I wonít talk about it anymore. The cafť is packed to the gills today and I am sitting at an undesirable table. There is no space for me to spread out my laptop and notebook, let alone my plate and coffee. I am being distracted now by freelance work, some of which is unpaid. You know of course that one must do quite a bit of work just so that you can get work. I write so many proposals it makes me sick. But itís good and light writing that oneís brain can fart out like so much unwanted gas so I donít mind so much. I can do that kind of stuff at night or very early in the morning.

Now to the book. Iím as a clueless as a baby as to whatís going to happen. My word count is low. Iím at 80,000+ now and I hate to go back and average that out. It would depress me. I worry about a lot of things Andrew. Is there too much going on? Is there not enough counterpoint? Does the lack of a conspicuous adversary for Jacob detract from the story? Am I overwriting? Do I mention God too much? Is symbolism seeping in consciously? Am I repeating things too much? Iím so anxious to finish a complete draft so that I can begin chopping, slashing, laying waste to the waste. I want to pare this down to a streamlined and agile shark of a book. I want it to cut clean, in one swipe, not jagged, back and forth like the blade of a serrated bread knife. And I am a person who cannot stand a mess. I must clean it when I see it, and all I see now is mess. The thought of it all lying there in disarray disturbs and distracts me. This is my neurosis, I know. But I think I might enjoy the revision process as much, if not more than, the first draft.

I hope you are well and prolific. I hope that your words sing.


Note: I had a thought, and this is really more of a way to remind myself than anything else but, I think I should eliminate the character of Adeline Flint, Charles mother. Iím thinking that it would be cleaner, simpler and more logical if the old woman was his mother. I donít know. This might also raise certain complications, also, it may change the tone of the scenes and dialog between them. I want to think about this. Surely thereís no need to decide now.


So, what have I learned in 7 years? I still don't know what's going to happen next. I still don't know where a story will go. But I have faith now that it will carry me like water. I am bouyant. And I can swim.

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