As a trafficker in climaxes and thrills and characterization and wonderful dialogue and suspense and confrontations, I had outlined the Dresden story many times. The best outline I ever made, or anyway the prettiest one, was on the back of a roll of wallpaper.
I used my daughter's crayons, a different color for each main character. One end of the wallpaper was the beginning of the story, and the other end was the end, and then there was all that middle part, which was the middle. And the blue line met the red line and then the yellow line, and the yellow line stopped because the character represented by the yellow line was dead. And so on. The destruction of Dresden was represented by a vertical band of orange cross-hatching, and all the lines that were still alive passed through it, came out the other side.
Vonnegut spends a lot of time at the beginning of Slaughterhouse Five discussing the difficulties he's encountered writing a book about his war experiences. He stops and starts, drunk calls war buddies and old girlfriends, and tries to map out a path from word number one to "The End." This struggle goes on for years.
I'm very much like Vonnegut when it comes to writing. I have big ideas, but I'm not sure how to implement them. Over the years, I've said that I'm working on a book about Catholic saints (still in progress); a collection of poems based on headlines from the Weekly World News (abandoned--somebody else had the same idea and beat me to publication); a collection of poems based on the Star Wars universe (on hold--can't let this one go just yet); a young adult series of books about Dante's nine circles of hell (plotted out and saved for later); and, most recently, a collection of Bigfoot poems (moving ahead).
It's sort of what we all do at the beginning of a new year. Vow to lose weight. Exercise more. Clean out the attic. Learn how to oil paint. Write a book. Big ideas. Big plans. And then reality takes hold. Work resumes. School functions and dance recitals and birthday parties. Throw into that mix unexpected events like car problems, health issues, deaths, Trump presidencies. The locomotive of the new year quickly goes off the rails.
So, I have plans for 2017, but I am not going to broadcast them to the world. That way, if I fail, I don't have to offer explanations. I'll just curl up in the fetal position on December 31, 2017, suck my thumb, and mutter over and over, "I'll do it next year, I'll do it next year, next year, next year."
Who knows what 2017 has in store for me and my family? There will be great happinesses and great challenges. I'm sure about that. I may be named Poet Laureate of the U. P. I may not. I may get a promotion at work. I may not. My daughter may become captain of her high school quiz bowl team. She may not. My son may start eating fruits and vegetables. He may not. My wife may make the bed when she gets up in the morning. She may not. It's a new year. Anything is possible.
However, I will make clear one small goal for myself this year. Daily, I am going to name one thing for which I am grateful. Starting now.
This morning, Saint Marty is grateful for his sister who gave him an iPhone for Christmas. He's grateful for her generous and loving spirit.
|Me and my iPhone|