where the writers are
Agent Day Eighteen: What It Takes

Yesterday I read Urban Nizhóní and made notes.  I will do the same today.  By evening I was exhausted and felt like the assignment I have before me was similar to asking a painter to paint another version of each work they've completed:  a red one, a blue one, a black one and a yellow one. 

At nearly eight in the evening I made dinner and after cleaning up I sat with Didion.  I have been reading Where I Was From in the Everyman Edition to ease myself into the length of night and my lifelong dreams of relocation during the end of days.

I don't think I'm special; I am tired.

Last night I made it to part three.  Didion writes:  "That passage [that begins part three] is from the last few pages of a novel, Run River, published in 1963.  The author of the novel was me."  She wrote Where I Was From in 2003.  That makes forty years between writing the work and once again telling about it.

When I wrote the first pages of A Woman's Body Was Found There, in 1995, my teacher was shredding it to bits, saying "what stone butch would do x, y, z,?"  I was incensed.  A friend, and fellow student in the class, said, "Reid likes to be read, she doesn't like to be interpreted."  Everyone laughed.  He hit it on the head.  He was always one of the few people that got what I was doing.  I appreciated him for that, then, and now.  Of those early 267 pages I threw over 230 out.  I kept the central pages that describe the death of this woman, Johnnie Johnson, who would never call herself a stone butch and might cut the first fool who did.  Of those pages I cut, I cut none of them because she would not do x, y, or z.  I cut them because they got me where I was going, but they didn't tell the story of this novel, they told of moments encased within but not part of this telling.

The last line of this novel is:  She is telling one now.

I believe the story goes on, a river we step into, but cannot contain.  This belief has made the process of writing about the story difficult for me.  As I've said before I tend not to revise I tend to start over.  This, rewording myself and my work, is a new skill for me.  One I clearly need developing.  

Didion is so self aware, and that self awareness takes tremendous strength.  While everyone is looking at her body and talking about her frailty, few are honoring this strength of character.  You don't need to like her, but I respect her refusal to accept anything less of herself.  To write with that same strength is what this process is about, both in fiction (which I am much more at ease with) and in nonfiction.  I am beginning to see these letters and synopsis as part of my nonfiction oeuvre.  I know my work better than anyone, but I have not yet developed the language neccessary to translate that knowledge to others.   I am doing that now.