I almost watched another episode of House, feeling maybe too tired to write. But then I wrote.
Well, I did some solid editing to the starlings piece. Then moved to the next one, the blackbirds. I had been pretty proud of it, and sent it off to several places. My reader (whose time and experience and feedback I appreciate) called it out for having no arc. Nothing at stake for the characters. No one wants a glass of water (apologies to Vonnegut).
So then I started asking my characters who was thirsty, and started thinking that I was, and not just thirsty but also hurt, a bit. It's a piece about birdwatching with my grandparents. I was dumped off at their house a lot when I was younger, presumably because it was more convenient for my mother and her new husband. Even at 6, he and I did not get along, even at 16, and I was the one sent out to the country so everyone else could have some peace.
And then I stopped, because this wasn't an essay about me being shuffled out of town. It was an essay about how I came to like looking at birds. Except now that it needs an arc, because looking at birds isn't thirsty enough, it becomes this other, angrier thing. Like the manuscript sent back by the editor with MORE SEX scribbled across it, this bird-watching essay needs MORE CONFLICT. So I think some up. Maybe I wasn't kicked out of the house for being a brat. Maybe I'm imagining that, though I doubt it. My mother loves to cite how independent I was as a child, and every time she does, I think that must have been so convenient for you, trying to start a new relationship and family and career and all. Maybe I am mad about that. I had my grandparents to play with instead of friends. I spent my weekends learning embroidery and bird calls and how to walk with a book on my head. (Yes, and also going to the beach, and playing in the woods.)
However, did I feel abandoned then, or do I feel abandoned now? And does a my reasons for liking birds require that anyone feel abandoned at all, or is that an opinion of one reader that I can appreciate without acting upon? Aren't there such things as contemplative essays about a place that don't have drama? How do I write the quiet drama of discovery so that anyone else gives a shit?
As of this moment, I liked this essay better when it was an essay about birds. So I'm going to bed.