River Purgatoire

The last week of my first semester, teaching for the first time since 2014. One of my students tried to guess my age. He said between 19 and 30. I said no. No no no, no. No.

The semester has been good. Solid. I taught one full-semester course and two half-semester, which meant that essentially I was teaching five classes for the second half. But since I was only able to collect seven students for each half-semester course, I may have been teaching for five classes but only grading for two. It was a good way to get back into the teaching thing, and now here comes summer, the best reason to be a teacher, bar none. I’m working to get a good start on finishing this novel before the end of summer, before final grades have even been submitted. 

And yet, I had the pleasure of putting on my best plaid shirt and second-best khakis and not wearing a hat for the majority of the day so that I could go to a couple job interviews without a funny crease in my hair.  

We bought this house, see, is the way I sum it up quickly to people, but the reason we can’t afford for me to take the entire summer off to write is more complicated than the house. Actually we’d be paying more for the rent at our old place, if we were still there. No, it’s more like we bought a house so we have to have a cushion for when stuff breaks and we’re getting close to paying off our credit cards to have that cushion but we’re not there yet and by the way we’ve got if not mountains’ then at least more-than-molehills’ worth of student loans which even when you make as little money as we collectively make they still expect you to pay off an increasing portion of as the years go by, although I’m most definitely paying less per month than the interest I’m accruing, oh and we have one car payment now but there’s the issue of paying my wife’s folks back for paying off her car and her car is going to need replaced eventually as well, not to mention if we ever get around to having kids then what kind of world will we be leaving for them if we don’t figure out a way to donate to some political campaigns before the midterms, much less the 2020 election, and the Republican majority continues its fleecing of the American economy, taxpayer, and environment, which that last is of course not merely an American issue but we’re sure trying to own its destruction, aren’t we??

Oh but also my current university isn’t able to guarantee I will have any classes in the fall, due to the recent merger with a larger university and some unexpected financial constraints and my lack of seniority in the teachers pool.

Fortunately my wife has picked up the motivational rhetoric for me lately, asking if I’ve written today or if I need to schedule some writing time tomorrow, etc., and my writing friend of more than a decade and I have recently started actively keeping up with each other’s progress, checking in once every couple of weeks. I had a rather low word count total last check-in, plus I’ve been mired in working my way through a particular chapter for the past month-plus, so she’s been encouraging me to take emergency measures, to send her what I have for help in finding the way forward, but it’s the phrase she’s used that has proved really motivating. That sounds like purgatory. You’re in purgatory. Get out of purgatory.

So I’ve been working this fortnight on forcing my way through, with machetes and fire. I’ve pounded my keyboard through every conceivable aspect of the scene until I found where I wanted to start, and then cut everything I had in the chapter and started back from the beginning, and now that I’m about 3,000 words back into the thick of it I’m figuring out what material I’ve already cut I can save for later and what cuts will never come back, plus a surprise perspective move, as originally I was in a roving close third and then figured this was probably better being locked into one character’s perspective and now tonight I discovered that the second half of the chapter will be from the other character’s perspective. People like to debate whether or not master’s writing programs are worth it, since people seemed to write just fine before they existed, to which I would say yes, they are, I agree with those who argue that if nothing else they will potentially allow you to find those one or two writers whose opinion you trust and with whom you will trade work and criticism for the rest of your life, but what those people who argue that fail to mention is that, if you’re really lucky, one of those readers could also become your wife. 

Tomorrow is my check-in day, so I should get back to it, because I think with all the deletions I’m currently about -6000 compared to last time, but more importantly, I’d really love to finish this chapter and get out of purgatory. 

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