Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Anxious in the Red Zone

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

My hair knows when it's about to be cut because all of a sudden, it shows flashes of brilliance that are conveniently noticeable whenever I walk by a mirror. It's my hair's last gasp attempt at self-preservation and extending life for a little bit longer before the inevitable beheading.

I have not cut my hair since Turkey Day. I got it trimmed for my first ever special dinner with Nicky's family. The last time I fully shaved was prior to Christmas for my family's special holiday dinner. I began the new year under the assumption that I wouldn't shave or cut my hair until I finished Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. Hockey players call it a playoff beard. Me? It gave me an excuse to be lazy and not worry about shaving or worrying about my feral hair -- what little I had left.

A couple of weeks ago, I shaved down to a goatee when I completed the re-write of the final draft and subsequent read-thru with Nicky. Later this week, I'll get a haircut from Vinny the Barber within 24 hours of my return to New York. I missed a chance to see him around Halloween when I was in the NYC area for Phish's fall tour and three-show run in Atlantic City. Without a professional attending to my slowly expanding bald spot, I had to settle on a McCut at SuperCuts in Beverly Hills. You get what you pay for. The McCut operatives are quick, but Vinny the Barber is a true artist. He's from the old country (via Sicily) and takes his time sculpting out a masterpiece. I can't wait to climb into the chair and listen to him ramble on about world politics, local sports, and his last trip to Atlantic City.

By now it's obvious that I finished JTSMD, but the project is not quite complete. I got the ball in the Red Zone and all I have to do is punch it across the goal line. Yep, the goal is still incomplete. I started the first draft in November of 2002. Eight years and eight months later, I should finally cross that line. At the present moment, this is the quiet before the final storm. The publishing process is fucking brutal, something I learned the hard way with Lost Vegas. I'm much more prepared this time around, at least I hope so. I've climbed the mountain once and survived the descent. I'm confident I can climb it a second time.

Maybe someday I'll eventually write about some of the more tense behind-the-scenes moments and drama involving the final stages of securing Lost Vegas in print -- at one point, the stress had gotten so intense that I got ambushed by intense chest pains. On two instances last Spring, I really thought that I was having a heart attack. Luckily, I've been down the wrong rabbit hole and pulled myself out of some bad trips. Those frightening, mind-bending experiences came in handy last year in trying to sort out the madness that accompanied the ineptness I encountered trying to punch it into the end zone. I dunno if I could have gotten through the final stages without Nicky's amazing patience and support. I spent a fifty or sixty day stretch on mega-tilt trying to deal with my publisher, delays, and unexpected curveballs. It wasn't until August (40 days after the publication) when I was finally able to relax and not stress out about stuff.

For the JTSMD project, I made the easy decision to ditch my former, inattentive, hard-to-reach publisher. I found a new one, Create Space, which is affiliated with Amazon.com. But, I'm still a little anxious because I've never dealt with the new guys. In the end, I really won't be able to relax until the book has been out for a month or so. Dates are TBD, but I'm shooting for before Memorial Day. You should follow @JackTripperBook on Twitter for updates.

I've been enjoying this "time out" or holding pattern in between the final draft and the final drive toward the end zone. March Madness could not have come at a better time because I'm looking to numb my senses a bit and stave off any lingering feelings of depression that accompany the completion of a writing project. Yeah, I always get a tinge of somberness whenever I finish a project. You put your heart, soul, sweat, and life force into creating something out of nothing and after you finally complete it, you wake up the next day with a tinge of emptiness because you don't have the same zest and zeal to jump out of bed without something to look forward to.

Yeah, it's been hard to shake at times, which is why I've been rolling with the punches and not forcing myself to snap out of this dreary phase by letting it run its course. In the meantime, I've delved into reading books in my "To Read" pile and zoned out to college hoops.

My favorite part about writing is the actual physical process of writing. Field research is my second favorite part, followed by the act of writing of the first draft in my head as I collect thoughts and internalize the structure of whatever I'm about to regurgitate.

My least favorite parts of writing are the promotional side and publishing phase. I used to hate editing, but I've since warmed up to the importance of having a good editor and letting go of words. The promotional side gives me a stomach ache. It's often a lose-lose situation for me because if I don't like the piece or feel it's inferior, then I feel as though I'm deceiving the reader if I'm trying to promote it. On the flip side, I have a terrible gauge determining how readers will react because the stuff I fucking absolutely love is often met with silence (or worse, the sound of crickets chirping), meanwhile, it's the throwaway drivel that ends up becoming a hit.

On a positive note, I've been debating which future path to take because I've reached an ambitious fork in the road about the next project -- the L.A. novel or the Phish book. I thought it would be best if I alternated between fiction and non-fiction, so after Lost Vegas and JTSMD, the next genre in rotation would be non-fiction, ergo, the Phish book. However, that project is cumbersome and so immense that I really need 2-3 years of research, writing, and editing to finish it, whereas the first draft of L.A. novel could take half that time. The first draft could theoretically be written in less than 3-4 weeks. I'd prefer to get two cracks at a re-write before I trimmed the fat for the final draft, but the ambitious part of me feels as though I can churn out a novel within 14-16 months of sitting down to write the opening sentence. That time frame is specific to working within the same structure and process that I did with the previous two. Of course, if I could get 3-4 months completely alone and unfettered from freelance work, updating blogs, Phish tour, pro sports, and holidays -- then I'm confident I could get a final draft done in less than 100 days. Alas, that's not the case because life intervenes.

Realistically, I'll have to pick a couple of weeks here and there in late 2011 and 2012 and spread out the entire project. Ideally, I'd love to have it out by Halloween 2012, but that will only happen if I can crank out an initial draft sometime this autumn, re-write it in January/February, edit it down that spring, sit on the draft over the summer, re-write it after the WSOP and early September and have it ready to go by Halloween. Easier said, than done.

But let's not get ahead of myself just yet. I still have the ball on the 20-yard line.

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