Active Non Accomplishment

Since arriving at Hub Bub I’ve been trying to think of new ways to reapproach my novel. I feel a bit hesitant, the way one might feel about getting back into a relationship that was questionable in the first place. It’s not that I don’t think me and novel can work this out—in fact I desperately need to believe we can—but I’m interested in seeing if there’s a healthier way to go about all of this business.

I’ve been flirting with Draft Three. Giving it sly little looks from across the room in which I try to convey “I think you’re naughty and I like it” in hopes that Draft Three will respond in a favorable way. So far it just lies there in a heap.

Last year, around this time, I approached Draft Two. Draft One had been so freeing and wild that me and Draft Two ran to one another with a fierce determination. “We’re going to do this!” we screamed and, in the words of  cartoon George Orwell “This book is going to rule so hard!”

Before starting Draft two I cleaned my house (probably around July 7, 2009) and did not clean it again until I moved out June 11, 2010. I lived in my filth. I stopped buying food. I had some nice friends who would leave me glasses of orange juice outside my door. I became very good at calling people up at strategic times just to see what they were up to and oh, you’re cooking dinner? That sounds great. Well no, I had no plans, I’ll be right over. (Thanks 1919 Market Street!)

By May, Draft Two and I were sort of weary from such hard living. I started to get a little confused about where draft two ended and I began. And, I have to admit, I got a bit of a wandering eye. There were these other stories, looking all sweet and available, that I wanted to pursue. Ones that would yield to me over the course of a few weeks, or a month as opposed to this crazy-appeared-to-be-life-long-marriage with novel.

I’m not the first writer to personify my work. David Foster Wallace particularly appreciated Don Dellilo’s description of the novel being a hideously deformed infant with a flipper who follows the writer around demanding love and attention. I’m also not the first to complain about the length of time the novel requires.

This week, on Slate, Susanna Daniel discussed how her novel took a decade to go from first sentence to hard cover publication. She refers to the period of time as active non-accomplishment:

There is surely a word—in German, most likely—that means the state of active non-accomplishment. Not just the failure to reach a specific goal, but ongoing, daily failure with no end in sight. Stunted ambition. Disappointed potential. Frustrated and sad and lonely and hopeless and sick to death of one’s self.

Whatever it’s called, this is what leads people to abandon their goals—people do it every day. And I understand that decision, because I lived in this state of active non-accomplishment for many years.

Her story  is an encouraging one. Eventually this state of active non accomplishment ends and the novel is born. I’m hoping that I learned a little something from Draft Two about how to be in a relationship with my novel, which will include cleanliness  and high functioning behavior. I also want to spark some of that fun and joy that came from that first draft. In the mean time, I’m going to quit singing love songs to my novel and dive back in to work.



Filed under Artists-in-Residence, Corinne Manning (10-11)

5 responses to “Active Non Accomplishment

  1. Bob

    Corinne, Novels need love songs too. They can’t resist them.

  2. kerrihubbub

    it sounds like a tragic love story and I can hear the wails of pain and anguish through the walls

  3. Corinne,
    That was fantastic! I’m sure it will hit the mark for many writers!

  4. McGregor

    In a world of fleeting moments and chances passed by, I always find strange coincidences to be very exciting. We have not been introduced yet, although you were polite enough to grab a stretching strap for me in a yoga class yesterday. Now, while checking out what is going on at Hub-Bub today, i am surprised to see a face that is very familiar, since it is still pretty fresh on my mind. This face, where have i seen it??? Ahh… yes that is right it was in town at the yoga studio!

    Perhaps, you should write just about the process of progressing from draft to draft and the way that each draft can almost be personified into a separate character in itself. You could explore a world where ideas or testaments represent a unique person. Maybe my suggestions are insulting to the profession of writing? Maybe not.

    What do you think?

  5. Ash

    I got a good giggle from this one. I could totally see you doing all of the things mentioned, and then came the pics to confirm it!

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