Alison Bechdel,

Alison Bechdel,

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 31 1998 3:30 AM

Alison Bechdel,

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26000_26210_day2

     The road up our hill is a mess. The first couple of years I lived in Vermont, I thought "mud season" was just a figure of speech, a concept people clung to out of regional pride or pre-interstate nostalgia. But now I live on a dirt road. The thaw has transformed it into a living thing, a quivering, tire-sucking semisolid interspersed with bone-jarring ruts and ridges. Driving on it is like wrestling a huge serpent. It makes me feel heroic, like a latter-day Laocoön.      Today was unbelievably warm, almost 70 degrees. I saw the first red-winged blackbird and a pair of mourning doves. Last week the snow was 3 feet deep and the woods were absolutely silent. Now the brook is roaring, and we've lost over 2 feet of snow, gauging by how much of the burdock patch in front of the house is revealed. The broken windshield scraper I threw into the yard in a fit of pique two months ago also emerged today, along with a carpenter's square lost in the first snow last fall.      I went into town to get copies made and to give blood. Then I came home and spent hours sorting through all this artwork I've agreed to donate to various causes for their annual fund-raisers. I started feeling resentful. Maybe it was because I'd already given away a pint of blood. Parting with all this ink and sweat on top of it made me wonder if I was being too generous.      I'm feeling very lethargic. I don't know if that's from the bloodletting too, or if it's because it's time to start the next two episodes of my strip. I've noticed that my work cycle bears a striking resemblance to a manic-depressive episode. Or depressive-manic, to be more precise.      I had to lie down on the floor for a while, I was so tired. This has gradually become a strange, yet integral, part of my writing process. I'm not sure if it's just procrastination, or if it's a normal response to the exhausting prospect of having to fill up a blank page. I don't sleep when I lie on the floor: I just kind of lapse into a semiconscious state for half an hour, and then I'm refreshed. It helps if I have a piece of dialogue I'm working with to perseverate on while I'm lying there, almost like a mantra. In fact, as I drew this picture of myself lying on the floor, I realized that this is the yoga position savasana, or the Corpse.      Another feature of the depressive phase of my cycle is this awful sense that my work really isn't very good. In my last trough, I was whining to Amy about how stale and irrelevant I thought the strip was getting. She reminded me that I say that every month and that by the time I make my deadline, I think I'm a genius. This unnerved me, because it probably means both extremes cancel each other out. I asked Amy if she thought that I was really just average, and she said she was getting fed up with having to reassure me.      Maybe it's masochistic of me, but thinking my strip sucks seems like another necessary part of the process. It motivates me. If I were feeling all smug and complacent, I don't think I could muster the momentum it takes to begin a new episode.      The road grader went by in the afternoon. It scrapes up a thick layer of rutted mud, rolls it along with its big blade, then smoothes it out behind like a fresh, blank page.

Alison Bechdel writes and draws the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which appears in over 60 publications. Her latest book, The Indelible Alison Bechdel: Confessions, Comix, and Miscellaneous Dykes to Watch Out For, is hot off the press.