Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Word to the Opinionated

I know my latest posts really haven't had anything to do with writing--and considering that I'm actually doing some writing lately, that might seem odd...except of course for the more preoccupying force of *making life* that's been taking up my energy lately. Okay, I'm totally not getting to any sort of point.

If I were to make a point today it would be to talk about people's needs to assert their opinion/knowledge/experience on other people. Maybe assert isn't strong enough a word. How about shove/force/impose.

Let's take a hypothetical. Say I have a really bad headache--the kind that comes close to being a migraine and forces me to lie down in my bedroom with the lights off to breathe through the pain. And say that for personal reasons, for health reasons, I prefer not to take any pain-killers. And let's say a, an acquaintance... happens to call me and I mention that I can't talk right now because I have this terrible headache. Now let's say this person suggests I take said painkillers, and I say No thank you, I've found that if I just lie down for a few hours, it will go away. And this person says, Why would you suffer for three hours when you could just take something now and it would go away? That's just crazy!

Let me tell you how few people accept the idea that I just prefer to tolerate the pain and find alternative methods for dealing with it. And let me tell you how tired I am of being told how I SHOULD feel; what I SHOULD do when it comes to pain that is natural and even necessary.

Any savvy reader here who's been following my latest blog entries is going to figure out what I'm really writing about, and maybe if I find some courage to face the inevitable onslaught of responses that I'm likely to get, I'll come out and talk about it directly.

But for now, I just want to say, it's very easy to fall into the habit of offering what you think is just your experience, but is really your biased opinion phrased in such a way as to make others feel judged. And to that I say: take your opinion and shove it (down someone else's throat).


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

For another month or so I have the luxury of indulging in a world of beliefs about how I will (co) raise this forthcoming child who, depending on which belief is strongest on a given day, either chose us on some spiritual level, or wound up with us much the way you plant a finger blind on a map and see where you'll end up.

For another month or so I can assume I know the right way to do things; can believe that every time I've seen another set of parents doing something I didn't agree with, I will now get my chance to do it better.

For another month or so I remain essentially the same. Familiar.

So strange to think how normal this is...creating life, becoming someone's parent.

But it's okay to be awed the first time around.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Princess Cake

I never before understood the appeal of these domed mountains of cake covered in typically pink icing so fluorescent it looked sure to give cancer. I didn't like the connotations of "princess," either--like you must have been Daddy's favorite little spoiled brat to even be worthy of such a cake.

And dear friend Christine had one made for my baby shower, in a slightly less offensive shade of blue:

WHY did I not know that there was thick rich custard and whipped cream inside a perfectly moist almond cake heightened by raspberry filling? Or more importantly, wasn't I safer when I held my prejudice against them?

The phrase "too much of a good thing" rings loudly now in the aftermath of my cake hangover.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Are you a Fritterer or a Savorer?

What are the ways that you waste time?

How about the ways that you savor it?

Do you think about these differences? Having worked from home for over three years now, I'm keenly aware of time. For the first couple years I was amazed at how much I could fit into a day: gardening, cooking, writing for pleasure, writing for work, cleaning, walking downtown, visiting with friends, exercising. I took full advantage of my newfound freedom from a restrictive office-based schedule. But slowly I have managed to fritter just as much time away as I save. Most often by sitting staring at my computer screen, caught between activities. I go into a kind of trance that I must literally wrench myself from. I've taken to opening the project I must work on right away, so that in the first pause after screen-glaring, I will see that project blinking at me like a puppy waiting to be walked.

So I've decided to try and savor time more. The way to do this, I've found, is to put fiction writing first, even if I'm "not in the mood." Then to move on to quality time in the first project on my list, and then, to take a break. In that break I can swim or eat or walk downtown or see a friend or even a couple of those things. Strangely, when I give myself that break, I actually manage to get more done and the day feels less wasted and there is a whole lot less glazy-eyed frittering going on.

How about you? How do you balance your time?


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kill Your Television (remember that old bumper sticker!)

I realize that the TV writer's strike was a huge gift to me. At first, I'll admit, I was irritated because I was hooked on a bunch of shows, most of them trashy or inane, just like a junkie. I'm a sucker for character studies and ongoing stories so I gave precious hours to Grey's Anatomy and Dirty Sexy Money and American Idol (last year). Now I'm not saying these shows are all bad, in fact sometimes they've been really good, but in the wake of having little to watch on TV I started reading again. I mean with consistency and joy. The kind of reading where, as soon as I've finished a book, I must immediately find another one because I get so much out of it. I've probably read more books since the writer's strike began than I did in a year of graduate school. In fact, often now I'll even try to watch TV, and find myself picking back up the waiting book.

Now that these old shows are returning to the air, I find myself irritated. Do I really want to get back into the habit? I let American Idol fall by the wayside this year and let me tell you what a relief that has been! I'm so glad not to care who's made it, who's going to get exploited by the obscenely uber-rich Simon Cowell, squashed, humiliated, and then arbitrarily pumped up for a measley million bucks, only to fade into obscurity again. I realize that on some level, I have actually always hated that show. I know that sounds odd, considering how lavishly I once watched it, but I'm serious...something about it always made me feel kind of ill.

I don't begrudge others who watch their TV. I admit I watched all 8 of the new episodes of Lost online (I never stay up to watch it live). But overall I really don't miss TV. In fact, unless there's something really innovative or informative on, I sort of resent its existence.
The thing is, when times get tougher, as they are in the American economy, I think people turn more to their escapism than ever before. So I imagine that a post like this will get largely ignored, but that's okay. It's also coming from a place of thinking about our coming child and how we want him to be raised in relationship to TV. Like many parents, I'd rather he be out playing than on his ass watching crap.

So today's moral is: go read a book. You'd be amazed what's out there, or "in there" really, in the world of your mind. As one of my favorite writers, Paul Auster says, "Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy." (Though non-fiction is great too...whatever it takes!)

Some of my recent favorites:

No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy

Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Helping Me Help Myself, Beth Lisick

Peace Like a River, Leif Enger

Madapple, Christina Meldrum

Falling Under, Danielle Younge-Ullman

Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (not that she needs any advertising)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Writer's Callouses

I've always said I work well under pressure. Here with less than two months to go before Operation Life-As-We-Know-It-Changes, suddenly I've gained newfound energy to work on my fiction again. As in finishing this novel draft with the intention of putting it under critical eyes.

I had a great lunch/hangout with one of my newest friends, Erika Mailman, who is a published author, a new mother and a wonderful person. (I've just finished her truly stellar novel The Witch's Trinity and I can honestly and proudly recommend it and am eager to read her first book, Woman of Ill Fame). I really enjoy her company and realize now that she was wonderfully patient with her as I scrolled through my history of "near-hits" in the world of publishing, the lessons I learned with my first agent, and the peaks and valleys of having two books receive "positive" rejections and a couple of "almosts." In retelling my story, I realized that, though I'm still an unpublished novelist, I have come close and with persistence and revision, I still can get there. Getting back on the horse should be the number one learned activity of any serious writer. We should all have callouses between our thighs! (Read that how you will, know what I mean).

So, I heave my gravid body back up on this rowdy stallion and I hold onto the reins, fearfully but with courage too, and I'm off...

Publishing is a wily industry and paths to success are far more crooked and blocked by unexpected obstacles than many new writers would ever expect. There is no such thing as an overnight success!

Monday, April 07, 2008

On Being a Hider

I think the reason I will always prefer writng fiction to person essay or memoir writing is simple: to write a good memoir piece, whether short or long, requires raw, often embarassing levels of honesty. In fact, allowing yourself to look bad, to be messy and pliant on the page is rather a necessity of the form, I think. Nobody cares if you're a saint, or have made a ton of great decisions--what people want is to be reminded that you are as damaged and nuts and silly and human as they are.

And who the hell wants to admit that?

Well, some great writers actually. I finally got myself to read Elizabeth Gilbert's bestselling memoir of her yearlong journey through Italy, India and Indonesia, Eat Pray Love--one of those books I walked the line on for so long purely because of its popularity (a stupid habit I've cultivated). And I really enjoyed it, far more than I expected--especially when she was baring the more vulnerable parts of herself or being self-deprecating. I wish I had this talent on the page. Apparently I'm the master of self-deprecation when I give a presentation, but that's to deflect from my nervousness.

And I don't mind making a fictional character appear weak or messy--in fact, I probably need to learn how to write stronger characters--ones who demonstrate more of the positive qualities on the scale of human experience. I guess you could say I'm a hider. I don't want you to see my shame and my weakness and my faults, but I suspect that if you read all of my unpublished novels, you'd know what they were anyway :)


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Morning Song

It is National Poetry Month, and for some reason this poem is on my mind today (for probably obvious reason), so I'm going to share it with you:

Morning Song by: Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements. Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A cool site called DIY Planner (Paper, Productivity and Passion) has reviewed Write Free. Here is a choice tidbit from the review:

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Buy your copy HERE.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Numb and Dumb

There is nothing like having a baby imminently on the way to prompt vast and elaborate ideas for the future that you know you will not have time to do. My brain is so infuriating this way. Where were you when I had luxurious hours of time, my wily little synapses? Where were all your big plans then?

Sure, suddenly the book ideas, the online courses, the workshops and plans are popping into bloom like gorgeous summer fruit and there is nothing I can do except write them down and look at them wistfully and think "someday, oh yes, someday."

That sounds as though I blame my baby for the time his rearing will soon take, but I don't. I blame my devious mind that goes numb and dumb when I need it most and then becomes productive when it's least effective. Uncool!

I guess I should be grateful I still have ideas.