Archive for October, 2006

In Praise of Lists

I like lists. I like making lists of things to do for the day, the week, the month, the year. Lists of stories I have in various stages of progress. Christmas lists. Lists of meals for the week. Grocery lists. I get so much satisfaction out of crossing completed items off my list that I will write something down that I have already done just so I can cross it off. It’s an illness, I know.

So, in the spirit of lists, here are some of the creative endeavors I’ve been involved in since my last post. Photos to follow at a later date since one of the things on my new list of things to learn is how to download and print photos off our new camera. I believe my 12-year old knows how. . .

1. Revised and sent a story off to http://www.literarymama.com. Great on-line journal so check it out. Should hear back within 3 months.

2. Learned to solder. Created two pendants that I then turned into necklaces. I designed two collages for each and sandwiched them between glass slides, taped them, then soldered the edges, making a frame, soldered jump rings on and ta-da- a necklace. Now I just need to get my own supplies so I can do it at home.

3. Did a major revision on an old story, workshopped it today. Attempted to start the rewrite when I got home earlier but decided I just need a little bit of breathing space on this one for now. Trying to sort out the conflicting comments which were all valid and thoughtful.

4. Spent 7 hours yesterday teaching some friends to collage while creating my own assemblage. It is now hanging up in our living room but after looking at it I decided to “revise” it. I am going to take the wings off and create new ones, bigger and separate from the main piece. Each one will stand on its own but all hang together on the wall creating one piece of art.

5. Morning pages most mornings.

6. Yoga most mornings.

7. Worked out all but 2 days.

8. Did the first draft of a monthly 12-page newsletter.

9. Read 5-10 pages of Proust most weekday mornings. (“Swann’s Way”)

10. Read every single story in the “The Best American Short Stories 2006.”


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The Key to Writing

All I can say is thank God for my writer’s group and their objective eyes reading my stories. I spent all week immersed in a major rewrite that I thought I had pretty much nailed. Uh, not so much. It turns out there was too much residue left in from the old version and it marred this draft, resulting in murky motives and shakey dispositions in characters that I didn’t intend. So I am mulling new possibilites, churning what-ifs to see what happens. Which leads me to this: I have discovered the key to writing. Let me clue you in.

There are two actually. The first is one you hear over and over but ignore in hopes that they are all wrong and that you really can learn to write through some sort of osmosis. Well, you can’t. So the first secret is to write. To show up on a regular basis. Every day if possible which I have since September 1 when my great novel writing challenge began. It’s cliché but true: writing begets writing.

Secret number two: walking. There is just something about the rhythm of walking that allows all those characters and scenes you’ve been pouring onto the page because you’ve been showing up everyday, to settle and shift into new patterns, unlocking places in the story that were previously stagnant. The movement of walking allows your story to move. Again, this is something that you cannot just take my word on. You need to experience it yourself. This week during one of my walk so many of the scenes that had been flashbacks suddenly became part of the current story. Then today, after my workshop, I went for a 45 minute walk around Kensington lake where blue water shimmered against the backdrop of fiery leaves and white sailboats. I got back to my car, grabbed a notebook and sat at a picnic table and scribbled two pages worth of what-if questions. Now I may not use all of them but they are enough to get my story moving again and to get me back into the story.

Go ahead. Show up to that blank page every day this week, even if you don’t know what happens next. Especially if you don’t know what happens next. Then walk. Carry the story with you and walk in silence. No tunes. No books on tape. Just you and the story. See what happens.

Every moment is enormous, and it is all we have.
– from “Long Quiet highway”

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Still Filling Pages

The new structure appears to be working. I went to Starbucks on Sunday with my daughter. She did her homework while I did several timed writes, filling at least ten pages in my notebook which is the only point- to just fill up pages.

A few of my favorite books for pulling writing prompts from:

“The Writer’s Book of Days’ by Judy Reeves
“The Pocket Muse” by Monica Wood
“Five Minute Fiction” by Roberta Allen
“The Writer’s Book of Matches- 1,001 Prompts to Ignite your Fiction”- by the staff of “fresh boiled peanuts”

This week I’ve been working on a major revision of an old story. I just finished a draft about five minutes ago. It’s about 6400 words. I’ll take a fresh look at it tomorrow and fix any glaring inconsistencies before sending it out to my writer’s group for our meeting on Sunday. Today I put in about four hours. Yesterday two and a half. Monday about one and a half, and much of that time was spent culling through old files, trying to find a story I felt a spark with and could revise in less than five days. Of course I did all this while doing laundry, fixing meals, running to Jump Rope practice, gymnastics, vlounteering at school during lunch recess for mileage club, helping with homework, signing school papers and caring for the new kitty that showed up on our back deck. Will have to post a photo of her. Too too adorable. Named her Tallulah. Lulu for short. And although cat number one, Zoey, hates her living guts, Lulu still tries to play with her.

Just finished the new one by Cormac McCarthy called”The Road”. It’s the first time I’ve read him and I was blown away. It tells a horrifying but oddly beautiful story of a postapocolyptic America. I especially loved how the prose echoed the physical and emotional landscape of the story- bleak, sparse but hopeful. I literally held a pencil as I read so I could underline certain sentences that took my breath away.

“He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins.”

“Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.”

The whole novel is filled with jewels like these.

The other book I picked up after “The Road” is “Running with Scissors” by Augusten Burroughs. Talk about two books that mess with your mind! It’s been on my bookshelf for a long time but now that the movie is coming out I need to read it. I overheard a woman comment at a bookstore last week that she read the first nineteen pages before throwing it across the room in disgust. Hearing that made me even more curious. I am well past page nineteen and if she was disgusted by those few pages then it’s a good thing she put it down. I don’t find it disgusting but it is extremely disconcerting especially knowing that it is a memoir. And in spite of the bad rap of that genre lately, I am inclined to give the writer the benefit of the doubt until shown otherwise.

I believe that registration is now open for anyone wishing to participate in the official Novel Writing Month that starts on November 1. Check out their website at http://www.nanowrimo.org

A writer’s path includes concentration, slowing down, commitment, awareness, lonliness, faith, a breakdown of ordinary perceptions.
– from “Thunder and Lightning”

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