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Archive for April, 2009

Freedom

I read this article a few days ago and had to share it. It’s all about freedom from technology. From social networking sites. Time suckers I call them. Ron Carlson says that email and the internet are incredibly dangerous to a writer. If you are writing on a computer, you are a mere click away from an entire world of distractions. One little click and you’re off. Off track. Off topic. Off your game. Off your writing goal for the day. I love the idea of an application that cuts you off from all that distraction for whatever time limit you impose. I like the idea of it and the fact that it must be a universal problem and not just me. It’s always helpful to feel you’re not alone in your bad habits or weaknesses.

I don’t have the freedom application but we are leaving on vacation today and I’ll let that be my freedom app. No checking e-mails from the road. No facebooking. No blogging or reading blogs. No lists of things to do each day. Even my workout routine is getting a break. I’ve been working out every day for the last two weeks in anticipation of not working out at all next week. I am bringing sneakers for some walks or maybe even a gym at the hotel and a swimsuit for the pool. It’s all about freedom from my usual routine.

And the books I am bringing with me (always a critical decision):

“The Echo Maker” by Richard Powers (for book club)

“No One You Know” by Michelle Richmond (library book)

“Livability” stories by Jon Raymond

“American Wife” by Curtis Sittendfeld

“This is Not Chick Lit” stories edited by Elizabeth Merrick (maybe)

So I’ll be back the week of April 13, creatively refreshed. I’ve been thinking of making some big changes to this blog. Give it a different look. A different focus. Maybe this break with inspire me.

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Books Read in March

“A Mercy” a novel by Toni Morrison
Don’t be afraid. My telling can’t hurt you in spite of what I have done and I promise to lie quietly in the dark – weeping perhaps or occasionally seeing the blood once more– but I will never again unfold my limbs to rise up and bare teeth.

A slender novel that packs a powerful punch. Each chapter alternates between different characters and each voice is unique and distinguishable from the others. The story takes placer in the 1680’s when slavery was just beginning. Florens is the only character who tells her own story of looking for love after being handed over to Jacob as partial payment for a bad debt. The novel tackles slavery, religion, prejudice, smallpox but the at the heart of the story is a mother who does what she has to in order to save her daughter, Florens, and a daughter who may never recover from that deed.

“The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation” stories by Elizabeth Berg
I began at Dunkin’ Donuts. I hadn’t gone there since I started Weight Watchers a year ago because I had to lose weight; my doctor made me go.

In spite of the light-hearted title, these stories are anything but. They dive deep into the food and body obsession most girls and women experience at some point if not most points in their lives. The characters range from young girls to middle-aged women to old women nearing the end all struggling with choices they’ve made, food and otherwise.

“The Man of My Dreams” a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld
Julia Roberts is getting married.

I love the way this novel is structured. Each chapter reads like its own complete story. It gave me so many ideas for my own book that I had to go out and buy my own copy instead of relying on the library copy I had. While I was there I picked up her two other novels as well. She just gets inside Hannah’s head in a way I wish I could get into my own character. I’ll be reading it again with pen in hand.

“Now You See Him” a novel by Eli Gottlieb
At this late date, would it be fair to say that people, after a fashion, have come to doubt the building blocks of life itself?

Two things drew me to this book. First I had read one of his stories in BASS and loved it. Second, two of the characters are writers and we all know I love reading about characters who are writers. It was in the mystery section of the library but I’d have to say it is a literary mystery, meaning it didn’t feel like a genre story. The characters had too much depth. I think of mysteries as being motivated by plot. This story is motivated by characters. Deeply flawed, struggling characters. So it has the best of both: characters I cared about and enough happening that it kept me quickly turning the pages to find out what happens next.

“Zen in the Art of Writing” by Ray Bradbury
Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them.

I know I’ve owned this little gem of a book at some point but can no longer find my copy so I borrowed it from the library, once again restraining myself from underling in it.

The entire book is filled with zest and gusto. It oozes off each and every page. And it has me wondering if maybe I am not writing what I should be writing. It should be more fun and normally I hate the word “should” but really, shouldn’t it? I mean, I am not making a living at it so if I am going to spend my time doing something, it should at least be fun. Or maybe I am confusing fun with joy. I love getting lost in a story. I love finding the story buried beneath pages of scribbles. I love discovering the perfect word or sentence. All that brings me joy.

I love what he says about plot:

Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. that is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic.”

The main thing I got from this is that he enjoys the process of writing. Not just enjoys but revels in it. He would sit down to write for the day and have no idea what he was going to write so he’d just start typing words. Free associating until that thing, that kernel emerged and he was off and running. Or writing.

I’ll definitely have to find my old copy or go out and buy a new one. This goes back to the library today and I already miss its energy.

“What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” a memoir by Haruki Murakami
I’m on Kauai, in Hawaii, today, Friday, August 5, 2005. It’s unbelievably clear and sunny, not a cloud in the sky.

Running and writing are the two threads woven tightly throughout Murakami’s life. One balances the other. One feeds the other. He says that beyond talent, the two most important qualities a writer needs are focus and endurance both of which he learns over and over again through his training for marathons, ultramarathons and triathalons. He writes:

“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life_ and for me, for writing as well.”

He continually sets goals for both his writing and running whether it is to finish a novel in a certain amount of time or to never walk in a marathon. His dedication is inspiring. I felt an urge to underline so much of this book but since it’s a library copy, I restrained myself. But I will be buying my own copy where it will go on the shelf of books I go to again and again for motivation.

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