Drafting, Messy Kitchens, and the Fragility of Life

I’m working on a new project. I’ve written a summary and created character profiles (after a furious vetting process). I think I even discovered the core of the story.

I went on long walks.

I stared into space.

I daydreamed . . .

Now, the time has come where I need to stop thinking and write my first draft.

I confess, I hate writing a first draft. Planning is all kinds of fun, revision has moments of glory, but the first draft? Well, it’s so dreadful and unknown. I’m awkward, like I’m on a first date not sure of what to do or say. I want my writing to be perfect, but what I see on the page is so far from the beauty I first saw in my mind.

You know what I’m talking about: You envision Rembrandt, but you can’t even manage a proper stick figure.

So, here’s what I do when I have to start a first draft:

I PROCRASTINATE

This needs tidying!

There’s vacuuming to do, baking, organizing drawers, bathtubs to be scrubbed, and, of course, all sorts of day job issues to obsess over and suck up my time.

This past week was particularly stressful with all sorts of real world stuff to distract me—day job dramas, the holidays . . .

This past week I also learned the horrible news of the untimely death of a beautiful and talented young woman. I still can’t quite believe I’ll never see her again.

So, this morning I got up at five and opened a new document.

I wrote.

I know it will not be perfect. I will get stuck, and I will wander away from my desk from time to time to do Absolutely Necessary Chores; however, the story has begun, the characters talk, and things happen. Eventually, I will finish.

This past week’s tragedy is a reminder of the value of each passing hour.

I know how I should be spending my time.

I will write this book.

Onward!

Tapping on the Keyboard

For Poetry Month, I decided to share a poem about writing.

My apologies to Edgar Allen Poe for using the “tapping.” (Please don’t send a raven to my door).

 

Raven

 

 

Tapping on the keyboard

Hitting keys to communicate

Discard three hundred words for one

Still Not Happy

 

I lock myself in my room

Labeled antisocial, unconnected, overworked–

Disgusted with the letters I see on the page

Dreaming of the perfect words,

If only the connection could release like fire bolts from fingertips

Something magical

Superpowers!

 

Language sets me free

Imprisons me

Angers me

Excites me

Words worry me

 

Seeking escape

I must act

Make the connection

 

Tapping, tapping, tapping

for something worthwhile.

 

Swan, Swan . . .

Since the sun has been out, and I see signs of daffodils pushing up through the soil, I will go ahead and call it spring. I’m good at creating my own reality.

On a walk on Friday, my husband and I saw trumpeter swans on Cascade Lake.

Hi There!

Such a beautiful morning . . .

As the sun hit the rocks and the sides of trees, steam rose up and slowly evaporated.

  I feel very fortunate to live on such a beautiful island.

This week marks my tenth anniversary of island life.

Sometimes this little rock feels crazy and claustrophobic.

But most of the time this little world feels as vast as the universe.

Possibility

and

Community.

 

I wish you a beautiful early spring.

Milestones

A sunset from Malibu.

The end of the year, and the start of a new one.

The end of one story, and the start of a new one.

Yesterday I completed revising and editing my novel, Never Fall.

The revision process for this particular manuscript felt like an epic journey of sorts, so I felt like celebrating a little. At the very least, I could give myself a pat on the back.

I finished another story.

Well, not quite. For I’m sure more editing and revising will follow.

The process isn’t quite done yet.

Still, I consider my work a milestone. I finished.

On to the next project . . .

Recently, while perusing in-flight television, I happened upon an interview with the director for the film The Artist.

I haven’t yet seen the film, but Michel Hazanavicius captivated me with his passion and commitment to the artistic process.  He emphasized the value of the story and considers this the heart and magic of what captivates us.

I agree.

Story.

The story keeps me falling in love over and over again with the the process of writing.

Today, I embark upon another journey. A new story.

I hope this year will bring you many new stories and milestones.

Happy 2012

Fall into Winter

I meant to post photos I took in November, but I had some challenges getting my photos off my camera.

I’ve solved the problem, so here is fall, a month late . . .

Fall 11I found my eyes following the patterns

The brilliant yellow of this big leaf maple tree

Now, a month later, darkness takes over, so I  appreciate the little glimpses of sunlight

Making magic on the hillside.

Tangled up in Blue

I had to shop for new jeans this past week. I’m not fond of shopping for jeans.

Women’s jeans come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Besides the obvious choices–skinny, boot cut, or flare, I had to decide if I needed a tummy tuck, a uplift (for the back), and a flattering wash (whatever that’s supposed to mean). I remember when I would just buy jeans based on my waist and inseam size. Those days are so over.

Prices run from below $20 to over $200. This is absurd. The expensive jeans promised miraculous changes for my body, and the saleslady assured me  the expensive jeans would make me look fantastic.  I felt less than fantastic when the waist came up to rib cage and my rump looked like an indigo pancake.

I’ve been fortunate enough not to gain much weight as an adult, but I’ve dropped two sizes. How can this happen? Note to jean companies: I am NOT flattered when a size that once fit is now too large. Instead, I am ANNOYED because I have to go out and find another size to try on.

Christmas songs piped into dressing rooms are not comforting when trying on jeans. It also doesn’t help that it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet.

After trying on countless pairs, I finally found a pair that fit well in the juniors’ section for nineteen dollars.

Take that expensive jeans with empty promises!

October Skies

Yes, I’ve been busy.

How about you?

The back to school rush and extra work with my day job keeps my nose to the computer.

I’ve had a few moments to step away and enjoy the fall leaves and the rain soaked smell of earth.

The sweet crunch of an apple.

As the skies start to turn darker and darker, my imagination grows. Halloween–spirits and haunts.

A new set of characters and a story to discover.

 

 

I love this time of year.

 

Fire in the Lawn

My boys in 2001

Visiting this again . . .

Fire in the Lawn

Originally published in Voices & Viewpoints: Writers Respond to September 11th and Beyond.

After watching the firefighters run into the core of Manhattan, my son puts on his firefighter outfit, complete with a dust mask and pretend air talk, and steps out into the yard to spray the garden hose on imaginary fires. I am helpless as I watch my 3 ½-year-old son who is capable of doing more than I can.

Later I watch a concert on television. A band from my youth, U2 performs “Walk On.” The deep creases in Bono’s face show the passage of time. There was a time when I thought music could change the world. In 1985 I woke up early and sat glued to MTV all day watching the first Live Aid broadcast. Bob Geldof and other musicians came together to raise money for the starving in Africa. I went to an Amnesty International concert and watched Bono, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and others perform; they stood up against the wrongfully imprisoned individuals of the world. While zooming down Los Angeles freeways on my way to college, I sang along with Bono.

How long must we sing this song?

 Determined to save the world with my writing, I studied journalism. I would have the power to disclose the evil deeds committed by those who wanted to tyrannize others. I would provide the language and the forum for those who needed a voice. I would be a poet with the power to heal the wounds of the soul. I was convinced of the infallible power of words.

Fifteen years later, I wonder where I lost my idealism. Being a journalist left me hopeless. I grew tired of wading through the mire of injustice and turned to the cleaner task of analyzing literature and teaching college freshmen to write essays. The poetry also sits idle as I look for more lucrative ways to pay my mortgage and keep my children fed. I will not deny I am jaded and my cynicism has its roots in my experiences. I am no longer a young, single woman rising up against the evil of the world. Now I am a mother, yet that is all the more reason why I need to find my lost source of hope.

I watch my son douse the fallen leaves on the autumn lawn. He is putting out the fires of Manhattan, the fires of hate, the fires of injustice. It doesn’t matter that it is only in his imagination. It doesn’t matter at all because he is wholly involved in making a difference the only way he can. Like the real firefighters in New York, he cannot do otherwise.

I step outside and wander around the yard. The season for growing is almost over, but I kick aside the yellow leaves looking for a patch of green. I find myself singing the words of the songs I once sang. I know the grass will return in the spring; it always does. I return to my house with my son’s hand in mine to find some sort of hope in the rubble of this world.

Reading

Why we read

I’ve adored reading fiction since forever and wonder sometimes what it is about reading that keeps me wanting more good books to read.

I know reading can help us learn and make us empathic, but there’s also something magical about the process.

 

I came up with the following list:

 

Reading helps me

 

Understand new ideas

Imagine places

Dream of the impossible

Become a character

Think about things in a different way

Escape from the ordinary (or scary)

Figure things out

 

After I wrote my list, I see the following is also true:

 

Writing helps me

 

Understand new ideas

Imagine places

Dream of the impossible

Become a character

Think about things in a different way

Escape from the ordinary (or scary)

Figure things out

 

Why do you read?