On Writing, 7 July 19

From Little Summit on Mount Constitution

Every now and then, I reflect on why I write, what I love about writing, and what is true for me now.

Here’s what I’m thinking today . . .

I crave order, and I find order by working on a project. Sometimes writing doesn’t feel like the process has any order.

My happily ever after endings are never perfect but always satisfying.

New ideas glimmer like promises on the water’s surface, but upon closer inspection, most of them lack depth.

Depth can be created.

Layers infuse while revising. I liken this experience to a complex and beautiful garden or a really great meal. All the senses work together and the journey finds a trail and satisfying destination.

Dare Mighty Things

On a visit to JPL last year, I saw this sign in a building:

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I’m not a scientist, not even close. I am in awe of all things inventive and new about science. I love the realm of possibility.

Dare Mighty Things doesn’t even make sense exactly. I mean, how do you dare a thing? Yet, that’s one of the reasons why I like the sign so much.

My sons and other members of my family have science brains. They can wrap their heads around abstract possibility, force, nature, numbers. I stand back and nod in awe.

Innovation leads to success,

Yet, failure is also a huge part of innovation.

Daring means things go wrong too. Mighty doesn’t always happen.

I cannot create an alternative fueled spaceship or navigate rovers on planets, but I can write.

The past few years I’ve had my own version of spectacular rockets blowing up.

Years of work on novels end in fiery ruin.

I stare at the pieces and start over,

Do it again

And again

And again.

Sometimes, it gets hard,

Painfully, wretchedly hard.

But what other choice do I have?

I have to create.

I have to write.

I cannot stop.

When I face that blank screen, the possibilities swarm through my brain.

My own version of space travel starts when my fingers hit the keyboard.

To possibility and beyond! 

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.


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?