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It may look like I’m staring into space…

because I am.
Most of my work right now is taking place in my head and so I look like I’m not being productive. Actually I’m not being productive if you take that word apart and try to find what I’m producing. Not many words, some vague ideas, some inklings and notions.

What I’m getting at is that I need this…this unproductivity, this lack of externally verifiable semblance of work. But I have to be careful to differentiate between moodling and flaking, active waiting and complete avoidance.

Every day it’s a challenge, to be honest. And it’s easy to be distracted (hello internet, how’s your day?) and easy to take the first thought-train that comes while I’m standing at the station, before sunrise and in the wind, waiting for a very specific, very variable and periodic locomotive with no predetermined schedule. Fickle, anyone? The driver of my locomotive, who has trained his whole life for the job might be justifiably let down when I’m off gallivanting with the driver of the train called “Weird Things People Make With Bread Dough” or the one headed toward, “Gee I Think I Need Another Gingerbread Cookie.” He pulls into station after station and only gets a glimpse of my retreating back.

I worked on GOTS through the first two or three weeks of NaNo and then realized I needed to sit with the story some more. Only I didn’t know it in exactly that term – I just felt stalled, like there was obviously something that needed to happen, but I didn’t know how to get there. I hadn’t done the level of planning needed for the mid section of the story and so had no idea where to go with it.

Attempts to just sit down and get it planned didn’t work either, for the most part. But rather than sitting down to focused planning time, I sat down and then did other things when brilliant ideas weren’t immediately forthcoming. And very few of those other things were productive, or if they were, they were productive of things other than my story.

I’ve stalled before, had creatively dry phases and times unpopulated by ideas or the drive to fulfill them. I used to worry when things went quiet, afraid there was nothing left, that the few things I’ve written, the scattering of handicrafts and small collection of drawings were all there really was, that there might really be nothing more I was capable of. Actually, I still do worry, only I think I’m getting better at my practice of letting the process go where it needs.

This week and next the kids are home from school and that does make it difficult for me to work.  I wish it weren’t so but I need space and some degree of undistractedness to write the way I want.  Perhaps a lot of my inconsistency comes from not being able to give myself the kind of situation I need in which to write – I have to really struggle to find it.  The dangerous result is that I pick up the message, quite clearly, that if real life isn’t aligning in my favor and if I’m not writing what I want, then it obviously means I am incapable of writing what I want and I don’t have any support in the matter.  In fact those are such distinctly different things, a logical fallacy that incorrectly links cause and effect, and I’m working on separating them, merely for my own mental health.

Just before the kids got out for Christmas break I stopped at the university library to see if it might work as a “studio,” and it looks like it might be a good option.  So, after the new year, I’ll be giving myself the courtesy of a schedule and a workspace so I can get back to my poor dangling story.

>Because I need my hand held

>I have a long history of crippling self-doubt.  There’s no need to subject you to its psychological geneology but it’s a large part of the oyster-seed that has created the calcified/chronic response of depression.

I’m trying to make this a relatively brief post so as to not bore you completely with what could pass as complaining about the “creative process.”  And I know, too, that I’ve muttered on and on about G.O.T.S. without progressing with its creation.

Fundamentally, G.O.T.S. is tightly entwined with my need to explore creative process (while being careful to not be distracted by it so that I spend all my time reading about theory and none of my time engaging in practice), a need that is legitimate as I’m trying to be mindful about what makes good practice for me.  It’s also related to my tendency to doubt my capacity for attaining any sort of ability to offer something good to the world.

So, I keep working on the thing that scares me – writing a novel, noticing when I shy away, when I drop the project and when I pick it back up.  Writing a novel scares me because somewhere along the line I came to the conclusion that my boring, suburban, average upbringing did not imbue me with any storytelling capacity, that story is a foreign thing to me, that I’m not really imaginative enough or persistent enough or smart enough to learn how to work with it.  Sometimes I make excuses like, “oh I’m more of a poet than a storyteller,” and that might be true, but I know how to write and I know how to learn and there’s really nothing but myself stopping me.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a student of Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways online course.  In the past I’ve only ever gotten about halfway through it before stopping and stalling.  It’s possible that I’ll stop and stall several more times.  But I’m not letting that permanently stop me.

Holly’s doing a course walkthrough right now – she’s basically writing a book with all of us in tow and at her side (and running to keep up) and so I’m back at it as well, grateful that there’s a chance to do this with someone holding my hand.

Periodically I’ll be posting what I learn this time through.  I don’t know how much of G.O.T.S. I’ll post because I haven’t a clue what I’ll want to do with it in the end (yes, there will be The End, dammit!) and so I have to be careful about posting in case I cross the bridge of seeking publication.  Maybe tidbits here and there, though, and, as I’m always good for posts about process (you’re not too weary of it yet are you?), there’s bound to be some of that thrown in here.

beginning (again)

>One of the writing paths I follow is influenced by Zen Buddhism as interpreted by Natalie Goldberg, whose Writing Down the Bones woke me up to writing truth out of experience, without allowing the judging mind to intercede.  Fueled by mindfulness practice, this type of writing requires awareness of the immediacy of lived experience.  It’s free to be exactly what it is: from the minutiae to the expansive but writing it doesn’t mean only repetition of lifeless facts.  Creation is involved.

Creation is, of course, a beginning, but it’s only recently that I’ve actually let that sink in after years of struggling with the act of beginning.  It’s easy to not begin, to not sit down and do the work, to avoid it in favor of the vacuuming.  Many who have written about writing,  from Dorothea Brande to Anne Lamott, have already said this.  Yet the beginning – and not just the beginning of a story or poem, but the actual beginning of the day’s creation no matter where you are in the project – is the hardest part.   Rituals are helpful tools, like on-ramps to a freeway that allow no exit, that solidify your commitment to travel.  They can be applied across disciplines and to suit your needs.  For example,  in The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp has written about her daily ritual of getting up and dressed and hailing a taxicab.  The hailing of the taxicab sets her in motion to spend two hours exercising at a gym.  She says:

First steps are hard; it’s no one’s idea of fun to wake up in the dark every day and haul one’s tired body to the gym.  Like everyone, I have days when I wake up and stare at the ceiling, and ask myself, “Gee, do I feel like working out today?”  But the quasi- religious power I attach to this ritual keeps me from rolling over and going back to sleep.

It’s vital to establish some rituals –  automatic but the size of patterns of behavior — at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, are going the wrong way.

There’s a reason I say on my profile page that I’m  “beginning (again) with writing practice” and that’s because creativity is made up of beginnings – the most challenging thing ever.  But all I have to do is start.  Something always follows.  Obsessing about it, ignoring it, avoiding it and postponing it are all impediments to recognizing the fact that creative activity is made up of a million beginnings.

So far this year, my ritual is to go to the library.  That’s worked well for me in the past and it seems to be very helpful this time around too.  Once I’m at the library I feel I’ve entered productive space, that it’s a place to be quiet and focused and since I’m not interested in checking out more books (in deference to the pile next to my bedside), I only have what I’ve brought with me to keep me occupied.  Unpacking the backpack and setting up the table space clears the field and reminds me of what I’m doing, what I want to pay attention to.  Then I do the same with the writing: pay attention.

Author Oriah Mountain Dreamer writes,

“I begin with what is, and I am surprised as I write to feel my way into a wholeness, finding connections that are created as I write, stumbling across insights that remind me of what matters and allow me to simply be with what is.  The Danish writer, Isak Dinesen wrote, “All suffering is bearable if it is seen as part of a story.”  Stories, songs, images help us be with what is.

I am reminded, through her words, why it is important to keep starting, to keep starting over if necessary, but just to start, each day, by paying attention:

We create as a way to be with what is hard and beautiful and unexpected without closing our hearts or pretending something else is true…And as we create we make it all – the sorrow and the joy, the failed efforts and the places of ease – count.  Our stories and images and sounds create, explicate, or point to a deeper meaning that helps us receive, celebrate, and be fed by beauty and bear what is hard.

A friend in my writing groups said last week:  “So much cannot be known, as Story is creating itself.”  And I understood too that we are meaning, being made, as much as we are trying to find the meaning.

In the process of working on the G.O.T.S. project (which I am, though it didn’t manifest during NaNo), I’ve been aware of how the writing demands something of me, requires that I be open to the ways it can shape me, even as I try to understand the ways it wants to be shaped.

George recently shared an excerpt from  Listening to Your Life, by Frederick Buechner and this sentiment is relevant here.  He’s writing about literature in this sentence, but the excerpt opens up to include all art.  Buechner writes:

From the simplest lyric to the most complex novel and densest drama, literature is asking us to pay attention….In sum, pay attention to the world and all that dwells therein and thereby learn at last to pay attention to yourself and all that dwells therein.

So in spite of some stray thoughts that would like to demand that my writing fulfill certain objectives (all related to utilitarian things), that I remember to “be productive” and try to be “successful,”  I’m finding there’s  a rich undercurrent that is impervious, disconnected from all that and that it’s this undercurrent that makes writing and creative work the absolutely necessary thing it is.

G.O.T.S. progresses slowly becauseof its progress.  In some ways it is itself because of the inner work I’ve done in the past year.  And the inner work, bolstered by readings, by exploratory writing, with feeling my way along a heart-centered path, is what will allow the project to take the form it needs in the time it needs.  It is made of little beginnings and each next step and the next one after that, every whole joining others, forming a connected, beginingless whole.

what G.O.T.S has turned into

>Wow.  In spite of being extremely unprepared, I’ve managed to make my targeted word count for two days now.  This feels like a humongous feat because I really have no idea what I’m writing.  That means, of course, that I’m having to relax into the idea that I’m writing rubbish and it’s ok – at least I’m writing.

Now, it’s not that I think GOTS is rubbish, rather that my last-minute decision to participate combined with the fact that I took the necessity of starting from scratch as a chance to re-formulate the story have created  a situation where I’m in the middle of preliminary re-planning even as I’m trying to write 1667 coherent words on the newborn storyline.

A number of things have changed in the story, including my main character’s age  and family structure, the location, and even the era in which the story takes place.  I’m having to balance the need to plan quickly and lightly for each day’s writing while recognizing that due to the era and location shift, I’ve got a fair amount of information that needs to be researched.

It appears that I never posted anything about what the story was actually about… and since coming up with a synopsis is part of what I worked on today, I thought I’d share the Before and After one-sentence synopses for the project that will consume a fair portion of my brain and time for the next 28 days.

Here’s the Before “photo”:    A dubious fairytale ally helps a little girl far from home discover the path to recovery from the trauma of a car wreck that left her uncle in a coma.

And, After (with only 5 words in common!):  A dubious fairytale ally gives a gifted student the means for her father’s recovery from a serious accident but immanent homelessness requires giving up childish dreams to support her family during the Depression.

I’m hoping things start to pull together and I can share excerpts or two.  Actually I kind of liked some of the writing from the other version too and even though they go nowhere, I was thinking it’d be fun to put them up too and just see what folks think.

Ok, I’m just thinking out loud.  I need to go to bed so I can get up early to write a bit before heading to San Francisco to pick Dantseng up for his couple-days’ visit before a meeting.

and then comes winter

>I do talk about the weather a lot – but not because it’s filler for a lapsed conversation.

Michelle mentioned in her comment to my Leaves Leave, Fall Falls post that in her part of Australia the traditional culture conceived of the year encompassing six seasons.  I’m drawn to ways of thinking that push boundaries, and I like to consider that there may not be four set seasons as well.  Here, I usually just think we have two, though there are other changes manifest through the year.  In some ways we seem to only have Dry and Rainy seasons.  Rainy is the start of the new year – usually about now (in fact it’s started to rain in the last week or so and everything I said about dry heat is now over).  It straddles the months of (approximately) November through April, though rains extend sometimes from October until June as they did this past year.  But by Rainy, I don’t mean a monsoon season – just that we might get rain.  Dry, then, is the complementary side of the circled-year: May/June through October/November.

That’s the supporting structure of our “small seasons” – the ones that look like April’s winds that dry the long wild oats to a silvery golden green and give “horse-waves” to the hills; or the still warm “autumnal” days with a few drifted-in-from-the-coast showers.  This season now, of the leaves still shaking on the trees and a last few, warmer, short-sleeved days is different from January’s long grey sunless stretch.

The other day I came across a booklet I picked up at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park – the graphic comes from a study called the Warm Springs Cultural Resources Study, and shows the local conception of the seasons and how certain plants are indicative of seasonal changes.

The area from which this information came is about an hour and a half drive to the west from where I live – still linked and similar to my region, but different in topography and regional details.  It’s interesting to note that for the native people of that region, the calendar was less about weather and more related to the harvest.

In yesterday’s poetry workshop I was introduced to a East Wind Melts the Ice by Liza Dalby who used the traditional Chinese 72 divisions of the year to write a memoir that is engaged in seasonal changes.  I’ve not read it, but I’m interested to, to see what Dalby, who also lives in northern California, can pull from other traditions to relate to this particular place.

I think one of the reasons I’m so interested in seasonal variations is that this awareness makes me feel more connected to a place where, honestly, I don’t exactly feel at home.  I’m not native to this huge Sacramento River valley and I haven’t really come to love the place as it is: developed, flattened, ugly sometimes.  In town there are shade trees and so I can’t see the hills.  It’s like living in a bowl a little bit – or an extremely large serving tray.  I’m originally coastal, from a small open valley that leads to the Pacific but where you can always see hills around you, except to the west where it opens to the ocean’s haze.  Like this area, my hometown region was heavily agricultural and so there was little left in the way of native plants in the immediate vicinity.  But I could ride my bike out of town a few miles and smell the sage and dry grass and wetlands’ willows and then the salt air.  The fact that I don’t absolutely love the place where I live is a bit of a challenge – I want to love it.  I want to live in a place I feel attached to, that feels like home, that is find-able.  Maybe under the paving and buildings and tractor-flattened fields there’s still the pulse of this native place, but I only can find that out at the creek – which is not wild but still retains some wildness.  So I keep trying.

Also, since I filter (if that’s the right word, though I don’t like that it has the connotation of changing that which is filtered)… anyway, since I filter a lot of my experience through the lens of writing, and I have long known that my writing is strongly rooted to land, I tend to be drawn to the intersections of those topics and how they relate to health and creativity and mutual relation with other species.

Today I’m going to get out my G.O.T.S. planning notes and see what I can do to immerse myself in the story idea again.  I had a realization the other day that part of what fizzled the project for me (aside from the fact that I can’t write when the kids are home all day in the summer) is that I’d originally situated it in Stockton (Stockton!!) which is an area I don’t even have the remotest affinity with.  I was trying to make it kind of local, offer something to the region in a way — but honestly, it’s not an area that inspires me, poetically, and even though this is fiction, if I can’t find poetry in it, it’s just not going to work.

So I thought about the places I love around here where the premise of the story could still work, and I realized that in spite of my definite rural tendencies, I love San Francisco and having gone to school and worked there, it’s a place I know far better than Stockton.  So, the idea is in flux – I may be moving the setting of The Golden Orb of the Sun to San Francisco.  Just the thought makes my Muse-mind happier, so this could be a good thing.

Ok, I’m off.  If I don’t crack the mental whip, it’s never going to happen!

lately’s lack of committment


So I have 5 days to decide if I feel confident enough to engage in this year’s NaNoWriMo.  Perhaps you aren’t familiar with the crazy things writers will do to push out yet another page, paragraph, or word, and National Novel Writing Month hasn’t crossed your path.  If that’s so, then you’ll be unknowing no longer.  NaNoWriMo is 30 days (always in November) of writing mania.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in those thirty days (averaging 1667 words per day).  There’s no stipulation on the quality of the writing, only that it be 50,000 words of an original novel-length work undertaken between November 1 and November 30.  The program website has tons of information – forums, worksheets, advice, pep-talks, and just all around good cheer.  In addition, there are regional write-ins and people buddying up to spur each other on with things like word wars (to determine who can write the most in a set amount of time) and plot/character/scene adoptions.

As I’ve mentioned before, I did NaNo in 2008 and ended up with a 112,000 word manuscript.  Owl, who was then in 7th grade wrote 80,000 and Kestral, a first grader, wrote 10,000.  I skipped it last year because we were moving and now I find November is again fast approaching.  And that means that I have an opportunity to kick procrastination and resistance out of the immediate vicinity and dive head first into a fit of mad typing that, on a good day, leaves my inner critic in the dust and puts me closer to a real, finished, story.

I’m hanging back only because I know the reality of daily life – but I’m also remembering that 1667 words (or thereabouts) only took about 1.5 hours a day when I did NaNo last time.

I think I’ll leave it to the last minute to decide – but meanwhile I’ve gotten my planning notes for G.O.T.S. out and have been thinking about how to jump-start my enthusiasm for the story (none of the work I’ve done for this story can be counted for the 50K, so I’ll be starting over, which also gives me an opportunity to re-think some of the story line).  I’ve been looking to see if there’s anyone I could buddy up with (as feeling like I’m doing everything alone is often a huge hurdle) and that may just tip the balance.

As of today it seems I might commit – but I’m even non-committal on the report of whether or not I’m committed….

such as it is, lately…

end of summer resolutions

>Ah, resolutions.  It turns out the ones I made at the beginning of the year didn’t amount to much.  Maybe there’s a reason I never tried to make “New Year’s Resolutions” in the past.  Not that they were really resolutions this year – I did call them goals, though.  Things changed, as usual, and I ended up dropping the Chinese studies completely.  I think I’m kind of burnt out on learning and forgetting and re-learning Chinese.  Whatever.  I don’t have plans to live there at this point and there are other things I’d like to do and learn.  Which gets me to my point here.

Thanks to Bonnie who intersperses her artistic blog posts with ones related to her years of experience as a therapist, as well as my own interests in myth and fairy tale that eventually led me to some of the writings of depth psychologists, I realized I’d like to know more about psychology.  Through MIT’s opencourseware program, I found a complete Introduction to Psychology course (lectures, syllabus, teaching materials, etc.), and through PaperBackSwap I found the textbook for the course.  It was delivered yesterday to the locked mailbox for which I was given the wrong key – hopefully that’ll be fixed today.  That’s one thing I’ll be doing when the kids start school.

I’m also committing to getting more exercise – the hiking and swimming of summer have been great but too sporadic to count for more than just a step into the 90 day program I started this week.  This is my 40th birthday present to myself.  Also, in the fall it ends up being easier to ride my bike for errands – you’d think it’d be easier when the kids are around but they’re honestly kind of lazy 🙂 and it gets hot at mid-day in the summer here!

As I knew it would, the writing practice has really faltered during the summer as well – it’s such a challenge for me to maintain my thoughts, to harvest those tender, elusive words when people are shouting at me across the house or standing at my side insisting I answer whatever question just occurred to them or requesting food (because they didn’t feel like eating the meal we just finished half an hour ago, etc. etc.).  I’ve not been able to train myself to write well (or even to want to write) when others are in the same room even.  I know it’s a handicap, but for some reason I just need (or think I need) consistent stretches of solitude.  I know it’s contradictory that I wrote Call the Rain Home while homeschooling the kids, but it made a difference that we were all working on the same project and made room and time for each other.  I haven’t figured out what my writing goals will be for this fall yet, but I’m thinking that I’ll incorporate G.O.T.S. into NaNoWriMo – even though you can only be an official participant if you work on a completely new project.  I’m still deciding on that.  Regardless, I’ll be re-entering the How to Think Sideways curriculum.  In the meantime I signed up for a local writing “class” – it’s more like a writing group with structured time to write and read (based on prompts) and just get to know other local writers – something that’s been lacking for me.  That’ll be once a week.

These are some of the things I’m looking forward to as the season changes and the days grow cooler.  How about you?  Anything going to change once summer’s over?

patience for the creative spirit

>Yesterday I passed the very arbitrary 1/4-done mark for G.O.T.S. (wrote a whopping 262 words, which, considering the kids are playing loud music and just generally full of spring-break rambunctious/fractiousness, is an amount I have to just accept as being adequate).  I say arbitrary because I actually don’t know how long the whole thing is going to end up being.  The progress meter and its accompanying word count goal are just tools by which I can give myself a visual conception of my “progress.”  It’s nice to see the bar moving along.

I (metaphorically) sit with the sense every day that this is a story that I want to write, that it’s one I need to write and I simultaneously, constantly, wonder if I’m doing it justice.  It’s hard to differentiate between critics:  there’s the one who’s been with me since the beginning of things, just a general sourpuss who sneers at everything, regardless of the quality and then there’s…  maybe there’s another one who knows there’s something much more integral to the story than what I’ve given it so far, who wants it to shine, who wants the story to be carried – on something powerful and simultaneously ego-less, like the sea carries boats.  So far it’s just me, writing a story in which I can’t even figure out how old the main character is (and that’s important as a seven year old is not a ten year old).

If you’re interested in another writer’s analysis of the pressures of publishing and the havoc wreaked on creativity by the market  (if you don’t get enough of it here), I recommend Catherynne M. Valente’s essay, Voodoo Economics: How to Find Serenity in an Industry that Does Not Want You.

In the antiseptic, sour-smelling halls of psychology, there is an entire wing devoted to Anxiety. Within that wing is a dingy corner containing a dry mop and a broken drinking fountain bearing a sign that reads “Please Love Me.” This section is wholly devoted to Writer’s Anxiety…

and she considers why it is most writers are anxious.  I can’t say that I have the experience she’s talking about, as I’m not actively seeking publication…  but maybe the reason I’m not seeking publication is because I know what it entails.  ?  Maybe?  And it’s not that I’m adverse to sharing my writing, it’s just that I know that it might be a very serious challenge to my creative (Muse) mind to have to put up with that kind of pressure.  I seem to have taken out part of the equation completely, by starting with the assumption that I’m not writing anything anyone would want anyway.  It’s pressure enough to write something that I love… to heck with everyone else! So in that regard, I would suggest that there’s a “tier” before Valente’s first among those encompassing Writers’ Anxiety, and that’s the tier in which the writer is aware that she is dealing with something bigger than herself and that it’s the bigger thing that is given primacy.

Matt Cardin, whose site Demon Muse has been helpfully thought provoking and educational for me, quotes Jung in his recent post, and I have to say that though there’s the possibility of getting lost in the label without being involved in the work of being an artist (oh, poor suffering me!), when one is really doing the work (or at least attempting), this holds true:

 The artist is not a person endowed with a free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him.

This past year, since I returned from China, I’ve been exploring how creativity works for me.  These explorations have led me to find inspiring resources and a number of functional tools that I’m learning to utilize.  One of the hardest things to come to terms with is finding a balance between what I’m being asked to do through writing (and having written that, I finally just admitted that I’m being asked to do something, which is kind of a Big Idea) and the fact that I have a lot of other demands to fulfill (most notably single-parenting while Dantseng works overseas).

The irony, that I can easily write blog posts about this when the fictional story doesn’t arrive nearly so easily, is not lost on me.

Valente’s point is absolutely spot-on:

There are more writers today, producing more text, than ever before in the history of the world. It can’t have escaped notice that this entire article is pregnant with the assumption that its audience is primarily other writers and aspiring writers. More books, more blogs, more everything. If everyone with literary aspirations were to, at this very instant, wake up, laugh, and get a banking job, the publishing industry could go for decades, even a century, on just those who are working now, reprints, and endless new editions of the ten most popular books of all time. No one would even notice.

We’re selling steel to the steel barons, kids.
So when I say it didn’t happen, what I mean is that the barons will never look down at me and say: yes, you are what we want. Let’s be honest, I don’t even sell machine-grade steel. I sell Damascus steel, folded and intricate, dug up from the earth, practically useless, desirable only to lovers of the arcane, the beautiful, the old. No one slammed a fist down onto their desk and shouted: what we need here is a woman writer with too much education to natter incomprehensibly about fairy tales! It doesn’t work like that. It’s a ghastly game, trying to predict how an author will perform, betting on her like a horse. And how she runs! As long as she can, she runs. But usually, it’s not that long.

I’ve been questioning myself a lot lately. Questioning my steel, if you will. I choose to write the aggressively strange, almost virulently outside the mainstream. Does this hurt me? Does it, slowly, kill me? I can’t tell. I just can’t. I try to recall Ted Chiang’s words as I was working on this article: “I once heard that, on average, published novelists earn only slightly more than migrant laborers. With prospects like that, why not just write what you want?”

So, more to appease my internal critic than to offer anything of deep meaning to my few readers, I have to say that this is exactly what I’m working on – yes, there’s a manuscript being gradually drawn out, yes the story matters, but what matters too is that I write it in a way that both it and I are made more whole.  This is something that’s required to make an environment where my creativity will even show up to play.  It remains to be seen if I’m premature in asking it to play – many writers work under conditions much more adverse than mine, with demands far more pressing.  So I’m working on making sure my inner artist doesn’t get too spoiled (Oh, I can’t work if I don’t have creamy cotton paper and an antique waterman pen with blue-black ink)… but that it gets what it needs (maybe it does need the blue-black ink… but more likely it just needs a little bit of solitude each day).

I don’t know if any of this will ever be completely intelligible to me – more likely it’s an ongoing investigation with lots of false leads and considerable change in the circumstances as I go along.

Apparently my blog has turned into the corkboard where I pin up all the various clues I come across and how the scene looks from whatever vantage point I have at the time.

Keeping the Critical

>I took the last week and a half off from writing – for a number of reasons (including a gosh-durned cold!), but for the G.O.T.S. project there was only one reason.  I needed to sort out the critical from the non-critical.  It really screwed up my estimated word count and February’s goals, but I’m starting to recognize that no matter how much I agonize over my “unproductive” phases, it doesn’t do to rush them because it’s a sign that my subconscious (Muse) mind is chewing on something important.

So, I need to get over Other People’s Deadlines (which don’t really exist, but which I generate holographically to hang over my head and torment myself with) and just keep on keeping on or keep on mulling if the writing is ready.  Above all, I’m aiming for Enjoyment All Around (for the writer and the reader), not a churn-it-out factory production.

What happened was that I wrote the opening scene and then got stuck with the thought that there were a whole bunch of  details that could be included… (my MC and her uncle were in a car accident)… but I didn’t want to turn this into an ER drama.  Really all the overwhelming details were only peripherally important.  It doesn’t matter what the doctor looks like at this point, or what Jeremy’s GCS was, or how many miles they were from the hospital, or how many forms Kimmie’s mom had to fill out, or what the ambulence drivers were talking about.  But I didn’t know that at first.  I had to let the dust settle so I could find the important pieces again.  Thankfully I trusted the unease that all those details were causing and didn’t write a word about them.  Later if they’re necessary I’ll be more than happy to bring them on stage.

I have to acknowledge and accept that I’m a bit slow – that it took me a week and a half to figure out that I didn’t need to write all those things I didn’t want to write.  But at least I figured it out and I started back to writing today.

I’m still in the process of figuring out if I’m any good at this fiction thing.  When I hit big vacuous spaces like that, when nothing’s coming of all the spinning-in-place, I do worry.  So far, though, I think I’m still a contender…. Just gotta keep on plugging along, though.



Pale sunlight illuminated the guest room, shining weakly onto the faded quilt. The patchwork was still rumpled, but the bed was made and the pillow propped up against the wall. Slowly the indentations in the covers lifted and the heat held in the just-leaned-on flowered pillowcase dissipated. The gradual filling out of the bedding tipped the thick paperback that was still open and with a faint breathy sound the pages flipped shut.
The room was still for a moment and then the frogs in the small aquarium on the dresser blinked, their eyes like bubbles at the shallow water’s surface. They all swam to the side where clay soil piled, climbing out onto the planted moss.
A trill. Then another. Then the chirruping chorus of small frogs filled the room as they came up out of the water, lined up at the glass, climbing each other so they all could see the bed from which Kimmie had just disappeared.