Monday, September 05, 2011

September 5th

A cool breeze is lifting the parade of flags posted up and down the boulevard I live on. The sky is a blanket of chalk blue with cloud smudges at the horizon. The light is sharply angled so that every leaf looks greener and every shadow defined. Everything looks cleaner than it did in last week's 100 degree heat. I unearthed my blue jeans for the first time since May and walk outside assured I will not break into a sweat before I reach my car parked 15 feet away in the driveway.

September 5th, is apparently, the idyll of weather in central Illinois.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Simple times

My skates were a heavy metal with four wheels on each foot. I had a skate key which I kept on a very long, rather grubby, shoe string around my neck. You turned the key until the jaw-like toe end opened enough so that your foot could fit into the skate, with your sneakers on. Then you tightened it up again, slowly. You buckled the angle straps. Then you carefully stood up and started zinging across the pavement. Gathering speed until you could coast.. Coasting on smooth driveways, newly poured, was tops. But each type had its pleasures. If you were going fast enough, you could even glide over the occasional white rock driveway. The vibrations would go straight from the arch of your foot up your legs to your center. Sometimes I felt it even in my forehead.

The ultimate was getting over to the grade school where skating on a huge covered porch felt more like ice skating. I could do figure eights or race my friend with the brick wall as our finish line.

I remember using those skates in my childhood basement. My mother would be ironing in one quadrant, the clothes would be tumbling in another. The bulky ping pong table and my brothers collection of 'Three Dog Night' albums were part of my roller obstacle course. I'd zoom between the studs of the roughed-in (but never finished) bathroom, around the furnace, and when things got dicey, I'd roll onto the ancient area rug in one corner.

My mother's ironing smelled clean and the steam iron made a lovely hiss each time she placed it back on its butt end. I would rest a bit, then get back to rolling around in circles. Thinking about the open shower drain, or the freezer full of goodies on one wall. Thinking about my peace sign necklace that I treasured contemplating if it was perhaps time to switch to cartwheels in the front yard or perhaps a trip on my bike to the nearby convenient store to purchase a candy necklace.

Decisions. Decisions.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Courage: Part One

I found a Borders Gift Card in my top dresser drawer last week and, considering their sad situation, I decided I'd better go use it immediately to good purpose. While browsing the shrinking inventory I found a book on writing that is worthy of mention here. It is called "The Courage to Write" by Ralph Keyes. Subtitle, "How Writers Transcend Fear".

First I must admit I am only on page 42. Only about one fourth in. Somehow I can finish any fiction book in 24 hours (who needs sleep?) but with non-fiction it is a slower journey for me.

I have found this book affirming. Many of the pages and examples are from and about published authors. What? To think this anxiety, this feeling of extreme vulnerability that comes from presenting a few sentences for anyone else to read, is universal? And that it won't go away when the agent, editor, and public finally discover my work?

Ok, in some ways it is a hard little lesson too. Much easier to envision all my problems will be solved by (trumpets sound effect)...publication. All fears washed away. To instead read over and over again that this isn't true, that authors continue to feel nauseous levels of self-doubt almost every day, even on their twelfth novel. Even if they sell well.

But I feel both enlightened, and lightened. As if a truth has been revealed. And as if the burden of "pretending to be a real writer" were lifted -- they are all pretending. We are all pretending.  

I will continue to batter my way through job woes, back-to-school time crunch, moving one daughter into college and hopefully share further on this book. And on courage in general. Where to find it. How to keep it from drifting away.


Progress towards goals, this week:
     Finished "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion
     Read "Between the Tides" by Patti Callahan Henry
     Movies I saw: "The Help" (give it a solid 'A') and "True Grit"

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Planned Denial

Things I have done this week to encourage the seed of the desire to start writing again I discovered last week:
  • Started following the blog "Writer Unboxed"
  • Started following the blog "Writing with Style"
  • Started taking notes on characters and setting for my next novel
  • Started purposely daydreaming in my daily commute, picturing myself writing. Picturing myself revising. Picturing myself happily writing without any dread of outcomes.
  • Finished reading two novels, "Solomon's Oak" by Jo-Ann Mapson and "Life is Short but Wide" by J. California Cooper.
I'm purposely focusing on the pleasant parts of writing.  I know reality will eventually set in. But my little seed of desire could easily blow away in the wind, so for these early weeks, I'm allowing myself to just enjoy things. Kind of like the joy of pushing your cart through miles of perenials and annuals at the greenhouse in May. Imagining the beauty to come in your own front yard, ignoring the invasive weeds, whining mosquitos and the occasional dead bird you encounter in actually gardening.

I'm denying any possibility of the insecurity felt while you allow someone to read your work, the doom of knowing everything you have written is horrible, and the frustration at your beautiful thoughts coming out on the page in a tangled mess.

I still feel my seed is in the seed packet and not even planted let alone watered, so for now I'm going to stick to strictly non-reality shows in my mind. Here's to living in denial -- at least for a while.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Failure is Just a Label

"Failure is just a label we place on events." A quote from this morning's sermon. And it fits in nicely with all the parts of the universe that are clicking into place again for the re-birth of my writing life.

When I say 're-birth' I'm not talking about a rip-smacking new 10 pound baby boy. I'm talking more like a firefly. Small and persistently trying to shine a light over my few blades of grass in the world.

I have some seriously different goals. I am approaching writing this time as an avocation. Something I love to do and that I want to spend time doing. It is not a new 'career'. I do not ever expect to quit my day job to write full-time. Well, I guess I expect it with about as much likelihood as winning the Illinois Lottery.

I'm resuming writing as a practice that brings me fulfillment, microcosms of sanity, and a fresh perspective on many things that happen in life.

As such I'm changing the title and subtitle of this blog. While getting a novel published is definitely still one of my long-term goals, I choose to move my emphasis from 'becoming a writer' to 'writing'.

Thus, a new look, a new title. It is back-to-school season which makes us all yearn for unmarred green spiral notebooks and bic pens that slide across those pages. Fall is always my time to turn over a new leaf, and so here I am, again. See that leaf turning? I can feel it.

In joy --