Category Archives: Writing musings

WordPress Insights, or helloooooooo out there…


It’s a weird idea to write a blog. I started this one when blogs were relatively new, and I used to have a separate MS blog (“Musings of a MadSow”) back when blogger was a thing…The latter was a place where I could whine about various things about my Multiple Sclerosis – I’d been newly diagnosed and much seemed unjust and strange at the time. (It still does, mind you – I’m just quieter about it).

This one started as an exploratory thing, writing practice, a place for me to dump my thoughts and see how they floated. I’ve done crazy things with it, like try to write a profile of all those countries you see as you scroll down the lists when you sign up for things…(for ex: https://wordpress.com/post/dorothyanneb.com/1931) – that was interesting – for me anyway – and I still have ever so many countries to investigate. Sadly, many of them will be gone as tidal waters rise. Quite terrifying to see how many places will simply be drowned in the next few years. But I digress…

I’ve written about travels and parenting and dating and living alone, about the pandemic and Christmas and politics. In short, it’s been all over the place, grounded only in my mad brain and its various wobbles.

So it’s been interesting to look at the WordPress analytics and see where I’ve touched people, what seems to interest them, how they responded. It’s worth a look to see what tags grabbed attention, what links made people look.

Oddly, one of the most popular terms that sent people to my site was “heffalumps and woozles”! Who’d have guessed that? In any case I am now going to include a reference to h and w in every blog post just to drive traffic…

Scariest animation ever. Hmm. Reminds me of a certain elephant-themed political party…

I also found out how much I’ve earned from the ads that pop up on the site. I get a minuscule amount per click through and I have made an astounding $1.90!! Almost as good as my Kindle Unlimited income which seems also to be an astonishingly small amount (buy Recycled Virgin here and enjoy contributing to my coffee fund as well?)(You’d also be encouraging me to finish the others in the series which at present are languishing…)

Of course, none of this money is paid out until it reached some astonishing number like $100, a total I doubt I will achieve in my lifetime. One can dream of post-mortem success, but really, who will that help? If there is an afterlife, it must be crammed with artists ranting about how they lived in poverty and look, NOW people pay for their work! It must be tremendously annoying. I imagine Van Gogh is particularly incensed.

Not that I am living in poverty, I hasten to add. If you have extra money, please DO share it with people really living in poverty.

In. any case, I thank WordPress for its lovely analytics and its interesting if somewhat depressing statistics.

Do you blog? What were your most often searched for terms? Do people read your blog? Or is it all for you?

Last night I went to Manderley again, or how excavating one’s old writing can be a godsend


Pandemic blues. That’s what I put it down to, the lethargy caused by being trapped in place, uncertain of the future, a bit frightened of it, eating way too many carbs all day and they waking at 3 AM vowing to do better, only to rewake at 7 and head directly to the carb cupboard.

Actual fog. Mental fog is harder to photograph.

Because carbs. Serotonin. That hormone that makes us feel like we are in love, happy, fulfilled.

Truth is, despite some pretty heavy medication (life on pharmaceuticals! Yay!), I haven’t been feeling the joy much. Even watching my lovely tugboats ease up the harbour doesn’t cheer me, nor the cooling sea breeze, nor much of anything, really.

I’ve spent untold hours playing meaningless video games, read a bunch of books without remembering a single one (well, except Philip Roth and his endless focus on the status of women’s nipples -ugh- leading me to toss his books out with extreme violence…), watched way too many series on various streaming services. I’ve mopped my apartment floors countless times, enjoying the physicality of swinging the mop, the swish of the water over the laminate, the shine afterwards- but woman does not live by cleaned floors alone. The cat avoids me as I lunge at him with a hairbrush for the fifth time that day – he’s too hot to play, and spends his time over-grooming which leads to hair balls which leads to the need to mop the floors…

Not my apartment. Or me. Though it is beginning to look like this around here…

So I’ve decided to use this time to unencumber myself and am sorting through papers and documents and get rid of furniture I don’t like etc etc. In short, preparing myself for a new adventure once the doors finally open and life approximates normal again.

If it ever does. (where are those carbs?)

And suddenly I find my joy, because halloo hallay! I find some of the writing I’ve done in the past and you know what? It isn’t half bad. It’s only half good, true, but it makes me smile as I read it, enjoying my occasional fun description, turn of phrase, dialogue.

Because writing, like art, is a gift from the gods. I love crafting things but there is a special magic in things that come out of my head…without a pattern, with a tilt all my own.

It’s been tantalizing, too, because I am finding bits of paper writings- I know I’ve saved things in the ether, but running across the bits and pieces that are handwritten or printed out makes them seem more real, more immersive. And none of them are complete…leaving me hunting for more chunks here and there and everywhere.

Today I found a bit of a story I was writing about Cuba, one that I was working on when I went to the Humber School of Writers. It made me smile. It heartened me.

Writing begets writing, I’ve always found. And, when I write, I find I see the world more clearly – I am looking for the right word to describe what I see, what I create, what I hear.

It’s time to pull out the writing serotonin again. After all, when writing, I don’t need a mask…

Technology burns, or why I am taking so long getting to editing my novella…


Slo Mo Grey Laptop Computer Overheating And Smoke Coming Out Of It ...I know, I’ve been pushing it. I’ve been alternating between a 2013 MacAir, a 2010 MacMini, and an Iphone 6s for my social media and other time-wasting.  They are definitely showing the strain. So today, as I finally got my mind together to edit, there were so many steps needed to get things organized I am only now settling in at 6 PM.

First, I had to find my carelessly stored document, piled as it was in a variety of formats – Scrivener(only on Mac), Pro-Writing Aid(my editing program), and Pages – I wanted to migrate everything over to my slightly newer Chromebook (it has a (battery) life. And a bigger screen.)

Of course, none of my current writing programs are compatible with the Chromebook. So I save things as text files onto usb keys and physically carry them over to Moby (My ugly white Chromebook is much bigger than all aforesaid tools), to try to open things.

Before I can do that, everything I own tells me they need updates, all requiring time and fiddling and being pluggedin. I update everything.

27 Most Funny Computer PicturesI eat and watch the latest doom updates as I wait. I listen to a webcast over Zoom about editing to get me in the mood. Various pings tell me all is happy land in my various devices, so it’s time to move on.

But changing from Pages to a rtf changes the document to an unreasonable format when opening in googledocs.  Apple really does not play well with others. I suspect Google is equally grumpy. So I have to get a MSWord subscription (sign up, give card), plus of course have an offer for the Scrivener-like Dabble program for a free month (sign up, give card) I decide I could use that to help organize the editing. Scrivener doesn’t yet play with Google.

I spend some time trying to figure out Dabble, then try to import my document. And here I am. HOURS later. Not one word written.

Why Does My iPhone Battery Die So Fast? Here's The Real Fix!Meanwhile, my phone battery is holding its little hand over its chest and telling me its battery is ‘seriously degraded’, something I suspected for some time since I spend my day switching various things through chargers.

(I know, I’m fortunate to have all these things to play with, first world problems, etc., but they are all dying in rapid order and I can’t afford to replace them! ) Not only that, but to buy anything, anything, requires hours and hours of research online.

I recently took a full day to evaluate vacuum cleaners, for example. Reading miles of comments, chewing through descriptions. Ended up with three in my ‘for later’ Amazon bin. Can’t commit. Reviews on each are mixed.

My brain hurts.

Imágenes, fotos de stock y vectores sobre Many Piles | Shutterstock

Searching for a phone for only a few minutes tells me immediately why everyone just buys the latest model. Too much choice, too many details, and not enough cheapie options. A slightly newer Iphone means I have to evaluate the 7 and the 8, see which would be better. What’s with the reconditioned ones? Are they safe? Should I instead go with Samsung or Google? How many programs would I have to re-buy and re-install if I did? 

DO I HAVE THE NECESSARY SANITY TO MAKE THE CHANGE?

Frankly, no.

Nor do I have the necessary change to increase my sanity with a phone that wasn’t gasping constantly.

WHY do I have to compare so many options? WHY do I need to get a degree in electronics and IT just to understand what I need to use? Why does everything cost $500 or more?

Remember when you could get a wee phone that plugged into the wall for $19?

I give up. Back to try to edit on the new computer system with a version of my story I hope I’ve saved properly on my various clouds/document files/USBs.

One day, when I recover from all the sturm und drang, I’ll get organized. For that, though, I’d have to remember all the passwords to the programs.

<SCREAMING>

😱 Face Screaming in Fear Emoji on Google Android 10.0

Evaluating…or those artists who self-isolate in the woods – did it work for them?


So here we are, heavily into the pandemic, learning how to talk to ourselves just so we can test our vocal muscles. I am following the advice for keeping a car running, and taking my voice out once a week for a trot around the verbal block. Cat remains unconvinced.

FH021312_003_CABREP_02For my part, I am noticing just now how every single one of my cupboard doors is slightly off-balance, with a wee dip to one side or the other, making all the spaces between the door fronts ever so slightly variable. Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t UNsee it. I know it will drive me crazy over time. It’s making me want to get out the screwdriver except that I know if I do, they will end up even more tilty. And they aren’t my cupboards. Ruining them is not an option.

Messy is the way things are happening lately. Make coffee – spill the coffee and the water, drop the container holding the coffee, sweep that all up, only to miss the garbage as I tip it in, spilling it again all over the place. Make dinner, creating a mess on the counter because – see coffee –  clean that all up, wash pots, put away dishes, only to drop one, shattering it amidst the food still scattered on the floor – see coffee – and trying to clear that up before the cat walks all over it, so rushing so I spill it as I dump the dustpan. Start over.a-messy-kitchen

I suspect this all has something to do with the lack of finger dexterity I conceal in my stitching through pure will, but which means I can’t tie a knot in the floss or pick up a needle without my handy dandy magnet stick. (repurposed from my canning set because  I can too readily imagine the mess that would ensue if I made jam, for example.) Last night I took a full five minutes trying to tie one bit of floss to another. I eventually did but there may have been some language involved.

I was just testing my voice. Honest.

I am surrounded by things I am seemingly too busy to put away, thinking longingly of packing boxes, so help me, and their soothing plain brown sides and healing shutness. I feel certain I would feel better if I could put everything away behind those plain brown wrappings and send it away – but of course, no one wants my things, especially in the pandemic shut down. I imagine charities will be completely overwhelmed once we are let out…

Meanwhile, stories of artists and writers and creatives of all sorts moving out to glorious isolation in the woods or wherever are all over my internet feeds. It all seems like a more glamourous version of the isolation we are all in now, focused isolation, creative isolation. Could this be the way to go to get creative juices flowing?

reflection of trees in lake

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am becoming convinced that these folks really did this so they would never have to clean up. Or dress up, or brush their hair. I’m getting into this sweatshirt and pant existence. My hair is growing like a wayward shrub. If I was to never be seen again, except to tumble out into the sun some years hence with a brilliant novel in one hand, well, that seems like a viable idea.

So, my silenced-in-the-isolation brain tells me, ‘you could live in the woods! Never have anyone come by! Never have to account for your clutter or lack of progress or general moodiness! It could be done! Like Thoreau! You could write! Write! Write!”

“Hold on,” my brain says, “Thoreau had a maid and ate regularly in pubs and at friend’s houses. That’s not isolation, that’s just hiding clutter…” and “Internet, remember the internet.” and “But wait, you actually like talking to people, especially the kids whose toys you tidied back when you tidied things. And friends! You have some. You like seeing them.”

Truth is, I am getting out of the habit of communicating. I messenger people and try to connect as I can, but it is all getting more difficult to push myself to do so. Like the clutter around me, it all seems too much to take on. As time goes on, it becomes more comfortable to just not.

But am I writing? Creating?

Um. No.

I have to tidy up first.

 

“The book of my enemy has been remaindered” Clive James


Conde Nast TagID: cncartoons025158.jpg/Photo via Conde Nast
Well, the book has been launched, and I’m at a difficult crossroads. Do I frantically try to market it, push it out into the world like a ten-pound baby, or do I retract back into my shell and let the rest of my books lie fallow?

Can you all relate? It’s hard putting yourself out there, visible, when all of you screams, “No don’t! They’ll see your flaws.” Somehow it seems better to slink along and just not do.

And then there is the cringing that occurs when you’ve been seen and found wanting…Are you, in fact, merely killing trees to no purpose?

Its at times of doubt like this that I love a good poem, like this gem by the inimitable Clive James. If all else fails, I can hope for some minor glory, like his enemy in this poem…

The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book --
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seeminly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the blare of the brightly jacketed Hitler's War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyart with a forlorn skyscraper 
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretense,
Is there with Pertwee's Promenades and Pierrots--
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor's Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
"My boobs will give everyone hours of fun".

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error--
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets! 
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.

51Fxo37hMyL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

Personally, I’d kind of like to be found shelved next to Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs, which actually does exist, remaindered or not…After all, her boobs promise everyone hours of fun.

What more can any author ask?

 

Why I wrote about the Virgin Mary, or “Hello? Hello? Do you see me?”


mary12Choosing to write about religious topics is risky. All my writing book advisors go on about ‘finding your niche’ and being sure people want to read what you are writing…and of course, being contrary, I wrote the book and then wanted to publish it. It’s a bonus if people buy it, I told my self.

But my self is a horrendous lying thing.

Of course I want people to buy it and read it and like it or think about things. Even if it isn’t easily classified, if it doesn’t have a GENRE, really. Does everything need to have a genre? Apparently, if you want to be found.

So why write about Blessed Mary if the book isn’t genre?

Because of Elizabeth Warren. Or any of the many many other women who are overlooked, whose accomplishments are minimized, who feel like they have to shout to be heard (and then they are called strident). Women who cannot be seen even if they want to be. Women who are told they have no purpose except to make men happy and birth the next generation2d1df2684651e1b0a983f960b4171b4a

That happened to Mary. Here she was, the mother if this big important man, and her contribution was so minimized she barely existed until the Catholics used her image as advertising copy and trotted her out everywhere like a show pony, changing her completely as they did so. They used her as a friendlier contact point than a bleeding man on a cross.

She was the perfect mother figure, a loving presence for all the church. Then the church men started playing with her. (I refuse to call them church fathers.)

They needed to make her unusually pure. Never mind the ‘why’ — what about the how? The church men were puzzled. Oh, right, she must have been born without that original sin thing – that’s how she gave birth without any pain. (Say what? Given that men were also telling every other woman that their births had to be painful because of Eve and the

images-5

At least she’s having fun here…

apple (a set-up if ever I heard one), this all seemed a bit strange.)

But wait – how could she have been born without original sin? Well, her parents must have been unusually holy. And their parents before them, and so on, like some backward-dated Ancestry file. Never mind that previous documents assigned the line of David to Joseph. “We can change that!” the church men said. “While we are at it, let’s make her ever-virgin, unsullied by man. Because women who have sex are dirty. Men who have sex are dirty, too, but they have urges that must be met.”

Despite being the mother of THAT guy, she only gets a mention at birth and at his death. Oh yes, except she is brought up to ‘fail’ him by asking him to make the water into wine at a friend’s wedding. Apparently, this indicates that she doubted his mission. I’d argue that this would have proved that she thought he had unusual powers, but of course, she must have known that given the angel, etc, etc.

That’s a problem, too. How did a baby form in her unsullied womb? Lots of ideas were trotted around, none of them particularly convincing, until people just gave up and said it had happened. The bible doesn’t say much. That hasn’t kept people from discussing how, though, and mostly making the pregnancy seem like a total out of body experience for Mary.

The-Immaculate-Conception

what’s that funny feeling?

This resulted in ridiculous discussions like one I had in my Mariology class, about THAT guy’s DNA. “Of course, he must only have a half set of chromosomes!” one woman opined, forgetting the need for a double set to make that baby grow at all normally. Or let his beard grow.

I can find no mention of Mary’s parenting of THAT guy. But surely she had a huge role in that? Perhaps she was the source of so many of his ideas about mercy and wealth and kindness? What if Mary was the actual founder of the religion we all call Christianity, and if THAT guy had to take the reins because women weren’t even allowed to speak then?

You see? Once you start looking at Mary’s story, questions arise. Why are the church men so mean to her, so determined to wipe her out of the picture, while still using her as a meme? As I dug into books about Mary, I found myself feeling frustrated on her behalf. I wanted her to be given fair coverage, for her and the women who followed her.

I tried to present a story about Mary, done with respect and care. Oh, and let her have a little fun along the way. I’d like to hear from you if you think if I reached that goal.

Find my book on Amazon.

 

Faking it til you make it, or Hey! My book is out!!


Image result for fake it til you make it meme

So, how many of you leap into things, smiling through faces while hiding a certain amount of quavering within?

I’ve done it all my life, think I’ve come from a family who taught me about this, created another family who can do it. It’s a useful skill. Got me through university, job interviews, marriage, parenting. (Though those last two are debatable – not sure if I succeeded there.) (Probably ex-husband and kids would have something to add here – hope they don’t. Some illusions are necessary for me to keep my aging smile properly polished.)

The only problem is, the inner quavering is still there. Tapping on the insides, making your brain make bad decisions, sending you into wee tailspins of anxiety. It used to appear before I taught a class or did public speaking, only to slip away at the actual time of delivery. The only reminder was a feeling of unreality during the engagement and a curious fatigue after it, like I’d run a race. Stage fright, as they call it.

Now that I’m older and more uncertain of my cognitive abilities, that fright is stronger, lasts longer.

I haven’t slept well for weeks, and it’s all about the book, trying to get the book out, worrying about the book. Thought I had it all happily created, only to realize with a gasp the file I used wasn’t the one I wanted and besides, there were formatting things (like dual chapter headings) that loomed in my sub- and conscious mind. Eeeks! It wasn’t perfect, that I knew, but stupid mistakes are just that. They needed to be purged. Fixed. Redressed.

Currently, the revised files are being evaluated by Kindle Direct Publishing before they get finally uploaded. Thank heavens I had yet another look at things. Formatting computer documents isn’t my strong point and if I’d been smarter, I would have hired someone to do it for me, but there I went, leaping in as if I knew what I was doing, grinning madly all the while.

Not that I MIND waking up at 4 AM, really. It’s lovely and quiet out and the apartment is warm and cozy and I can schlep about in jammies without worrying about delivery men coming to the door. Even the radio is sotto voce. It’s pleasant.

The gnawing anxiety isn’t so good. It makes me nervous eat, sucking back carbs and needing things to chew on – popcorn, random pieces of string. Image result for anxious eating

So, I squash it, ignore it, put my mind in other places and pretend things aren’t happening, at least until someone mentions they have ordered my book and then the circle spins again. What will they THINK?

Truth is, I can’t make anyone LIKE what I’ve written. I am so grateful if they are willing to support my wee venture. I’ve learned a lot about publishing and have ever so much more to learn. I just hope not to embarrass myself into dust.

And my story seems small, given that it is, in fact, small. It’s not going to change the world. But then, I never really thought I could – no, that’s not true. I was brought up to believe I would.

I blame my mother for that. She KNEW we would all be mavericks, leaders, changers. (She was wrong, incidentally, but we’ve all been imploding trying to meet that expectation)

As I toddle into my 60’s, I realize that my changing the world probably isn’t going to happen. Except in the small ways that we all change a teeny part of our world as we go along. And of course, changing ourselves to make the world better. I can only hope my little changes are good ones.

Unlike in online publishing, I can’t resubmit and erase the errors.

Want to see the book I’ve been toiling over? Here’s the blurb for Recycled Virgin and a link:

Recycled Virgin (Scleratis Series Book 1) by [Brown, DA, Brown, Dorothyanne]What if the Virgin Mary never ascended? What if she’s been hard at work on earth for generations? What if she finds out that the real story of her religion’s founding has been lost in a melee of male privilege?

The former Blessed Virgin Mary has had enough. She’s spent the past 2000 years looking after others, only to find that her true story has been erased. No one knows the real Miryam, the flesh and blood mother, the woman who taught the foundations of a world-wide religion to her often disobedient son.

As she lives through her latest reincarnation, she struggles to understand why she keeps returning. Will her study at a Theological College finally allow her to free herself? Will she be able to retell her story, make herself real? Will she find the other half to her soul?

Recycled Virgin is the first book in the Scleratis Series.

Note: it’s the FIRST book, which implies there will be more, and there are. So it’s back to chewing string for the next while…

 

The occasional wallowing, or how I wish I could chat with Sophia Loren


Approved-Sophia-Loren-Armando-Gallo-Photographer-I have a lot of friends who are dealing with chronic illness or the illness of loved ones or bereavement or even the loss of pets. So when I saw this article, it called to me: “The Other Side of Grief” by Whitney Akers. The article links to a group of stories about how people coped with their grief, from goat yoga on… One of the points made truly resonated with me:IMG_8129

“Even years later…a sense of deep loss comes in cycles, is hidden in the nooks of your house for you to unexpectedly stumble upon, and becomes a part of you forever…”

So true that. I fell across a sketchbook of my dad’s the other day (he’s been gone 32 years now, for context), and I had to stop and catch my breath, the feeling of loss was so acute. Every time I see an apricot poodle, I am overcome with memories of Pickles the wonder dog, my best friend through many years of my marriage. I talk to someone about a work issue and I can’t help my mind from skipping back to things I wished I’d done differently at work. I feel again the loss and embarrassment I felt when I was forced by my MS to leave employment.

People with chronic illnesses deal with incremental grief, too – every new challenge needs to be adapted to, self-image redefined. Inside we try to stay the same as we were (or better still, learn from our experiences), but our outer selves change and toss us aboutfunny-picture-dump-the-day-53-pics-funny-funny-misshapen-body a bit.

Sophia Loren says: “If you haven’t cried, your eyes cannot be beautiful.” I agree. It’s like parenting or running a marathon. Unless you’ve experienced significant loss, you really don’t understand. And the type of loss isn’t what is important. It’s what it does to you. You can grieve the loss of a pet as heavily as of a person. (I urge you to avoid grieving for plants or fish though as they die frequently and you’d just be a mess.)

I’m not saying it’s okay or good for anyone to grieve constantly. I think that just lays you waste. But in my experience, it’s good to be prepared for those little bits of grief that leap out at you from the corners. It’s extra special good if you can appreciate the feeling and then use it to enrich your world, by helping others or creating art or even just smiling at strangers who look like they might be having a terrible day.

Sophia Loren also says:
“I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.”
Mind you, perhaps sharing ALL of your past might be unwise (shameful details might lead to the wrong impression…;-) ) (ahem)

 

Of course, Sophia also said:

e4e93e94-73ea-4980-b49f-e124be457e98“Everything you see I owe to Spaghetti.” and “Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner.”

See why I love this woman?

So, while I’m not inhaling spaghetti (though now I am dreaming of it), I’ve decided to take the lumps the world has given me and sculpt them into something else. I know it helps.

make-art-and-write

 

Writing classes, or how to spend lots of money without really having to write


I’m guilty. I’ve been signing up for writing classes since I started writing way back when become-a-writermy youngest was 2 or so (He’s in his late 20’s). I’ve done college classes (excellent), online courses (variable).  Like Claudia Casper, I love literary festivals as well (SO fun and full of kindred spirits and one was in Iceland, just saying). I’ve done Humber, Gotham, and a few other classy places.

One could argue that I’ve been wallowing in writing courses and socializing with other writers rather than actually (ahem) images-2writing. But I have been published here and there over the years and was feeling pretty confident until I started writing for public health and was told I needed to suck all the life out of things. Now I have too much life in things.  It’s like, once the boot of writing pamphlets was lifted off my neck, all I seem to be able to write is bad language, unusual sex scenes, and naughty characters. And religion.

I MAY be working a few things out somewhere in the depths of my brain.

220px-Margaret_Atwood_2015I’ve just finished a Masterclass online, taught by Margaret Atwood. I’ve had my difficulties with Ms. Atwood, with her negative worldview, and most especially with the stranglehold she has on Canadian Literature. In a sour grapes way, I complain about the FOMA (Friends of Margaret Atwood), those who get slid in for Booker prizes on their first attempt, the upper crust of writers. (I am still bitter about Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, which is yet another memoir about how awful doctor training is. They should try nursing training – the same disadvantages with much less pay and no respect.) (OMG, Bloodletting has been optioned for television! Gawd.)(I really don’t think it’s very good, can you tell?)

But I’m slipping into my usual pit of writerly jealousy and self-hatred (What have I published recently, anyway???). So, back to the class. Very rarely in the writing biz you fall across someone who is both a good writer and a good teacher. Margaret Atwood is one of those rare angels. (As are Christina Decarie and Meg Wolitzer and David Lebovitz and Claudia Casper, to name a few) The others I mentioned are good face to face, where I met them. Margaret Atwood manages to be warm, engaging, encouraging and realistic while chatting to a screen. As in Steven King’s wonderful On Writing, her course offers nuggets of information that are worth the time and expense to obtain.

Well, at least I think so, and as I said, I’m a bit of an expert in these things.

My favourite tidbit of advice from Margaret Atwood’s course?

“The wastepaper basket is your friend. It was invented for you, by God.”

I’m posting that on my computer. I need to remember this. For all of my creative endeavours…it’s freeing and opens the door to literary and creative play. After all, no one has to hear a wastepaper basket scream… and I can even use my crafting urge to create the basket itself!

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On being seen…


There’s a lovely foolish Monty Python “military” training film on ‘How Not To Be Seen.’ big_1494432163_image

In the clip, people are hiding, NOT BEING SEEN, and then they are asked to stand up. Once they do so, they are either shot or blown to smithereens.

I feel viewing this in my formative teens MAY have had an effect on my behaviour through life. As a VSP (very short person), I am, in fact, rarely seen unless one is specifically looking for me. I’ve tried to make my personality large enough that people can hear me but I don’t think I’ve gone nearly far enough. And now, if I were to go wild and dye my hair magenta or wear army boots or whatever, people would now gently pat me on the head and arrange for a lengthy stop in a nearby nursing home.

But the fact remains that if I hold myself JUST SO, people don’t seem to see me. It’s been a good thing in terms of not being blown up. But perhaps not so good in other ways.

This occurs to me of late because a few opportunities for being seen have come my way,its-the-most-extraordinary-and-saddest-thing-the-amount-of-talent-out-there-not-being-seen-quote-1 and recently I’ve found myself unwilling to take them. It has to do with being on par with others, being able to be respected, etc, etc. And this hesitation is a terrible burden. It keeps me from sending out my stories for publication, or from finishing projects. “I’m a great initiator!” I cheerfully tell others. “I just hate the fusty end details.”

It’s silly though. All of life is ABOUT the details, about tying things up neatly, about presentation and finishing and just getting the damn things done. But I don’t. And so I reinforce my imposter syndrome and cringe and seethe inwardly when someone actually HAS. And I tell myself things like, “I really don’t care if people like what I’m doing – it’s all for fun anyway.”

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I wasn’t always this way. You don’t have time to dawdle as a nurse. You put your head down and do whatever nasty bit of work has to be done. Mind you, you don’t have a line-up of critical judges’ comments after every task, thank heavens. Especially from the semi-conscious patients…

I recently had a longish chat about art and craft and new experiences and such with two women who know about the importance of getting things right. They both have or had demanding jobs, where precision was fundamental, and both have recently let their artistic spirits loose.

One has returned to school and risks the dreaded being assessed, brave lass.

(PS: I met one of the teachers at her school today and migods she was terrifying. The sort who would draw black lines across what you were doing and smash it through with her fist. I really don’t want to be seen by anyone like that. I feel they may not have my best interests at heart.)

The other has done these sort of academic challenges many times before, as have I. We’re both a little tired of jumping through artificially created hoops and just want to play. But in our heart of hearts, we both also want to be validated as an artist, a creator, a creative mind.

But one can only be validated if one is seen, by people who aren’t your best friends and supporters. The first time I sold something to a complete stranger through an art gallery, I felt it, that little rush of “They really like me!”. (Of course, poor Sally is misquoted, she really said – “You like me, right now, you like me.”)

The same thing happened whenever I felt a skinny envelope holding the cheque for something I’d written and sold. Being valued for something you pulled out of your head is an unbelievable sensation. Being paid for things counts for more than one would think.

But all of that approval is an ephemeral thing – you are only as good as your last success, as it were, and as those slip away into the distance you run the risk of being patronised as a wannabe whatever. I hate that.

But what does one do? Risky risky, no matter where you turn.  And a lot of work, just to set yourself up to fail in front of everyone.

I’m lucky – I have some magnificently supportive friends and family (I have the other kind, too, but I digress). They continue to think of me as a creative force even when I’m not producing things, or getting that project done. I like that.

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And I live for that moment in a creative project where a secret smile starts in the corner of my mouth, when suddenly the task is no longer a hardship, when the joy shines through and I find myself racing to see how it all ends. I’ve been known to laugh out loud when something like that happens. It’s the magic. The twinkly bits.

Those projects I don’t mind showing people. I’ll even force myself to do the little details so I can.

But being seen when you are unsure of your project, when you are just plain putting it out there to be shot at or down or, worse still, patronized… well, that takes great courage. And revealing vulnerabilities you might not have known you had. Scary, that. Bravo to my friends and others who take the risk.

I’m planning to be that sort of gal again, soon.

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