Nanowrimo, or why it’s a darn good thing I’m an introvert

1 11 2016

aee
Ah, blissful solitude.

Solitude with the sounds of silence or rock and roll or even really old-time gospel music, while my fingers make strange movements and my brain creates a world in my head.
It’s a strange thing I spend most of my time doing – creating. Either I am wrestling with tiny bits of fluff and very very very sharp needles (with barbs), or I’m trying to get my  stabbed fingers to type coherent sentences, to create emotions with words.
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It can’t be done in polite company.

I’ve just spent the last two weekends at craft sales, filled with delightful people who create worlds, too, who toil in obscurity for the love of what they do. Filled, too, with the people who like created objects, the ones who may shop at Walmart for this and that, but who appreciate the time that crating from nothingness takes.

And of course the others, the scoffers, the bargainers. “Is that your final price,”
one woman asked me, for a handstabbed sculpture that I worked on for hours. I wonder if she’d accept the same treatment from her boss. “So, I didn’t really appreciate that hour you put in the other day – how about we just split the difference in your hourly wage and what I think you’re worth and let it go for that?” Or the ones who asked, “Are those made out of dryer lint?” Sigh.

I find it amazing that it is only women who ask to bargain, even professional, well-paid women, like C D on CTV, who tried to get a sale price on one of my critters. It’s like they feel fellow women don’t deserve a just wage.

But I digress. Most of the passers by were lovely and I particularly enjoyed when they’d smile at the things on my table, their eyes lighting up, even if they didn’t stop.

But I’m full up with people now. I need to extrude them onto paper, take the characters and the facial expressions, the sayings and the smiles and extract the good stuff and make them into new real people on paper. Maybe.

I signed up for the Iceland Writers Retreat next April. Why? It’s a silly thing, really – I haven’t been published in years, I write here rarely, I’ve taken enough writing seminars by now that I can never make back the money in writing.

BUT! Iceland!!! Northern Lights!!! Writers!!! ICELAND!!!

(many many handsome northern men)f3b4ba47b9e999a871f1a618a12cdc9e

So I tell myself that the only way I can rationalize such unreasonable expense is if I get published before I go and by ye gods I shall do it if I perish in the attempt. I’m using Nanowrimo this year to jump start my writing, to force my unwilling hands and brain to the keyboard. Tomorrow, around working on some commissions from my sales: two chihuahuas, a gecko, a moose, etc., I’ll be looking for places to publish my past work and writing more to spec. I have a hot date with the Writer’s Market and Duotrope and Places for Writers and more to find people looking for what I can write. Nanowrimo is for the first drafts of these projects. I know it’s supposed to be so you can write your novel, etc etc etc, but I prefer to write short. 50,000 words is a lot of articles written, a short story or two, a novella and change. It can be done.

And bliss, I can do it in my solitude, with dear cat Bendicks and Betta fish Bob for company and the sounds of life outside my windows. And of course, the occasional refreshing foray into the world for refills of inspiration and madness. And characters. I’ll be looking at you….

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I hope….





Thats it, I’m done.

10 06 2015

pallas-cat-manul-6__880I can’t do it anymore. I took a break, I tried again, I hated every minute. 

I’ve spent I don’t know how many dollars and hours taking writing courses over the years. I took them to learn the trade, to force the inspiration, to try to get closer to some real, for life publication. 

I’ve been published, for short things. I’ve won a prize or two. For short things. I’ve entered contests and placed. Again, for short things. I like the thrill of the dash, the lack of dreadful other stuff – the synopsis, the pleading cover letter, the explanation of WHY YOU ARE THE BEST PERSON to write this particular thing…all of that hangs over my head like a dead albatross, frozen, on a stick. I can’t face it. It is a powerful disincentive to write.

But that’s an excuse, really. The thing is, I’m missing the feeling in writing lately – that wonderful flow. You writers out there know what it’s like. It feels like walking with the gods, hand in hand with a muse. I laugh out loud when that happens, such is my joy.

I remember writing my first three day novel and laughing throughout. It was such FUN! My character took off and I raced behind her with my keyboard, trying to keep up.

There is such intense joy in such moments that it is impossible to continue when they aren’t there.

So I’ve talked with myself. I’ve bargained with myself. I know I can write, it’s not a self-confidence thing, I’m not depressed. I simply don’t want to. The world suddenly feels full of books to read and I think to myself there is no need to add mine to the pile – there are much more persistent sorts than me out there, people who will push, who need to push. 

I did all of that, in my work and in my parenting. I worked hard hard hard. I ended up disgracing myself with a breakdown caused by MS. I parented hard hard hard I played hard, too) – loved those three creatures with every cell in my being, and, well, they grow up. I exercised my way through bilateral knee replacements with MS to a recovery my own doctor finds amazing. I needle felted over 40 animals in the space of a month to raise money for MS.

So I know I can work hard. But I also know my time is more limited now. MS lurks in the shadows. To keep it at bay, I have to exercise every day. I have to rest, every day.

And in the remaining hours, I want to feel that joy, that flow. I find it when I am creating with my hands – building creatures, hooking rugs, constructing things, brewing beer, making bread, throwing pots, tactile things. Perhaps my MS brain has shifted me out of the word side, has pushed me into touch-based creations.

I remember going on a date with a fellow once – we went to Westport, ON, and as we walked along, I ran my hands along the stone buildings, feeling their texture. He wondered why. I couldn’t explain, but it was the same temptation that made me want to run my hands over his shoulders – he was a professional hammer thrower and his shoulders felt like warm granite, bulked with muscle I’d never before felt.

So I’m leaving the darkened corners of my head, that place where writing lurks and refuses to come out and play, and heading into the tactile light. 

Don’t be alarmed if I touch you.
child-hand-on-tree-bark





Writing resistance

6 06 2015

So, I’ve just realized a project I thought was nearly done is in fact, only halfway there.

It’s too short. It’s 24,000 words. It should be 35-40,000. I could weep.

I’m tempted to send it around as a novella and hope it gets published that way. But I’m also tempted to rewrite the entire thing and add bits to where it is thin and FIX it. It will take me a long time. But the story will have more depth, something that my wonderful writing mentor, Donna Morrissey, suggested when I was working with her thorough Humber’s School for Writers.

But I can’t help but wonder, is this a real need or is this resistance? I just finished reading the excellent The War of Art by Stuart Pressman. It’s filled with tales of how/why we procrastinate. The tune was familiar. I could probably play it on my ukulele. Let me just see…

But I digress.

I could also felt a scene to describe it. Let me try that…

The sad thing is that I set myself up for mocking as I procrastinate. Everyone is onto me now. Truth is, I find writing HARD. I enjoy it when I’m in the flow, but the flow is harder and harder to maintain. That’s why I can actually do the three day novel contest, but no way can make it through Nanowrimo.

I’m a 50 yard dasher. I always have been, even in school. I could run like the dickens for 50 yards, but my energy petered out for the long term. It wasn’t until I laboured for my daughter for 18 hours that I realized I had strength to endure, and it’s not like I had any choice in that.

So I fling myself into a writing jag and block out people but I can only maintain it for a while. Then I find my wandering eye sliding over to a neat art project or that pile of yarn or a book to read or a tune to play…and the flow is lost.

Resistance? ADD? Or am I just not suited to writing, after all?

Every time I start writing, I go through all of these doubts and then I realize how perfectly I’ve created a wall to doing it. I need to do what I’ve done before in all sorts of other areas and just shaddup and push on through.

From Writers Circle:

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Families, or what would we write about without them?

26 05 2015

stick-figure-family-stickers-12Saw a mini-van today with a partial stick-figure family on the back – just the dad and the son. The mom and another child had obviously been peeled off (in a fit of pique? In sorrow? In rage?). So I wondered. What happened to the other figures (there might even have been a dog there, or a cat)? What happened to the family? Was it a divorce, one kid each arrangement, or was it a terrible tragedy? Did the dad murder the other two and then rip off the stick figures so no one would wonder (ineffectively)? Does the mom have a car with the other two figures stuck on?

So many authors write about their dysfunctional families. It’s tempting. Fits right in with the “write what you know” dictum, especially given that we really have no idea how other families live. I used to try to imagine how my friends lived at home, but unless you were there 24/7, you could never be sure they weren’t putting on an act for you. They always seemed quieter than my family…

As a parent, you are learning all the time. You make mistakes. You try again. You fight with your kids, your partner. You break up. People stop speaking to one another. They start again. I used to think it was all good as long as there were some feelings – when I did home visiting, that saddest children were the ones who were neglected – no one cared about them. At least if their parent was yelling at them, they noticed they were there, I figured.

In my head, I’m the sort of parent who would peel off the stickers on the back of the car in a fit of pique. How I long for the Jewish tradition of rending clothing while shouting “I have no son!” It would be so cathartic, but my Roman Catholic upbringing means I get to sit around instead, feeling awful when my kids ignore me or treat me badly because somewhere in my guilty heart, I know I must have done something, sometime, to deserve such treatment. Or if something bad happens with friends or complete strangers, I know that it must’ve been because of something I did. In a way, it’s nice to always have an explanation.

So I get hurt, and then my brain gets busy. How could I use this pain in a story? How can I take the feelings and put them to good use, as so many other authors have done?

God knows I have enough meat for several novels. The question is, do I make them mysteries and kill off all those I want to hurt back (mwah hah hah), or do I make everything turn out all right in the end? Maybe I should have aliens from another planet intercede. Or maybe something in-between?

All I know is that despite the slings and arrows, I’m grateful. If everyone were sweet as pie, why, I’d have nothing interesting to say.

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(But sometimes, sometimes, that might be nice.)





Missing writing…

1 05 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been taking a holiday from writing of late. It all started with my knee surgery and recovery – then my life was so focused on pain management (knee replacements are not for the shy of pain, and two at once made it quite an intensive focus for a time) and then the resultant MS flare-up afterwards that I couldn’t think in a straight line. Everything was pointed toward getting my knees better.

I’ve missed writing. I haven’t been able to do it, and it is like a missing tooth, an empty space that my tongue goes to again and again. But trying to pull words out of my head via my increasingly untrustworthy fingers was impossible.

But I long for it. I went to New York City, feasted my eyes on characters who wanted a story, from the sad Italian guard at St. Patrick’s with the too long pants, to the bejewelled lady on the bus who insisted I “must” go to the Frick, to the surly waiter at McSorley’s who shouted “It’s your lucky day!” Everywhere I went, I spoke to people, driving my travel companion mad, no doubt. But everyone had a story, or conjured up stories in my head. Even the sculptures in the Met spoke to me, told me of the lives of the sculptors or the models, murmured tales of strength and suffering.

All inspiring, but my longing for writing hit me when I got back from my trip and ran flat against tragedy. Horrible, gut-wrenching tragedy of a life gone awry, of people damaged beyond belief through the great evil of one man and the world around them. World damaging disasters that crushed many in their wake hit, too, wars, poverty, despair.

You see, in a story writ by me, I can create the characters. I can make them flawed and I can make them suffer. I can wreak revenge. I can offer hope. For better or worse, my characters often misbehave and I have to adjust the story to fit that bit of personality or experience they kept hidden from me. But overall, if I find the situation unbearable, I can “bearable” it. I can add heroism in tales of darkness. Or I can toss the story in a bin, let it go without a backward glance.

In life, though, we have no control over the narrative. We watch other’s stories, feel their pain, are inadequate to the task of changing anything. We can rewrite our own story, yes, but bits of the past are left sticking out like burrs or sticky left-over pieces of chewed gum  clinging to our hair. We toss our heads in the breeze, feeling our thoughts blow away, only to find our hands are enwebbed in our hair, trapped.

George Grey Barnard Je sens deux hommes en moi

George Grey Barnard
Je sens deux hommes en moi

So when I meet tragedy (and oh golly there’s a lot of it these days), I yearn for the comfort and safety of the page, where I can step safely into a pretend world, either by reading it or writing it. That world can be stopped as easily as closing the computer or shutting the cover of the book. Would that we could stop real tragedies so easily.





Do you not know me?

17 03 2015

sticky-quotes_080912_what-you-do-for-a-living-does-not-interest-me-i-want-to-know-what-you-ache-for-and-if-you-date-to-dream-of-meeting-your-hearts-longingwtmkIt’s a line from Moll Flanders, by Defoe. A book from 1722, yet the question is still valid.

Do you not know me?

Who does know another person? Sometimes I wonder if we all wander about, selves packaged in different boxes, pulling each section out depending own we are with. It’s not that we are dishonest, exactly, more that different parts of us fit better with different people. So who can really know us?

I’m taking an excellent Teaching Company course with the brilliant professor Arnold Weinstein. I’ve taken other courses with him, through Coursera, and he is such an impressive speaker and he understands and interprets literature so well I had to purchase this version from the TC (thanks Marie-Danielle for telling me about these people!) Weinstein dissects treasures of literature: Moll Flanders, Bleak House, To The Lighthouse, Proust, to name a few. He brings in humanity, the what if of the characters and the writers, not in the “analyze the green light at the end of the pier” way of high school, but wrapped in his knowledge of the times. He has a few gaps. He assigns to Moll an avarice, without saying anything about the grim status of women at that time if they did not have money. And of course, he relies rather heavily on male writers, but that is the way of things.

The best thing is that he brings universal themes into the discussion of the books, and makes me think about them. Thus the wondering about being known.

Coincidentally, I’m also reading a graphic novel, “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel.(The brilliant founder of the Bechdel test!) It, too is all about being known. About how it is only in writing that we end up actually defining ourselves, or others. Whether we write in journals (note to children: should I die, burn before reading), or stories, or lists (as in the very creepy Walt, by Russell Wangersky), we reveal ourselves best, I think, through the written word.

Alas for relationships, we rarely share those words, instead relying on speech and actions, those malleable things, to let others know who we are. True, we are what we do, but our motivations – ahhh, those are a different kettle of fish, often known only to us. And perhaps that’s a good thing.

We can figure them out, but it requires acute attention, a rare thing. I once knew someone who studied me, got to know me so very well, read my mind almost. It was unsettling, though I was grateful someone had finally seen behind my screen.

But I am comfortable, partially shielded, and knowing that is part of knowing me, too.

Do you not know me?





So, about that being a writer….

8 02 2015

from:http://writerscircle.com/2013/09/writing-perspectives-so-you-want-to-be-a-writer.html

So You Want to Be a Writer
By Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.








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