This afternoon our son invited us to go to the movies with him and his girlfriend. I thanked him for the invite, but said I wanted to get some writing done. Then I thought about it some more and realized it felt important to spend time with them plus have a little outing. My writing projects could wait. My decision caused a tinge of anxiety and on the drive to the theater I silently repeated that mantra to myself several times: my writing projects can wait.
I’m so glad I changed my mind. BOOKSMART made me laugh and laugh. It’s a smart, funny, and poignant film. I didn’t really know what it was about before going and in case you also live under a rock, here’s the summary:
Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high school peers. But on the eve of graduation, the best friends suddenly realize that they may have missed out on the special moments of their teenage years. Determined to make up for lost time, the girls decide to cram four years of not-to-be missed fun into one night — a chaotic adventure that no amount of book smarts could prepare them for.
HA! On a much smaller scale, that was me this afternoon. Just like Amy and Molly, I thought the most important use of my time was to keep my nose to the grindstone. Wrong! Sharing smiles and laughter in a dark theater was the very best use of my time. If you haven’t yet seen this movie, what are you waiting for?
Hey, know what that is?
Butt-end of a Red-tailed Hawk.
Yeah, I know. Bad pic.
I’ve kept a gratitude journal on and off for a number of years, but am currently in an off phase. I hope to resume my bedtime ritual of listing five things I’m grateful for, but in the meanwhile:
Today I am grateful . . .
- my sister helped me feel more at peace about a friend’s death.
- my critique group gifted me another week to finish the draft of my work-in-progress and that
- I am, indeed, making progress on that work.
- I enjoyed a calm, non-aggressive walk in the warm sunshine with Emma, even though we passed other dogs.
- I completed my four-minute plank despite learning the hard way that Led Zeppelin’s Four Sticks is absolutely not a good motivational song. Nope, not even close.
A feathered swimmer
at home in sky or water
Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry.
With both you are working with reality,
a material just as hard as wood.
~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Today I used my Scrivener corkboard and calendar pages to finish plotting out this revision along with the story’s revised time line. I made good progress, but am still not sure how the newly envisioned climatic scene will unfold. So I made a list of the fifteen or so ingredients that will be in play during that scene, and am now letting my subconscious do the cooking.
A good reminder
full lifetime packed in two weeks
live as if that’s all
Today as I work on my novel, I am thinking ahead, hoping ahead, to the day when a reader reaches for my story. Last May, I photographed this man perusing a “Book Exchange” in Stockholm and am posting it as a motivator. I aim to create the most compelling, reader-enticing story I can write, dammit.
Since learning you’ve gone,
a slideshow of memories
washing through my mind.
All week I’ve struggled to revise the same couple chapters, making very little progress. The nasty voice in my head has had a good old time, telling me I’m not a good writer, that my novel is crap, that there’s no salvaging the mess I’ve made, that I’m delusional to think I can pull off the story I want to tell, etc.
I started to believe that.
Because of all my revising, moving back-and-forth within the first 100+ pages, I was confused and disoriented regarding plot lines and character motivations. I didn’t know which way was up. So. This afternoon, I resorted to The Running Start Technique. I went back to page 1 and read through to my sticking point on page 104, taking notes along the way to remind myself exactly certain key events happened.
I hadn’t spun my wheels all this week because I’m a bad writer; rather, somewhere inside me I understood that I was headed in the wrong direction. The reason I didn’t make forward progress wasn’t because I suck, but because I wasn’t supposed to go that way. Stubborn tenacity isn’t always a good thing, yo. Whew. I feel so much better about my work-in-progress and me right now.
The sad/funny/pathetic/embarrassing thing is, I’ve already experienced that exact same stalled feeling followed by the Hey, Trace! You’re taking the wrong road! realization. Multiple times. I can only hope that the next time it happens (and it will), the nasty voice is banished much more quickly.
Gray and cloudy day
gotta make my own sunshine.
Winter’s gotten old.
There are days I’d like
the option of staying here
or flying away.
I’ve said this before and I’m gonna say it again: I’m very grateful for my creative life.
For the past few days, I’ve immersed myself in a work-in-progress project I’d had to put on hold for much of December while working on another, and yesterday told Zippy I’d fallen in love with the manuscript all over again. I’m grateful to love the work I do.
Today my gratitude is more specifically about the refuge my fiction provides. Admittedly, it’s not an impenetrable fortress. Earlier, I had to make a shaking-mad phone call to my House Rep’s office after learning about his pro-NSA surveillance vote and I just hopped onto Twitter in time to read about Agent Orange’s racist and hateful remarks about people from Haiti, Africa, and Latin America. The very act of writing that out has me so agitated, I’m now chewing at my cuticles. Clearly, the people and places in my head don’t keep the ugly at bay 24/7.
I do have an outlet when the current reality feels too horrible to contemplate. And I hope that’s true for everyone, whether it’s watching goat videos or smelling sweet puppy breath or welding sculptures or hiking or drumming or blowing raspberries on a baby’s chubby tummy or resting in a pool of sunshine or . . .
Please, do whatever it takes.
Zippy and I just returned from our weekly date. It was his turn to choose and he chose Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER. I would not recommend the film. However, Sally Hawkins’s performance was lovely and the movie was so visually pleasing that I debated whether to recommend watching it without sound. Alas, I believe the heavy-handed characterization and plot line would still sledgehammer their way into your consciousness even without audio.
As a writer, I’m kinda pissed. The characters were lazy stereotypes, including Michael Shannon’s character who was so over-the-top I nearly burst out laughing. That character didn’t have one shred of decency. Not one. Plus, there wasn’t a whole lot of nuance in the film and absolutely zero question as to justice vs injustice. Zero question.
And you know that quote from Chekhov about the gun? (“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”) Yep, THE SHAPE OF WATER committed that sin when a hard-boiled egg didn’t go off.
One of the best things about being a writer is that we can always learn and become better storytellers. Today, I happened upon two insights regarding character motivation (wants vs needs, and choices) that were worded in such a way that I immediately spotted what was wrong with my work-in-progress. What I read wasn’t new to me, but information doesn’t always sink in the first (or second or fifth) time I come across it. Today, things clicked. And that makes this writer very, very happy.
Art can’t be taught;
passion can’t be taught;
discipline can’t be taught;
but craft can be taught.
And writing is both an art and a craft.
~ Elizabeth George
funny hats, ramrod-posture.
No thanks, palace guards.
The new diet fad
all the peanuts you can eat
hanging by your toes.
Saw this and wondered:
is the other tree worn out?
could it just let go?
Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.
~ Pablo Picasso
Portrait de Dora Maar, 1937 Print hanging in my writing room.
I guess that’s basically what I strive for with my fiction: to write lies in such a way the reader realizes some truths.
I loathe liars, but this kind of lying is a pretty good gig.
This box a year old,
their favorite habitat.
Cats and kids the same.
Where did the day go? Last thing I knew, I was sitting down to figure out some stuff about the fictional community I’m creating. I did learn lots about pea viners and farming trends, and my revision notes are more fleshed out. I definitely made progress.
Still. Where did the day go?
If I look closely,
world’s filled with tiny details
You’ve spent the entire day in revision mode, staring at a computer screen.
Time for a cool cloth and some yoga.
High above it all
Cheery colors and rooftops