Start Now

dorothy writing

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
Write.
Write more.
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
Keep writing.
 ― Brian Clark

 

I started this blog last February, a couple weeks after my birthday, to document the experience of writing my first book. As I approach these anniversaries — birthday and blog — I can’t help but take stock of where I am (writing, writing, writing), how I got here (see here) and where I’m headed next (I want to sell The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures before 2013 draws to a close). Last week I wrote about pep talks. I kind of feel like this blog has been a yearlong pep talk to myself and anyone else who’s working hard at a creative project — or maybe just working hard at, like, life. These posts have been my inquiry into how to balance plugging away on something that’s going to take a while to finish and manage at the same time to feel some measure of contentment with life as it unwinds. Continue reading Start Now

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Aragorn in the Living Room

arwen

I am currently working on a really hard chapter of The Saltwater Twin – hard because it kicks up all kinds of not very pleasant emotional turmoil. Also, my wonderful, wonderful pooch is getting old and facing illness. Also, it’s winter. In order to face these difficulties, I have been shoring myself up with hot chocolate, carrot cake and The Lord of the Rings.

I read Tolkien’s trilogy for the first time in fifth grade – I had to take breaks because the Ringwraiths gave me nightmares. Last week I looked for my copies of the books; I felt that hot chocolate/carrot cake/LOTR breaks at regular intervals would be very beneficial in navigating the difficult emotional terrain of writing this chapter and taking Levi to vet appointments. But I must have given away my yellowed paperback copies in a book purge at some point, because they were nowhere to be found. So, I ordered them on Amazon, and rented the movies to tide me over until they arrive. And I have to say, they hit the spot. It is so satisfying to spend time in a world where good is gloriously good and evil irredeemably evil, and they’re so comfortingly and clearly delineated. Good is Liv Tyler on a white horse with a gleaming silver sword, and evil looks like an orc. Continue reading Aragorn in the Living Room

tarry a moment

My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry ’til a more convenient season.
Mary Todd Lincoln

Oh, Mary Todd, you were so right.  Procrastination is an evil genius. Once I procrastinated by looking up procrastination. It derives from the Latin, procrastinare, to delay until tomorrow. Synonyms: delay, put off doing, adjourn, be dilatory, cool, dally, dawdle, defer, drag, drag one’s feet, give the run around, goldbrick, hang fire, hesitate, hold off, lag, let slide, linger, loiter, pause, play a waiting game, play for time, poke, postpone, prolong, protract, retard, shilly-shally, stall, stay, suspend, tarry, temporize, wait…

I am actually not procrastinating today.  At least not right this minute. I’m writing this blog post just like I said I would, and then I’m going to work on revisions for chapters one and two of The Saltwater Twin. But sometimes I do.  Procrastinate.  It happens. And it comes in so many flavors. Here, for your delectation, or in case you are interested in procrastinating yourself, are some of my favorite interwebs spots to visit when I ought to be doing other things.

At the speech accent archive you can listen to people speaking English with almost any accent under the sun. Why do I love this so much?  I don’t know.  But I do.

Here are the sounds of so many kinds of animals.  Extra fun: turn up the volume if you have a dog (maybe even a cat) and watch him cock his head to the side. Also, here’s where to find out what people say in different languages to mimic animal sounds.

Watch the All Blacks rugby team doing the haka on youtube. This makes me very happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At freerice.com you can take quizzes and donate rice.  Genius.

Browse etsy.com to buy one of a kind things and support artisans and craftspeople all over the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at cute animals.  It raises your endorphins. So it’s actually good for you. And it will probably help you do a better job on whatever it is you finally intend to get around to doing.

I think a little procrastination is okay. Growing crops season after season without a break depletes the soil. Farmers let a field lie fallow to allow the land to renew itself. So I try not to be mad at myself when procrastination happens, and I try to build in some time for it so I don’t snap and go on a three-day bender.

How about you?  Favorite flavors of procrastinating?

mythical creatures

One of the definitions of mythology is “a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs associated with a particular group or the history of an event, arising naturally or deliberately fostered.” I think we each have our own personal mythologies. They both arise naturally from the circumstances of our lives and they are fostered – maybe not deliberately, but fostered nonetheless – by each of us, depending on what we need to remember and how we need to remember it.

In the traditional sense, of course, from angels to zombies, mythical creatures abound in folklore around the world.  But just as a particular culture’s myths explain a society to itself, our personal myths explain ourselves to ourselves. We tell stories that make sense of who we are and the time we’ve spent on earth, stories we populate with beings that wax mythic in our minds. Each of us has our own creation story, our own explanations for how the world works, our own hero’s journey and our own idiosyncratic pantheon of mythical creatures.  Accordingly, just as Medusa and the Phoenix are mythical creatures, so are Nancy Drew and the Cheerleader I wanted to be in seventh grade and the Fuzzy Black Dog I found in Back of the Yards (who, by the way, I named Phoenix).  These entities are “mythical” because they’re larger-than-life characters that populate the stories we tell and retell about ourselves, and “creatures” because in the telling they become either more-than or not-quite human.  We keep coming back to them.  Whether persecutors or protectors, they become important in our understanding of why things are the way they are, in our understanding of ourselves.

The full title of this book I’m writing is The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures. In it, I introduce some of my own mythical creatures, describe the circumstances that brought each of them to life and tell what part they played in my story after that.

I hope that my own “set of stories, traditions and beliefs” will resonate with readers, each with their own collection of myths and pantheon of mythical creatures.

What are yours?

Adventures in Storytelling

This book writing thing is a long, solitary haul, and it gets lonesome in my living room.  So in an effort to take the edge off my self-imposed quarantine, I decided to read something.  In public.  I investigated storytelling nights around the city, and there are lots of them.  I recommend checking some out.  It’s a lovely way to spend an evening; it feels so pleasantly classic to be drinking a pint and listening to a story. Anyway, I was offered a spot at This Much Is True, a storytelling series at the Hopleaf.And despite being wicked nervous, last Tuesday night I read an excerpt from a chapter called We Got Spirit! It was fun. They liked it. I’m going to do more. I’ll keep you posted here.  Here is an excerpt from the excerpt:

In seventh grade, my desire to play an orphan in a touring production of Annie was supplanted by an ardent wish to become a cheerleader.  I coveted the little white socks and beribboned ponytails, the thigh-skimming skirts with those sharp kick pleats and the spankies they wore underneath that were neither underpant nor bathing suit but something far more exotic than either.  Cheerleaders intoxicated every boy above third grade. I, on the other hand, was socially awkward and bookish, but I thought I might have a chance of getting on the team because I could almost do the splits.  I mean, it was really close.  Unless you looked super carefully, you’d probably think I was completely doing them.  Also, I could land in the almost-splits from a cartwheel or jump. I didn’t excel at jumping in general; I was largely unsuccessful both at achieving much height and at executing the mid-air herkies and pikes. I was good at that Presidential Fitness flexed arm-hanging test where you had to hold your chin above a bar because I was gritty and didn’t let go of things easily. Anything that pitted grim determination against gravity, I was prepared to kick ass.  Jumping, however, outwitted me. I was very sad in seventh grade.  Maybe being sad makes it hard to get off the ground.

I wanted to be happy.  And there was something about cheerleaders that made it seem like they might know how. It wasn’t just that they got attention from boys – or guys as they were suddenly called, as in, do you like any guys in our class, because I think Matt Hendricks totally likes you.  By the way, this new development, among others – like needing to wear shorts under your skirt so no one would see your underwear by accident – was honestly a little bewildering to me. But with their bright colors and staccato claps and their “Ready, okay,” cheerleaders seemed to be truly okay and ready for whatever life intended to throw at them. It was a mystery I didn’t know how to unlock:  the mystery of cheer.

In Praise of Slowness

I’ve been working on The Saltwater Twin for about a year now in earnest.  I’m about halfway there, I think, and I’m impatient.  It’s slow going. I get antsy when I finish yet another draft of a chapter and realize it’s still not done.  I have to go back and work on it some more.  Maybe even set it aside and come back to it in a few days or weeks.  It is a little-by-little process of finding a path forward, looping back around, creeping forward again.  I write many, many drafts. There are pages of typed and penned rambling that end up discarded, but lead to what will stay in the end.  Sometimes there is research to be done.  And of course there are mundane distractions like laundry, groceries, dog walks and earning a living.

So I have noticed a couple things.  1. Being impatient does not make me write better or faster.  It just ratchets up my anxiety, and I am not a big fan of anxiety. 2. I think I am a little bit slow by nature.  As a kid I was always getting left behind in museum exhibits.  I liked to amble and think and explore till someone came to scold me for lollygagging and herd me back to the rest of the group.

So, in light of 1 and 2,  I’m going to try to be okay with being slow.  Maybe even embrace it.  And though I’m impatient about wanting to see how this whole book thing is going to turn out, I’m going to try to pay attention to how it is to be in the thick of these green and growing leaves right now.  It’s not a bad place to be.