Someone I know made a five-minute remake of The Princess Bride. Take a look if you need a laugh and are avoiding your writing–like me.
Okay writers, go read this and then read the rest of his blog. Then go write.
Whining writers are not interesting. Nobody wants to hear somebody who spends inordinate amounts of time alone making up stuff complaining how hard it is….blah, blah, blah…I get tired of myself sometimes. This is why I write fiction–I can pretend to be listening to somebody else.
Now, while it certainly is said that worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet or may never happen or won’t happen for a while in the future is a drain on a person’s energy and a huge waste of time, it is also true that worrying about the future helps pay the bills and puts food on the table. We’ve all heard the story of the grasshopper and the ants. Of course, perhaps the ants weren’t worrying about the future as much as doing something about it, but there had to be some concern before there was action.
Anyway, I worry that I simply can’t continue to function in a healthy way by losing so much sleep for my writing. I worry that when my son’s schedule changes, I will lose my afternoon time too. No. What I really worry about is that I will lose my writing time. My art time. My sanity time. Now, this is not a mom-blog. I read lots of good mom-blogs, but I don’t write one (except by default–I’m a mom and I blog) because I don’t write to become a better mother (though maybe I should). I’m selfish. I write to become a better writer. After all, if I fall into a black hole tomorrow, I’ll still be a mom, but if there are no pens and no notebooks, I won’t be a writer.
Don’t say I’ll be a writer because I’m one in my soul or wherever or anything of the kind. You’re not a mom unless there’s a kid; you’re not a writer unless there are words on the page. Feeling like you ought to be either of these things is not enough. My son will still exist if I’m crushed inside that black hole. My words won’t. If I’m a writer, I have to write, and to write, I shall have to make time. Ha! I can’t wait to pull that trick off–make time. What exactly does one need to do that? Hammer and nails or measuring cups and a mixing bowl?
When people ask me why I don’t want another child, I have a list of acceptable and truthful answers (although for some folks, there are no acceptable answers to this question). But the real, in-my-heart reason? I want to be a writer. I don’t want to lose more time to midnight feedings and diaper changes. I want to be a mom and to be a writer and the best way to do that–as Alice Walker once said–is to have one. Yes, I know many wonderful writers have more than one and they write–but you know it is just that much more difficult and I don’t want more difficult.
A fortune cookie recently told me, “Your judgment is a little off.” When was the last time you got a negative fortune? I couldn’t believe it, but now I can’t shake it. I stare at my novel and think–it is all a little off. I’m a little off. And the recent cover of The New Yorker doesn’t help. Okay, so people don’t want to listen to a writer whine, but hey, this is my blog and if I can’t whine here…what does a whine sound like in a black hole anyway?
I don’t listen to my own advice. Of course, the world is full of people who don’t follow their own words of wisdom–but that’s no excuse.
I’m horribly stuck in the last pages of my novel. I can’t figure it out. I stare at the screen, type a sentence, and give up. The entire novel is ridiculous and only a lunatic would read it. The keyboard is not nearly hard enough to bang my head on.
Well, now that I’ve gotten this out of my system, I shall go stare at the computer screen until I give up and go to bed at a decent hour.
The Badger–The Escape Edition
A little late but finally here to badger you!
How is the writing? Exciting scenes and clever dialogue? Of course there are–because you wouldn’t be ignoring me, now would you?
Are you half way done? Looking at the finish line? Stuck? Keep writing anyway. If you keep writing you’ll get unstuck, you’ll reach the end, you’ll get to where you want to go. But you got to keep writing.
Write the good and the bad. Write the easy and the hard. Write. That’s what you’re here for. If you’re anything like me (and I think many of us writers have this in common) you didn’t fit in as a kid, you didn’t belong, or you sort of belonged, but suspected you ought to be somewhere else, and books were your ticket to other worlds, better places, more interesting lives. You loved being transported so much, you wanted to make your own transportation, your own story that make have the same power for someone else. Maybe? That sound anywhere close to right?
Well, now is your chance. Build it. Word by word and line by line, build the escape that you would’ve wanted (and still want) to read. I’m not going to say that if you build it, they will come. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. I don’t know. But build it for you because you’ll be there, and that’s what counts.
Sometimes blogging is like running around the schoolyard, and now I’m It. Shelli was It, but she got me–seems I slowed down to adjust my bookbag and she tagged my hand that holds my pen. So, now I shall skip on over to the picnic table under the tree (imagine apartment wall as giant tree trunk, beads from ceiling as leaves, desk as picnic table), take out my notebook (complete with shiny Apple), and run with my tag–three writing tips. I’m glad there are three. I love the number three.
Tapping pencil and staring into space trying to think of three writing tips I haven’t mentioned before…
Stealing an idea from one of the cool kids, Ariel Gore, tip number one–don’t put writing at the bottom of your to-do list. No one ever does what is at the bottom of that list.
Writing tip number two–sacrifice something to the bullies. Take your TV or you video games or whatever it is that you think you just can’t miss and hand them over to the playground bullies. Go on. Hand them over. They’re keeping you from writing. And hey, the bullies aren’t smart enough to write a novel. Take pity on them and give them your TV–they need the brain rot and you don’t.
Writing tip number three–make writing friends. Once in a while get your nose out of the book and look around. See that kid with her nose in a book. She wants to write a book too. Go talk to her. That boy scribbling away in a notebook that he slams shut when anyone walks by. He wants to write. Talk to him. That way when the other kids all shout, “Hey, come play tag!” You can look up and say together, “Sorry, we’re writing!”
Then get your art friend to illustrate your stories, copy them in the school library and pass them around.
Oh, which makes me think of writing tip number four–write something the teacher hates and tries to confiscate. You’ll be famous.
I’ve got five thousand other things to write and rant about, but I just want to rant about children’s books and movies that must spell out a moral lesson or self-destruct. Hey, of course I’m all for children learning about right and wrong and everything in between, but I object to lectures (sermons) that poorly disguise themselves as stories.
For his birthday my son got these videos that say on the cover things like, “Lessons in Telling the Truth.” Now, to be fair, I haven’t watched the video, and it may be wonderfully entertaining. Maybe my child will love it. Who knows. But I find this kind of note off-putting. My son is not an idiot. He doesn’t need a good lesson spelled out for him.
Let’s try these kinds of messages on novel covers. A label on Watership Downmight read–Lessons on Sticking Together. On 1984–Lessons on Big Government. On Lord of the Rings–Lessons on Perseverance. What else? What lesson labels could go on novels you know and love? Come on, I don’t want to read a book unless I know what I’m going to get out of it. We could do it for movies too. In this movie you will learn to accept people who are different. Please enjoy the popcorn.
Plenty of amazing novels have messages in them–lessons about good and evil, love and endurance, loyalty and truth. A story with meaning is a more powerful story. But if somebody wants their novel to teach me lesson at the expense of telling me a good tale, then they ought to hit me over the head with the book instead and be done with it. Don’t even put pages between the covers–put concrete. Concrete will leave a bigger impression on the skull.
So, there’s this book, Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith, and a coworker, who I like and respect and admire (really), loves this book. Listening to her talk about it makes me love the book too. Hey, I want to be a great teacher. Sure I do.
I also want to be a great mother. A great wife. A great daughter. A great friend. A great person. Oh, and a great writer. But I can’t do them all like my hair is on fire. I don’t have that much hair.
That I-could’ve-done-better feeling follows me around most of the day (and most of the night). Does it follow you? And if you’ve only got so much hair to burn, who do you burn it for?
Obviously, if I don’t say my son, I’m a bad mother.
But whenever I do get it right…whenever there is that great moment between mother and son or between teacher and student or between writer and the page–oh, the feeling of excitement and relief. A bit like having a fire extinguisher put out my head. okay, better than that.
The thing is–I’m sick and tired of self-help books and seminars and CDs and whatever. Truth is, I rarely pick up self-help books or anything, but we do live in a self-help culture, which I sometimes appreciate and see the value in, and sometimes I just want to shout at–”Leave me alone. I’m not that bad!” Not to mention I don’t like the smell of burning hair.
Now, I’ve got a less than great novel to finish.
She’s in trouble. A character in my novel, you see. Perhaps I’ve grown so attached to her that I want to keep her safe. But what would I be keeping her safe from? My imagination–a terrible thing indeed. Of course, I know she doesn’t really exist. There is the fictional world and the real one and most of the time I know the difference…
It is so hard to write some things.
Then again, maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic and too in love with my own story. Could be. Easy to accuse a writer of being self-absorbed and possessed with huge egos–hey, few things please us more than spending vast amounts of time in our own heads, creating a world as we want it to be. I don’t think that’s all there is to it, but right now I’ve got a scene to write.
Okay, I’ve decided (foolishly or not). I’m writing a modern, gothic, fairy tale. Hey, everything needs a label these days–you know it’s true. And people and agents tend to ask (if they get so far as to care) what kind of novel it is. Fantasy, mystery, erotica, romance, blah, blah, blah… Saying “literary” sounds lame. I mean, what does that mean? Literary? I don’t want to have to explain the difference between mainstream, genre, and literary fiction, because I only pretend to know and if I have to explain, I shall be found out.
It would be better if we just chucked out all those genres at the bookstore and threw all the books in together–make people see books they wouldn’t otherwise see and discover they can actually read things they didn’t know they could read.
But anyway, I need a label, and it ain’t literary anymore. World, meet modern, gothic fairy tale. Modern gothic fairy tale, meet world.