Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writing and Eating...Yum

Recently, one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Flinn, who wrote the fantabulous novel, "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," (and if that doesn't make you love food and feel super hungry nothing will) wrote a blog post about what writers eat when they're writing.

Interestingly, PB&J ranked right up there, which made me feel quite writerly since that is a diet staple when I'm writing...and also when I'm not writing...and also when I'm hungry...and yeah, pretty much anytime.

What do you eat when you write? And if you're not a writer, what're some of your favorite things to eat anytime?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Challenge of Considering Change

On the mat or on the page, change is a hard concept to consider. Recent writing events have reminded me of a scene in my book, about an experience that I once had with a student.

She—an athletic woman who was at least 6’ tall—was in Downward Facing Dog. She had compressed her pose in every conceivable way. It was like seeing Shaquille O’Neil in Danny Devito’s Down Dog. Which sounds kind of weird, but you know what I mean. Now, I know all too well the challenges of being a towering giantess. I’ve struggled most of my life with being “too tall.” But the bottom line is, you’re not going to get any benefit out of squishing yourself into something you’re not. 

So I went over to make a gentle adjustment and she tensed and refused. I verbally cued her and she yelled (yes, actually yelled at me—the teacher—in the middle of a class), “I’M NOT CHANGING!!!”
Startled, I stepped back. I considered my options. She’d said it clearly enough: she wasn’t going to change. So I walked away.

This interaction comes back to me now as I consider the challenge of receiving feedback on my manuscript. So far, I’ve shared it with my critique partner, my husband (note to self: do not share future work with domestic partner unless you’re OK with partnership suffering), a friend who’s a producer, and two agents who both requested the full manuscript but ultimately decided to pass. One agency provided feedback because, they said, they could tell I’d put a lot of work into it. The other had a vague, generic response.
My crit partner, husband, and producer friend all had extensive edits and ideas on top-level strategic changes as well. 

I considered, weighed, tried on for size, re-wrote, and re-re-wrote around every single one of them. To be clear, I didn’t keep every single one of them…but I did consider and try them. 

It isn’t easy to hear feedback. It doesn’t necessarily have to be painful per se, but it’s never going to be super-fun. Why? Because I’m going to guess and say that we all write to the best of our ability. If we thought it could’ve been done better, well, we would’ve done it that way in the first place, then.
However, because none of us is ever going to think of every angle, possibility, or opportunity, feedback from others is a necessary part of growth.

Or at least, that’s my theory. What do you think? How do you handle feedback and the invitation to change?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Overcoming the Dreaded Rut

Everyone in the industry tells you that as soon as you start the query process, you should already be working on your next project. There are several reasons for this:
  1. In the miraculous, unlikely, shocking, happy event that an agent takes interest/signs you, you become a more appealing candidate because you have another project in the queue. You're not the dreaded, "poor thing, he only had one book in him," cautionary tale.
  2. You have something to distract you pour your creative energy into so that you don't compulsively hit "refresh" in your email browser as you anxiously wait for agent responses.
This make imminent sense. Tremendous sense. So much sense that I should, in fact, be doing it.

Right now.

Seriously! NOW! Get going, self!

And yet, I'm not. Mostly because of that whole "creative energy" thing. Or frankly, lack thereof.

Creative energy is hugely lacking right now. It's been bled dry by that whole endless editing process over the last year and a half. Editing, I've learned, is where creativity goes to die.

Creativity needs space and time and silence. Or at least that's what I need to be creative. I cannot be creative without a break, after a year and a half of daily editing a 276-page tome--the nitty gritty contents of which I have become far, far too familiar.

My merciless slave-driving unforgiving critique partner seems to think the way forward is to write anyway. He has challenged me to push through this rut and write anyway--something I have never done before, always choosing instead to listen to the fluctuations of my own internal energy/creativity rhythms.

So I'm going to give it a try his way. What the heck, right? If he's wrong, I can also throw fistfuls of mac n' cheese at his face.

What about you?? Do you wax and wane or plow right through, regardless?

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Rain-Soaked Family Reunion

I've been at a family reunion this week in the Poconos. My extended family is flung far and wide and we're rarely in the same place at the same time. Which is why I was looking forward to this week so much.

Well, that and the really tasty food. And the downtime. And the lakefront. And sun and rest and boating and swimming.

OK. So maybe there were a lot of reasons.

One thing I hadn't looked forward to (or even considered) was five straight days of rain. Torrential rain. Incessant rain. Unstopping rain. Until everyone and everyone was damp and moldy and never dry. It seems Hurricanes Katya and Lee collided on the heels of Irene and that all combined to create a hell of a lot of rain. Which lead to 15 people being housebound in a very small cabin with my cousin's two (adorable and very high-energy) kids.

More importantly, it lead to severe flooding in the area. When I hear "flooding," I think, "uh-oh," followed by, "that's terrible."

It's another thing however, to actually see it. To see people's homes under water. To see roads that you drove on to get here (and that you'd like to be able to drive on to leave) underwater. Unusable. To see normally charming streams and rivers and our beloved lake swollen and muddy and angry. To see debris washed across roads, boats submerged and drowning, and all sorts of refuse in places it doesn't belong.

We lost electricity and I felt my first flurry of panic--what would do for food once the refrigerator was no good? How would we cook (on our electric stove)? How would we manage without water (the water to the house is controlled by a pump powered by electricity). No toilet? No shower? No stove? No phone? No INTERNET???!!! What would we DO???

Then you see families staying in emergency shelters and you feel stupid for contemplating your comparatively lame concerns.

Honestly, the scariest element was the loss of control. There was absolutely nothing we could do to get electricity back on. To ensure that our cabin wasn't swallowed by the lake. To make sure that we had water or light or food.

Which lead me to consider this: It seems that we modern day folks spend an awful lot of time feeling in control of our lives--or suffering anxiety due to a loss of control. Then nature comes along and smacks us down.

"You think YOU'RE in control?!" Booms an omniscient voice "THINK AGAIN!!!"

My cousin reminded me that we still had a gas grill outside. And suddenly a summer BBQ treat was a priceless necessity. My aunt reminded me that we could scoop buckets of water from the lake and manually "force flush" the toilets. We had candles and matches and our cabin wasn't underwater. We would be OK. And we were.

But that feeling of loss of control, of loss of independence...the feeling of complete and utter helplessness...that will stay with me for awhile.