Wednesday, October 24, 2007

slogging along

I've been at it for 9 days, which means I should have almost 11K new words. Well, I don't. I do have one-and-a-half new chapters though. And a pretty good line of flight.

Briefly, what I know now about my characters (and didn't know a week-and-half ago), is a good deal of their backstory and heartbreak. Totally worth the price of admission.

I'm getting that old marathon writing stride, which vacillates between manic and dismal. You get inspired, you get bored, you arrive at an epiphany, you become disgusted by your lack of creativity. It's a wild ride, this novel-writing.

I've had myriad real-world interruptions this week, legitimate ones, and I'm fighting for time this afternoon to sink back in, but I'm not hopeful that I'll get a real 1200 word day until Saturday. Which, hopefully, will prove prolific as I'll be on a plane for a bunch of hours.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

stairway of love

I'm sweating. And, I'm behind. Already.

Actually, yesterday I wrote only 480 words, so I got up early today, and I refused to check email (read: work) until I made up the deficit. And I did. Wrote my 1200. Whew. Now, I just have to make time for today's word count, but first, I need to catch up on work, darn it!

It's 8:45 in the morning and I've given a character a terminal illness, given another character a horrendous backstory detail, and looked up so many items on ebay (research), I feel like a professional shopper.

The image above, L'escalier de L'amour, a painting by the grandson of Henri Matisse (which I stumbled upon on my ebay research), has become a central object. A "horse" in Dangerous Writing parlance.

More important than achieving word count, I'm lit up with the pain and suffering of my narrator. I think I may actually care about her! And now, I need to decide what she looks like.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Don't ask me how, but I cranked out my promised 1200 today. Well, ok, go ahead and ask anyway. Because it's an interesting experiment. I put on the 'phones and ituned my way through. Funny thing about blasting music into your can't hear the phone! You can't hear the intrusive email see-saw sound indicating that work has found its way to your inbox.

Hm. Guess that's why god invented voice mail.

So. Springsteen, Brandi Carlisle, Richard Thompson and a bunch of free Starbux downloads carried me through a scene in which my characters eavesdrop on their mother's drunken rants and arguments. It's heavy on the dialogue, which is always faster to write, for me, than physical description. Seems easier to write what people are saying than what they're doing when Colbie Callait is the other voice in your head, I guess.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

it's only words

Officially, I don't start this 70 Days of Sweat thing until Monday, but I want to generate some new pages before Monday, for workshop, so I'm going to jump the gun. Look over there, to the right, and you'll see the nifty widget from zokutou. Such a terrific idea, concretizing the process so it speaks to those of us who require external motivation to slog forward.

I have to admit, I don't like to think of myself in those terms: one who needs to join a group in order to fulfill writing goals. My self-concept is firmly GDI. "I'll do it myself if it kills me."

The other day, at the full-service-everything-from-pork-and-beans-to-pvc-pipe grocery store, Fred Meyer, I had an epiphany. I was looking for a particular type of printer cartridge, and I wasn't finding it. I looked for 15 minutes, gazing over the same pegs, shelves, aisle. I realized that I didn't want to ask a sales associate if they carried that type of cartridge because the disappointment seemed less all-encompassing (and less absolute) if I came up empty without being told by an authority that the product was not to be found.

The epiphany was about how my epistemology is rooted in "anything is possible" and depends upon it not being confirmed otherwise. Ergo: I am a rock, I am an island.

It's quite a paradigm shift for me to acknowledge that I'm secretly needy and, worse, that I resent and fear those who are publicly needy. To throw myself into the ring with other writers you have failed on their own confirms that, on my own, I'm a loser. I know this is harsh, and might result in immediate hate mail, but I stand by my self-diagnosis. And, I realize that I need to get over it--the myth, the resentment, the 'tude. I need to strap on my nail bag and write--and encourage others to do the same.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

a new challenge

Okay, enough whining already. I'm going to stop with the let's talk about why I'm not writing posts and become a production slut. Anybody hear of 70 Days of Sweat? No, it's not another mountain or marathon. This is about keeping my butt in the seat.

It's a public challenge, sorta like Weight Watchers or AA, only instead of chairs in a church basement, it's virtual accountability. The way I understand it, each participant has to own up on whether they've hit their word count by posting it on a blog. I think there's icons and crap involved--so look forward to that!

There are a couple of things about this opportunity that intrigue me right off the bat:
1. When I only write three pages a week, and only one or two days a week, I lose the authority of voice and purpose. I have to re-establish voice, re-remember characters and re-initiate my enthusiasm for the project.
2. I miss the whipping post that grad school was. I graduated from Antioch LA's Low Res MFA program and I got a lot of daily writing done. Of course, I wasn't working full time then (I'm already launching my excuses...stop it, Suzy!)
3. My current WIP (that's Work in Progress, for you uninitiates) is just too good an idea to throw into the tank of false starts and slacker manuscripts that never get done.

So. I'm signing up. Today. Right now. I am.

Monday, October 08, 2007

going the distance...sort of

"People think I’m disciplined. It is not discipline. It is devotion. There is a great difference.”
--Luciano Pavarotti, opera singer, (1935-2007)

My hip joints hurt. My brain isn't quite working right. I have a couple quarter-sized blisters on the balls of my feet. After 26 miles and change, with inadequate training on pavement, I'm humbled. Blue-haired ladies with fanny packs stretched across their broad bottoms passed me nonchalantly. With a chip time just barely under 8 hours, I felt like a short-bus, Special Olympics kid as tenacious well-wishers cheered on my tired, gimpy ass, and bored teenagers doing community service held paper cups of Gatorade out to me those last few miles.

Kirk and I have added "walked the marathon" to our web of togetherness activities. However abashed I feel, Kirk feels more so, given that the bystander applause for the stragglers was accompanied with shouts of "You go girls!" According to the stats, he finished 345th out of 347th in his sex/age category.

I'm not minimizing the accomplishment, though. The fact is, us mt-climbing hikers were simply underprepared to walk 26.2 city miles. Training schedules are typically 5 months of gradually increased distance walks culminating with two 20-mile training walks. Our longest road training walk was 10 miles, and our longest walk in the woods was 15 miles. Our decision to join the masses of appropriately trained athletes amounts to one word: Chutzpah!

Our casual approach to marathon weekend extended beyond not really training for it. For instance, we went to a dinner party the night before and helped ourselves to substantial servings of "unfamiliar foods" (red meat), and swilled our share of alcoholic beverages, followed by a night in my daughter's downtown apt, where we may have slept three hours or so in a pull-out drawer made for a midget, not to mention a couple unmentionable and embarrassing physical maladies that befell us a few days before. (All I'll say about that is, thank God for witch-hazel.)

But, through it all: the non-training walks, the logistical scramble, the slightly late start we got on race day, all of it, we had a blast. We laughed, we christened every single stand of porta-potties, we grabbed all the free Red Bull and Gummi Bears they offered, and even considered hopping off course for a quick bagel--which we didn't do, but we did slip off to Kirk's "Shagwagen" parked a half-block off the 13 mile mark in order to change socks and apply Tiger Balm.

Other fun long-distance walking distractions included arguing about the form and function of sliding glass doors (that one got us through the ugliest wind-in-the-face section of the NW Industrial area), and planning our upcoming winter activities. We chatted the 7 hours and 49 minutes away as though we were on an extended date.

Our whole "let's do the marathon this year" plan was built on whimsy and courtship. We were devoted to the idea of it, if not the discipline required to do it right. And, let's face it, in middle age, we have to fight seriousness whenever we can. Not to say that we lacked intention--it's just that our intention was simply to do it, without thinking too much about micromanaging the preparation for it.

Kirk and I are both fairly competitive, so it was an interesting choice to sign up for a race knowing we'd end up near the bottom of the pack. But, we also share a history of allergy to "groups." Signing up for a training camp where our schedule, routes, footwear and diet would be dictated by an association left both of us cold. So we set out on our own, devising a half-assed regimen that included shit we like to do--and nothing more. Oh, the arrogance. Oh the aching legs, ass, feet and hips! But, in three days we'll be over it and on to the next thing. Or not. In the big picture, the fact that we imprinted a lasting memory while taking a long-ass walk through the bowels of Portland amid the cheering, enthusiastic masses was worth more than a stellar chip time. And, guess what? This gig is an annual event, so if we ever decide to explore the disciplined version of our little experiment, we gots another chance.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I'll work for your love, Bruce

Excited to indulge the Jersey Girl in me, off I trotted to Music Millennium to purchase Bruce Springsteen's Magic, which came out today.

I wanted the actual physical cd. I wanted the liner notes, the photos of Clarence Clemens and the other E Street hooligans mixing it up behind Da Boss. This was an album worthy of such a quest, even though I then would need to spend time synching the cd to my online/ipod devices.

Alas, Music Millennium no longer exists (even if its website still does). The default for all music is the overwhelmingly popular itunes or some other digital interface. No more browsing through the bins, shelves and racks in a darkly lit, hip, funky venue appointed with Sharpie-penned signs and vintage candy. I find it odd that Walmart has usurped the role of the local music hukster. Magic was on sale today at the corporate behemoth for $9.72, which is 27 cents less than what I spent at itunes for the download. I may be somewhat of a Jersey Girl, and definitely a fan of "everyman" themes in literature and lyrics, but I refuse to go to Walmart for my music.

As physical venues for art disappear like rain forest species, I'm led to ponder this scary question: Will bookstores become extinct too?