Thursday, July 31, 2008

A non-editing exercise

This morning I am going to write without stopping or going back to edit. I have set the timer for 20 minutes and whatever I do I can't go back or read back on what I've written. So we'll be doing this together. Deal? Cool.

The narrarttor in my head has been getting louder and louder because I've been ignoring her the last couple of days. I've been cleaning, painting the girls' room, shopping for home improvement junk and all of those adult things that would drive a narrator crazy. She says, "You are ignoring me ME the diva in your head to fold laundry? Have you lost your mind you madball hooker? You corpulant tuna. See? When I write in a steady stream I don't make any sense. It's fun. It's like letting the child inside of me do cartwheels, even though in reality I've never been able to do a cartwheel.

I've never really been graceful. Tall and strong, but not, well maybe not graceful, but not rhythmic. I've always felt like an awkward giraffe. The night I met Chris a bunch of my friendas ended up at this bar called The Goldmine. He was shooting pool and my friends were dancing. He said, "I'm not keeping you am I? Did you want to dance?" I said no because I'm better at shooting pool than dancing and I wanted him to find me attractive. But maybe if I keep doing yoga I'll become more graceful

Sometimes in yoga class they say things that I find impossible not to laugh at. I dig all the talk about peace and love, but, as my friend Lauren pointed out after class he other night, sometimes they say the weirdest things. Like when our instructor was saying that eventually we'll get to a point in our practice where we'll be one with energy or something like that and he said, "You won't just do yoga. Yoga...will do you." For the last two days if I've found myself frustrated or depressed I thought, "Yoga will do you." and I luagh like a jackass. Then they say other things like, "Take a big, juicy breath." Juicy? What is breathing like for these people? They also say stuff that I can get behind to a certain point like, "reach over and sawy like a tree," and I'll think, "hell yeah, I can be a tree," and then he'll say "now move your upper ribs and lower pelvic bone forward and hold it for three minutes while panting" and I'll think "well, it's been a great class but I've got, uh, sod to plant so I'll be seeing ya and my ribs and pelvic bones wish all of you a good night."

Lauren did ruin one thing for me though. At the end while we were chanting, the instructor played some kindof instrument that sounds like a bitchin' accordian (seriously, that's the best way I can describe it), and when we got out of class Lauren said, "Did the end of that chant remind you of "The Safety Dance?" So now whenever Sean (our instructor chants) I will think, "'Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance then they're no friends of mine." Which, of course, will make me remember the Simpsons episode where Homer sings, "We can dance! We can dance! Everybody look at your pants!" And I will be that far away from acheiving enlighttenment.

I wonder how long it's been. Will this post go on and on? A,m I boring anyone? I suppose you can stop readin if it bores you. Or you can lie and tell me that you've reada it. For my next writing assignment, speaking of lauren who is in my writing group, she said for my next assignment she wants me to write about how I feel competitve whenever I meet another tall woman. This is an interesting topic because I don't really have a competitive nature, but whenever another tall woman appears I feel the need to be taller. It's as if she's marched into my turf. I'm six feet so if a woman walks in who, say, 6'2 I feel obligated to challenge her to a fight. I never have, b ut I wonder how another girl would react to this.

6'2" girl: It's A pleasure to meet you.

me (rolling up sleeves): You motherfucker.

I don't feel this way about men who are taller, I don't know why. Maybe it's a fiesty chick thing. Speaking of fiesty chicks

The timer just went off.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


As you can probably gather from the subject line, I'm extremely frustrated. I got up at 4:30 this morning, and went over to my desk to work on the book. Then the dog woke up and whined to be let out. I let her out, brewed some coffee, and brought her back in. I'd just sat back down at the computer when the dog jumped on Emma's bed and woke her up. So after about 45 minutes of distractions and shananigans, I was finally able to get back to the book...and stare at the screen for twenty minutes.

I can complain all I want about family obligations, and responsibilities other than working on the book, but the truth is that my main opponent when it comes to finishing this damn thing is me. I freeze up wondering if what I'm writing is moving the book along or if it's going into a crazy direction that will leave an editor looking perplexed and saying (as a literary agent who was confused about the middle of the book said), "Huh? What the hell is all this about?" Ok, the agent didn't say that second part but she did write "Huh?" right before she told me that my book would never sell without the help of a professional editor. I know that that's only one person's opinion and everything, but it only feeds my nagging doubts.

This is a sampling of the dialogue in my head:
positive me: "Yay! I have time to write."

hellish me: "What are you going to write about? Do you have any idea where the plot is going now?"

positive me: "No, but I can feel it out. I've written books before, I know I can do it."

hellish me: "Sure, you've written books that didn't sell."

positive me (weakening): "Well...yeah. But that's not necessarily an indicator that they weren't any good. And I've learned a lot from writing them."

hellish me: "Who the hell are you trying to convince? What are you, like a motivational speaker? This is crap that you would tell another blocked writer."

positive me, growing less positive: "I am a blocked writer and I need to hear - wait no, I mean I'm not. I am not a blocked writer, I'm writing right now."

hellish me: "Yeah, you're writing about feelings. This is real original of you, to write about how you feel."

defensive me: "I write about how the characters feel. Not me."

hellish me: "Oh come on, look at them. They're all just enormous megaphones screaming about how you feel. You just write about the same things and the same kinds of characters over and over again because they're all you."

defensive me: "That's not...well, sometimes it's true, I guess...I...Shut up."

hellish me: "What's the matter? Did I hurt your feelings? Why don't you go write about it, Feelings Girl? Oh wait, you can't. Because you're blocked! Ha, ha!"

defeated me: "God, I can really be a tool."

So I'm having a rough morning. And while I'm blogging about it I could be writing. I think what I have to work on more so than the book, is that asshole voice that gives me a daily beating. Deep down I know that I'm creative enough to fix the manuscript. The beginning and the end are right, it's just the road in between that needs polishing. I can't write it with black eyes and knuckles that are swollen from exchanging blows with the hellish voice. I need a Stuart Smiley pep talk. I can do it because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people dig me. Or something to that effect.

Back to the fray.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

So this is what heat is like

Last week I went to visit my friend Jennifer and her family in Tenessee. Jenn's originally from New Orleans, but like most of my friends growing up, she always wanted to live somewhere else. I didn't blame her. New Orleans is a messed up place, especially now, though she moved well before Hurricane Katrina. My friend Fred and I feel the same way about the place. Love for it has nothing to do with logic. It's like falling in love with the wrong person - you can't explain it. I mean, really. We're top on the charts for murder, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, corrpution, and we've got a long way to go in the racial harmony department. And I haven't even gotten started on the weather.

I always compare the humidity in New Orleans to what it would feel like if you stepped inside of someone's mouth. It's not just that it's hot. It's thick with humidity. I read an article by a guy once who came here on a book tour and he said that breathing here in the summer was like trying to breathe through a straw. But the air in the straw doesn't shoot up to your mouth, it gets stuck like when you suck in a McDonald's milkshake that's way too thick. Breathing became work for him until his body adjusted.

Tenessee is not like this. If Tenessee does a tourist campaign in New Orleans they should really hype up the breathing. "Come to Chatanooga, and breathe effortlessly! Stand outside for thirty seconds without having to shower afterwards!" Chatanooga was hot but it wasn't smothering like at home. And it was cool in the mornings! What the hell?! In the middle of the day we would go outside and I'd think, "So this is what plain old heat feels like without humidity...not bad."

The trip was a blast. It was me and Jenn again the way it was in our teens and early 20's, only with her four month old and four year old sons, and my three kids added to the mix. Ok, it's drastically different, but it's still me and Jenn. Plus, Claire said the strangest thing on the road trip. Emma screamed and said, "Claire get off me!" So I said, "Claire, leave Emma alone." And she said, "But I need a DNA sample." I was not sure how to respond to this. When I was a kid we played "I spy" on road trips. What the hell was Claire doing to pass the time? I never got an answer.

While we were in Chatanooga we went to the Aquarium which is huge, more expensive than I expected, and awesome. We were passing through the exhibit on swamps when I spotted a display case with a turtle shell next to a picture of an enormous cathedral. The statement next to it was this, "The turtle shell is a masterpiece of living architecture. Like a gothic cathedral, the domed shell provides maximum space within and strength to withstand the ages." I liked those two sentences so much I wrote them down. They're kind of lofty and perhaps they air on the overly dramatic side because it's just talking about turtles, but that's what I like about them. I didn't expect to find an illuminating observation in the swamp exhibit. I have a habit of writing down sentences and poems that I like when I find them and sometimes I'll underline them in books. It's like saving antique fabrics.

This sort of leads me to my latest anxiety. It's a weird one and I don't know why I'm worried about this since there are already so many other things to worry about, but I worry that I'm too much of a comment hog on Kevin Alexander's blog. I just get really excited about writing, especially when I'm talking to other writers and I tend to go on and on and on. I'm afraid I hog space doesn't belong to me. It belongs to Kevin. Maybe I should just go on and on and on here. Or maybe I should just stop being so self-conscious all the time. Yes, that is something to consider. Damn it, yoga isn't working fast enough! I demand self-esteem now, universe! That is, if it's not too much trouble.

Anyway, in the spirit of sharing poems that I think are bitchin', here is a poem. That is bitchin'.

The Rider
by Naomi Shihab Nye
A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn't catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

Hanging anxieties out to dry

It's six in the morning and I want to go back to sleep. I've been writing for an hour and a half, well rewriting really, and my confidence is beginning to slip again. I keep thinking, "What if this is boring? And what am I awake for anyway? The kids are asleep, I should be sleeping while I can. And if I can't fall back to sleep, then there's laundry to put away. The refrigerator needs cleaning, the dog needs a bath, and I have so many unread e-mails that I don't know if I can get through all of them in a day so I should start now.

Ok, now I should get back to the book and stop worrying about all the things I can take care of later. Besides, I don't want to let the overeditor in my head ruin the joy of early morning writing. I'll blog again later, but I just wanted to air out those anxieties.