Writing in the Time of Cholera

journalA number of people have mentioned the book Love in the time of Cholera to me lately. Ron Terranova, fellow writer and Poe lover, reminded me Shakespeare had a very fertile writing period during The Black Plague.

My writer and critique friend, Jo Rousseau, said she’s keeping a journal and thought many people should. It would be interesting, she said, to see the pandemic from different points of view.

There are people who are having trouble focusing on writing. I have to admit, I was one of them.

While others are saying they’ve never gotten more done. Perhaps they are in the minority? Or maybe they write well under pressure?

Just the day before Jo mentioned the journal, I started keeping my own. I’ve been plagued by disturbing dreams.

Our lives are changing, but not forever. We will come out of this, we will get through this, and I, personally, want to have something to show for it.

I started listing the things I’m accomplishing every day. I’ve added some other things, pandemic jokes and memes. Someone else is writing down the use of language, such as “social distancing”, and how those words are changing and shaping our understanding of society. It’ll be interesting how this comes to use after the pandemic.

Beyond all the free things being offered to keep us safe and sane, free yoga classes, free workouts, free virtual tours of national parks and art museums, there are a number of other things to keep us busy.

It’ll help us all to accept that, for a little while, we need to stay home and find alternative ways to sail through our days. 90186249_1912526478878981_330678285262389248_o

I urge all writers to keep a journal. Not to focus on writing to publish, but a personal historical account for your children, your grandchildren, or for the future. How will this time be remembered? Consider how we think of the Plague and The Flu Epidemic of 1918. What do you know about it? Do you know any people, any stories, any personal or family accounts of the day to day life? Encourage your children to keep journals too – in the future, compare them.

Journaling has helped me get back to writing.

Stay well. Stay healthy. Be safe.

Much love and appreciation.

The Idea Farm

The idea farm is a creation – where we keep all of our ideas planted, waiting for the spring.

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PLANT:

There’s a time for the planting – every day, every minute, every conversation, every silence. But pick and choose. My favorite place to get ideas is from overheard snippets of conversations, words and lines heard in passing or overheard in a coffee shop. Sometimes, it’s just a word someone throws out that sticks. It might be an image. Someone posted a photo and it was eerie, strangely haunting to my strange little perception. I have notebooks, torn papers, lists of ideas. And the ideas do come to live when they’re ready.

FERTILIZE:

To keep the idea farm going, we need to keep it fresh. New ideas coming, water flowing, fertilizer tossed around. Water is connected, according to Freud, to our unconscious. Taking a bath before bed is a great way to feed your muse. Fertilize – remember to go back, reread, add a word or two, subtract a word or two, think about it before you go to bed, when you first wake up. Something will bloom. Sometimes it blooms prematurely and I’m up at 3am writing like a madwoman. But it works. I wrote a number of poems and short stories struck by a fever of words and rhythm.  Of Strays and Exes and The Gold Tooth were written under one of those spells.

HARVEST:

When the time is right, you write. You’ll pluck that idea out of the ground and start massaging it into what it was meant to be. Eddy was on a list. It sat there for quite some time waiting for me to be brave enough to pull it out, confident enough to put the words to paper, and strong enough to show it to others. So many more stories came like that – waiting for just the right time, ripe from the time and the fertilizer and ready to burst forth.

 

Much love and luck.

Where Chaos Reigns…

chaos

I knew a writer who created drama whenever and wherever he could. His eyes would light up and he’d say, “stories, writers need to create drama for stories.”

However, he rarely ever got any writing done because he had so much drama and backlash from the things he’d do.

For me, I find that creating or being a party to drama and chaos extinguishes my creative flow.

Just the everydayness of life is enough for writers to gain enough insight and experience to write and create drama in their stories. They do not need to create it or go take an active part in it.

For me – I want to stay far, far away from anyone and anything that affects my serenity which will, in turn, dampen my creativity.

 

If You Give a Girl a Hammer…

She will want to build a life.

It rained at the beginning of school break. I discovered my window was leaking. It didn’t seem to need much, maybe new caulk.

When that was finished, I painted the sill. I discovered other parts of the room which needed a touch up.

Do you see where this is going?

I spent much of the break fixing, painting, home repairing, and cleaning out clutter.

I don’t consider this a distraction but another aspect of my being.

As writers,  we need to be vigilant about distractions, but we also need to feed the other parts of us which make us who we are.

Home repairs remind me I’m strong and self sufficient. The accomplishment feeds my brain much needed dopamine we don’t always receive from writing.

Home repairs remind me I’m capable and flexible. My writing schedule sometimes gets the better of me and I become all work and no play.

Home repairs are nostalgic. My father raised us to do for ourselves. And it got me pretty far.

Honoring all parts of ourselves is an investment to those who surround us as well as to our writing.

It makes us better humans and more invested writers.

Happy Monday!

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve’s Eve

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Why not to date a writer…

You may have heard this before –

1. If you anger a writer, you will die – in their story!

The good news is – you get to live to die another day

2. Any little tick you have, one of the characters will probably get.

You’ll probably never notice

3. Anything you say can and will be used … in a story.

If it’s good, anyway.

However –

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Consult the Psychic…

 

 

What people think they know…

main_main_paper-wasp-bug-bookWhen people read what you’ve written, sometimes they feel they have some sort of insight into you the rest of the world is not privy too.

It’s ironic. I spend half my time in class convincing my students that maybe a yellow bird or a green light means something more in literature. That the author might have planned it or perhaps it was unconscious, but that it might just be a way into the text, to understand the story or characters a little better than a simple reading might.

And… we can sometimes assume things about the author.

We know Fitzgerald disliked the hypocrisy he saw all around him and Trumbo was disgusted by the war, but can we say with any certainty that F.Scott had unrealized feelings based on the characters’ portrayals.mirror-mirror

Some people like to make guesses about me. They like to make what they feel are educated guesses about the person I am. Someone made a comment to me, recently, about one of the characters in my book, trying to guess which character was actually me.

Of course, we put ourselves into the characters, but rarely do we actually write ourselves. Sometimes, I let it go – let them wonder. Other times, I’m a little annoyed that someone makes an assumption because they read one story and based it on one of the hundred characters I’ve created.

We can’t let it get to us too much – once we send a story out into the world, we can’t control where it will end up or what people will think.