Housecleaning and the Writing Life

March 8, 2012

One of the best books I have read recently, about writing, is A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning & Life by Nancy Peacock. This is a fabulous, entertaining, funny and well-written book about the writing life. Not a “how to” book as much as a memoir, Peacock writes about the houses she has cleaned, and how she has crafted her work and life as a writer, juggling both jobs. Her writing is lively and humorous, and she has keen insight into what makes us as writers “tick.”   An example of the former, while trying to find work she liked: “All I wanted was a job where I could show up, work, and go home with a paycheck. Oddly, this made me practically unemployable.”  An example of the latter, which I believe may be the most moving passage in the entire book: “Another big lesson is to finally understand that once I am a published writer I will always be a published writer, but that I will also always be an unpublished writer. I will get rejection slips, no matter what the New York Times said about my first novel. And hopefully I will always have material in need of some work,  because if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love.”  That last line gets me. And I hope I remember it when I reach those difficult times in my writing where I doubt myself and my work.

Read this inspiring book!

 


11 at 11 on 11

November 11, 2011

Heard a great story this morning on NPR. All in honor of the great movie, This is Spinal Tap. Remember where Nigel Tufnel talks about turning the volume all the way up to ELEVEN?  So, what are your top 11 songs that must be turned up to 11 to be fully enjoyed?

I came up with waaay more than 11, but here’s my short list, in no particular order. CRANK IT UP, UP, UP – TO ELEVEN! ROCK ON!!

1) Right Now – Van Halen

2) No Leaf Clover – Metallica & the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

3) King Nothing – Metallica

4) Man in the Box – Alice in Chains

5) Personal Jesus – Marilyn Manson

6) Hazy Shade of Winter – Bangles

7) Blue Monday – Orgy

8) Come As You Are – Nirvana

9) Bring Me to Life – Evanescence

10) Limelight – Rush

11) Walking in LA – Missing Persons

And a few retro dance tunes from the 1980s, too,  that are also great played at volume “11″.

1) Let’s Go All the Way – Sly Fox

2) You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) – Dead or Alive

3) Hello Again – Cars

4) Let’s Go Crazy – Prince

5) Burning Down the House – Talking Heads


Making it Easy to Give

March 11, 2011

I have a charitable heart, but not a charitable wallet.  I wish the latter could support the former, but that’s just not possible for me right now.

However, I’ve discovered a great, modest way I can give to a good cause. It is simple and easy.

My local grocery store (part of a large regional chain) often has “buy one, get one free” specials.  Usually, I only need one of whatever is on sale, but when I remember to do so, I’ll pickup two and give the second to the food bin they have at the front of the store for donations.

On Wednesdays, they have a “penny item.” If you make $XX amount in purchases, there will be one special item that you can get for a penny. One week it might be toilet paper. Another it might be coffee. You just never know, but it is nearly always something that most people will want or need.  I am trying to get into the habit of paying attention to their penny specials – even if it is something I would not purchase – so that then I can give that item to their food/donation bin.

Back about a month or so ago, when we were in the deep of winter, their penny item was some hot chocolate mix. I didn’t need it as I already had a good supply at home, but I put my penny down and put the hot cocoa over in the donation bin. It made me feel good and smile to myself, because I could imagine some laughing children coming in from playing in the snow, and Mom greeting them with some hot chocolate – perhaps a luxury that they had given up, like all others, when she had lost her job months ago. It made me feel good that my little contribution might bring some happiness and smiles to a family that was facing truly difficult times.

I’m going to try to pay more attention at the store and try to do this on a regular basis. Another $2, $3, or even $5 on my grocery bill won’t be that noticable to me – especially when the posted prices are buy one get one – and it could make a real difference to a hurting family.  If I find that I’m getting in a tight spot myself, in between paychecks, I can still use a penny to make a contribution, and help someone who truly may have no other aid.

I’m glad that my local store makes it so easy for me to give. Maybe you’ll find your store does this, too.

© 2011, writingreading


Writing numbers for 2010

January 2, 2011

A couple of years ago, I discovered the benefits of keeping a writing log. I’m working on writing a book, and so often, I would get discouraged about my progress. I decided to keep a writing log and it truly revolutionized the way I work and it inspires me to keep going.

You see, with a writing log, I merely keep track of my activities of the day. If I spend 4 hours and only write 1 page, then that’s OK. I write it down.  Although I do keep track of my time, more for just general basic recordkeeping purposes (taxes, etc.), the real heart and purpose of the writing log is keeping track of what I actually do, my “production.”

So, for example, it might look something like this:

12/13/2010   Edited 4 pages.

12/14/2010   Edited 7 pages, wrote 1 page.

12/27/2010  Wrote 1 page.

And so on.

The miraculous thing to me is that when I tally these up at the end of every month, I am absolutely astonished at what I have been able to accomplish.  In the daily grind, I often feel like I am hardly doing anything. It is easy for me to get discouraged.  But then at the end of the month, I find out just how much all of those – 1-page-days add up. It’s remarkable.

Then, when I do my year-end numbers, it is truly phenominal. Keep in mind, I am only a “part -time” writer – it is not by any means my full time occupation. I do this as I have time, but I also deliberately make time for it and remain committed to it. I have even sacrificed time with family and friends to do so. So I am quite serious about it.  But check these numbers out!

GRAND TOTALS FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR OF 2010:

Edited: 452 pages

Hand-edited: 494 pages

Wrote: 57 pages

Read: 445 pages

Whoa!!  Now keep in mind that those 400+ numbers mostly represent multiple times-through something. Meaning I may edit the same page or chapter 2 or 3 times, not just one go-round.

Still, it totally astonishes me that I managed to accomplish this much in the past year.  It tells me that “I can do it” (see it through to completion); it tells me that even though I had hoped to finish my book by the end of 2010, and I’m disappointed that I did not, I can still point to these numbers and say that I really did work on it hard in the past year, and if I didn’t finish it up, it wasn’t for lack of trying.  It just wasn’t finished, is all.

I highly recommend the practice of keeping a writer’s log, especially if you are working on a longer work and sometimes feel overwhelmed or discouraged. This practice has helped me a lot.

© 2011, writingreading


Word of the Year (2011) – Real

January 1, 2011

I still feel a little uncertain about this, but this year (2011), I’m choosing “real” as my word of the year.

I want my dream of writing a book to become real this year. Well – correction — I’m already writing it.  So it is becoming real. But I want to get done with it. Submit it to the publisher. Make it move from manuscript to finished “reality” – a published book.

I also realize I need to do a little “getting real” with myself, too. Real-ly- what do I want out of life, myself, my career, my  geographic location, the place I call home? Where is “home”, real-ly, for me? What do I want to become real in my life in the coming year?

What is the real issue(s) between myself and my family member(s) that makes in-person communication so painful? What is really behind all of my anger, which seems increasingly manifesting itself in my life, even when I try to put reins on it and bring it under my control, like a startled and panicky horse. I thought I’d gotten past the point of being an angry temperamental child decades ago. Apparently not.

The promising starts I made on some new efforts this past fall – will they become real, too? It’s hard to know, very ethereal by nature – but I suppose I will “know them when I see them.”

And now, let me look briefly back. My words last  year were:

Persistence and Patience

Both of them I chose mostly as they related to my book. Well, the book is still in progress, though I’m much much further along now than when I posted on New Year’s of 2010. My persistence has definitely paid off, because I really am very close to nearly finishing up my manuscript.

Patience….well, I always need help with patience. It is just not in my nature to be patient. I noticed this with family over the holidays. Not pretty.  But I am trying to be patient with myself as I continue working on my book.  And having faith that I will be able to see it through to completion. I want to make it REAL. I believe it will be, very soon, in 2011.

© 2011, writingreading


Inspired from the Past

July 24, 2010

Both my work and my avocation frequently bring me into contact with historical materials.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some items from a woman writer who lived in the early part of the twentieth century. It has been fascinating to me to read her letters and her actual writings, to see her working process – scribbles, scratches, and all – and to recognize a fellow female writer across time.

I don’t know much about her. [name witheld for both personal and professional reasons]  She’s no major novelist or playwright or poet that I can tell. But that makes her the more admirable, to me.

I’ve read her rejection letters. “Not for us at this time.”  “Does not meet our needs.” “Our readers would have been interested last year, but now it is passe.”  And then the rejection letter with a dash of encouragement tossed in: “Oh, but do send us something again. Perhaps something with a little more plot?”  That made me laugh out loud – but I can only imagine how sad and frustrating it must have been for the author.

She clearly continued to write. That spunk to continue to write, despite the rejections, I find inspiring. It is obvious it was her passion. I think I would have liked to have known her. She seems like she may have been a suffragist. She was a career woman – in a time when most women did not have careers. It seems like she must have traveled, too.

It has been fun looking at her writings and correspondence, because even though she is long gone and probably unremembered (she had no family), I feel it is a privilege to learn more about her, and be inspired by her work and her persistance and tenacity – even if she never did make it big.

That tells me writing is ALWAYS worth it!

© writingreading, 2010


When Old News is New News

July 22, 2010

I’m sure there must be a name for it, though I don’t know what it is.

I’m talking about the phenomena of finding out something, long after the fact, and feeling a shock as if the event just occurred.

For instance, just tonight, I learned that one of my favorite university presses almost got shut down last year. Last year, mind you. But the shock, worry, and sadness that I feel at this news (even though it is old news) is fresh and real.

A few years ago, I learned more details – maybe too many details, about a friend’s death more than 10 years earlier. I knew she had died, and knew in a general sense what had happened. But when I read a lengthy news article about what had happened – the shock and grief and sadness were all very real, in the present. I was shook up for at least a week, maybe longer. And my grief was made more complex because no one else was grieving this loss – to them, it was all long ago. To me, it was as if her death had just occurred.

I ponder these things because I find it interesting in a philosophical sense how “old news” can have such an emotional impact in the present.  I also have to believe this phenomenon has a name or term to describe it.

I also think something along these lines might make an interesting story line for a short story or maybe even a novel, about a main character who has her world turned upside down by finding out “old news” and its impact on her present life. I’ll have to think on that one, some more.

© writingreading, 2010


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