The Write Time

I have happened to mention to a few people that I am working on writing a novel. (At the moment I’m ignoring the novel and bouncing between a novella, a short story, and something that I don’t know how long it’s going to be yet, but that’s another story.) And occasionally people say, I don’t know how you find the time! And although I know that as a stay at home Mom with three littles, yes I’m busy, but I have the same amount of time as everybody else – 24 hours, seven days a week – I do find that I don’t have as much time as I would like to be quiet and concentrate on what’s in my head.

I just finished reading a lovely blog post by Kristen Lamb on writers and organization, which had some really helpful ideas. You can find it here. I particularly appreciate this:

Yet, I have to say that just because something is our nature doesn’t mean that we are to be a victim to our innate shortcomings. In fact, Bob Mayer gives a wonderful exercise in his workshops. He says to look at our Myers-Briggs personality…then look at the opposite of our personality, and likely that is the area we need the most work.

I’m not big on personality tests – I don’t know what mine is except by experience, and that’s confusing enough without giving it an acronym – but I like the idea of looking at the opposite of my strengths to find my weak spots. Because I often feel that way, and feel a tiny bit stupid about it. You know, if only I could be the opposite of who I am right now, this and that and this problem would just go away. Well, probably not, but it’s encouraging to know that this could be a reasonable and possibly productive train of thought and not just pointless wallowing in self-pity.

I’m not sure I’m ready to apply this to my writing. I’m working on being less critical right now since I spent a few months not writing anything because I couldn’t make anything I was writing into what I wanted it to be.  I will probably have to compensate by being more critical somewhere down the road, when I go back to thinking everything I write is wonderful and award-winning. BUT, I can see how focusing on other areas, (like paying more attention to how I use my time) could benefit from accepting that I have to put some extra effort into the areas I am weakest in, instead of pretending that my weaknesses don’t exist.

Dining on words

“…they had a moment’s glimpse of glittering plate-glass and rich morocco, and the magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging his wheel, possessed all earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung an enveloping cloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindled to a speck in the far distance, changed back into a droning bee once more.”

The Wind in The Willows, Kenneth Grahame

When I started Wind in the Willows to my kids, I knew that I would probably like it. I like literary classics, and almost everything I like to read myself is British, so I’ve been looking forward to reading this one. After plowing through the Cat in the Hat and the Magic School Bus books so many times, I feel like I have gotten a kind of reward now that my son is willing to sit and listen to a book like this. What I didn’t know is how incredibly fun the language in this book would be.

My son was won over by the animals and the map in the beginning of the book. My daughter is a bit young for this one, but she is slowly warming up to this book. But I sit and read with a big grin on my face, because almost every line is an indulgence in language. It’s like a little feast for those who like to dine on words.

I can’t help thinking that Kenneth Grahame was laughing while he wrote this book, and that he shares Mole’s excitement when he discovers the river on a brilliant spring day, because he is excited by all these terrific words he gets to write.

I could be wrong. He may have been slaving at his desk and making himself miserable trying to think of the next phrase.

But I doubt it.

Too Big to Fail

NB – old post

I have been fretting over my novel for a while, making little progress, writing new scenes and new plot lines instead of fixing what I already have. I realized at long last that this is because the finished book I have in mind is not only a best seller and a literary masterpiece, but also innovative and life changing. Just a tiny bit ambitious, don’t you think?
I am reminded of something Donald Miller wrote in Searching For God Knows What?. I am not going to go look up the actual quote right now because I was supposed to start making dinner half an hour ago, so I will summarize. He says that a radio host once asked him in an interview why he wrote a book and he responded with great honesty, “because I want people to like me”.

Me too.

And this, fortunately, makes me realize that I have in fact been agonizing over how to write a book that will please other people. And although I wouldn’t want to write a book that everybody hates, it’s much more interesting to try and write a book that satisfies me.

Not that I will actually accomplish this, because I always find fault with other people’s books, and I mean books by really good writers. So from a certain point of view, I’m already going to fail. But maybe I can write a book that embodies things that I love. Or I can try, at least.

The Grandeur of God

Several years ago I went roller blading with friends on the bike path that runs alongside Lake Champlain. I have never been a fantastic skater, and I was using the same cheap pair of skates I had in middle school. For much of the time I was dead last and my friends were urging me to hurry up. My ankles were sore and my knees aching, but I kept on in the vain hope that I would eventually be skating with my friends instead of making them look anxiously over their shoulder at me.

In one place the path runs between two mossy walls of rock stretching twenty feet above one’s head. You can still see the horizontal lines for the dynamite that was used to open up the hillside. As we passed through in the late afternoon, fireflies had begun to blink in the shadow of the rock walls. It was still daylight above, but dim lights flashed down below in the roofless tunnel. It only lasted for twenty feet or so. It was beautiful.

“Come on, LeAnne. Hurry up!” I couldn’t stop to watch. Maybe it would have been less magical if I had, less like a stolen glimpse of paradise

   God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs–
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

                                                   Gerard Manley Hopkins

Why Write?

n.b. – moved from old blog

Many writers answer this question with, “I have to”, or “I need to”. It is usually written in a more fascinating way, but that is what it typically boils down to. Many writers feel compelled to write. Now, I’m intimidated by the idea of calling myself a ‘writer’ , (with a capital W right?), but I never liked this answer. I think it is rare than anyone feels irresistibly compelled to do anything.

Really, though, I think I was afraid that I had failed to make it into the writing club because I didn’t have some uncontrollable to urge to put one word in front of another.

Well, maybe I do, because although I have not written a lot since I left school, (excepting this past year), I have always written down ideas, beginnings of stories, scraps of dialogue, and so on. But what it really comes down to is this – I like to write. It’s fun. But it is not easy fun. It’s hard fun. Coming up with meaningful fiction ideas that drive me to keep writing is even harder, and has proved to be the real turning point for me I think.

The great thing I have discovered, that for some peculiar reason has eluded me for years, is that writing makes me happy. How did I miss this? I’m not sure. But when I’ve spent some time piecing together my imaginary world on paper, I feel at peace with myself.
I mope a bit when the story is proving difficult, but when things are going more or less okay, I’m okay too. This, to me, is a very sweet gift, that I have finally found the courage to do the thing that makes me happy, and that God made me to be somebody who could love to write.

Why Write? Part two

N.B. – moved from my old blog

I have to admit that it feels ridiculous at times to write fiction, when I stop and consider the sheer amount of fiction that already exists in the world. I’m sure there are numbers somewhere that tell us how many novels have been published this year, how many have been submitted for publication, how many have been written in history, but the actual quantity is irrelevant. Just knowing that books like “The Tale of Two Cities” or “Brideshead Revisited” even exist is enough to make me wonder why I should bother. There are already more novels than anyone could ever read, and large proportion of them are ridiculously better than what I am writing. This has been a kind of nagging fear in the back of my brain for a long time, but recently my thinking has changed.

Every so often in conversations, especially late at night when people become practicing philosophers, the idea comes up of how we cannot really know what’s in another person’s mind. Words are the best we have to communicate what’s in our mind, but there are always times when words fail. Sometimes we write our words down, some of us paint pictures, write music, build towers, to say what we think and feel about the world, but communication is always a hit and miss proposition.
We cannot have perfect communication with other people, no matter how close we become, so we go through all of our tricks of expression to try and get at what we see and think and hear and know in the quiet places in our soul. For me, that means I write stories, because there are things I want to say about the world, and this is the only way I seem to be able to say them.

And this is the way other people say them too, and it is one of the most powerful forms of communication. A good story can sometimes say more than any other form of expression. And as many before me have pointed out, most of the Bible is stories, even stories within stories, and one all encompassing ‘In the beginning’ to ‘The End’ story. Sometimes, a story is the best way to say what you mean.

So why another story? Or song or poem or picture? Because I’m me, and not you. I’ll read yours, to see what you see, if you can make it compelling and uniquely you. Maybe you’ll read somebody else’s, and get something about the world you couldn’t see on your own.

The thought that there might be someone out there who could participate in my view of the world for a little while, and enjoy what they find there, is a thought that keeps me writing.