Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Baseball Joy

If I were doing a "summer" mind map--you know, that brainstormy tool that looks like a visual tinkertoy assembly, with spokes connecting a central idea to disparate topics--one of the topics would be "baseball."

Ahh, baseball. A League of Their Own. The Boys of Summer. The Church of Baseball. Lemonade and hot dogs in the blazing sun.


And this: Baseball Life Advice, by Stacey May Fowles.

I haven't been to a baseball game since a Tucson spring training game 2007. At least I think that's when it was, and the league, and the location. I know I was there with my father (and my sister), and Daddy wasn't feeling 100%, and the dust didn't help his breathing, but once we landed in some seats, he got out a pen and started scoring the game in his own style. As he did.

But baseball exists not only nostalgia-tinged hazy memories like mine. Games are going on, now, and people still enjoy it and are inspired by it. They look to the game for entertainment and as a form of salvation. They consider its lessons.

And by "they" I really mean Stacey May Fowles, who's been writing about baseball since 2012 and caring about it for far longer. Reading these essays was like having a bunch of great conversations--always substantive, never preachy--on an afternoon when the sun's out but it's not too hot, and you've successfully put from your mind those random, nagging worries about bills and work problems, and your conversation partner knows more than you do but knows how to share it without making you feel stupid, and she even lets you sit quietly from time to time so you can think about what she's just said.

That's in fact how reading this book actually WAS for me. I forced myself to put it down instead of gobbling it whole. I gave myself time to read and ponder. I dog-eared page after page (and back-to-back pages at times), for all kinds of reasons. And the experience of reading it in this way was JUST what I have needed.

The topics range widely and she has so many interesting things to say. For example, this, at the end of a thorough essay on Imposter Syndrome:
The best way to deal with the voice that tells you that you're not good enough, or smart enough, or qualified enough, is to wake up every day and prove it wrong.

That. That's how I'm conquering the nausea of revising and sharing work. It helps. It will continue to help. As will its thoughts about disappointments, almosts, cheating, performance anxiety, communities, and teamwork.

Well worth reading. And re-reading. And I will. And I'll get to remember my father, with fondness, every time.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Revisions, Yet Again

I'm at the nausea stage of revising my novel--that is, the thought of other people reading it nauseates me and, I worry, reading it would nauseate them too.

On yesterday's walk, I noticed this balsam, which made me think of revising all over again.

The rust-colored branch that's hanging down was cut but not severed when the municipality trimmed back the trees growing over the street. I didn't stop to check closely, but I think the extending branch was damaged at the same time.

I don't know enough about the secret lives of trees to know why or when or exactly how, but I have noticed that evergreens also prune themselves. They drop needles that are no longer useful to them. These branches had help, but trees back in the bush are also dropping growth.

Which is what I've tried to do with this novel--get rid of the parts that aren't useful, that no longer work. The novel has taken several twists and turns through the years, as I've learned and experimented and despaired. The kernel I'm exploring is the same, the relationships still fascinate me, and I love the setting. But in working through all its iterations, I've gone down a few blind alleys.

The point is, like the tree, my novel doesn't need some of those branches any more. I've tried to get rid of them, but I know I've missed several.

Still. The tree grows over the course of several years. So has this novel. They're still pruning. And so can I.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Now Live at FGP

My essay, "Backwards, Opposite, Contrary," is now live at Full-Grown People! Here's how it starts.

Rowing: using oars to propel a boat. When you row, everything is backwards. You face away from your destination. Your right oar is to port, the boat’s left side. Your left oar is to starboard, the boat’s right side. 
Maneuvering feels strange at first, but with practice, your brain adjusts. As it does to so many things.
It's about...a lot of things, actually. The ways time changes expectations in relationships. The limits of minor rebellions. When the place you go to "get away from it all" is the place where "it all" actually is. Mothers, and fathers, and the cryptic ways we show our love for each other.

And rowing.

With an awesome photograph by Gina Easley.

Here's the link to the whole thing. Many thanks to FGP editor Jennifer Niesslein!
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Shuffle Rebellion

Sometimes I don't sleep well. I've been blaming hormones; it might be age. Regardless, sometimes I just don't sleep well.

Yes, even when one of my feet is out from under the covers. (I read somewhere that receptors on the soles of your feet, when cold, signal the brain that it's time to sleep.)

Yes, even when I wear earplugs. (My husband is an excellent snorer.)

Yes, even when I exercise, do gentle stretching, limit light from screens, yadda yadda.

So--although I missed the article in O, the Oprah Magazine--I was interested to read articles about the "cognitive shuffle" trick. Like this article, from the CBC.

Basically, you think of a word--a short one, without repeating letters, like COMB. (That was my word last night.) And then you mentally list other words that start with those letters. The idea is that the task is repetitive enough to be calming but engaging enough to keep you doing it.

But I can't follow directions. I mean, I could. I love to, in fact. I'm a champion rule-follower. I've been following rules ever since I can remember. I have to WORK to NOT follow the rules.

Yet last night, for some reason, I decided this exercise would be an area in which I transcended my upbringing.

Just listing words that start with C until I ran out of words--dull and tedious. Plus, I'd never get to another letter. I'm a writer! I know lots of words that start with C!

Then I recognized I wasn't all that sure how to do it right--whether you exhaust all your C words before moving to COMB or if you do a C word, an O word, an M word, a B word, a C that.

Then I decided it didn't matter. That I wanted to do a word for each letter, C, O, M, B, C, O, M, B. AND I'd use categories. States. First names. Cities. Last night's category was Food.

Which is why I was lying in bed last night WIDE AWAKE, debating whether "orangutan" counted as a food, given that I wouldn't eat one but had used up "orange" and "oatmeal" and was stuck.

Which is when I realized that the POINT of the cognitive shuffle isn't to "do it right" in the way I had defined it, in an effort to transcend my upbringing--to create word lists in categories, say--but to FALL ASLEEP.

Ergo, "improvements" to this sleep method had been part of what worked against me. (Plus a too-late coffee and hit of chocolate, but never mind that.)

I eventually slept last night, but neither long enough nor well enough. Tonight, though--tonight, I'm going to sleep like the champion rule-follower I am.