Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Celebrations: Middles, Beginnings, Ends

Thirteen years ago today, Roy and I had a wedding and ate Nanaimo bars. It was a great wedding. The Nanaimo bars, too. We're happy. I enjoy celebrating our anniversary. 

Birthdays are an obvious time for celebration. Book birthdays, for example. It's fun to celebrate beginnings--the beginning of a life or a life together. 

Endings are harder to celebrate, exactly. If the thing ending was lovely and positive, it's hard to be happy to have had something when you're still mourning its loss. If the thing ending was not so lovely or positive, the temptation is to pause for a momentary "whew" and keep moving. 

At least in my experience. 

So how can we celebrate more things in the middle? Which is sort of what an anniversary is. Thirteen years, with thirteen-hundred more. Also a birthday celebration--you were born, see how far you've come!  

Another middle: it's the eleventy-millionth day of asking myself about this character in my novel, "What is Martin doing? Is his name even Martin?" So, yay?

August 26th is (according to some) National Dog Day. Also, since 1971, Women's Equality Day to celebrate the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting (White, sigh) women the right to vote. Women's equality is for sure a work in progress (equal pay, bodily autonomy, argh). 

Daily celebrations. Everyday (quotidian) celebrations. Things on gratitude lists. Celebrations of the middle, in the middle. 

Happy day-in-the-middle-of-the-thing, everyone. Have a Nanaimo bar. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Pushing and Relaxing

I'm working on a novel. Like, really, for reals. 

Know how I know? I'm throwing things away and enjoying that process.  

Also: when I sit with fingers on the keyboard, I'm excited and a little nervous. I know what will happen, what actually HAS to happen, but I don't know how it happens until my fingers start moving. 

I've been working on this novel for a long time, through many drafts. I've also carried it with me at times when I couldn't work on it because logistics, because energy, because anxiety, because perfectionism, because reasons.

It's all very Ecclesiastes: times for this, times for that; fallow and fecund; lean and large. Metaphor-for-less and metaphor-for-more. I'm trying to remember that the fallow times have helped make the fecund times possible, and be grateful for them.

Through the years, through the times and family and country and culture I grew up in, I've learned (perhaps too well) to keep pushing myself, to keep trying. To persist, if you will, regardless of opposition. Tired? Push harder. 

As I age, my body is teaching me that rest is also important. Relaxing is also the body's "work." Rest is necessary. Only with rest can I push again. (Maybe if I'd delivered a child I'd have already learned that, but I did not. I am at least learning on a book.)

Without sounding too woo-woo (after Ecclesiastes!), things happen in their own time.

On a different project--also a novel, though not my own--I had a conversation this morning. We have had this conversation in the past. I have presented my perspective several times. This morning, another opening came up to present my perspective, and the conversation took a different direction. 

The final product will be better because it has been delayed--by pandemic, by perfectionism, by energy, by reasons.

Things happen in their own time. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Recommended: Nonfiction (and Agates)

I don't have any personal pictures of agates. I'm not sure I've ever found one, though I live on north shore of Lake Superior, where they are legion. So here's a link, if you want to see what they look like: lake superior agate .

I do have lots of pictures of driftglass, however. A recent collection:

I bring up agates because the article I'm recommending, Karen Babine's "A Taxonomy of Nonfiction; Or the Pleasures of Precision," from LitHub, begins with agate-hunting on the Lake Superior shoreline.

And here is what she writes about: 

I’m fascinated by the idea of a taxonomy in nonfiction, of order, an ever-expanding vocabulary to articulate what the page is doing. I’m not in pursuit of definition so much as I am seeking articulation.

In the article, Babine discusses various ways to differentiate works of nonfiction, in a hierarchy. Not that she posits that she's created "an answer," just simply a way of thinking about nonfiction. (Another fun concept: the difference between precision and accuracy.) 

She also describes how she uses this taxonomy with classes, mostly to create a shared vocabulary to use while workshopping, instead of definitively classifying student work. 

I find it useful to think about writing in this way, especially when I'm revising essays. Am I attempting to convey something in a form, shape, or mode that doesn't suit the subject? Having these words helps me examine my own work to see where it doesn't match my intent. 

It's easy to spend a lot of time reading articles at LitHub, an activity with downsides. But mostly, time spent there--as with this article--is well worth it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Surprisingly Helpful: #1000wordsofsummer

I like linear, predictable processes. 

I'm not generally the kind of person who proclaims, "I'm the kind of person who" (because honestly, beware), but if I were, I'd say, "I'm the kind of person who likes linear, predictable processes, with a side of outlines and spreadsheets."

And yet. I have come to see that my writing process doesn't necessarily work that way. I once scoffed at those who said, "you don't know what you think about something until you write it," but now I enjoy scoffing at my own preconceived notions. Because I often don't know what I mean until I write it, and sometimes not until I've revised that writing several times. 

Not edited. Revised. Like re-envisioning. 

I really don't have enough experience to comment knowledgeably about The Writing Process (although I still try), but here's a couple of things I've learned: a. mine usually isn't as linear as I'd like and b. I'm never sure what will be helpful until I try it. 

So. I've been looking for hacks to help me with writing goals. Perhaps especially in pandemic time. Perhaps just in this time of my own writing life, where I'm finishing and starting projects, and supporting last year's book. Perhaps just in summer. Perhaps always. Perhaps for you. Or not.

Here's one: #1000wordsofsummer

Led by American writer Jami Attenburg, this effort is basically what it sounds like: you write #1000 words a day (or maybe you can revise or something), for some portion of the summer. Give her your email address, and she'll send a letter with some inspiring words of wisdom from other writers. And yep, that's all she does with your address--no spam. There's also a hashtag on Twitter. 

Earlier this summer, I signed up on a whim (I enjoy her Instagram feed, mostly New Orleans houses). I participated in a two-week session in June and came away with more than I bargained for: 7000 words on two projects for 14,000 total words. Not all of them will be "usable" but they are all extremely helpful. 

I bring this up because she's doing another week of it (which is linked above), from August 10 to 16. So there's time to sign up. More explanation at the link.

The thing about my desire for linear processes is that life often prevents them from happening. And then it's all too easy to give up. 

But 1000 words is do-able, especially for 14 days. Doing them helped me (tortured metaphor alert) keep my bucket in the creative well for two weeks, while other Stuff of Summer Needed Doing. 

Going back to those words now: well, priceless. So useful. Surprisingly so. For me. Maybe for you, too?