Sunday, April 29, 2007

Walter Mosley's Address

Saw Walter Mosley’s keynote address at the Columbus State Community College Writers Conference this evening. I sat next to Gail, one of my all time favorite students, who I haven’t seen in a while and we listened to Mr. Mosley speak. He said that you simply must write every day, 7 days a week, 90 minutes a day. If you don’t feel like writing or nothing comes, sit there until it does. He writes three hours a day when he first gets up in the morning. This seems to be the most consistent habit of all successful writers: to write every single day of the week, preferably on a regular schedule, at the same time every day (usually first thing in the morning) at a time when you are at your best.

Gail told me afterwards that I should be proud that I am teaching the techniques that successful, best-selling authors use every day. That too much education can get in the way of telling a good story. (Fact: Homer was blind and illiterate.) That writing is done largely in the unconscious mind and all a writer has to do is transcribe what it tells you, but you need to be sitting there at the appointed time to hear what it has to say. That showing is almost always better than telling. That too many people get hung up on the things that they don’t know or don’t think that they know, such as grammar or spelling, or how to do some sort of technical thing correctly. It is almost always total bunk. Excuses for not getting your ass in the chair and getting back to work.

I forget to practice what I preach sometimes. Time for me to remember.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Making Writing Space Sacred

Friday was a work-at-home day, where I come out to the office in my unattached garage (one of the biggest selling points when we bought the place over a decade ago) and had a great day. I had one of those days at work where you are working fast, slashing things off your to do list in a fugue state, and the next thing I knew it was 5pm and the day was over. One of the things on my list: Writing practice. And I just didn’t get around to it. I decided, well, I can take a break after my productive day, and do this after dinner, then it was right before bedtime, and then I was too tired. A typical scenario for me.

In fact, I even gave myself a break from the 2-a-day practice regimen that I had been doing fairly well with when I’m in my office in Columbus (one session in the morning about 10am and another either during lunch or around 3pm) knowing that I don’t do as well with the writing sessions at home. But I never asked myself why I couldn’t find the time to write here on the days when I have additional time gained by saving 90 minutes each day from not driving to work.

I opened the office door yesterday morning the urge to start anew, , sat down, and blanked out. There was too much stuff in the way. No room to pull out the notebook and write. Lots of notes, business cards, word tickets, and receipts scattered everywhere. Elvira had knocked over my pencil cups, and there wasn’t any clear space available on the large surface of my desk to work. Books had migrated to the desk surface when they ran out of space on my writing bookshelf. My paper tray, which was supposed to only be devoted to projects I am currently working on, was piled high with papers that I knew I needed to do something with, but didn’t know what, so I threw them in there to make a decision later.

So instead of picking up a pen or turning on the laptop, what did I do? I cleared off the desk. I threw everything off it. Then I got a little Fantastik and wiped off all the dust, crumbs and cat hair. I reorganized the books on my writing bookcase, removing those that could be on another bookshelf, and moved the books that had landed on my desk back up onto the shelf where they belonged. About 2 hours later, the desk had been cleaned, the shelves reorganized, papers sorted, and the area works better for me now. The resistance I feel toward sitting down and getting started is almost gone (it never truly goes away completely). So the time investment for reorganizing my work area was worth it.

Atmosphere is very important when writing. Disorganization is distracting. Not having the tools you need, such as pens, notebooks, reference materials, etc. on-hand and easy-to-find is also distracting. Constant interruptions, same thing. Sometimes the disorganization alone rips away your focus from your work. It reminds you about all of the other things that need to be done; The drywall work in the master bathroom, the pantry that needs to be cleaned, and all of the paper that you need to review and file.

Writers need to make our writing time sacred, and the place where we write a sanctuary from all that is not about the work.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Return of Provacative Phrase Friday!!!

Six new Provacative Phrases, freshly culled from the first 50 pages of an October issue of last year's New Yorker:
  • Why don't we go on a...
  • I wish I were a...
  • Say, buddy, how about...
  • Technically speaking, it is beautiful.
  • I thought you might like to know...
  • Her mantra became...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Do as I say, not as I do…

Sometimes, I can be such a total tool. I have not 1, but 2 blogs and don’t keep up with either one of them… I tell everyone to write and haven’t done much of it the last couple of months, so at least for the month of February and most of March, I’m haven’t been a writer.

We are adopting another child and due to some changes in the way the country we selected processes the adoptions, we’ve been going 212 miles-per-hour on filling out forms, getting physicals from primary care physicians, specialists. Blood tests, urine screening, eyesight tests, hearing tests, and tests, tests, tests. Then there is the cleaning and organizing the house for the dreaded “home-study,” a safety inspection (to confirm that we are not keeping a 5 foot-long alligator in the bathtub) and a fire inspection (with a real, live Fire Captain from the local fire department). I had my boss complete and notarize an employment letter that certified that I am indeed employed, insured and otherwise not a deadbeat of an individual… but he then had to go to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office to have the letter certified, and paying a $6 fee before sending it back to me. Francesco is has been extremely understanding and not many bosses would do these types of things for an employee so I am indeed fortunate.

I’ve been a chauffer, a maid, a paperwork-aholic, a tired, web-surfing idiot. And I’m tired of making excuses to myself and you. Spring is here, the Seasonal-Affective-Disorder has faded… (Note: I have not been diagnosed with this, I just kind of feel BLAH in the late winter months in general.)

I have put myself back on the writing conditioning program where I am currently doing “2-a-days,” at least two 15-minute writing practice sessions a day, plus project work. These are not unlike those scorching, mid-August, football practices to get the team back into big-game condition. My writing muscles are flabby. The callous on my pen holding finger has softened, and my carpal tunnel has never been better. So I need to get back to work.

I want you to do as I do, not do as I say you should do. I want to make you all to be proud of me…