Saturday, May 28, 2011

Where's My Body in All This?

Nowadays when I get stuck on a writing project, I'm learning to move my attention away from the problem I'm trying to solve.  I close my eyes and pay attention to what's happening in my body as a result of being stuck. Where's the tension located? I take time to feel it. Is there sadness beneath the hard surface?  A feeling of freedom somewhere under the skin?  I simply watch; I don't feel obligated to obtain a result from the momentary quiet, which is a relief.

It's kind of weird how we run around in our bodies, but we live as if reality takes place in the mind.  Actually, the body is a kind of subtext--things that we don't want to consciously acknowledge are written there.

And sitting quietly can free up access to corners of your consciousness where you already know how to solve a problem.  When I'm really tense, sitting quietly reminds me that there's more to me than the reactive, pissy me.

Again and again, I have to remind myself to do this. Old habits die hard! The body can be a source of wisdom, but it's too easy to treat it like a household appliance,  used so often it's almost forgotten.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Slow-Roasted Writing, or Fast Food?

There's quick-turnaround writing, and then there's the slow roasted variety.

Blogs are in the first category. No matter how long the writer spends on a post, the reader's click and scan are very fast.  Not interested? Click somewhere else. To compete in the boundary-blasted crazy virtual world where we increasingly hang out, some bloggers hint at instant gratification. Lifestyle blogs. Parenting blogs. Spirituality blogs. Sometimes you get the impression from the "About" section of the home page that the writer has mastered Zen and is offering you enlightenment in about 3 weeks.

But if you read on, behind that slick surface can be a pretty damn interesting life.  You  find a lot of travail and intelligence and guts in the posts--as when Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn says that if you look deeply enough at a flower, you can see the presence of compost and garbage, rain and sunlight.

Scientists tell us that plants actually contain light particles
The problem is there are so many of us doing this.  The slick interface is a bid for attention, but it risks turning people off.  Come to think of it, competition is the problem with "slow" writing, too--there are books that take years to write and never find publishers.  To generate actual subscribers, bloggers engage in the similar intense marketing practices that book authors have to pursue.  Then again, some don't!  ("0" comments, anyone?)

In both cases, the writer is in danger of losing something.  Writing is pretty magical--totally symbolic, those squirmy marks on the page can create worlds. They can make a reader feel that someone understands. Words can bring back the dead. They grope toward wisdom.

We writers teeter on a razor's edge--once a writer creates a world, she wants people to experience it, and we can become obsessed with marketing, as if that determines the validity of the work.  Once I received a lovely email from someone who had found a poem of mine greatly helpful in a family situation she faced.  The same week, I got about 4 rejection letters for my work.  I poured all my energy into pouting about the rejections, as if the genuine connection with a reader didn't "count."  

Something wrong with that picture. So, bloggers, writers:  Remember the nature of the flower.  Try not to get caught up in trying to package it for a quick sale.  It's a lovely truth--the nature of the flower remains the same, even if no one's looking.

Here's a cool blog that shows real guts and life experience:  The ever-sassy Torrey Shannon really has something to say.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

After the Fight, Pip and Estella Kiss, and...?


If Charles Dickens were writing today, would there be sex scenes in his books?

If the answer is Yes, would he still be Charles Dickens?

(This is a real question.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

National Short Story Month and the Near-Death of My Son

Since May is my son's birthday month, here's one way I'm celebrating: With a tale involving short stories...

May is also National Short Stories month. NSSM was started by Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network and Dzanc Books. (Thanks for the cool logo, Dan!) In a guest post at Fiction Writers Review, Dan explains how the idea came about--and how EWN and others are celebrating short fiction. (NOTE: Above titles ARE live links...don't know why it doesn't appear that way.)

PF's birth was traumatic. I was well into labor when I got yanked from the Jacuzzi in the birthing suite at Pennsylvania hospital. The midwife ran me through a tunnel below Eighth Street on a wheeled stretcher and into the OR.  The baby's heartbeat had dangerously slowed.