Tuesday, May 15, 2007

When it's good...

it's very, very good.

Today, my sweet friends, is good.

The writing had come easily. Tomorrow I will have to begin to interpret & pontificate in this chapter but I am done for today.

It's warm here, perhaps the warmest day yet -- but there's a strong breeze, an ocean breeze from the south. My allergies are having a fine old time because the pollen is a inch deep in places, but the trees are in full leaf and last night, as Daisy, Henry & I walked up from Fulton Landing in the transparent dusk, I looked down Cranberry Street into the tunnel of oaks & it was full dark. The wysteria is in bloom; the too-few bearded iris are fattening up. The next wave will be roses and fireflies but for now the scent of something -- petunias, maybe? -- lingers in the chalky end-of-day.

I have time to say these things because I wrote five pages -- count `em: OK, four-and-a-quarter -- today. Walking Daisy home from our last dog drop-off's of the day, I thought to myself, "I'm always going on about food, eating, weight loss, weight gain, binging, struggling, yadda yadda yadda but I do, in fact, know a lot about something else: writing.

So I'm going to share some tips. If they're useful, good. If you only want profundity, go visit:

among others.

OK. Here are some secrets.

1. Nothing is as important as writing. Not laundry, not dusting, not taking out summer clothes. The only thing more important than writing, for Us, is having the right food at Our beck & call.

2. Never leave your work finished. That is, break it off at the point that you could push it through to its next phase. It makes going to work the next day much easier.

3. Get yourself a library of reference books or materials. Among the reference books above my desk are The Oxford Companion to English Literature, French, German & Italian dictionaries & grammar books, The Language of Flowers, The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, Edith Hamilton's Mythology, A Dictionary of Superstitions, Stories from the Opera, An Exaltation 0f Larks. Beneath my desk are two dictionaries, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, and Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes.

There are others books as well.

Remember that the internet is your friend. Use your Favorites folder to create other references. Here are some extraordinarily useful basics:

Why am I filling up this posting with lists? Beyond the fact that I probably don't have bunches to say, I'm giving you my favorite resources because writing that lacks specificity & accuracy of details is Bad Writing. So is flabby grammar.

Enough references can also be a reassuring way to dawdle your way into writing. That is, when you sit down without an idea for a story or a poem, the right weird website or book can be a great starting off point. Ergo:

4. Be specific & be accurate. Learn the difference betweeen effect and affect, its & it's.

5. You're only allowed to reread what you've written so far for 5 minutes unless you're hideously blocked.

6. Have enough junk around to make sure being blocked is neurotic or fear-based rather than Having Nothing to Say.

7. Most thoughts or phrases or observations worth remembering will stay with you. You don't have to have a pad of paper or, God help us, a tape recorder with you all the time.

8. Turn off your email & IM when you're writing. Screen phone calls down to not answering them.

9. Remember to pee & drink water. (This is on a really good day.)

10. When you finish, get up & get the hell away from the computer or typewriter or notebook. Get out of the room. Do something mindless & physical -- walk, wash dishes, take a shower. You'll need to re-enter the world before you talk to or see anyone, go to the gym or operate heavy machinery.

11. When you finish a project -- a story, poem, chapter -- put it away until you absolutely have to pull it out or, if possible, for three months. Don't show it to anyone during that time.

12. If you're not acting out scenes with your hands, you're not writing Life.

13. Set a time limit rather than a page quota for yourself. I promise that 15 minutes will soon expand to a couple of hours.

14. When involved in a project that is ongoing, advise your friends & extended family that you're going to be out of touch for a while.

15. Truly, if you follow these rules it will be really hard to fail.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if you've ever done this, but when writing gets at its most involved, I have the same thing every day for three or four days. Steel cut oatmeal with blueberries in the morning, salad with hardboiled eggs and a little lowfat ham in the afternoon. At night I defrost chunk of a huge batch of soup I made several days ago. (That's what I'm eating this week.) It sounds boring, but it works for me--I don't have to spend time thinking about food when I'm writing and I'm not tempted to order a pizza because everything is right there, waiting to be eaten.

Unknown said...

I like the "nothing's more important" reminder. But of course, what did I do today? Caught up on my internet screwing around instead of working.

Bea said...

"Flabby writing." Wouldn't you know it? Sigh...I was hoping it was just my upper arms.

Odd the timing of this post. I was going to email you to ask all these questions.

"Flabby writing." Phooey. I just wanted to have fun. Now I see it is work if done right. I want to do it right. Phooey.

Laura N said...

Hooray hooray for a good day!

Cindy said...

Thanks for the tips. Can you elaborate on flabby grammar? I like the term.