Archive for October 2010

Blogging Brazen? Showing Drafts Daft? Nanowrimo/Blog Quandary

October 31, 2010

Posting a Brazen Act?

Still trying to figure out how to handle this blog during November, National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo.)

As any regular follower must perceive, I am a person of routine inconsistency.  That is, I post pretty much every day (that’s the routine part), but the posts are all over the map, in terms of content and quality (there’s the you-know-what).

I’ve stuck to daily postings (despite the stress) because the commitment helps me to bypass some of the negative self-judgment that blocks any writer.  (If you publish every day, you can’t worry if your writing is worthwhile.  You just do what you can.)

Nanowrimo works on some of the same concepts; once you decide to do it, you simply have to hurry up and do it.

The problem for someone like me (who is lucky enough to also have a paying job!) is that two such driven activities are a bit much to conduct simultaneously.

Here are my choices:

  1. Let the blog go for a month.  (A relief to followers, perhaps.)
  2. Forget about Nanowrimo this year, as I did last year.  (A relief to myself.  I really don’t have a clue about what novel I might write.)
  3. Try to post something pre-written on the blog while doing Nanowrimo on the side.

I have been planning to opt for number 3, posting an old Nanowrimo novel called Nose Dive.

Nose Dive is a teen novel, and yes, a bit embarrassing.  I chose the story because it was silly and fun enough that I could write the initial draft quite quickly.  However, the same silly/fun factor has made the novel hard to satisfactorily revise.

The question of posting the draft Nose Dive now raises an interesting concern:  publicly showing one’s work (even as a blog) turns out to be an amazingly brazen activity.

When one publishes through a publisher there’s a shield of third-party endorsement.

When one self-publishes, or even just shows a piece to a friend, this shield is not available.  Given the rapidly-changing-to-avoid-demise-face of publishing, this is less of a source of embarrassment than it used to be.

Even so, a fairly high temperature blush arises simply from the fact that you are putting yourself on the line (even online).

And even though you say that your work is quick, rough, in draft form, there you are–risking criticism, ridicule, and (perhaps, worse) disinterest.

So.  (Confession.)  My concern is that if I (deep breath) post excerpts of Nose Dive, which is quick, rough, and (still) in draft form, I will feel so immediately regretful that I will have a hard time focusing on a new novel.

And yet, there’s that routine part of me, and that brazen part that has learned repeatedly–nothing ventured, nothing gained, and, more importantly (swallow) nobody’s perfect.

I guess, I’ll see what happens tomorrow (or later tonight.)

Hope you come back to check.

Still Sheepish on Halloween

October 30, 2010

Sheepish About Halloween

In honor of Halloween and under pressure due to the upcoming Nanowrimo (Novel Writing Month), I direct your attention to a post I wrote last year about my conflicted feelings about Halloween, and my all-time favorite homemade costume, depicted above–my daughter as a sheep.

As a side note, congratulations to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for bringing off their rally.  Congratulations to counter-terrorism operatives for finding Yemeni explosives.  Congratulations to all of us for getting through more than two years since the fall of Lehman Brothers and all that followed.

Happy Halloween.

Wearing Obama Heart On Sleeve

October 29, 2010

In the last few weeks, the news of the elections has been so dispiriting I resolved simply not to care any more.  My external groan was ‘what will be, will be,’ but internally, I felt too disappointed with the muddled message and mission of Democrats, and even President Obama, to feel very motivated to defend them.

A part of me told myself that at least I have no children in the school system, that maybe I’d enjoy buying stuff with tax cut dollars, and that, at least, I’d probably die before the planet was destroyed.

But watching President Obama’s interview on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart yesterday, reminded me of why I love, respect and support him.

The guy is smart, articulate, practical, honest, careful, thoughtful, realistic.

Yes, conditions in this country are terrible.  But people forget how much worse they were when he took office.

As Stewart emphasized, many voting for Obama feel that he has not brought promised change, but the fact is that we live in a very conservative country that has been going through a gut-wrenching crisis.  While a crisis may potentially bring opportunities for change, it raises an immediate panic that clings to the known.   (In the middle of a torrential rain storm, everyone wants the roof to be patched, few want it to be dismantled and replaced, and only the most calm and foresighted welcome a discussion of solar panels.)

A lot of persuasion is needed.

Which takes me to my point:  in our channel-changing, gotcha culture, aura often takes the place of substance.

Obama has substance.  But all the badmouthing, falsehoods, and difficult compromises have tarnished the glow that enveloped him at the time of the election.  This tarnish is difficult for Obama to dispel simply by being measured, intelligent and dignified.  (Especially while being dignified.)

Those on the more liberal side have contributed to this loss of aura by their contempt for the doable, fortifying the notion that ther eis no difference between parties and candidates.

Unfortunately, the adoption of this type of hopelessness is a gateway for a longterm series of abuses.  (See e.g. Berlusconi in Italy.)

So, how about some enthusiasm, people!?   Does anyone really want to play the role of angry Prom Queen whose suitor got the corsage but not the limo?

And, of course, vote!  Even if you are not thrilled by your choices, make one!

PS  – I want to send out best wishes to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for their rally.  I really wanted to go but alas my old dog Pearl is not allowed on Amtrak and is a little too frail right now to be left behind, even with a good friend.

Trying To Plan A Novel? (For Nanowrimo?)

October 28, 2010

Three days and very very few hours until November and Nanowrimo begin and I still haven’t spent a moment mapping out a plan.

Nanowrimo, as you may know, is National Novel Writing Month–a month in which any one of the writing persuasion is justified in caving in to all anti-social, anti-utilitarian, and Auntie-Mame tendencies in order to pound out a novel (or 50,000 words) in thirty days.

Technically, you are not supposed to put a word to paper (okay, screen) prior to 12:01 a.m. November 1.

Planning is allowed, however: outlines, mapping, character sketches, thinking.

(The deadline is self-imposed.  No would actually know if you cleverly converted outlines into written text… a week or so before November 1.)

But here I am.  Not planning anything yet, because, in my ManicDdaily way, I am grappling with personal and professional issues that feel in the instant like matters of crippling importance.  (In fact, it’s probably the feelings that are crippling, the matters less so.)

Enough said.  What do you do when you don’t have a plan for a novel and you really really want to write one anyway?

First of all, be honest.  You say you don’t have a plan, but is there nothing kicking around your cranial closet?  What about an old plan, discarded plan, some plan that seemed at one point impossible to you?

When you come up with that old plan–and seriously, just about everyone has one–think about whether you could commit to it for a month.  More importantly, could you have fun with it?

Don’t pass over a plan because you think it’s stupid or impossible, but only because you are genuinely not interested.  And even then, think twice.  (The novel loves narrative–it really is helpful to have an idea for one.)

If you can’t come up with a plan, you can always try just writing.  Start with a scene, a place, a person, a feeling, relatively random words set down upon the page.  (The human mind’s love of narrative is so strong that a story is likely to take over even when using this method.   Eventually.)

But take care.  This kind of writing (which the Nanowrimo staff calls writing “by the seat of your pants”) can feel emotionally satisfying at its inception (like therapy) but can sometimes bog down (like therapy), especially if it wanders too much into the territory of a roman a clef.

Which brings up another important point.   Whether you are a “pantser” or a planner, try to let go of the angst. There may be a nobility to enduring suffering, but few people want to read pages and pages of how you have endured yours.  Whining tends to be very hard to shape.

Besides, what fun is it avoiding the trials and tribulations of your personal life for a month if you’re going to spend your whole time writing about them?

(The lady doth protest too much, methinks.)

Pearl Makes Distinction Between Egg and Light Bulb

October 27, 2010

The last couple of days I’ve posted somewhat abstruse poems about mistaking eggs for a light bulbs.  Pearl, however, has not been confused.

More Thoughts On Eggs And Lightbulbs

October 27, 2010

Egg Head?

Yesterday I posted a villanelle mistaking an egg for a light bulb.   I was thinking about that today on the subway and came up with this poem.  Perhaps, I should say, draft poem.   Any suggestions are most welcome.

An Egg is not a Light Bulb

An egg is not a light bulb.
An apple is not an orange.
A square peg does not fit
into a round hole.

Actually, an apple is a lot closer
to an orange or even
to a round hole
than an egg
to a light bulb.

Though an egg can
have a certain luminescence.
In a pitch black room, for example,
an egg would be better than nothing
(especially if hard-boiled).

Except that a hard-boiled egg
has a blank crustiness
about its shell, like rough
plaster, or better,
gesso stuck insistently
to what would otherwise be
a relenting stretch of raw canvas,
while an uncooked egg, be it white
or brown (truly a dim peach),
has the iridescence of a pearl,
a tear, a newly-hatched idea,
which is represented (typically)
by a light bulb hovering
just above, or even inside,
a human head.

So maybe, thinks the head,
this thing called life
is possible.

An Egg Is Not A Light Bulb

October 26, 2010

An Egg Is Not A Light Bulb

You make mistakes sometimes.  (If you are like me, you may wish to substitute the words “often” or “frequently” or “constantly” for the temporal element in that last sentence.)

Oddly, the resulting embarrassment, shame, recrimination can be just as intense with small mistakes as big ones.

After all, caught in the wallop of a catastrophic misjudgment, you may feel that fate, or at a minimum, genetics, have conspired against you, while little stupidities seem all your own fault.  Or worse, your brain’s fault–your decaying, ill-functioning, brain.  Even worse–your not-decaying, but lifelong-faulty, brain.

I read a confirmation code to someone today that started with the letters HTO.  It was only after he said “that’s easy to remember, like water,” that I realized that I’d been repeatedly saying H2O.

And believe me, that was the least of it.

Computers compound one’s natural propensity for error–the screen providing a sympathetic gloss for the most flagrant typo; the automatic replace function exponentially upping the ante.

All of the above leads me to the reposting of a villanelle.  (I’m sorry if you’ve seen this one before, but perhaps, if you are like me, you’ve forgotten it…)

Villanelle to Wandering Brain

Sometimes my mind feels like it’s lost its way
and must make do with words that are in reach
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day,

when what it craves is crimson, noon in May,
the unscathed verb or complex forms of speech.
But sometimes my mind feels like it’s lost its way

and calls the egg a lightbulb, plan a tray,
and no matter how it search or how beseech
is pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

I try to make a joke of my decay
or say that busy-ness acts as the leech
that makes my mind feel like it’s lost its way,

but whole years seem as spent as last month’s pay,
plundered in unmet dares to eat a peach
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

There is so much I think I still should say,
so press poor words like linens to heart’s breach,
but find my mind has somehow lost its way
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

For more villanelles, or info on how to write them, check out that category from the ManicDDaily home page.