Writing…about writing…about writing

March 18, 2008

Balancing distraction vs. direction

All the weblogging I’ve been doing of late has been very, very healthy for me–like getting the plumbing cleaned out.  Not the most fragrant of metaphors, but you probably get what I mean…:)

All of this semi-creative Roto-Rooting® has gotten rid of the scummery that was lining my mental pipes, and allowed me to begin to create again.  Ideas are starting to trickle through the system again…although I believe I’ve carried this metaphor as far as I can (even though I’m “flushed” with pride at actually constructing a tortuous metaphor once more–very much like how one feels when a period of physical constipation resolves itself in ummm…movement).  OK, OK, OK!  I’ll quit that now.

Anyway, for me weblogging is the equivalent of what Natalie Goldberg terms “…using writing as your practice, as a way to help you penetrate your life and become sane.”  If you haven’t read Writing Down the Bones, then put your laptop in hibernation or turn your PC off, and go down to the used bookstore and pick up a copy or leave your computer on and order it from Amazon.com.  I bought the Shambhala Pocket Classic version of the book some years back, and I drag it around with me.  Nothing gets me writing faster than listening to her advice… which, boiled down, amounts to “Sit down and write!”  She tells her students, “I write and still write terrible, self-pitying stuff for page after page after page.”  She gives me (and you, if you want it) permission to write–something we all need, either from ourselves or others. 

This particular diatribe is written for myself, but it’s also for Annie–who is a perfectionist–and Carl–who wants to write, but gets bored with it because he thinks he knows the ending.  The answer is to lock the editor outside the room and just write.  Even if it’s crap, even if you think you know what’s going to happen at the end of the story (the characters might surprise you), and even if you are worried that someone’s going to see it and think badly of you, which is my own particular bugaboo. 

To heck with those someones, since they are just another version of the editor, who is inherently evil WHILE you are writing, and should be summarily executed–you can resurrect him/her four, five or six weeks from now, but for now, kill ’em off.  Don’t worry, your internal editor is like Arnold Schwarzenegger, it always comes back.

Yet another writing teacher–I forget which one–advises writing “morning pages,” at least three pages of whatever falls out of your brains.  And that is exactly what I’m using the blogs for.  They don’t distract me from writing, they’re my writing exercise.  Sometimes with very pointed reasons for being, sometimes just rambles, all of these are writing, and writing for me is like breathing.  I can do without it for a very short while, but I need to write.  It’s how I find my sanity.

March 12, 2008

Back in the writing saddle

Filed under: Uncategorized — LisaM @ 8:55 am

My recent blogerrific ways have been proof of something happening that I really wasn’t aware of while I was in the middle of the process.  I removed myself from antidepressants a few months back, as soon as I went on flying status.  While I was on the Lexapro, and for the months preceding it where I was struggling so hard that it caused me to be willing to go that route, I was writing for doodly.  During those very tough months pre-Lexapro, I would think of writing and just be too tired to care, and unable to believe that anyone else would care.  While on the Lexapro, I couldn’t hold a coherent creative thoughtstream long enough to write.  While depression isn’t good for my writing ability, antidepressants are evidently the last coffin nail.

Anyway, I’m under a time crunch this morning–in a Nashville hotel, and have to catch the shuttle in a little over an hour.  However, once I get my five legs of flight flown this morning (Nashville-St.Louis-New Orleans-St.Louis-Tulsa-St.Louis), I have five days off!  Woo-hoo… Looking forward to getting some more writing done.

March 10, 2008

Posts moved from old weblog

Filed under: Uncategorized — LisaM @ 9:51 am

Below are my blog posts from early 2006 to April 2007, when I stopped keeping the blog current.  I’ll be writing more soon as I travel around the US as a flight attendant… promise!


April 08, 2007

Am flattered!

Got e-mails from a bunch of my old friends at the DFW Writers’ Workshop today and yesterday–DFWWW Prez Steve Manning decided to pass on my website link to the group at large, including the photos I have posted of my weight loss journey since gastric bypass .  It was very sweet of him, and provided a much-needed boost to my ego, as I’ve looked like warmed-over death for the last three weeks.  Pain is not exactly a rejuvenator. 

But, it’s mostly done, the gall-bladder-ectomistostomy*, or whatever-you-call-it, was successful, and the medicos evicted the evil-doer on Wednesday, April 4, 2007.  Then I got to deal with three days of horrendous pain in my shoulders and diaphragm from the insufflation, where they pump you full of air so they have visibility while they’re working in the laparascopic incisions.  The ubiquitous “them” who apparently make these decisions have decided that the following pain is from the carbon dioxide pressure on your diaphragm, which is then “referred” up to your shoulders.  It’s this sick, horrible feeling of pressure and pain wandering  throughout your upper chest that had me in tears, even on the Percocet.

Now all that’s left is the usual muscle soreness and pain from being cut open (admittedly small cuts, don’t want to over-dramatize) (too late! sorry…), which in the scheme of things doesn’t feel that awful.  Down to three pills a day instead of ten or twelve, so my brains are almost completely functional.  Well, they’re as functional as they’ve ever been, anyway.

Anyway – the lovely folks from DFW Writers’ Workshop made me feel so good about myself visually from the compliments regarding the photographs.  They also made me feel good on the writerly side, as one of the e-mails was from Del Cain asking for five seven-word poems** and my selection of five of my other poems for potential publication in an anthology of the poetry of  the Workshop over the last few years.  That was to be my next project, had I stayed, but now Del and Ginnie Bivona are taking it on.  Hope I didn’t rat you out, Del, or announce it in advance, when you hadn’t planned to say anything yet.  Anyway, I’m flattered and pleased that they didn’t just take current members, that they remembered that I was there.

So, it was an interesting Easter.  Back to work tomorrow, certainly not full-time, but back anyway.  I will be wearing sweats, something I expressly asked folks not to do, but that’s OK.  Won’t make it if I wear my khakis.  I’ll be back in ’em soon enough.


*It’s a cholecystectomy, I know… it’s called writing for effect!

**Seven-word poems were (and are) a workshop tool for inspiration and perspiration on the part of the poets.  Everyone puts a word in the hat, and seven are chosen for the next poetry workshop.  You may participate or not, but it gives something concrete to work with.  People also bring their other works, as well, but the seven-word poetry has provided some enormous boosts to making me put things together that drew me out of my ordinarily self-focused style.  Great hint for any poetry workshop.

April 01, 2007

Hard to write when you’re wacky

Due for gall bladder surgery in three days, and am euphemistically “managing my pain” in the meantime. In other words, I’m blissed out on Percocet about twelve hours a day. The pain begins a few hours after I eat for the first time, and ends about four to six hours after my last meal of the day. If I’m lucky. If I want to sleep at night at all, I eat my last meal of the day around three o’clock.

The good part is that I’ve lost nearly ten pounds since this hit two weeks ago today.  The bad part?  Well, hell, it’s pretty much all bad.  Can’t write most of the time–the window is vanishingly small when my mind works at all.  I guess the upside is that I’ll be able to write about how the drug addict feels when I need to do so for a character, but my nervousness about getting addicted diminishes what little joy I take in that possibility.

But, it will soon be over.  I will have put my life on hold for three solid weeks by the time this is over.  Were my boss not an understanding soul, I probably wouldn’t have a job to go back to at the end of it.  I think they’re just enjoying the financial break that not paying my salary is giving their bottom line.  And, in the end, it will be good for them to miss me.  I guess.  I’m easy about it either way–I already budgeted our finances for the rest of the year for me not getting a paycheck at all.  That way, if I do get a paycheck, it will be gravy – money to put in savings (ha!) or just play around with…not always a good idea in a town with a casino!

Did send Pig out to an agent over e-mail, which took a lot of nerve, it really did.  Wrote a prologue for it, changed the name to Old Flames Burning.  Haven’t heard a word back from the agent yet.  Need to start lining up other possibilities–just can’t wrap my mind around it while I’m “managing my pain.”  If I sound disgusted with it all, then I’m writing something well enough to be understood anyway.  I’ve got cabin fever.  And a terrorist gall bladder that tries to bend my gut into a pretzel for about twelve hours a day.  Tired of it.

January 14, 2007

No luck so far with publishers

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here–nearly five months.  In that time, I’ve gotten rejected nearly a dozen times.  Once for Pig, and received rejections from ten publishers for my gastric bypass book.  All form letters… and every one of them tough to read.  But it was necessary.

Now that I’ve been hired as the fitness director for the Nautilus Fitness Center in Alton, it’s time to get back to work on the book.  I’ve gotten tacit agreement from the owners of the center to begin a gastric bypass information group at the center in the spring.  The book could be a key piece of that… if I can get moving on it again.  Got the schedule worked out so that I’m off on Tuesday afternoons, so there’s a start.

Reworking my entire life in the last 16 months hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been cheap, either financially or emotionally.  But I’m really beginning to like this person I’ve become.  I want to keep the good from the old me and discard what wasn’t working…lots of work yet to be done.

August 25, 2006

One more reason to be a writer

Just past 5 a.m., been up since 3:30 writing in my journal, figured I’d switch to this more public forum.  Typing isn’t exactly fun right now.  Found out in the last few days why I’m a writer and not a construction worker–and my hands have paid the price.  Been stripping wallpaper for two days–my hands look and feel like I got in a barfight.  Cuts all over them from where I slipped with the broadknife, for one thing.  Think monster papercut.  My knuckles are brick red, and every joint is painful from exerting all the pressure to scrape the evilness off the walls.

The smell of the old paste brings back some unlovely childhood memories.  My father was a painter/paperhanger, and I grew up in construction zones.  I had to call my brother yesterday to ask him how to put texture on a wall, and he took me to task because I should have been listening when we were kids going to work all summer with our dad.  I told him, and meant it, that I had resisted learning anything about the business with my entire heart and soul and will.  Not sure he understood it, since he ended up following in our father’s footsteps, but he gave me the information I needed–in so many words, his answer was “Don’t.”  Evidently texture is one of those things that an amateur can screw up so badly that a professional can’t fix it.

Doing all this work in order to sell the house–got lots more to do.  The aforementioned walls have to be patched, sanded, and painted, along with many other things.  Trying to put together a moving sale at the same time, and get the majority of it done before the house goes on the market.  Not looking forward to leaving this house–we’ve lived here for more than four years, and love so many things about it.  But putting this much money into a mortgage and a monster electric bill for a four-bedroom house when there are only the two of us, and with no one to leave it to, makes no sense.  Time to go back to apartment rental.  We can save anywhere from $600 to $1000 a month, according to where we move.  And, when there’s only one assured income, that sounds pretty good.  It also sounds good that we won’t have to pay taxes or interest, and if something happens to the insufferable water heater, someone else comes to fix the damn thing!

Oh, and writing?  This is the best excuse so far that I’ve found to not write.  However, before I dived into this exercise, I sent Pig off to another agent.  After a turndown from a New York agent, I decided to start it making the rounds of Texas reps, starting with Mike Farris.  I pitched it to him a couple years ago, when the book was still in its nascency, and he said he wanted to see it.  We’ll see what happens from there. 

August 15, 2006

Finally finding the way

Found my routine: Up at 6, read the paper, write in my journal, clean house until 9, exercise, shower, sit down at the computer at 10 a.m.  And, I’ve made it into all the parts of that routine exactly one day.  Yesterday. 

Today, all the nitnoid momentary dramas that seem to swarm all over my life re-swarmed me.  Had to go to the library to get something signed for the workshop.  To the tire store to get the tires rotated.  To the post office to mail my manuscript out to an agent (finally, SOMEthing involved with writing).  My knee hurts, so I don’t want to exercise.  If I don’t exercise, I don’t deserve to sit down and write.  Or something like that.  I’m exhausting myself with my own excuses, and I find myself whiny, self-destructive, and maddening.  All the stuff that irritates me about other people.


July 26, 2006

Remembering what works, what doesn’t

Was trying to remember what worked and what didn’t during that glorious 90 days when I got the majority of “Pig” written.  And the key wasn’t what happened during the time I was writing.  It was what happened before I started.  I wouldn’t let myself read.  I know that sounds stupid, especially when I read four or five books a week.  But that’s exactly it.  If I don’t let myself read, then the only way to get to read something is to write something.  Worked, too.

Mixed in with that is boredom.  Sick of myself, sick of cleaning house, sick of being the good little wife… I think I’m making my husband nervous, I’ve been so solicitous lately.  Bringing him dinner, washing AND putting away his clothes.  My usual policy is more like benign neglect, much like the administration under which my houseplants survive or don’t.  It’s worked pretty well for 26 years of marriage, which may be why my occasional bursts of excessive domesticity seem to unnerve him. 

I’ll get there–I know I will.  And then I’ll bemoan the fact that I can’t seem to get my head far enough out of the book to accomplish anything around the house.  Never satisfied… never, never, never.

July 18, 2006

Writing on the road

Haven’t been able to get to my laptop much during these last nine days of traveling, but because I appear to have the wake-up-early gene that my husband is lacking, I’ve had plenty of time over coffee to write in longhand.  On paper.  The old-fashioned way… and the way that, if I remember right, was very successful when I was putting together my novel.  Boy, do you get some funny looks at Denny’s or the Waffle House when you sit and scribble for an hour or sometimes two…

Haven’t been able to get into a real routine, as our schedule’s been so haywire, but when I was writing “This Little Pig,” I would write ten to fifteen pages in longhand on one day, get up the next morning and process them into the computer, with minor edits along the way, which would get my brains kickstarted for the next longhand session.  Put together 55,000 words in about 30 days that way, so it obviously works for me. 

So, I got a chapter of “Finally the Weight is Over” written, just haven’t processed it yet.  So what am doing on here?  Time to get back to the book!

June 16, 2006

Got a go-ahead… time to fly

Talked to Bedford Minuteman Press about a job yesterday, and left it that I would come in with an answer on Monday on whether or not I was interested, and Bill would come up with what he could pay me as an independent contractor. 

As I told Bill, I needed to talk to my husband, about our future before I could make a commitment.  So, Rick and I talked for a couple of hours during breaks from the Mav’s playoff game.  I’ve learned, over the years, to work around team and TV timeouts during sporting events… Wink.  So, after much discussion, punctuated by some really depressing play by the Mavericks, the gist from my husband was, “Do what you choose, but I’d love to see you pursue your dream of becoming a published writer.”

Have I said how much I love that man?  While I didn’t need permission, per se, knowing that he’s completely in my corner as I commit to the writing game is incredibly important.  He’s the reason I was able to do more than just go back to school, I was able to graduate in three and a half years, summa cum laude.  His amazing support is the reason I’ve been able to excel at every successful venture I’ve ever undertaken, including my gastric bypass.

The next couple of years are going to be SO much fun… !

June 11, 2006

I finally have time and an itch

That loud sighing sound you’re hearing is me, over here in my little corner of the world, taking a deep breath for the first time in ages… ahhhhhhhh.  The black circles under my eyes are disappearing, I’m starting to relax.  Not completely–I’m still keeping a close eye on our finances, but as long as we don’t do anything stupid, we’ll be just fine.  And, if the good Lord’s willing, and I get this proposal out the door in good order and get a bite, then we’ll do even better.  But I’ve got time.  Time to relax and finally live my life.  Sure, I’d like to have more money–but at what cost? 

Oh, and the itch?  Prickly heat, from having my bathing suit on too long… Been living in the darn thing, with all this 100-degree weather going on.  This too, shall pass in its own time.

June 10, 2006

Climbing off the horse for a while

No, I’m not climbing down off the writing horse, I’m dismounting the highly-paid professional nag for a while, and going to give this writing thing a real shot.

I’m in the middle of a non-fiction book proposal for a funny, irreverent look at my gastric bypass surgery.  I don’t think I’m just a one-note wonder, either–there are a lot of other areas I’m interested in, from writing a piece on comparative religions for the vaguely interested to writing a book on dealing with abuse in later life.  From the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

The world is full of possibilities from here–and I’m going to grab every one I can.  Being fired may just be the best thing that ever happened to me, as long as I use it for fuel for my writing fire.  My aim?  I want to be sitting on Oprah’s couch a year from now touting my new book, and saying to my recent ex-boss through the camera, “So, how do you like me now?”

Oh, and I don’t say this often enough–but thank God for my husband, Rick.  If he weren’t here, fully behind every move I make, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

April 26, 2006

Back in the groove

Actually getting some writing done these days, and not just revising “Pig.”  Got four new poems to present to the workshop tonight, and a couple new ones that I’m not going to present ’cause I don’t have time.  Got fascinated by the word “sussurus” while I was in OK City–mostly ’cause I was always in a crowd of people I didn’t know.  Got two poems out of it:

Sussurus One

Voices rise and fall in waves,
a soul-shattering sussurus of sound,
one voice after another cutting through
the clattering cacophony.
Alliteration’s agility agonizes over ambient airwaves.
Noise pollution puttering, sputtering over
people’s passionate partaking in
parties of pundits.

(Note:  didn’t say they were good, just said I was writing.  Sometimes it’s not what you write, it’s that you write.)

Sussurus Two

Sussurus of sound sweeps in waves–past me, through me,
lulling me into just another molecule of voicery,
making sense only to the proximal,
the distant distal sinister as always,
shushing the nearer into further confusion.

March 23, 2006

Morning Musings

Waiting on the e-mail server to jump back up at work, and taking a lunch break at the same time.

Visuals from the morning walk – I love the nascent oak leaves,  fragile green, so young they seem to shiver on these chilly March mornings.  They are at their most beautiful now, before they darken, all gloss and muscle over the summer months.

Wondered whether squirrels feel the cold the way we do…

March 20, 2006

Eight more pages

Got eight more pages of revisions done this weekend–yahoo.  I know, I know, I know!  I’m just doing the minimum to get by.  (I hear your voice inside my head–can you hear mine?)  But that’s what it takes sometimes.  Just do what has to be done.  I’m kind of white-knuckling this whole getting back to writing.  Making myself do it until it’s done.  

I had decided I would get the book making the rounds the minute I got the first fifty pages done, but I realize that I can’t.  What if they got back to me three days later and said “Send the whole thing!”  There I’d be, with a couple hundred pages of revisions to do inside a week.  Bleah. 

March 13, 2006

I can write!

Got the first eight pages of This Little Pig edited this weekend.  Think I’m going to re-inflict the novel on the workshop.  Not because I’m so much interested in critique (sorry, guys, if you’re reading this).  But it gives me a deadline to get the next revisions done.  And I’m deadline-driven, to say the least.

Am also working on a short story tentatively titled “Addressing Gods Anonymous.”  I’m really pleased with the concept–a 12-step group for gods who are trying to break the deity habit, but so far, I’m not so pleased with the execution.  Started with one god – Erma – as a talking head, but I think I need more.

Knee’s hurting-can’t sleep-that’s why I’m writing this at 1:30 in the morning.  Think I’ll go try again, though.

March 11, 2006

Removing the excuses

Since I began my new job at [editor’s note: removed the name of the university – see June 8, 2006, post] two months ago, my home office has steadily gotten messier and messier.  Just run through, get the bills straightened out, and run back out again.

That was part of the excuse I’ve been using not to write… “How can you expect to accomplish anything in the midst of all that chaos?”  So, today, I removed the excuse.  My office is now de-messified.  Now I just have to write, right? Right!

Today sucked

Drove my husband to the hospital this morning to have an endoscopy done–just part, I thought, of the “I’m 50 and I don’t want to die” testing that any reasonable human being does.

With Rick still out from the anesthetic, the gastroenterologist came and told me the results.  He said “Every inch of his stomach lining looks like raw hamburger meat. He has hemorrhagic gastritis.”  So how does one of the most phlegmatic men I’ve ever known end up with a full-stomach ulcer?  Aspirin. 

Rick had a heart attack at 47, and has been faithful about taking what the cardiologist tells him to take, when he tells him take it.  The heart attack was almost purely genetic–he doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke.  So I’m sitting here railing against fate.  The medicine that’s keeping him healthy heart-wise will kill him if he doesn’t stop taking it. 

Today sucked.

March 10, 2006

I remember how

The way you find the time, and the way you start writing, for me, anyway, is to stop reading. I got through the first draft of the novel by not allowing myself to read anything for months.  Since I read six or seven books a week, it freed up a number of hours.  Plus, every time I got the urge to read, I wrote instead.  That’s how I do it.  I remember now.

Time – I need time!

I need time – and I have none… there are no minutes left in my day to set aside for writing, and I’m desperate to find some.  I keep peeling the inessentials out of my life, but as the week wears on, and I’m running on 5-6 hours of sleep every night, it just makes it that much worse.  My brain seems to cut out on me… and I have little enough to begin with.

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