Archive for October, 2013


Short and Sweet

Dating during these treacherous times, the electronic age of byte, can prove problematic, and make one give up all together, yet I for one remain an optimist at heart. Surely these must be that one special person for each of us, that lifelong companion we are meant to be with. Then again, I have a library friend Judy in her early 60’s who’s deliciously attractive, emminently desirable, and still certainly marriage material–no Sadie, sadie, married old lady for her. She’s never given up on the premise that she can find true love again. And I applaud the effort. I wish I shared one iota of her optimism. I ask that you pray for her to find her way.

We all have to have passions. Hers is horses, mine is tennis and word play. I’m a regular bard, if I do say so myself. Electronics, as most of us learn, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, is a double edged sword–you have to be careful not to impale yourself on it. It can serve you, but it can also suck you in, you need to know how to get it to work for you, also a tricky proposition.

Nevertheless. I remain an optimist. Just because I am like a loon, doesn’t mean you need to be too. Loons, just an FYI, mate for life, and never form another partnership on the same intimate level.

That’s enough profundity for this morning.

When Words Aren’t Enough

Words are great. As a writer, I deal in words. They are my currency, but even I acknowledge that words are not actions, nor can they take the place of actions. There’s a saying: you can’t think your way into right action, you have to act your way into right thinking.

That’s where habit comes into play, and habit, for a writer, is perhaps more important than sheer unadulterated talent. Genius, after all, remains unexpressed without individuals being diligent enough to express their thoughts on paper (as a writer), to put their art on a canvas (as a painter), to move creatively through space in cohesive patterns (as a dancer), or to express themselves in virtually any other art form that demands creativity. Madeleine L’Engle famously pointed out, “Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it.”

In the most recent Writer magazine, author Andre Dubus III, who wrote House of Sand and Fog, talked about best practices for writers. In his mind, being a creature of habit is a good thing. I had heard that Charles Dickens spent the first part of his day at his desk arranging and rearranging pencils at his desk, and this meticulous organizing freed up his mind to think creatively while occupied with a seemingly mundane task. It’s ironic how much we worry, as a society, about time-wasting activities. Perhaps we need to look how we can turn those activities to our advantage. Andre Dubus III himself approaches writing intuitively without an outline in his head, but he does have a plan of carefully constructed habits to bolster him and lead him creatively. He settles into what he calls his Cave, and begins each day by reading poetry, then listens to music while he transcribes what he has written from the previous day. He will allow himself to tinker, tweak and rewrite, but when he finishes, he sets aside his editing jobs, turns off the music, and, interestingly, puts on noise-canceling headphones. He always writes his new days pages in pencil, and is very specific about the kind of pencil and pencil sharpener he depends upon. Many writers are likewise superstitious and adhere to strict routine. The key, for writers, indeed for all creative persons, is to find a routine that works and honor it.

So many wannabe writers are undisciplined, myself among them. Because I’m in grad school, getting my MFA in creative writing, I’m forced to produce material, but there’s no guarantee, once I graduate, that I’ll continue to write unless I’ve put in place habits to serve me along the way.

Today, October 2nd, is my birthday, and as it is the beginning of fall, and the beginning of a new school year, I also consider it a good time to make my New Year’s Resolutions. Here they are: this year, I would like to lose 40 pounds and write between 100 and 150 new pages by the time I turn 45 next year. Pretty simple, and you have to bear in mind how far I’ve come already, but, as the Robert Frost poem says, I have “Miles to go before I sleep.”