Another gem from The Bonny Blog
“Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.”
Oh, all right, might as well stop complaining about these Do-Not-Edit twists. Nobody’s listening.
I can’t think of three songs that are significant to me. I can think of the four that were played/sung at my wedding; they’re significant, I suppose. But I’ve written about them elsewhere. What’s significant is that I chose two and the groom chose two, and our choices differed so widely.
My hand stopped. This is hard to do on a computer: it’s too easy to go back and fix things, choose another word. Even when you’re trying not to. Cursive is easier.
Anyway, David supplied recordings of “A-You’re Adorable” and “La Vie en Rose” (Jo Stafford). We opened with the Adorable song, and that set the tone for the entire day. Emily Post ran up the aisle and out the door in disbelief. But the guests visibly relaxed, and that was a good thing. No tension, no worries. Even the bride had a good time. After she saw the caterer’s van parked in front of the fellowship hall.
My songs were “Simple Gifts” and “The Prayer Perfect.” My gift to myself was a trained soprano to sing them.
Saturday morning I’ll spend two hours writing as Natalie Goldberg prescribes. David and I belong to a practice group called 15 Minutes of Fame. We write/read/write/read, etc. We’ve done it for years–I met him in another practice group–and I enjoy it. But we don’t publish our work. Well, we do, if we want, on our blog, but we clean them up a bit first.
And I never write on computer in practice. Cursive is faster. If schools stop teaching cursive, how will students ever be able to scrawl a note? Or write in a margin? Or practice writing their names in different styles? Educators need to think.
Only Day 2, and I’m already tempted to drop out of Writing 101.
Yesterday I had all day. I started early, ignored the instructions and wrote what and how I wanted, and took my time doing it. Fine.
Today I had both morning and afternoon meetings, and now I’m as tired as I was when I had an eight-to-five job. In addition, I don’t like the topic. There’s no place I want to beam up to right now except bed. I’m trying to get my sleep patterns straightened out, and I can’t do that if I stay up writing.
Furthermore–and this the heart of the matter–I don’t like doing descriptive writing. I’m not good at it. When reading, I often skim or skip. I miss a lot of great prose, I know, but I prefer to get on to what the characters are doing. A professor remarked that Hemingway‘s description of the scenery during a drive through the Pyrenees in The Sun Also Rises was some of the finest writing in the English language. We had just read the novel. I tried to look as if I agreed about the quality of the description I hadn’t noticed.
Now that I’ve expressed my discontent with the topic, I’ll move on to a place I memorized:
My great-grandmother’s house two blocks from the house where I grew up. After you cross FM 20, the street angles off toward the left, and the one house and the foliage between hid Grandmama’s house from ours. The houses weren’t far apart, but when you crossed the two-lane road we called “the highway,” and the street made that little jog you felt like you were in a different part of town altogether.
My great-grandmother died three years before I was born. When I was a child I called it “Aunt Ethel’s house” for the great-aunt who lived there. When my uncle inherited it, it became “Donald’s house.” My father, who, with his four brothers, had lived there as a child, after his mother died called it simply “the house.” “I’m going up to the house,” he would say. No one ever asked him to explain.
It sat on the corner a block from Main Street, a white frame house with a big front porch. At each end a door led to a bedroom; the door to the living room was in the middle. Queen’s crown growing up the brick supports (pillars and columns sound too grand) and provided shade in summer and sometimes a measure of privacy. Inside there was no privacy at all: there were lots of windows, and most rooms had french doors. That they had sheers was little comfort. When we spent the night there once, my mother commented it was like living in a fish bowl. Surrounded by trees, it was hot in summer. On winter nights, when propane space heaters were turned off, it was absolutely freezing.
While my father called it “the house,” my mother called it “Grand Central Station.” Two of Grandmama’s sons lived across the street. Their children and grandchildren were in and out all day. Some walked in through the front door, stopped in the kitchen for a glass of water, and walked out the back without saying Hello. (I always said Hello.) When there was a funeral, four generations met there for lunch, sitting in the dining room, spilling out onto the front porch and the back yard. Those who lived there gathered there in the evenings. Mother offended my father early in their marriage by saying she’d rather stay home and listen to Jack Benny on the radio.
By the time I was out of high school, things had changed. For the first time, I knocked on the door before walking in. The house was no longer a gathering place. Later, it passed out of the family, and none of us went there at all.
Several years ago, I was invited back. An estate sale had been scheduled, and the auctioneer, knowing that many things there had been in my family for years, allowed me to come in for a pre-sale sale. I bought an old china cheese keeper that my mother had coveted, and some demitasse spoons from what had probably been Grandmama’s first set of flatware, and a place setting of the flatware used daily when I was a child, entirely utilitarian and, in my opinion, about the ugliest pattern imaginable.
It was strange being back after all those years. I remembered huge bedrooms, huge living room and dining room . . . Everything had shrunk. Except the porch. There was still room for several card tables of domino-playing ladies on summer afternoons.
For years, I felt as if that house belonged as much to me as to the great-aunts and the uncle who lived there. When it passed into new hands, I was sad. But it was a house. People had made it special.
The house was sold. My memories were not.
Recently, the house was sold again, this time to a friend. I’m pleased to know it’s in good hands.
That’s what I said when I received my M.A. No more school. I’d learned enough. More to the point, I’d stayed up for thirty-six hours at a stretch drafting and typing reams of literary criticism too many times. I’d tired of having to take off the weight (peanut butter) that appeared with each paper. The Idylls of the King alone added five pounds.
Six years later, after receiving library certification, I said the same thing. Enough.
Several years ago, I tried posting every day for a year from January 1 but fell out around March. It was fun but exhausting–sometimes Emily Dickinson had to step in for a guest post–and I had no energy to write anything else. I don’t write fast. I revise and edit as I go. (Please don’t bother telling me I shouldn’t.) I suffer; how I suffer.
But last night I saw the word challenge, which is the emotional equivalent of chocolate, and my resistance is low, so I cratered and registered. It’s just one month with weekends off, so perhaps I will last it out. The catch is that WP provides a topic and a twist.
Today’s topic, or goal, is to unlock the mind: free write for twenty minutes. Follow Natalie Goldberg and access the pure thoughts and ideas of your wild mind.
Today’s twist is to post the free write. It doesn’t matter, says WP, if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.
Yes, it does.
I respect Natalie Goldberg, but I’m not about to put my wild mind out for the public to view. I will display irony and self-deprecating humor, keep my tongue lodged in my cheek, and present myself as flippant, superficial, frivolous, shallow, and self-absorbed.* My thoughts, which are seldom pure and never simple, thank you Oscar Wilde, plumb a depth those who read my blog and listen to me talk cannot imagine. And I don’t share.
That’s one reason I’ve cut down on Facebooking: It’s too easy to record what I think.
This free write has gone on for an hour and will go on until the manager of the book store tells me my car is about to be towed for violating the three-hour limit on parking if I don’t make myself stop.
You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen — it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.
– Author Khaled Hosseini, “How to Write,” the Atlantic
Irish Murdoch expressed a similar idea in fewer words: Every novel is the wreck of a perfect idea.
What jumps out at me is this: Most of life is a wreck of a perfect idea. And we publish it anyway.
There: I’ve accessed a pure thought and idea of my wild mind.
Well. It’s been drummed into me that an essay must have a conclusion. The previous paragraph, although an abrupt ending, is close enough. I’ll leave this and work for a while on the *I#%+)(^! rough draft of the novel, which is what I’ve been avoiding for the past three-plus hours.
Thanks, WP, for supporting procrastination.
*I am self-absorbed.
Note: This place isn’t busy and the manager hasn’t said anything, so I assume my car is where I left it.
Note: With all respect to Mr. Hosseini, who writes beautiful books, I had no idea to express when I began writing this. I wrote it because WP told me to.
Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas chapter introduced seven aspiring mystery writers at the annual Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event in May.
There was much happiness on display at the tenth annual Barbara Burnett Smith Aspiring Writers Event (BBSAWE) on May 18 at Recycled Reads in Austin. People were talking, laughing, eating, exchanging e-mail addresses and phone numbers, eating, reading out loud, giving gifts, taking pictures–did I say eating?
The BBSAWE was created in the spring of 2005, after the tragic death of Ms. Smith, who was a published cozy mystery author. She was past president (International 1999-2000) of Sisters in Crime and was known for her helpfulness to other writers. Dynamic, energetic, and talented, her loss was greatly mourned by her family and the Austin writing community. To honor her memory, the Barbara Burnett Smith Mentoring Authors Foundation was dedicated in her honor to support and provide a mentoring community for aspiring mystery writers.
Every year Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas chapter calls for submissions of the…
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