American Cancer Society Write 30 Minutes a Day in May

I’m participating in Write 30 Minutes in May to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

ACS2022Wiki, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

There’s nothing like a writing challenge to teach you something you should already know. Or to remind you of something did know but forgot or stopped believing.

For several months before the fundraiser began, I went through a slump. The I-hate-writing/Everything-I-write-is-worthless/The-book-I’ve-been-working-on-forever-is-trite-trivial-stupid-flawed-doomed/I-can’t-make-the-plot-work-anyway/I-should-scrap-all-40,000-words-and-binge-watch-Law-and-Order-and-play-Candy-Crush slump.

It happens periodically. But this was a particularly long and depressed dry spell.

And when you get out of the habit of writing, it’s difficult to start again. I dreaded the arrival of May 1. It arrived anyway.

To ease back in, I got out the journal I bought in January. I had resolved to write in it every day. That resolution, of course, wandered away with the others. But better late than never.

I’ve always enjoyed writing longhand, so the journal seemed just the thing. Sort of.

The first few days were modified torture. I stopped every few minutes to check the clock: 25 more minutes; 18 more minutes;12 more minutes; 11 more minutes . . .

It was like writing a 500-word essay in high school, when I stopped every few lines to count the words I’d written.

That went on for eight days.

On May 9, sitting in the infusion room at Texas Oncology, I opened the journal, uncapped my pen, and prepared for misery. After two lines in which I expressed frustration at having gotten myself into this mess, a shift occurred. I was suddenly rewriting part of a scene for the novel—brief, but pivotal to the plot. Then I drafted a new scene.

While I was working, the volunteer who’d provided me with a blanket and a cup of hot tea approached. “May I ask a question?”

Of course.

“Are you writing a journal?”

I said I was.

“The reason I ask,” she said. “My daughter gave me a journal, but I don’t know what to write in it.”

“Anything,” I said. “Everything. Start by writing, ‘I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.’ And suddenly you’ll be writing about something.”


She smiled. “That’s very encouraging.”

After she left, I thought, “Well, d’oh.” How many times had I read that same advice in how-to-journal books: Start writing about nothing and your topic will appear.

How many times had I told my students to do that? How many times had I forgotten to take my own advice?

And what had I just done? I’d started writing about nothing—I am so frustrated with having to write and not being able to think of anything to say—and worked my way into something. The very something I’d needed—and wanted—to write.

Three days later, we left on a road trip. I wrote in the car. From Little Rock to Knoxville to Lake Charles to Houston to Austin. On smooth roads (Arkansas and Tennessee) and rough (Louisiana). Through road construction (Texas).


I worked on that-trite-trivial-stupid-flawed-doomed book. I wrote new scenes and revised old ones. I wrote notes about scenes I need to shift around, characters I need to flesh out, darlings I need to kill.* I wrote blog posts. I continued to write that night at the hotel.

I didn’t stop at 30 minutes. I kept going for two or three hours.

Since we got home last week, I’ve continued to write. I’ll write to the end of the fundraiser.

And on June 1, I’ll still be writing.

Thanks to the American Cancer Society for all it does to find a cure for cancer and to make life better for those affected by it.

Thanks for giving me back the desire to write.


Kill Your Darlings–I’ll let MasterClass explain:

“The phrase “kill your darlings” has been attributed to many writers over the years. Writers as varied as Oscar Wilde, G. K. Chesterton, and William Faulkner have been credited with coming up with the phrase. But many scholars point to British writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who wrote in his 1916 book On the Art of Writing: “If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’”

Since then, variations of Quiller-Couch’s phrase has been used by many writers and scholars. Stephen King had this to say on the art of writing in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”



Sulfur, Brimstone, and McDonald’s

We’re in Sulfur, Louisiana, for the Calcasieu Short Film Festival, where David’s video Alien Whisperer was screened.

Brimstone Cockatoo

Unfortunately, we didn’t make the screening. This morning, before the festival began, I fell in the McDonald’s restroom. And couldn’t get up. I managed to get myself and my walker to the door and call David, who I knew was waiting outside. Imagine his surprise when he saw me walking on my knees,  maneuvering the walker with my forearms.

A digression: Please don’t say you’re sorry. I’m sorry enough for all of us. But I try to take these events with a light heart and write jolly posts about them. As long as my bones stay put, I won’t complain. Much.

Two firemen kindly got me into the wheelchair–which resides in the trunk of the car for just such an eventuality, and which I’ve made my peace with–and the McDonald’s manager filled out an incident report. Then David rolled me to the car, where I poured water over my hands. At the hotel, I also divested myself of my clothes. Restroom floors are not known for being pristine, and this one left me feeling particularly grubby.

As I told everyone who passed (while I was sitting on the floor) and asked, I’m physically fine. Psychologically bruised–sitting on the floor at a fast food place, especially at my age, will do that to you. One knee does have a bruise, not from the fall, but because my knees are bony, and walking on them always leaves its mark. It also hurts like crazy while in progress.

Colossus of Rhodes

I fell because my feet were too close together and I overbalanced.  A therapist once told me to walk like John Wayne and to stand like the Colossus of Rhodes, the opposite of what my mother told me to do, so I have trouble remembering to do it. I tried to stay vertical by grabbing the handle of the walker, and the brakes failed.

David said the brakes didn’t fail–he’d fixed a loose one yesterday, and he demonstrated that they’re fine–and said it requires more weight than I placed on it. He said it’s a basic law of physics. It’s like trying to stop with bald tires: the brakes work, but the tires slide.

I told him I should have enough weight to stop anything. And my tires aren’t bald.

Anyway, by the time I finished with the fire department and the incident report, the film was over.

Sulfur. By Ivar Leidus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

David went into the Brimstone Museum, where the festival was held, and told the director that we’d been held up by his wife’s medical issue. He was kind enough not to say I’d fallen all over the place.

I was disappointed, of course, and felt bad for David. He said he wasn’t disappointed because it’s not his best video and he wasn’t looking forward to seeing it. He also doesn’t like being called up onto the stage to answer questions.

I was also disappointed at not touring the Brimstone Museum. I wanted to see what was on display. The Brimstone Museum in Sulfur, Louisiana, sounds so John Miltonish. David, however, said there wasn’t much on display because they’re remodeling.

Although the trip didn’t meet our expectations, it was less of a disappointment than the time we went to a festival in Houston and learned that the email saying his video had been selected didn’t mean it would be shown. So we went to Galveston.

When I get home, I shall insist my doctor refer me for physical therapy so I can regain strength enough to walk without that brake-challenged walker and to stop falling, or at least to stop having to call the fire department for aid and comfort. When I finished chemo, I was ambulatory, bopping merrily into radiation twice a week so the techs could admire my cute socks, bopping out to the grocery store. During the pandemic, I bopped nowhere. That’s taken a toll.

The whole trip hasn’t been a disappointment, though. In our first real getaway in four years, we drove to Knoxville, then looped back to Sulfur. That was fun. But it’s a story for another post.


I’ll add that yesterday we checked into a very nice hotel and then learned there would be no hot water for three days. Showers were bracing. Today we moved.


Image of brimstone cockatoo by Karsten Paulick from Pixabay

Sulfur. (2023, May 16). In Wikipedia.

Image of Colossus at Rhodes via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.