Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The work life-life’s work balance

Friday, January 25th, 2019

I’ve written about the difficulty of writing and having any other type of activities in a day. Another aspect of writing, perhaps less known, is the mental disappearance that can happen.

When we sit down to write, we willingly break with the so-called “real” world, that is, the world that appears solid to us. The world we can touch, smell, hear, see. The world that has bills, meetings, and schedules.

To write means to cut ties with this world, and have the mind entirely free of any other thought. That’s self-evident.

What many people don’t know – including writers, that is, until we’re neck deep into a novel or story – is that writing also requires a break with another world, the world of our own mind. The world of our own sanity. The world where we are in charge, and events happen in someone predictable, or logical ways.

When we let go to submerse ourselves in writing, the break required to really create shifts our inner identity off its base, then shatters the base, and leaves us hanging.

When we are hanging in that way, adrift, maybe terrified, that we find art.

Disappearing Writer

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

One aspect of writing that’s difficult to describe, is that we disappear when we write. That’s one of the toughest requirements, or should I say fallout, from writing. To do so requires a person to vacate their own life, their own mind, their own daily activities. In their place, the writer inserts stories about other people, and their struggles, goals, and nightmares.

In the meantime, the real person, the physical writer, sits at a desk. Hours pass, even days. Dishes accumulate; the floor needs to be vacuumed; the bed sits unmade. Calls go unreturned, and of course, bill pile up.

Life outside the writer’s mind continues.

But the writer agrees to exit life, to create this other thing, this other living body, this story, this novel, this essay.

It’s an uncomfortable choice, but a goal that compels me to it.

Niched

Monday, January 14th, 2019

I’ve started a new short story. It started as a look into a recurring nightmare which over time I realized was also my worst fear.

It seemed interesting to explore it, to examine all the thoughts tied in with that recurring dream. I also described what happened in the dream, as well as my responses to it.

Once I explored the recurring dream, people emerged, deep ideas, fears, and emotions. I found the short story has taken off.

Yet what I’ve figured out is that the story will be a chiller, a “suspense” piece, and clearly a niche work.

Why do we do that? Why do we consider Science Fiction, Horror, Detective, and other types of stories to be “genre” fiction?

Is not one of our greatest writers, Edgar Allen Poe, a “genre” writer? Have you actually read Poe? Today, his work would be shunted into a category, and never see daylight.

So my horror story is in progress. When I have a draft, I’ll put it up.

Holidays Drawing Near

Monday, December 17th, 2018

Winter means quieter days, especially this time of year. It gives us all a chance to reflect, to plan, and to appreciate what we have right now.

This year is different, as I have returned to my novel. It means spending hours a day in that world, disconnected from this one. I have to keep up with regular responsibilities, freelance, bills, banking, returning calls. I also have my critters to take care of.

In the end, I hope I’ll have several hundred pages to share with you.

Guiding me are three principles:
What is the story
Is it important
Can I tell it

I also struggle with my overall approach:
Sweeping, broad, complex (Russian novel)
Succinct, moving, lean (du Maurier)

I tend toward writing like the Russians. The only concern is I may not finish if I cram everything I’d like to in there.

When Writing Was Everything

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

This phrase came from another writer; how I wish I created it. This phrase served as the title of Alfred Kazin’s autobiography (1915-1998), his stories of editing during the times of Ginsberg, Hart Crane, George Orwell, Flannery O’Connor, Hannah Arendt.

For me the phrase captures my years in Prague, Czech Republic, when writing was everything. I woke up to write before teaching English at 8 a.m.; wrote all day many Saturday and Sundays; and spent holidays writing.

I would sit and dream for hours, writing those stories, about the people whose lives took place in this disconnected time.

To continue yesterday’s post, this dreaming place explains why fiction writing is not for the weak; it requires hours spent dangling in a non-world, capturing unreal, shimmering people, places, and actions that exist in this demi-world between our tangible present, and the unconscious night world.

I left that world behind when my husband and I divorced, mostly for the practical reason that I had to earn double my previous income to keep my house, support my animals, and do the repairs, buy the groceries, and pay race entry fees for marathons twice a year.

So I largely left behind my dream world. I earned a Master of Public Administration, and embraced my love of politics.

Today that’s the work I do … but I am also returning to the novel, The Curing Season, to see if I have enough dream time available in a day to pick it back up.

More on Writing

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Writers share many traits but if I had to guess … I would say losing track of time is high on their list of commonalities.

How do writers lose time, and why? It’s nearly an occupational hazard for writers. That’s because writing – especially a novel – requires us to sit down and genuinely work at disconnecting from the world around us. Indeed, it’s necessary if we are to write.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve worked on my novel. That’s because to start means to lose about four hours. Yes, to review my notes, read what I’ve written so far, review my plot outlines, characters, and motivations … well that’s a couple of hours. Then to have their next actions come to me, along with the weather that day, other people and their actions, dialogue, and feelings, clothing, colors, landscapes … that’s several more hours.

And like all other writers, we labor under the need to publish. That’s for the basic reason that we need income, but most of all, we like finishing a beautiful project.

So for me, it’s been better and more accessible to wrap up an analysis, presentation, or freelance project, rather than pick up my novel.

It’s coming though. I’ll take those four hours to get back in the bath. Then I’ll race against time and my own impatient nature to get a few chapters written.

Thanks for tuning into Fiction Daily.

On Basketball

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

On Sunday, Greg & I went to Chapel Hill to see my beloved ‘Heels play their seventh game of the season.

Now you may be thinking, The sports blog. Please spare me.

Let me say that I love the ECU Pirates on the field and in just about every other way.

UNC Hoops

UNC Hoops


Photo by Greg Eans

But when it comes to basketball, it’s all blue. A particular pale, and not dark, blue. I’ve been watching basketball since I was a little girl when, growing up deep in isolated, rural Edgecombe County where all we had to do was play outside, read and watch an occasional TV program at night. Often sports.

I remember the glory days NBA stars like Kareem and Larry Bird, and of course the Olympic game between the US and the USSR. Naturally I remember N.C. State winning the National Championship in 1974.

In college I was far too busy with my studies to actually attend UNC games, played by the likes of … well … James Worthy, Sam Perkins and a moderately decent guy named Michael Jordan. Nope. Just too busy to wait in line for tickets. In the 1980s I started watching with friends, learning the rules about blocking and charging. Though I’ve never, ever, been able to catch an “offensive screen” call.

These days basketball is much more. It is a metaphor for life. It is the hopeful look at mankind’s ability to persevere. It is character and attainment.

Many times during my campaign for City Council, I’d feel beaten down by the forums and press questions; the rumors; the feeling that I was engaged in a strange public endeavor that I might fail at. That no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out my positive message; everyone wanted to focus on gossip.

I’d feel like I wanted to give up.

Then I’d remind myself of why I ran for office, sort of simple things like wanting to serve the community, hoping to help usher the City into a more positive future; looking out for the voiceless and powerless; making Greenville a more walkable, bikable place with greenways and parks.

I’d think, What does Carolina do when they’re down by 20 at the half?

They come out shooting. Eventually, the ball goes in the right place. And they close the gap and many times, build up a lead to win.

So I’d gather my forces and come out shooting.

That is why basketball is so important. No matter your team, basketball’s crazy running-jumping-passing motif gives us a paragon of hustle.

And if you can hustle, most of the time you’ll succeed.

Writing again

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

In which the author, now an elected official, returns to her love of writing

Mark the day, Nov. 24, 2009. I find myself with thoughts and time to collect and even record them.

Fiction Daily has for two years been my constant writing companion as have you, dear readers. Since running for office I have neglected writing beyond my professional articles and the speeches and whatnot one must, and should, be able to offer when seeking to serve.

Indeed, campaign obligations made me a much better candidate, and today, official. Preparation for the many forums, interviews and presentations forced me to dig deep into laws, ordinances and budgets to talk about them somewhat intelligently. I feel a much better elected one for it.

In the meantime, WordPress has updated and the new dashboard is unfamiliar! I have thousands of spam comments! But how nice to be back in Fiction Dailyland.

For those coming late to the blog, I am a writer in Greenville, N.C., where I earlier this month was elected to serve as a representative on our City Council for District 3. I should take office on Dec. 7.

In the meantime, I work as a project manager, write articles and create marketing for clients. I am grateful to make a living as a writer.

For the past seven and a half years I’ve been writing a novel, as well. It started out as a short story, with this opening sentence:

August came as usual that year, but the tobacco trucks — with their tall mounds of honey-brown sheaves, the lingering sweet trails and the bumpity wheels of rickety old trucks going to the warehouses — did not.

That sentence opened a door I knew would take more than 5,000 words to walk through. Since writing that sentence in 2002, I have worked on and off. I’ve done character sketches, dwelt on names for my characters, outlined plots and chapters.

I sit to write and sometimes they come, but often these people remain shadows and cutouts, unable or unwilling to reach out with their true selves to me.

Nevertheless I have several hundred pages (most of which I’ll probably toss one day). I have several characters; a homeplace; a town; a villain; a love triangle; great tragedy.

Though ready to serve, no longer campaigning, I hope now to return to my novel, my life.

The working title is The Curing Season or A Cure for August.

A special shout-out to my friend Gene, who has been my constant friend and editorial rock, and whom I look forward to working with again on our various fiction (and fictional) pursuits.

So, to fiction!