Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lessons from Other Writers

California has always been a Mecca for writers. Throughout the last century, many writers lived, wrote, and made their mark on literature here.

With such rich writing history in my backyard, I undertook a quest to learn more about two writers who lived and worked here, Eugene O’Neill and Jack London: what inspired them, what compelled them to write, what convinced them to keep writing.

Eugene O’Neill lived in the Las Trampas foothills with his wife and wrote many works by hand. One of his most famous plays, "Long Day’s Journey Into Night", is an autobiographical account of his early life and the dysfunctional dynamics of his family. He was reclusive, alcoholic, moody, depressed, and compulsive. His personal life was a mess; his relationship with his wife was uneasy, he was estranged from his daughter, and his son committed suicide.

And he wrote every day.

O’Neill locked himself away in his office and let no one disturb him until he felt he had finished work for the day. There were three doors leading to his office and if any of the doors were closed, his wife and staff went no further. (Wouldn’t that be kids never let a closed door keep them from interrupting!)

Jack London lived on a farm in Sonoma. His novel, "Call of the Wild", has never been out of print, and is required reading in middle schools all over the United States. He was a gregarious and frequent host, a frustrated organic farmer, and partied constantly, drinking and eating fattening food to excess. He had friends from all walks of life, a loving wife who managed the farm and household, and an excellent relationship with his step-son. He also had a disease that eventually killed him at the age of forty.

And he wrote every day.

Jack London had a rule: he wrote 1000 words a day before he was allowed any contact with friends, family, whoever. He worked everywhere...his office, outside on a tree stump, the swimming pond on his property, and even when he traveled. No matter where he was or how late he stayed up the previous night, he wrote one thousand words every morning.
On the surface these two men were diametrically different. Yet, they both wrote works that continue to endure.

And they both wrote every day.

I came away from my mini-quest committed to using their inspiration for my own writing process. Since visiting their homes, I strive to write every day. Is it hard? Sometimes. We all have other responsibilities: jobs, children, parents, bills. But it’s imperative we practice responsibility to ourselves--to our creativity--as well.

Sometimes writing merely means searching the web for research articles. Sometimes it’s reading a how-to article or book. Sometimes it’s only a few words, maybe an emotion or feeling I’m trying to capture. Sometimes, it’s an outpouring of scenes and scenes and scenes. Sometimes, it’s editing a page, sometimes it’s layering in details for a chapter.

Whatever I do, I write every day.

Am I destined to be the next O’Neill or London? No. Nor do I want to be. I want to be me. A writer who reveres the beauty and the mystery and sheer giddiness of two people falling and being in love. A writer who lauds the commitment and dedication of celebrating life with a partner. A writer who believes in the power of being happy.

Because of the example of these two very different writers, I began to honor my writing and my process every day. You can too. One day at a time.

For further information on visiting either of these National Park sites:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Agents and Websites

My news. I've been crazy working to finish the revisions on book 2 in a series yet to be named, although I work on series titles in my spare time.

I consider myself extremely lucky (although I hate to use the word luck because frankly I worked my ass off to get here) and blessed to have garnered representation with Kimberly Whalen at Trident Media Group. She's amazing and I hope we have a long and prosperous association.

I'm also extremely happy to have scored Maddee at to design my website. My temporary page should be coming soon!

I seem to have lost my music theme. Right now, Everyday by Dave Matthews is on my iPod.

Have a good one!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Artists and Writers

So for Mother's Day I dragged my family to the Museum of Modern Art. I'll confess straight off that all modern art is not to my taste, but I absolutely love photographs. The MOMA had a exhibit of Lee Friedlander's work and I wanted to see it.

The exhibit was huge. Four or five big rooms of photographs spanning four decades. His body of work is so large the curator made the decision to display the photos by subject rather than by date, giving the viewer the chance to see how the same subject was treated at different points in his life and career. As I meandered through the white-walled rooms it occured to me that artists have the right idea. I'm sure that Lee Friedlander didn't think to himself, "Oh, I shouldn't spend time on this subject, I already covered this." Or, "Maybe I shouldn't use up this roll of film today. I already shot four."

Every time they choose a subject and execute their art, they are creating. I think as writers we have a tendency (or at least I do) to think that any work, any writing that isn't strictly attached to a project or going to be part of a finished work should not be written. That I should "save" my words for that project.

The truth is that every experience we have informs our work. Every thing that happens to us on any given day is going to influence our words, our creation in some way. This is neither good or bad. It just is. And writing is writing, whether the words ultimately make their way into a story or not isn't the point. The point is to just...write.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Space Between...

...a blank first page and a finished manuscript.

There's a lot of sweating, swearing, brain-hurting, plot-twisting, heart-pounding, and even gagging that goes on between the white screen we face every day and the finished (or very un-finished) page we end up with as the first draft.

Double, triple, quadruple, even quintuple all of that angst from the first draft to the second to the third to the twentieth before your baby is ready to make its way out into the big, bad world and you've got the space between.

The veritable truth of that space (and what I remind myself of every single time I think I've written total drivel--my favorite poor writing word of the moment) are the sage words Nora Roberts spoke the first time I heard her "chat" at a conference.

"You can't revise a blank page."

So, the next time you're staring at that blank screen...jump into that space, put your butt in your chair, and write. :) 'Cause sure as sh*t, those words will be waiting for revision.


PS--Yes, I seem to have a music theme going here. The Space Between, Dave Matthews Band, is on my playlist while I'm working.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Brand New Day

My super smart and talented friend Sophie finally nagged, er, convinced me it was time to start blogging about writing. So here goes....

This is a test to see how the blog posts work. :) I love blogs. I'd heard about them for a few years, of course, but truly didn't want another time suck. Because as someone recently said...(didn't note who so I can't give proper credit--sorry!) blog reading is like potato chips, you can't eat just one.

Fortunately I use reading blogs as a reward when I've spent enough time in front of my laptop or gotten in enough words that I'm allowed a break. My boss is a b*tch. Oh, yeah, that would be me. :)