Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Writing Season

22 December 2012
I love North. My heart stirs at the mention of moose, bear,caribou, snowy owl, ptarmigans, black spruce, the aurora. You get the idea. I don't know what it is about these things that does it for me. Maybe it appeals to the recluse in me, or my yearning to search the landscape, or my love of true quiet.
I've discovered that I write best when the sun is not in my eyes, or when butterflies and bees are landing on flowers. But it's not because I'm distracted and find myself wanting to pull weeds instead of developing characters in my book. Working in my garden is soul work, like cooking. They are in no way distractions.
But give me the howling wind, the unsettled sky, a crow careening crazily in the wind. That's when my fingers itch to write.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Writer Adrift

24 November, 2012
I was adrift in several ways for the two nights before Thanksgiving at the Washington coast. I always intend on writing when I go to the coast, but am learning that it is much harder to do when I go with my little family (partner and two pups). As if that wasn't obvious. Duh. It's mainly my fault. I feel lazier, enjoy playing with the pups, watching movies, etc. I did get some time at the table next to the window, watching the waves, rain, and wind . . . writing. It was great. Didn't get a lot of words on the page, but the content was important, and I got my information organized. Getting myself to start writing seems like a straight line. Go to computer. Open document. Write. But it's not that easy. The straight line bends and weaves the minute I step onto it.
The feeling of not being able to start is like being adrift. Adrift in the world, in my life, in time, in the room. It's always a relief to have gotten several pages written in one session, but it's a special kind of relief to get past that uncomfortable point of simply beginning. Like pushing through a slightly resistant membrane.
We stayed at Adrift Hotel in Long Beach, Washington. A building rich in atmosphere, many cozy spots in the lounges and lobby where a writer could open her computer and write. Damn that memory foam king sized bed  and six pillows fully expecting me to relinquish control to them. The weather was perfect, stormy, sunny, stormy, sunny. Over and over the clouds rolled in and to the north (!). The couple of days before our trip, there were 100 mph winds and torrential rains causing downed trees and floods. The 4-mile long bridge from Astoria, Oregon to Washington was closed because of a flipped semi, and Route 4 on the Washington side was closed (detoured to who-knows-where) due to a mud slide, so the trip was iffy, but successful in the end. Whew. We traveled during a calm in the storm, and the bridge had opened by then. Life in the Pacific Northwest.
I think that I'm changing from a night owl to an early riser. It feels cockeyed, adrift-like, to crave getting up with the sun to write. But I want it, I think. Now I just need to get my body to agree.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Barbara Kingsolver on writing, compassion, climate change

17 November, 2012     Barbara Kingsolver spent a cozy evening with nearly 3,000 adoring readers last night, and I was lucky enough to have been one of the recipients of her words.
It was my first experience at Portland Arts and Lectures; one of many, I hope. The big problem is that it's a series-subscription-only kind of thing. Sort of excludes the likes of me. Sigh.
But I was there last night! I adore most of Kingsolver's books, mainly Bean Trees, Prodigal Summer, Poisonwood Bible, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Her new release, Flight Behavior, will be in my hands asap. She read a few paragraphs from FB and I was entirely sucked in. Her descriptive writing is fueled by passion for our planet and the humans trying to survive and thrive upon it. I'm pretty much in love with this author.
Kingsolver is a free thinker and a free talker. She doesn't hold back on matters concerning the United States and our "interests" in other countries' affairs. She shows her beliefs (entirely shared by me and 98% of the audience) in her writing of fiction. I find this extraordinary and utterly amazing. How does she do this? Awe oozes from my every pore.
She spoke about her writing process, a ribbon of fascinating and enlightening thoughts. I found myself (with my elemental knowledge and experience as writer) nodding in agreement and understanding, giving me hope that my own approach to writing is on target.
Kingsolver puts her money where her mouth is, donating 100% of her honorarium to two causes. Who does this? Amazing.
I didn't want the evening to end. Portland Arts and Lectures finally got Kingsolver here after ten years of trying, and I was so glad I ventured out of the house to be there. Who knows when she will return?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writer beached

10 November, 2012
I wish I could be beached for a few nights every month. I just returned from Lincoln City, staying in number 1 at the Overlook. Very few places make me as happy as the Oregon Coast. Other than the pups refusing to come back on their walk this morning, it was really the perfect getaway.
Even Xen and Zoe could enjoy the view from one of the five windows. I love this place because it sits high above the ocean.       
I want away to write and I did. It was only about a page or so, but more importantly, I finally got my index cards in order. I'm at a crucial point in the story and got stalled up until today. After the next page or so, the rest of the book should be able to unravel quickly, I think. There are hundreds of little bits of information to keep track of; maps, lists, time travel issues, etc. The index card system is really working.
I also watched several episodes of Weeds which I love, especially since they are half hour shows, and that's about all I want at once when I'm trying to stay on track with my writing. It's also the amount of time I need to eat breakfast or lunch.
It was also a spectacular couple of days to observe marine wildlife. It must be the beginning of winter migration. I saw several stellar sea lions and a pod of grey whales. Lots of tall spouts, some turning body action (sorry I don't know the technical terminology for whale movement). I was sorry to have left my 300 lens in the car overnight since it was fogged up enough to be rendered useless just when I needed it. I got this shot though, through the window in my room. I'm glad I wasn't watching Weeds at the time.
 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Knowing where I am: writer as symphony musician

I was sitting at the Steinway in symphony rehearsal, then it happened. I figured out why I like being a symphony musician so much, why it resonates with who I am, how I think, how I feel. I know, seems too neat. It's that way with flashes of insight though, isn't it? At that instant of unplanned calm, when the "ah ha" moment happens, it feels obvious, like, duh? why didn't I realize that sooner?
So, we were playing one of my favorite symphonic pieces, Prokoffief's Romeo and Juliet. I mean, it was the perfect set-up. I had a smile on my face through most of the 2 and 1/2 hours of rehearsal. The music is just so beautiful and fun and spunky.
So, yes, I'm posting this on my writer's page, not the music page, because it occurred to me also, why I write, at least in part.
I was staring at a measure of rests, 2 measures, actually. I thought to myself,
"I know exactly where I am right now. I'm here, on these two measures of rests. We played up to here so far, and we've got just that much more to go until the end." I was in the middle of the story, joining the orchestra in reinventing it second by second, yet knowing where it should wind up.
I think this is very interesting, and telling. It is comforting (when the conditions are perfect: great piece of music, great conductor, great orchestra, great piano, etc) to know where we are; really know.
Playing the same piece of music multiple times gives us the opportunity to live parallel lives sequentially, to recreate goodness, undo badness, go deeper, re-love. It's pretty amazing.
Now I'm thinking, is this also why I like to write? I get to create where I am, to stabilize a new reality, to sense the beginning, middle, and end as it is being written. I know where I am.
And, could this be why people like reading their favorite books over and over again? That would be cool.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pulling it Together

13 October, 2012     I'm here at my favorite coffee shop about to start the Pulling it Together phase of my book. It's the third book in a series of time travel books, and I've got clues scattered everywhere. Everywhere in the story and everywhere in my life. I mean, I've got the checklist on my Android, info on index cards (my experimental method which will work much better, I know, when it's the ONLY method), and even more clue tidbits on several pages in a little book which started out being THE place to put stuff until I forgot it at home several times. Ugh. In other words: what I have before me is a tangled, and sometimes not even tangled...more like scattered, collection of parts that should now start to combine into a straight line. With an occasional detour thrown in for fun.
If you could see my hair, you'd understand what this is doing to me.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Writing and Life

29 September, 2012     Writing and Life: I really know I'm getting the most out of life when words can't begin to reach the intensity of my happiness. Well there you go; the perfect example. "Happiness." That's not quite right. But maybe it's the closest I can get. My latest episode of this is when I walked out my door the other day, on my way for a coffee. I glanced up over the roof of my house and saw this: the sky was vibrantly blue with lots of unusual cloud swoops, the fir tree's green-ness contrasted gratifyingly with the blue, then a seagull flew through the scene. That's all it took. Sounds kind of boring and bland now, but in the moment it was transforming. I don't remember if I stood still or kept walking because I was at first self-unaware, then a grin moving one side of my mouth upwards made me aware that I was alive, still in my corporeal body. I was living. It was euphoria. I wonder if other people get the thrill of life through simple things like that. I hope so. Sure. They must. It couldn't be unique to my experience.
I get that feeling through music. A lot. (Remember reading about crying from joy after playing a small part in a Rachmaninoff piece? Check out the music page.) Not all the time though, actually, less than one would expect. I get something more sustaining from being a musician. After all, that feeling of intense alived-ness doesn't continue for more than a minute or so, even though now I'm experiencing a sort of afterglow from that seagull experience of over a week ago. Now that's cool. It's like a memory of sorts, but deeper.
So, what's this got to do with writing? I know deep down I'm searching for other ways to have these drug-induced-like experiences. This surely is why I do it, but I haven't put my finger on how it works exactly. I suspect it has to do with the desire to sustain the deep gratification of feeling truly alive; get it down on paper and relive it any time I want. I do know that when I sit down to write, I sense a path to happiness. Again, not quite the right word . . . "happiness." What is it then? The best I can do for now is that it feels like being fully and truly alive.