Add This

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wise words from a Roman poet

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop." -- Ovid

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Delicious distractions

What a gorgeous day! I have so many chores to accomplish that I'm afraid it's pleasures are going to slip by. While my hubby tackles the yard, cleans the deck and gets the patio furniture out, I'm working on the inside of the house. Sometimes you find pleasures in the mundane tasks of a Saturday.

Several months after I starting working outside of the house, my middle son convinced me to give up the room that had been my home office for 12 years so he could have a room of his own. The work stuff has long been sorted and organized and is stored in the basement, but my wonderful books that served as a source of daily inspiration, have been piled in stacks in the corner of my bedroom ever since.

They are awaiting a new home, a new bookshelf or some other place of honor. So with the mellow sounds of James Taylor serenading me on my iPod, I decide to tackle spring cleaning my bedroom. Only I made the first mistake of cracking open a volume I haven't looked at in a while.

And for the past hour I've been deliciously distracted.

This first book I opened was given to me during a time of transition in my career by a dear friend who had inscribed it with such a moving sentiment that it caused a lump in my throat to re-read today. I haven't seen those words in years, but they were about my increasingly confident writing voice--nourishing words at a time when I needed them most. And still so satisfying to my writing soul.

And then there are my books on writing with post-it flags, marking favorite passages. I found this one in Stephen King's book, "On Writing."
"This isn't a popularity contest, it's not the moral Olympics, and it's not church. But it's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else.
Wash the car, maybe."
Though I've not reviewed books in some time, I'm still on publisher mailing lists and so some of the more interesting titles to arrive, I've added to the stack to check out at some point. Among the titles are "The Wisdom of Your Dreams," "Faith Interrupted" and "Thanks, But This Isn't For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected."

Good stuff, but now it's back to dusting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Writing that makes a difference

My first exposure to William Zinsser was in 1990 when I picked up "On Writing Well" in an effort to improve my journalism. What I discovered was a lifelong mentor to accompany me on my writing journey.

Fourteen years later in 2004, I had the great pleasure of meeting him in person and introducing him to an audience of journalists gathered at a conference in New York City. (Pictured above) I've had a passion for his writing and his wisdom on writing for 20 years.

Imagine my delight to learn somewhat belatedly (it was published in 2009) that he has written a book called "Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher." I love the sound of it, I love the idea of it and I can't wait to hear what he has to say about his own journey. I'll be at the bookstore tomorrow to make my purchase, adding this latest to my well-worn Zinsser collection.

His books are filled with my notations: underlined passages, notes in the margins, post-it notes marking entire pages. They are lovingly dog-eared and never far from reach as a source of information or inspiration.

With the patience of a grandfather and the enthusiasm of a lifelong learner, he has embraced hundreds, probably thousands of writers, answering the phone in his Manhattan office on Lexington Avenue and making a difference in the lives of writers. It's a role he embraces.
“Many younger writers have taken me as a mentor. They just look me up in the Manhattan telephone book. ‘I know how busy you are,’ they say, assuming that I spend every minute writing at my computer. I tell them I have many ways of being busy, and this is one of the ways I like best. I particularly like to be busy with people who want their writing to make a difference. And by now I have a small shelf of their books.”
The biggest surprise is to see that this delightfully old-fashioned man, with his trademark white fedora and sensible New Balance running shoes, has embraced modernity in the form of a website.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Playing with poetry

Poetry has always terrified me: Not the reading of, but the writing of poetry. It is writing stripped bear of anything except the most essential. The austerity of it intimidates a writer of prose such as myself.

And yet I am drawn to its simplicity, to its power and to its raw emotion. Maybe my capacity to be pithy, to get to the essence of an idea, is increasing as I age. I think more and speak less. After reading some poetry of late, I conducted a little brainstorming exercise for myself.

I played around with free association with words about things I love or things that move me in life and in fiction. There's no real rhyme or reason to these thoughts. I just wrote them as they came to mind. I've penned only one poem in my life, something so deeply personal that I will likely never share it.

But if I were to write regularly, I would write about rain...spring rain, and long, slow kisses in the rain. I'd write about the smell of old books imbued with the spice of worn leather, dusty paper and pipe tobacco. I'd write about words and their capacity to move me.

Water, plenty of images about water, alternately gentle and rushing, conjuring images of power and emotion and tranquility and touch. And tender, fleshy tomatoes and creamy mozzarella and looks across crowded rooms that focus desire like a laser, causing hearts to pound and bodies to tremble.

I'd write about sand and sounds of foreign lands and the luminous nature of love that envelopes the heart, mind, body and soul, and how light is reflected differently on surfaces, from blue glows to shimmering whiteness.

Though I'm not sure it will result in poetry, this exercise has certainly awakened my mind on this gloomy Saturday morning. Perhaps some of these images will find their way into poetry, perhaps in other writing.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Merton on the truth about suffering

"The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being
-- Thomas Merton

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sleep and writing

"My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I'd never have written a line." -- Louis-Ferdinand Celine