Thursday, August 28, 2008

Garden Party

This is what my new flower garden looked like in the sun. In the summer. When we had summer. Apparently it's over. Today I called the pellet stove repair guy and we turned the heated floor back on. It's really cold here. Global warming? Don't worry about it. Come to Seattle.

Moving on from my little moan...I'm quite proud of the garden business. My cat Uncas (you'll notice him in the corner) is thinking that he would have liked the dalhias a little farther away from the heather. Okay, I'm making that up-- I don't have dalhias or heather but I can't remember the names of the real plants.

Just for some perspective, this is what the place looked like before the purchase went through.

I've been working very very hard.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Slow Start

Good morning, good morning. Well, the weather has turned and it seems we’re done with summer already in the Northwest. The clouds have rolled in and gone are the sunny, clear, hot days. I’m feeling fortunate that I finished some gardening while it was nice. Being a novice and all, I was able to enjoy my first foray into digging around in the dirt in sunny sunny weather, moving plants from one spot to the next, trying an orange beauty next to a pineapple mint. Even though the instructions said “full sun”, I put it in “partial” & hoped for the best. (There’s no such thing as full sun in these woods.) It’s cloudy days and shade for you, verbena, if you’re fortunate enough to come home with me. In the last week I’ve moved nearly a ton of rocks and gathered driftwood from the beach, sculpting the land into beautiful, welcoming grounds. I believe I’m addicted. The cats too were enchanted by the weather in the last few weeks, sprinting back and forth from one patch of grass to the next, chasing each other, and leaving gifts of dead vermin on the path.

Today we all sit inside the studio, pouting at the early change in season. They cry, looking up at me, as if I could stop the rain. “It’s not my fault,” I say. I walk to the window with the little one and contemplate the gray, gray sky. Will I still manage to ride my bike to work? It’s hard to keep good habits when even the sun is hiding. Maybe, I think, I’ll just go back to bed.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Almost a year later, she has something to say.

This morning, I’m going to write about the cycle, the ebb and flow of the writer’s psyche: the elation, the depression, the fantasy, the misery, the accolades, the criticisms, the swell and the drain, the yin and the yang. God, I’m tired of (but am going to have to embrace) the fact that I’m a sensitive, moody artist—one who is extremely affected by the opinions that other people have of my writing. When they tell me I’m good, I’m on top of the world, imagining life as it should be, imagining I have finally come into my own. Then one critique too much, one slip of the rug under my feet, and I’m unbalanced. My first reaction (particularly to someone who may or may not be a husband and who may or may not be writing at this particular time), is to say: “why don’t you write something better, then?”

The cycle:

I finish a story I don’t feel particularly good about, but am happy to have finished as it’s taken several months, off and on. I don’t expect anyone to think the story really works, but deep down, deep down, I think, wouldn’t that be nice if someone did.

I give the story to "someone" (who may or may not be a husband) to read, just as a first impression. He’s normally a good reader, has insightful opinions.

He reads half the story and thinks it’s amazing, says I’ve found my style, best thing I’ve written. I’m elated. I’m delighted. Maybe I can't recognize my own talent.

He finishes the story, says “wow, that was creepy,” then turns over to go to sleep. Hmmm.

I can actually feel the joy drain from my body. I’m quiet for a time, then finally have to ask, “What, you didn’t like it?”
Why? Why did I have to ask that question? Why couldn’t I have left well enough alone?

He proceeds to list some pretty major issues: my favorite scene might be too much, certain characters' language was not believable, the ending doesn’t satisfy, it’s over the top. Then he says I just need to “tighten it up a little”. He sounds condescending.

Confidence stripped. I proceed to spend the next couple of hours tossing and turning, stewing, trying to find a way to blame him.

There’s no getting around it. Writing is hard. I’ve chosen a difficult, often unrewarding vocation (today it does not feel like an avocation). But here’s my remedy: I’ve got my butt in the chair and I’m doing my time. That’s the only thing to do. There was a day when I would have closed the computer and found something else to do, believing there was no point in continuing. I would have stopped until inspiration or encouragement or a good mood hit me again. But not now. Now I’m hoping that sitting through this pain, this disbelief, charging right through the center of the insecurity is going to dispel this particular depression. Maybe the act of putting in the time, maybe that alone will make me a good writer.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Blogging Without Obligation

Thanks for this idea and link, ti. I'm posting it right away. Lord, I don't need the pressure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Practice Makes Me Mediocre

Well, with prompting from Bug to do exercizes, I finally caved. So, here's my attempt at voicing what my newest character is yearning for. It's fairly long, so don't feel like you've got to read the whole thing. It was really for me to kick myself in the ass, to write SOMETHING as I've gotten to the point in the story that I don't really know where to go. The action has taken place now I need to resolve. Perhaps this helped:

This picture really doesn't have anything do do with the story. The kid's just so damn cute- I'm making a loose connection to practicing, as if the kid were practicing badmitton like I am with writing, but I think my allusion is not really working. (Which is why I needed to explain it)

Okay, the exercize:

Jesus, my legs don’t work like they used to. The worst thing about getting older is how brittle and yellow your finger nails get. Like the vampire’s nails in the old Bela Lugosi films. I really don’t want to die. I’m holding on tight even though the quality of life after seventy goes down hill pretty quickly. I am having a lot of trouble with the aging process altogether. I hate being wrinkled and I hate the way people pay absolutely no attention to you—and if they do, it is pity that shows in their eyes, not respect, certainly not envy. When I was younger the dowdy housewives would always shoot me looks of disapproval. They were jealous of my shapely legs, my tiny waist. I knew. I knew what those looks meant. There used to be men watching too, but now not even old men check me out. It’s an even worse punishment than not having jealous stares. No one envies or desires anything from you at eighty-five.

Even my son pays no attention to me. I’m in his way now, a nuisance. I never felt that way about him, even when he was a little kid- and I’ve never really liked children. How I ended up with three is a mystery to me. The girls were in my hair all the time. Trying to keep them out of trouble was too much work. I couldn’t be following them around when I had to be out working at all hours, trying to put food on the table. It was inevitable that JoAnne would turn out bad. If their father had stayed he could have helped, could have worked while I stayed home to watch the kids. Wayne, however, he was a big help with his sisters. He took care of them when I couldn’t. But JoAnne just wouldn’t be helped by her younger brother. That girl was as stubborn as they come. She just wouldn’t be helped by anyone- never will be. Dottie did alright for herself and I think it was because of Wayne. That boy was good to her, took care of her. And all Dottie does is put her brother down. I think she’s jealous of his success. Or maybe she’s jealous of his good looks. I don’t know, but there’s a lot of jealousy floating around in my life, always has been.

All I really ever wanted was for them—all of my children—to love me in a way that I couldn’t love them. Something shut off inside of me when Reynold left. Something congealed like the culture dishes in a lab. It’s a terrible thing to get to the end of your life and realize you’ve done it all wrong. I should have been able to hold on to him—I should have fought to keep my soldier husband. With a father figure to look up to maybe Wayne would have had the confidence to stick with acting. He might have gone on to acting school instead of working in that damn cemetery like some kind of joke. It was funny to him when he was a teenager to be working there, playing a gravedigger, playing at acting morbid. He could of made it as an actor, I know. He was so good in high-school plays, good at everything he did, always entertaining the family. I would have been so proud to have a son in the movies. I would have been happy to die then, knowing at least my son was someone to be envied. At least I would have done something good in life.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Day Off/ Day On

I'm newly inspired today as I read each of your posts. I'm always thanking you, but I have trouble on my own. Here, I'm going to show you just what a geek I am and quote Evita: "It's hard to keep momentum when it's you that you are following." In my defense, I only know the musical so intimately because I worked on a production at summerstock on the coast of Maine when I was 19.

Funny, the things that stay with you--which is actually what I want to talk about as I've been studying Robert Olen Butler's From Where You Dream. I picked it up thinking, God, not another craft book. But, to my great surprise the book is comprised of his lectures that expound on how writers must get out of their thinking brains and into their unconcious (I would guess he mostly means subconcious, but who am I to question a master?) Regardless, this is just the advice I've been needing as we've spent so much time analyzing and tearing apart stories this past year. I need to find a happy medium between where I started (all artistic impression, subconcious flow) and where I went (dry as can be, over-structured, over-written).

To help kickstart the flow, D & I took the day off yesterday and went to see the newly remodeled Seattle Art Museum. Much better, much better than the old cramped building. We were both in love with the painterly quality of the John Singer Sargent (I'm always surprised with the force of my reaction to his work). I was disappointed by the Rauschenburg they had (one of his earlier "combine" pieces), and the Jasper Johns wasn't my favorite of his either. We were surprisingly taken in by the Warhol (above). And there was, an intense piece by Do Ho Suh, a gigantic samurai coat made out of dogtags, some kickin' Japanese scrolls and panels, and a wild Australian aboriginal piece, but I can't remember her name- started with an S. Oh, that's lame, but it sure was nice to be in the city for a day. We ate in Chinatown & got our city walking fix with a promise to ourselves to get back to it with a vengence today. So, I better stop fooling around here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Raising Funds & Teenagers

Oh, those darn kids are amazing to me. They give me hope for the future. They're the ones that will forge ahead, leading us into a brighter, greener, safer tomorrow. I'm in love with a group of teenagers- is that wrong?

So, our little fundraiser had salsa dancers (7 youngsters who choreographed their own piece)*, raps about Harry Potter, raps about Calculus, a rockin' band, a not so great solo performance by quite the Diva who somehow managed to mix spanish, reggae, harmonica, guitar and strange social commentary, confusing her audience but looking fabulous while she did it, and poetry readings (some original, some by Sherman Alexie--no, he wasn't there). The skateboarders boycotted because they didn't want to wear full protective padding, but the kid who's taking an engine out of a truck & converting it to battery power was present with his informational wall of photos. And the popcorn and molassass-ginger cookies- amazing. Love them. Chocolate cake and lemonade, what more do you need? And, to top it all off, we made $600 from the generous donations of the attendees (I think it was mostly the parents).

My husband said-- after he was done helping me pick up, bless him-- "What a community we live in. The parents mix with the teenagers like it's nothing. No way, when I was a kid, would we have been good with our parents hanging around. These kids love it. It's a different world."

Of course, my husband is very east coast.

* The salsa dancers were my favorite. I'll have picts. later.