Saturday, December 30, 2017

Happy Today

I've always been reluctant to let go of December, month of colorful lights and tinsel and feasting and family and days off, to enter cold stark January, whose main claim to fame is that it's the month in which I start preparing for tax season.

But as I write this, we still have a bit of celebration and holiday ahead; it's not yet New Year's Eve. And maybe the resolution I ought to make is to stay in the present more. Or, as Marlo Berliner put it in an incredible post at YA Outside the Lines: "The greatest gift? Being able to enjoy the moment you're in and being grateful for it. For it is a gift, not a given."

As far as my writing life goes, much of 2017 has been about accepting, and even enjoying, where I am. I don't know what's next. I've had some glimmers of what it might be, but I don't know yet. Right now I'm in an in-between time, an uncertain time. The blessings of being in such a time include: Rest. Variety. Possibility. 

Happy New Year, but most of all, Happy Today.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


"It allows that greatest consolation of literature, which is to pierce our separateness, to show us that, in this business of being human, we are not alone."
--Dani Shapiro, Still Writing

In this sentence, Dani Shapiro captures perfectly the essence of why I read--and why I write, too. Sure, I read to be entertained, informed, transported--but most fundamentally it is for that piercing of separateness, for that connection. I get it sometimes from music and occasionally from movies or TV, but most consistently from reading.

Still Writing is a book that's been recommended to me many times, but I was never in the right frame of mind to read it before. And it's really speaking to me now. There's nothing like the right book at the right time. May you find your book for this moment!

On a separate note, if you'd like to do something easy and positive this holiday season, click on over to Nathan Bransford's annual blog fundraiser for Heifer Intl. Just a comment or retweet means an increase in Nathan's donation, and there's a link for you to donate yourself if you like.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

New interests

I'm still here. I've been writing less and doing more reading, thinking, listening, reflecting. I've been taking time to watch news (a lot of news) and taking time to turn off the news. I've been recharging with a sudoku puzzle or a library book or a walk.

My writing has changed. Since completing my most recent novel manuscript (unpublished) about a year ago, I've been writing mostly nonfiction. I've been reading a lot more nonfiction--and yet I've developed new appreciation for novels when I dip back into them. Nonfiction is beholden to the literal facts, which are not always neat or satisfying. But we can engineer fiction so that the story reads economically--no using five different characters where one will do, for example--and we can make sure every detail has meaning and significance. We can answer the major questions, never needing to leave holes in the story as we sometimes must do in nonfiction.

So I still like reading novels, but I'm embracing both short and long nonfiction with increasing interest. I don't know where this will take me. Part of the joy in artistic pursuits is just this sort of exploration, this finding out.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The luxury of Pause

"Yes, writing can be complicated, exhausting, isolating, abstracting, boring, dulling, briefly exhilarating; it can be made to be grueling and demoralizing. And occasionally it can produce rewards. But it's never as hard as, say, piloting an L-1011 into O'Hare on a snowy night in January or doing brain surgery when you have to stand up for ten hours straight, and once you start you can't just stop. If you're a writer, you can stop anywhere, any time, and no one will care or ever kow. Plus, the results might be better if you do."
--Richard Ford, "Goofing Off While the Muse Recharges," in Writers [on Writing]: Collected Essays from The New York Times