Month: July 2010 Page 2 of 3

Dreams

Last night I fell asleep imagining all the things I want in life. I pictured my future home, with granite countertops in the kitchen, the breakfast bar where I will work in the mornings, the sunlight filtering in through the windows. I pictured the big grassy backyard where my dog and kids will play. I pictured the book signings, the emails and phone calls with my agent and editor, the special shelf in my library for my own covers to be displayed.

It’s not easy for me to talk about these things, because I am a bit superstitious. I knock on wood after I make jokes, afraid to jinx the good things or foretell the bad. I believe there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I do my best to stay on the right side of that line because I believe in karma.

But I subtitled this blog “writing dreams into reality” because that’s what it’s about — what I’m about. I’m working hard to turn my dreams of being a writer into my reality. And I transform many of my “dreams” (ideas) into real, written-out stories. That’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was 9 years old, and I hope to do it until I’m 90.

Sometimes it’s a slog, let’s be honest. Sometimes I would rather be sleeping, or going out with friends, or eating a pint of ice cream on the sofa while watching Grey’s Anatomy. Sometimes my back hurts, or my wrists hurt, or my neck hurts, or my eyes hurt. Sometimes I can’t think of a single good word, much less a whole sentence. Sometimes I get so tired I could cry.

But it’s those times that my dreams matter most, and that’s why I’m sharing them now. As a reminder to myself that I’m working towards something tangible, even when everything seems out of my control and about as real as Tinkerbell. As a reminder to any of you who have dreams that you shouldn’t give up on them. Dreams are part of what make life worth living.

Did I think that by 24 I’d have found a wonderful man I want to marry? Or that I’d have the bestest, cutest dog in the whole world? That my friends and family would still be supporting, encouraging, and inspiring me every day? That I would have an editorial team interested in my stories?

No, once upon a time, those were just “silly dreams.” But now here I am, and here they are. And that’s how I know there’s more to come. That’s how I know that if I can dream it, I can achieve it.

And I will.

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Writerly Wednesday

True to my word, I’ve been cutting back on internet lately. This means that I don’t leave Gmail open all day, just waiting for new messages, and that I’m not surfing Wikipedia or clicking every link in my friends’ Twitter streams looking for distractions. No Roomba-riding kitties on YouTube, no Bones reruns on Hulu.

I am, however, still making time for things that are worth reading. For example…

Friend and writer John sent me this mind-blowing (and very short) story, “The Egg” by Andy Weir:

“Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.”

Friend and writer Rachele linked to YA author John Green’s Printz Award acceptance speech, and it’s full of all the hilarity and truth and emotion that makes his writing so well-loved:

Five months and seventeen days after sending the manuscript, Dutton called and offered to publish Looking for Alaska. And literally, my first thought was, “Oh. My. God. I’m going to be a 0 dash 525 dash!”

Friend and writer (are you sensing a theme here?) Sonja sent me a link to “Lori’s Quest,” in which author Lori Lake recounts her difficult journey to being published:

Over three decades have passed since I wrote my first story about the scuba diver, but when it comes to writing, I have finally returned to a state of childlike wonder and excitement. I no longer worry much about what others might think or what they might approve of, and I try not to think about what inner demons or faults I might be revealing. Instead, I focus on what plots make my heart sing, what narrative flow jazzes me up, and what characters wake me in the middle of the night, calling out that they need me to bring them to life.

I am an author.
I am a writer, a scribbler, and a thinker.
I create.
I am alive.

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My fridge, on writing and life

3 years ago I graduated from college (holy cow I’m old) and Andy and I moved in together. Our condo came with all the necessary appliances, including a nice Maytag refrigerator. The unit was pretty standard: ivory white, vertical doors, with the refrigeration side on the right, freezer and ice/water dispenser on the left.

We put a lot into that fridge. Milk, cheese, fruits, veggies, ice cream, pot pie, leftovers, etc. And of course we took quite a bit out again too. Some of the stuff, we forgot about, and over time it grew moldy, became inedible. Every now and then we would purge the fridge of these horrors, then re-stock it with fresh new goodies.

One day, for no apparent reason, the ice/water dispenser decided to stop dispensing. We Googled for help, and even paid $15 to chat live with a serviceman, who instructed us on how to take the dispenser out of the door, fiddle with the wires, etc. Nothing worked. So we shrugged our shoulders and bought a purifying water pitcher to use instead. Life went on.

Fast forward 1 year.

Last week, a small windstorm knocked out power in our neighborhood. When the power was restored a few hours later, we went around to reset all the clocks. As I walked into the kitchen to set the microwave and oven, I noticed two strange little lights on our refrigerator door. The ice/water dispenser had come back to life!

In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, this is not only a true story, it’s a metaphor. As writers, we fill up our manuscript with words and ideas. Sometimes they get old and moldy before we can put them to use. Sometimes they keep for years. And sometimes part of the manuscript just stops working. You can hire someone to try and repair it, or jiggle the wires and hope for the best. Or you can accept that it’s broken and walk away. Find an alternative. Maybe work on a different manuscript altogether. Then one day, when you least expect it, maybe a light will come on, and your original manuscript will start working again.

I started my first novel, The Good Daughters, 6 years ago. I put it aside 2 years ago, when I realized that in spite of the great characters, themes, and prose that it contained, the story wasn’t working. The plot was broken. Then a couple weeks ago, a light came on in my head. Without consciously trying to, I had figured out the perfect plot to dispense my story. The Good Daughters works again.

My guess is that this metaphor applies to a lot more in life than just writing. To be clear, it’s not about “magic” solutions to your problems, or waiting for things to happen for you. It’s about not trying to force something to work before it’s ready. Because maybe it’s really you that isn’t ready. Maybe your brain is trying to figure something out but you’re getting in the way. Or maybe your mind just needs a little time and a little space, a little spark or a little storm, to jolt it back on the right track.

Or maybe I’m just overextending the metaphor because I’m so shocked by my dispenser’s miraculous revival…

Either way, would you like some ice? I can get it for you from my fridge.

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Stumble

Today I am so tired that I am on the verge of tears for no reason at all. Why am I tired, you ask? Because I have been staying up until 1 a.m. trying to squeeze more writing time into my day. Not just once or twice, but for weeks now. How is that working out, you ask?

*bursts into tears*

Needless to say, something’s gotta give, and it ain’t gonna be sleep. Not anymore. My physical and emotional wellbeing simply can’t tolerate this. Which makes me feel like total weaksauce, by the way. But it is what it is, and I am who I am.

So. What now? I think, like learning to embrace my inner turtle, I am going to have to learn to listen to my mind and my body, to treat them well so that they can perform at their best. I mean, staying up an extra 2 hours doesn’t do me any good if all I can do is yawn, squint at my screen, and produce nothing but typos.

This puts me back at square one: self-discipline. Maybe it’s not about more hours in the day, maybe it’s about better use of the hours I have. Maybe I should spend less time commenting on blogs, and more time writing. Maybe I should do yoga while I watch TV, instead of sitting on the couch like a bump on a log. Maybe I should eat fruit instead of chocolate. Maybe I should play piano again.

I don’t know for sure if doing these things will help me to focus and to endure the (surprising) physical strains of sitting at the computer so long. But I believe they will. I believe that when we take care of ourselves, we become stronger, more capable, invigorated. I believe that I may have been going about this the wrong way (for me), and that I need to trust my instincts when they tell me to change course. I believe that I can achieve this dream, and soon. I believe that it’s okay to stumble, as long as you brush it off and keep on going.

So my knees are scraped up, I’m covered in sweat, and I’m thirsty as hell. But I can see that finish line, and damn if I’m going down now.

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