25 January 2015

Taking Flight

Magpie comes a calling
Drops a marble from the sky
Tin roof sounds alarming
"Wake up child."

"Let this be a warning,"
says the magpie to the morning,
"Don't let this fading summer pass you by.
Don't let this fading summer pass you by."
                  from Magpie to the Morning by Neko Case


While yesterday bathed in sunshine, this morning has slipped into a heavy coat of fog. Out the window the trees are hazy, distant, their lines are soft and blurred before they disappear into the endless gray of sky. What a difference a day can make.

Yesterday I walked and walked and walked. I listened to song after song, matching my footsteps to the kicked beats of bass drums. I let the winter sun tell me it was spring. I watched the black bird bounce from barren tree branch to barren tree branch. I sat on wooden benches. I stepped on soft, wet grass, concrete. I closed my eyes to dream.

I bought an hour glass, a symbol to remind me to sit in the chair, to put fingers on keys, to build words into stories.

It worked. I came home and lost several hours to the process of working. It was one of the most productive writing days I've had in ages.


Today I wake up compelled, inspired to try again.

*Months ago I went to social media to help me generate a list of songs about birds for my book. This was not one that came up, but yesterday it found me and knocked me flat. It is perfect in so many glorious ways.

Signs of life.

09 January 2015

Death, Doubt, and Beginning Again

I look around and see all the discarded words that have collected in corners, like the tumbleweeds of dust and dog hair that gather in a house with hardwood floors. I look at them and I see a rare blend of hope and despair, of potential and paralyzing doubt.

I haven't posted a blog in nearly two months and until today I hadn't opened my novel since November 29th, 2014, the day the odometer rolled past 50,000 words.

My intention was to update my progress, to share the triumphs and missteps as I worked through this latest revision, but then there was a death in the family and I found myself on a plane, derailed from the track I was on, thirty thousand feet in the air when I expected to have my feet firmly on the ground.

Something changed then, in life and in my writing.

This wasn't a death that wrecked me. Certainly it made me sad for all the usual reasons and a few that surprised me, but it didn't send me tailspinning into despair.

Every word I wrote the rest of November I had to fight for. Nothing came easy. I had no energy to put one word in front of the other and I found myself floundering. Somehow I carried on even though all I felt like doing was watching Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

I found excuses to write, strange motivations and some of them downright obscure. When the Ferguson verdict came through and I was forced to watch the coverage via Fox News, I wrote about it from Holden's perspective, imagining how it would have affected him and his African American best friend. What were their thoughts? How did the current events make them feel? What conversations would an eighteen year old have with his friends?

December returned me to Portland and the chaos of work. I let my writing go, opting to lose myself in other people's stories and I read some truly remarkable books (like Jacqueline Woodson's National Book Award winning Brown Girl Dreaming, A.S. King's brilliant Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, and Jandy Nelson's amazing I'll Give You the Sun.) These were three very different books by three very different writers and I found myself feeling...inadequate. I found myself questioning the very reason why I should bother writing when there were others in the world telling such brilliant stories, stunning in their voice, the manner of their telling, their words so far beyond my skills.

There were moments when I felt like giving up completely.  There were days when I thought it might be better if I spent my time reading other people's novels rather than bothering to write one of my own.

But I've been writing as long as I can remember (I started my first book series in the fourth grade) and even at the lowest point of self doubt, I knew I wouldn't/couldn't truly give up. I just needed a break, a chance to rebuild and refocus. I needed to refill from the well.

Today, I go through my files, scavenging for buried treasures, reviewing critique feedback, notes, ideas, thoughts.

Today I begin again.

A brilliant reminder