Thursday, May 9, 2013

Flu Memories

Happy to report this post is long over-due. Getting better meant getting busy and this blog got lost in the bowels of my hard drive. But here it is...

Day 6 of the dreaded flu. The one I was urged to get a shot for.

This is the first day I am upright in a chair, spurred on by an e-mail about insufficient funds in my checking account. Another worry to being sick means no work and no income so that $34 means a lot right now. Weakness couples with wariness. My body ached in a way I have never experienced in my 42 years and never having been 42 before I suppose age may have tweaked this issue

Mark fell victim first. He complained of a naggy cough that I attributed to an earlier hike, knowing down deep if it was the flu I was next. No quarter. Black flag flapping over my head.

I went through Monday unscathed. Tuesday dawned and as I plotted my work for the week, a cough cropped up. Nothing special. Almost passable as an allergy. It followed me through the day, deepening, growing insistent. I cancelled my Tuesday plans, describing the symptoms to one friend who groaned; “Oh no, Laura, that’s how the flu started with me.”

And for me as well.

Sleep was broken and I am not sure if the weird visions were the result of actual REM or lucid thinking (all were freaky Yellow Submarine-esque). Fever followed with chills and sweats but I was so sick I could not muster the energy to kick blankets off . Even my ankle bones hurt. The worst part was the cough. You never know how much you need abdomen muscles until you have to hack. I feel like I have been working out to Abs of Steel when in reality the only position I can manage is supine on my couch with my eyes closed listening to the Jodi Arias trial. That was a big deal too. I know how sick I am when I absolutely don’t care what’s on TV—much to Mark’s delight. He recovered faster and was able to rejoin the living but I am still firmly planted on the couch, too fearful of relapse. Because only this morning I woke up with a temperature and a high fever and segued into feeling almost (dare I say) good this late afternoon. Relapse is high and I don’t care for a repeat performance. At all.

But the flu also has (eeep!) blessings. Being sick forces indulgence. Read. Watch some bad TV. Read. Let others take care of you. Read. Contemplate the things you take for granted, daily walks, coffee with friends, writing on a whim. Read. And rest to your heart’s content.
And read.

Even this 500 word blog is tiring me out.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Advice For the Gentle Reader

A few words of advice. 500 words. Or 475 to be exact.

Advice is flung from all directions when you’re a writer. Some is good. Most mediocre. Vaster amounts are bad. Here goes my twisted version of it.

Gentle Reader, (that’s how one of my rejection letters started), to be a writer, you must read. As much as you can. Get into a book. Read classics. Read graphic novels. Re-read the books you should have read in high school. Read new books. Read old. Read crappy books (up to page 100 and if it still sucks toss it. That’s what Oscar Wilde told me.)

Second: Blog. Personally I have a love/hate thing with blogging. My life is not that exciting to relay on a regular basis. Friends plead for a blog about my job but I still need the money so I’m not doing that today. Blogs should be short and full of content, if not for you, Gentle Reader, than for me. The practice of blogging regularly puts you out there. Hell, you might get discovered by an agent via blog, just like I thought I might get noticed by a French modeling agency strolling the Santa Anita mall as a zitty teenager, but it could happen.

Thirdly: Get into a writer’s group. Groups shatter the bubbles you ensconce in while writing but it needs to be an arena of support and a safe dry run for your work. If you don’t experience this then find another group. There is nothing worse than writer’s groups where one jerk usurps all the time with their hideous prose and talks smack about other peoples. It took time to find my current cadre and I’ve been with them over 4 years now. Yeah, I felt weird joining a group called Moms Write because my kids are the hairy 4-legged variety. But we meet on days I don’t work, at human hours in the morning and seriously, all the women in Moms Write completely rock. I am never bored with their readings. And maybe because my ego’s a bit on the tender side, they like my work too, enough to tell me when to tweak it or toss something out.

Fourth: Send your darlings to slaughter, a.k.a. submit. This advice I received from an author as she signed her book for me; ‘the difference between a writer and published writer is persistence.’ So since I am wrapping up a novel, it might be nice to have some work published. Or I can wait for a bored literary agent to troll this blog and believe me worthy of ink and paper. Those first stings of rejection suck but that doesn’t mean your work does.

So there you have it. We’ll depart on this last bit of very useful advice and I will leave you alone.

Gentle Reader: Go write.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Noon Girl

I miss getting up early. A simple enough problem with an easy solution;

Get up early.
Here is my first world dilemma:
Lately I have lounged in bed anywhere up to 10, 11, even 12 o’clock. My body’s demand for 8 hour slumber muffles alarm clocks and has serendipitously drained my cell phone of battery. Getting up at 8 a.m. is a feat right now. My bones protest. Coffee prods movement but the brain is lackluster and here is why I am whiny.
I am a writer who likes to write in the morning. The best sentences are milled before the sun is up.
The cause is my bread and butter job. My shift ends at 2:30 a.m. I do not get into an actual supine position until after 3 a.m. and to lull my noisy brainwaves I need to read. I'm lucky there (as my knuckles drub a piece of nearby wood). Reading rapidly thickens my lids no matter how good or bad the material maybe. Same with movies. It doesn't matter the content. But I don't watch too many movies anymore.
I long for the days when work forced me up at 4 a.m. to make my 6 a.m. shift but the flip side, for the writer, was the adjustment to my bio rhythms. My blood was geared for the same bat time same bat channel every day. There was satisfaction rising with the sun, a mug of strong coffee and a fresh screen/page that I gleefully speared for hours.
Those mornings are very far away right now.
I have tried to fool myself into thinking that when I wake up (it's almost 10 a.m. by the way) it is actually the same magical dawn hour when my words were ready for harvest. Unlike dawn, however, the day is already under way. Appointments to keep. Friends to lunch with. Laundry room vacant (got to get my stuff in there quick living in an apartment). But it’s all wrong for writing.
I have also tried the vampiric approach. Mining for words in the wee hours. Somehow, it’s not registering. Night distractions are worse than days. Cats perform their somnambulistic routines. Husband snores from the bedroom. More laundry glares undone from the corner. And this is the time I like to read.
Don’t worry. As soon as I change shifts I’ll be whining about how I can’t write in the mornings. I can repeat this blog and insert ‘night’ for ‘day’, sick cycle that this is.
The only temporary cure I can come up with for this blip on my creative radar is to keep doing what I am doing.
Which is writing…

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Writing and the Art of Meditating....or is it the art of writing and...

The faithful black and white composition book I scribe in is AWOL. Now there are not too many entries of anything vastly personal and the jots for my novel are so disjointed I doubt anyone but I could hook them together into a viable tale. But the absence of this little book is nonetheless disconcerting.

I took my coffee and ventured outside armed with a fancy tome for writing. It's my 'mediation' journal (see the corresponding pic)--for those Zen Nirvana realizations that sprout when I successfully quiet the imperious piece of pink tissue between my ears, when I succeed in getting into the moment and truly living. And according to one of my absolutest favoritest writeress in the world, Natalie Goldberg, writing is a form of here I go....

The day is blue and bright, a gentle contrast to the overhead humming birds zipping by, their throats a shimmer of crimson and emerald. Ample shade saves my too-white skin and the big quad is morning quiet for the cats to safely romp.

I looooove the fall. I love the barely warm days where the coolness of the night lingers late into the morning and the scent of charred wood blankets the early sun's set. The bounty of baking and coming feasts perfume every inhale and the anticipation of joy hints in the sacred air.

None of this day should be wasted looking for an erstwhile journal or scuttling dust bunnies out of hiding or even going to work (which I have to). It is a green, gold glorious moment made possible by the loss of a little black and white book.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zen and the Art of Driving

The weekend of my 41st birthday, still riding high on the fun and love gifted to me, I pulled out of my driveway and nearly collided into a beautiful black mustang, circa 2012.

The driver did not wish me happy birthday but he did call out some names. They began with the letters F, B, and C. All pertained to my femininity. Use your imagination.

I sat in my truck and mouthed a pathetic ‘sorry’, hoping it would expedite his exit out of my life. The rant and expletives continued for many more seconds, but even before his rear lights had disappeared up the street, I was seized with a horrible realization.

That is me.

Okay, before you brand me a brute, I do not go off on people like that. But memories of past behavior began making a Power Point presentation in my head.

Every day I pass a hospital near my home, untroubled and focused on the penne pasta I will make for dinner. So woe be unto the souls who happen into my path trying to find the emergency entrance to get to their loved one who is sick and/or dying at the facility. Certainly my tail-gating and my cold narrow glares will teach them a lesson and make them feel bad for inconveniencing the almighty ME.

Yup. I can be that guy in the black mustang.

It’s been a struggle to get Zen over this. I really enjoyed my revenge fantasies (i.e. keying the beautiful black mustang and taking a baseball bat to its driver). Yet, when I made it through the murk and mire I knew this dude didn’t want anything bad happening to his ride. Who can blame him? Los Angeles is the car Mecca of the West. Our cars not only transport us, they define us. They free us to arrive late and leave early. Without them we’re waiting on the bus in the rain.

If it’s about vehicles, I want to be a vehicle of kindness and compassion.

I’m no saint and I’m no Buddha. I’m not sure if I want to be. But I’d like to take the pain of this experience and transform into something better. The little car trauma gave me the best gift that birthday weekend. The gift of understanding another human being.

I can smile at the guy popping an illegal U-ie in front of me because he might be late for work. I can relax when trapped behind a slow poke student driver terrified of making a mistake. I can forgive and graciously wave on the next car pulling out of a driveway and crashing into me.

Unless it’s a dude in a black mustang circa 2012….

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Burn Out


I have a story to tell you…

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog, this scathing vent to my writers group. A tale of woe and triumph. Poetry in pure motion. Something to stir the soul and rumble the heart and… POOF.

Despite the italics it wasn’t the magical fairy tale kind of ‘poof’.
My laptop overheated and shut down. The eloquent quibbling was gone. The best writing I had done in months.

I stared back at the now black screen, a shroud to the verbiage that was lost to the malfunction. A new found surge to scoff off all technology for a simpler method of communication rose and in rebellion I turned to my handy dandy composition book, identical to the ones from those 1980s elementary days, complete with pencil. Hell, I’d take a hammer and chisel to a brick wall at this point.

Enough with the machinations. Let’s get back to what I wanted to say when the computer went blank.

I am writing a novel. I am burnt-out.

There. The confession lives in the little composition book and on the landscape of my hard drive. Saying and writing I am burnt-out makes it a fact.

Backstory: Since 2007 I have been telling my writer’s group about this awesome saga I am composing that is not just one, or two, but possibly three novels. I boast I work on it daily. I delight in revealing the crafty tactics I use to inspire myself to work—like a naughty kid who is actually a good student but needs that nudge.

Being burnt-out could be interpreted that I want to stop writing this novel but the novel is technically written. It’s the revision that is strangling me. The redundancy of my own verbiage.

I have dabbled in other arts. Read other books. Even considered revisiting school. The same reasoning wins out—I am avoiding the work, the real work, the writing that must get done…

Blank. The computer screen went black and blank. There was nothing else to look at except my own visage.

I am not a fool. I know there much more writing ahead of me to get this novel published (and I’d like to take the good old fashion brick and mortar route. Self-publishing is something I am skeptical about, but I’m not done yet so it’s a moot point and another blog.) I had several lovely friends read my first draft back in 2008. Their positive criticism helped me grip the slab of marble and chip away at the crevices and cracks to make a David.

And then came the burn-out.

I have tried to wriggle my way out of the mire. To get excited about the story again. I even considered moving to Louisiana to finish (the setting being in both Slidell and New Orleans). Roll in the flora and fauna. Tire swing myself over the sloughs. Mingle with the locals and hope to run into a dew-eyed man that is the epitome of my hero.

So Cal is my home. Sorry. Transplanting myself, finding a new day job, new friends, a new apartment would only take me from what I need to be doing…writing!

The biggest hiccup in this revision process is that I have grown. I’m a waaaaay better writer than I was back in 2007. I cringe at the drivel I wrote 4 years ago. So I am re-writing a lot. I want my ‘good’ story to be ‘great’.

But I am sick of my use of the English language. The ways I have abused: ‘would’, ‘has been’, ‘seemed’, ‘that’, ‘dark’, ‘I looked’, ‘she glanced’, and many, many more. Which parts are too long, which are too short? Is the introspection too wordy? Is my hero too perfect, my antagonists too cartoony?

My eyes may as well be staring at the black screen again. I don’t even want to open the file to revise it any more.

I can only compare it to a good relationship that has hit a blip. Maybe I need an exotic vacation. Or a wild affair away from the drudgery so I might return refreshed and ready. Sloth tends to disguise itself as a good intention for me and I end up straying further, only to return after a long absence defeated and feeling more burnt-out than before.

The victory is I don’t want to give up, not after 4 years. I made this commitment to myself; I want something to show for it.

It is a valley I have barreled down into. The mountain peak is icy and implacable and I am laden down with heavy loads; doubt, perfectionism, burn-out.

There. Said it again.

I don’t have a solution but I won’t leave you on a downer. It ain’t much but it is something.

I have a Voice. I want to share it; I need to share it.

I have a story to tell you…

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New Blog...Key West!

Hey everyone, check out my travel blog on Key West ...always 500 words or less with links to lots of pictures! I'd appreciate your 'following'as well as any comments and feedback. Updates daily for the next week...I promise!