Tag Archives: love of writing

What Now?

4 Apr

I’ve loved books forever. As a young girl, I was never without something to read. Whether it was a library book (best smell in the world, in my opinion) my brother’s tattered MAD Magazines or the back of a cereal box, I devoured words. Books allowed me to escape into a world of my own choosing; they took me on adventures, they let me be somebody else for a little while when it was too painful to be me.

As a kid, my dream was either to become a concert pianist or a writer. I ended up pursuing music because I was pretty good at it, although I don’t think I was ever competitive enough to make it as a concert artist. Instead, I became a piano teacher. Truthfully, I’m glad I chose that path as it allowed me the chance to raise my four children while I worked from home.

My other dream–the writing dream–never did die out, though. For years I fantasized about writing a novel but never did anything about it–either I was too busy or the fear of failure stopped me before I even wrote that first sentence. That changed when my youngest daughter was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve beaten that story into the ground so I won’t rehash it, but I will say that experience was the turning point for me. The lesson was obvious: time is short so follow your passion.

I got to it. I began blogging. I published an essay in a small magazine and one in an online publication. Nothing big, but it was a start. I blogged some more. Then I sat down and began writing a novel. I blogged some more and got better at my writing.  I joined a writer’s group and shared my stuff. They liked it. Now, ninety thousand words later, I have actually finished a novel.

Now what?

Here comes the hard part. Being new at this trying to get your noel published game, it’s like I’m starting back at square one. Everyone has opinions on what to do: send out queries; find and agent; no, no–don’t do that–self publish instead! I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who can help you.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what happens. I wrote a novel and I loved the process of writing it. I didn’t do it for the money or the glory (well maybe a little.) I did it because there was something inside of me pushing to get the story out. I did it because I couldn’t not do it any longer.

Dear readers, I thank you for hanging in there with me over the past several years, always encouraging me to keep going. I value your support more than I can ever express. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Now if I can only come up with a decent title for the damn thing.novel on desk

 

 

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Leaving the Guilt Behind

28 Mar

flower 3All week long I’ve been chanting in my head: “Just four more days until vacation…just three more days…just two more…just one”—and poof—it’s finally here. I’m actually on vacation where I don’t have to do anything, go anywhere or teach anyone how to play the piano for nine glorious days.

Husband is off to L.A. to watch a soccer game. Ten year-old has been dropped off at the sleepover. Son is off somewhere in southern California with his friends. Daughters are off living their lives.

No one is asking me what’s for dinner or why there’s no milk in the fridge. I’m not having to bite my tongue to keep myself from screaming at that particular student who’s played the same wrong note for the third week in a row. At the moment my husband is not lying on the floor in front of the television watching Mexican soccer at full volume while begging me to please rub his feet.

The house is quiet—check. I’m barefoot—check. My unwashed hair is up in a messy pony tail—check. I’ve taken off my bra—double check. I’m wearing my most comfortable show-all yoga pants (which my husband tactfully calls unflattering—translation: your butt looks huge in those)—check. I’m on the couch with my feet up—check. The dog is curled up on the couch next to me—check. I have a hot cup of Starbucks coffee right in front of me—oh baby—CHECK!coffee cup

I am totally and utterly alone to do whatever my little heart desires and my mind is abuzz with all the things I should be doing with my free time. It’s the most beautiful spring day outside and I tell myself I should be going to the beach or out taking a hike even though I don’t really feel like doing either of those things the moment. I tell myself there is a huge basket of clean laundry that won’t magically fold itself; I tell myself the front lawn needs to be mowed; the flower garden needs to be weeded; there’s hair on the bathroom floor that needs to be vacuumed up; there are bills to pay; I need to go to the grocery store…ARRRRGH!

I can come up with a million things I should be doing with all this free time, but the truth is, I don’t want to do anything but sit right here on this couch and write. Writing makes me happy. Writing is my bliss—thoughts, words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters—eventually a finished novel. This is what I love to do.

So, for today—for right now, I’m leaving the guilt behind.

And I’m writing.

Three Years of Literary Bliss

5 Sep

photo (35)Three years ago today, I published my first blog post. To be honest, it was a momentous experience for me as it was my first real step in believing that I could actually refer to myself a writer. Since that decision to expose myself literally to the world (yes, pun intended) I’ve grown and changed quite a bit as a writer.

When I first began blogging, I would spend three to four days working on a post, revising, amending, altering, and rearranging the words until there was no possible editing left to do (or so I thought.) My posts were usually WAY too long and often focused on the many deep thoughts I felt I needed to share with the world about my angst-ridden childhood or my skewed sense of self-worth. Whew—it was heavy stuff, and in retrospect I believe I owe you all a very big thank you for slogging through it and then being kind enough to leave me a comment.

These days, I don’t post nearly as often as I did three years ago. My latest posts are much shorter in length (you’re welcome) or maybe they’re just photographs. As I spend the bulk of my free time working on my novel, I usually don’t have the energy or time to write weekly posts and it’s almost a miracle if I publish once a month.

I get advice from other writers that it’s important to keep at the blogging. You’ve got to get your name out there! Build up that fan base! Get that mailing list organized! That way, if my novel is ever published—wait—I take that back—WHEN my novel is published, I’ll be able to market it more efficiently.

GAH! That’s the hard part—I hate that idea of posting just to get “out there.” I’m told that with all the changes taking place in publishing these days, authors have to really work hard to get their novels recognized, but the idea of self-marketing somehow rubs me the wrong way.  And I don’t want to post just for the sake of posting—I want to share only when I have something really interesting to write about.trailing vines

Today, what I think is interesting and what I choose to write about is that it’s my three year blogging anniversary and I’ve come a long way since I started. I’ve met some very interesting people along this journey and I hope to meet many more. Thank you all for reading, for commenting, for supporting and for following me.

And just so you know, each and every one of your names will be listed on the acknowledgement page WHEN my novel is published.

Cody will also have his name listed as he keeps my feet warm while I write.

Cody will also have his name listed as he keeps my feet warm while I write.

The Hell with Her

15 Aug

MessyPapersYesterday, when I was cleaning out my bedroom closet, I stumbled upon a stack of yellowed papers hidden inside a box that I’d saved from when I was in college.

Inside was a story I had written during my senior year while attending USC. I had been a music major, but on a whim, I signed up for a creative writing class with none other than writer T.C. Boyle. Back then he was just being recognized as an up and coming writer and as I was unfamiliar with his work, I just thought he was some intense, uber hip/quirky guy who had multiple ear piercings and wore black leather pants and red high-top tennis shoes (an outfit not uncommon in the 1980’s.)tc boyle

Up until taking that course, I hadn’t realized how much I really loved writing (or should I say how much I hated it—writers, you know what I mean.) In that particular class there were many different types of writers—some better than others, but it seemed as if everyone had something interesting to say. Well, almost everyone.

There was this ditzy, freckled-faced sorority girl with overly highlighted hair who spoke with the thickest valley-girl accent I’d ever heard. She wrote the most inane and ridiculous stories—I don’t even remember what they were about—just that they were terrible. One day, this girl brought in a large foil-covered plate of chocolate brownies to share with the class. Usually her over-the-top perky demeanor set me on edge, but that day when I saw her passing out the brownies, I thought to myself, How nice of hermaybe she’s not so bad after all. I’d skipped breakfast that morning so I took the biggest one on the plate. “Oooh,” I exclaimed loud enough for the entire class to hear, “I love brownies!”brownies

Mid way through the class I began to feel very strange. I thought that perhaps I was coming down with the flu or something so during the break so I left to go rest in the lounge. When lying down on a cot didn’t stop the dizziness, I realized I needed to get home as quickly as possible, but my apartment was twenty minutes down the 10 freeway in Santa Monica. Halfway there, passing the Robertson Blvd. exit, I suddenly realized that I was high—higher than I’d ever been in my life, and that what I had just eaten in class was a pot brownie. I gripped the grimy steering wheel of my 1979 Toyota Corolla and tried to focus on keeping my car between the dotted lines. This was not an easy task because for some reason, the lines kept moving back and forth.

Fortunately, I didn’t kill anyone with my car or get pulled over by LAPD. I made it home to my Ocean Park apartment where I spent the afternoon intermittently cursing the stupid sorority girl and cradling the cold toilet bowl while vomiting up chocolate slime.

I fumed for days—how dare she give me drugs without my consent! I’d show her—I would call the President of USC and report her; I would get that privileged sorority bitch thrown out of school and ruin her life! I was going to stand up for myself and fight for what was right.

Of course, I never did any of those things. When class resumed the following week, all I did was approach her and mention that I didn’t know there was pot in the brownies and that it wasn’t very nice of her not to let me know.

“Whoops! I’m totally, like, sorry,” she said, giggling, “I thought you knew because you said how much you loved brownies.” She sat down at her desk and crossed her skinny acid washed Guess Jeans-clad legs. “Oh, well,” she chirped, “No harm done—you seem like you’re okay!” She smiled, showing me her perfectly bleached teeth, “Like, just consider it a little surprise gift from me to you!”

I wanted to smack her. Instead, I sat back down in my seat and said nothing, my anger dissipating as my comfortable fear of inadequacy put its arm around me like a best friend.

When the semester was over, T.C. Boyle called each of us into his office for an individual conference about our writing. I was taken aback when he told me I was one of the better writers in his class. I managed to squeak out a “thank you” and get out of there as quickly as possible as it was way too uncomfortable for me to think that I had any potential with my writing. I finished my senior year, received my degree in music and never wrote another word again for twenty years.

Last night, I stretched out on my bed and read the story I found in that dusty box. I was surprised to discover that it was really good. It was funny, the dialogue was believable and my descriptions were quite visual. How is it that for so long I believed I wasn’t a good writer?

I still carry around some anger toward that stupid girl from so long ago—no, not the sorority girl from class, but the other one—the one who was too weak to stand up for herself; the one who was so terrified and insecure that when she was told by an expert that she was good at something, she didn’t believe it. It makes me sad that she spent so many years thinking I can’t instead of Why not?

Well, I say, the hell with her.

A Novel Idea

12 Sep

I have a secret: I’m writing a novel.

There—it’s out there. Whew. I’m uncomfortable telling you this because it sounds so ridiculous. Sure, I can play a Bach Fugue on the piano, grow exquisite flowers in my garden and bake a delectable batch of cookies. I can even write a good blog post once in a while. But write a novel? Keep dreaming, girl.

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

Why in the world are you telling people that you are writing a novel? Keep your big mouth shut, you idiot. Now they’re going to expect you to finish it someday!

After all, who am I to think that after only a few years of semi-serious writing I could possibly have a novel in me? Although this past year I’ve devoted a myriad of hours developing my writing skills (well, not quite a myriad) I still have a difficult time believing that I am clever enough, captivating enough, or focused enough to actually get it done. And even if I did get it done, would anyone actually care about what I have to say?

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

I’ll answer that question: Nobody cares!

Unfortunately over the years, I’ve romanticized the dream of being a writer in my head, yet I ignored the crucial part of turning this dream into a reality: I never wrote down the words. I just let them run through my mind like quiet conversations or static background noise, too afraid to listen in and take stock of their meaning and validity. Instead I suppressed the urge to create through words and focused on playing and teaching the piano because that’s one thing I knew I could do well.

But words, not musical notes, have always been my true love. Since I was a child and discovered that a good book could take me to a place where I could change into someone else—into someone better, I’ve always been most comfortable losing myself in a good story. As I age, I’ve become even more of a voracious reader and often read two or more novels a week. Yet now that I’m finally writing regularly and becoming more aware of the writing process, I find that reading a good book can be agonizing at times because every so often, my little friend Envy rears her ugly green head. She’s more than happy to tell me that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to string words together in a seamless succession of perfect stitches the way a really good writer can.

Recently I read a fantastic book by Gillian Flynn called Gone Girl http://gillian-flynn.com/ and I’ve got to say, I supremely enjoyed it.  The disappointing part is that now I almost have to dislike Gillian Flynn because she is so good at doing what I have yet to learn to do: crafting a story with fascinating and fallible characters, creating an out of the ordinary plot, and writing riveting dialogue. I almost have to dislike her because I know that for a very long time I will not be able to compose word such as these:

“…the sun climbed over the skyline of oaks, revealing its full summer angry-god self. Its reflection flared across the river toward our house, a long, blaring finger aimed at me through our frail bedroom curtains.

Wow.

This is probably what I would’ve come up with:

“….the sun came up over the trees in an angry red haze. It shone on the river behind our house and came through the windows, shining in my face like a bright light bulb.”

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

Trite, trite, trite. Dull, dull, dull. TRY AGAIN!

Okay, I’m playing around here—I could do better than that. The point is, I’m like one of my adult piano students who comes to the lesson and enthusiastically exclaims: “I really have this dream of playing ‘Fur Elise’ (please God, any piece but that one) And even though I only took six months of piano lessons when I was seven, I know that with a little bit a practice I can learn this piece!

Now, the old me would mentally roll my eyes and kindly tell this student that Fur Elise is harder than it sounds (and that would be the truth) and that one should never start with something difficult because you may get frustrated and sad and end up truly resenting Beethoven for writing such an exasperating piece. (Oh, and by the way, you’ll never in a million years be able to play it well.)

But the new me might say, Why not? Anything is possible! And then launch into my spiel about the importance of consistent practicing.

The truth is I can’t expect something magical to happen without putting in the time and the work. And maybe—just maybe, if I spill my guts and tell you my secret, I’ll feel more obligated to put in the time.

Because if I write it down, it becomes more than just a possibility.

And to the little person sitting on my shoulder whispering all those negative comments in my ear: Take a hike, baby.