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A Writer's Summer Mantra

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I guess it's pretty much unanimous. Carrie said it most succinctly:

Go live.

When my son was little, I planned my work so that I'd be finished with whatever new manuscript I was working on by the end of school. Sent it off. Took the summer off and enjoyed Oliver's company.

At the risk of stating a cliche, they're gone in a minute.

Besides, I need deadlines. I impose them on myself. I know myself well enough to know that any story that isn't forcing its way out of me, demanding to be written, stumbling along in spite of all setbacks, is a story I don't really need to tell.

Not that deep down need. I'm not interested in the inauthentic.

I also believe in the idea of looking at something by not looking at it. Staring leads to madness.

Try this: Put the tips of your index fingers together in front of your face. Stare. What do you see?

A stumpy finger with two nails.

Stop staring.

Summer's are meant for all the things everyone has said here. Let me just add spying. Eavesdropping. Observing. If you have a house full of children, get your notebook and start jotting it all down. The annoying, the amazing, the touching, the hilarious. Especially the dialogue. I can still remember the summer day when I was cracking down on my really annoying eighth grader son by yelling up at him, "And change the sheets on your bed!"

Oliver yelled back: "Which ones are the sheets?"

It's in a book kids are reading today.

When they're back in school, you can start writing again.

Truly: go live. You never know what you may learn.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Great advice here, Stephanie Greene. My notebook is at the ready.
Jun. 5th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you!
You know, Steph, in much the same way I sometimes think that people should switch aging parents because another person's aging parents aren't nearly as, shall we say, challenging as one's own, I think parents should be allowed to switch children. I'd give ANYTHING to be a fly on the wall of your house, and keep my eye on your sweet daughter for the summer. She wouldn't annoy me nearly as much as she gets to you. I like to think you're keeping your notebook for me. ;)
Jun. 5th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
from the mouths of babes
Now that our morning conversation doesn't involve: quick, do this / you need to hurry / we'll be late, the kids are free to imagine things like what kind of glue we'll need to make a snowman from grass.

Jun. 5th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
Re: from the mouths of babes
Elmer's. Perhaps dye it green? That, I would love to see - grass snowmen. Relaxed children. Sounds good.
Jun. 5th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
I've been loving this topic all week--I definitely agree that life is for living and as someone who spent my early 20's in some kind of imagined race against myself, I'm appreciating the moderation I've lately been able to indulge in.

I try to think back to when I was in high school and wrote--outside of school, outside of extracurricular activities--purely for pleasure, just for myself. To me, writing IS living, and when deadlines get in the way and start to make it feel like work, I try to inject a little bit of "real life" into my routine so that I can go back to seeing the act of writing creatively as "life support." If that makes any sense...
Jun. 5th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
Life support makes total sense. It's why, when it's going well, you feel as if you're flying. But when it's not, well, I marvel at those writers who can keep at it. To me, it makes me think of those chunks of playdough that my son kneaded and kneaded and kneaded until they were hard little rocks with sharp edges. Lifeless little things.

We have always lived in houses with wells. If you let the toilet run, the well runs dry. Man, am I mixing my metaphors today. It must be summer.
Jun. 5th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
Go live
You are a wise woman! Toilets, play dough, life. Go live is great advice. H
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )