Keep Going. Tell My Story.

I recently read a Paris Review interview with the author Ann Patchett on the subject of making time for writing despite life’s innumerable distractions. She spoke about having to ignore the pull of these distractions, for example when you realize you need, say, mustard, and you drop what you’re doing (or don’t even start) to go to the store to buy the mustard. Resist this urge, she argued. She explained how her family had gone many meals without mustard. This anecdote has stayed with me. Substitute mustard for: mayonnaise, cayenne pepper, paper towels, shin guards, printer ink, Reynolds wrap, rinse aid, thumbtacks, nose spray, birthday gifts, overdue library books, Mallomars, Halloween decorations, hangers, socks. The running list is endless. There are always errands we create to avoid writing.

What I’ve realized in the last few years as I’ve made writing a priority in my life is that we will always come up with reasons to leave the house, to not sit down when we’re tired, and the difference between those who leave and those who don’t is people who finish and people who don’t. Now as I’m on my way to my desk and I see toys that need to be put away or a book that needs to be re-shelved or an ingredient I need for a meal, I think: mustard. Mustard. Mustard. I tell myself to keep walking, to ignore it.         [Read more…]

Person to Person

“Usually what happens in real life is that people ask you questions you can’t remember the answer to…When you do actually know a bit about something, it is such a pleasure to be asked a lot of questions about it.” -Anne Lamott

I hate small talk. Always have. I know it’s necessary – especially when you leave your house – but it’s tiresome, and doesn’t everyone really feel that way, at least a little? One of the unexpected benefits of working on a historical novel for the past eighteen months (and yes, I’m still being a little deliberately obscure about the topic), is that I’ve been required to schedule appointments or coffees or lunches with various experts in certain fields. To date, I’ve met with:

  • An EMT
  • Three high school juniors
  • A photography hobbyist
  • A physician’s assistant
  • My old neighbor from Darien (he’s 80 now and happens to live in the next town over; very lovely)

And while, yes, there’s always the requisite small talk at the beginning of our time together, eventually we get down to business. These various people have information in their heads that I cannot find in books. Anne Lamott talks about this idea in her chapter “Calling Around.” She also suggests that these calls can be a welcome break from the isolation of writing. So very true. And on more than one occasion, I didn’t actually walk away from the meeting with what I thought I was looking for, but these surprises are always welcome, especially when it comes to writing.

One of the more satisfying moments I’ve recently experienced is when a writer in my workshop commented that I must have spoken with an EMT because of something he read in one of my chapters (okay, if you’re wondering, I learned that EMTs are trained to walk, not run, on to a scene. They can not be out of breath when it’s time to help the patient. Isn’t this interesting?). People love to learn something when they read. While I know what it’s like to be a woman, a mom, a teacher, a little about publishing, to live in the northeast, be the youngest, left-handed, you get the idea – there is so much I don’t know related to the subjects I’m writing about. I am at the point in my writing process where I need to take breaks from the actual writing and add verisimilitude by grounding the fiction with subtle and actual truths. I still need to meet with:

  • Someone who has experienced PTSD
  • A professional photographer
  • Someone who is suffering from or has a family member with Parkinson’s
  • A male high school junior
  • And more that I don’t even know about yet

 

Get Thee To Rowayton

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The fireflies are out in Connecticut. They appear each summer just as the Tiger Lilies bloom and the Hydrangeas pop. Amidst these annual seasonal highlights, Shakespeare on the Sound presents a play on the banks of the Five Mile River in Rowayton, the quintessential New England coastal town. This year, arguably the most celebrated of all Shakespeare’s plays: Hamlet.

You’re probably familiar with the basic premise of this play: the ghost of Hamlet’s father visits Elsinore Castle in Denmark to encourage Hamlet to enact revenge on Claudius, the murderous uncle who swiftly married Gertrude, the queen. While Hamlet struggles over whether or not he is morally able to perpetuate the violence necessary for retribution, he also struggles with his love for Ophelia and his trust of his closest friends and advisors. Along with the perpetually quoted “To be or not to be” speech, the play also boasts a plethora of Shakespeare’s astute insights on human nature and how to live:

“Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice”

“One may smile, and smile, and be a villain”

“Our wills and fates do so contrary run.” [Read more…]