On Atwood and Writing

56th Trial: Happily I have little to report here, as the gift of gab has seemed to infuse my fingers of late. However, my dog Boo Radley persists in her state of distress with the fact that I am home more, writing at my table, and she is forced to lay toys at my feet that sit there, unobserved by me. She pretends to sit and wait patiently, but then her exhales narrow in her throat and come out as incessant whines. 

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 10-15hr/wk

Weekly Choice of Tea: Peppermint Coffee – I have set aside the power of tea and have continued the holiday-inspired flavor of peppermint coffee that I stocked up on, making the addiction REAL.

Biggest Success: I am in the Home Stretch. Its that exciting anticipation of being on third base, seeing the end with just one more bat at the metaphorical ball. I have not disappointed myself, and have left most things to catch fire on the back burner so that any and all free time have been filled with a hot cup of joe and my pencil. I have a tan notebook that has the black block letters “WRITE” on the front cover, and it is now more demanding than it was inspirational. 

The past few months have not been a struggle. I have felt more like a writer now than I ever have, and it is because I struggled over the past years to build the foundation and the story line, that now it is happily unfolding. I see the scenes play out before I can write them out, and the character’s have their own voice. I had not felt that till now, and realize the development of the story is likening to the development of my own, that both go through the awkward phases only to come out confident and certain, sort of! That in retrospect, something has been accomplished and created. This story is real, and the novel is nearly finished. I am on the last chapter, and my hands pause over this keyboard as I struggle to find the words to express what that even feels like.

It could be completed next week. I could spend the next month polishing it off before I print it out, wrap it in an outlandish bow, and submit it to my freelance editor (who I chose due to her deep affinity for Beyonce and Harry Potter). With the end so near, I hit a milestone that marks the beginning of the next mountain:  editing, agents, and publishing. That alone could take years, and on top of the many years it took me to get this far, I find myself only half way to the finishing line. But who knows, if it turns out to be a “success”, what time will open up for more stories to follow? But please, I get ahead of myself.

As introduced by my last post, I began Margaret Atwood’s book “On Writers and Writing” after reading the instructions of Edith Wharton. My education on the subject continues, and I continue feel the boundaries of a novel and a writer’s playful attention to them.

These are some of the most important take-aways that I marked in her novel “On Writers and Writing” :

  • “A lot of people do have a book in them – that is, they have had an experience that other people might want to read about. But this is not the same as ‘being a writer.’ Or, to put it in a more sinister way:  everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger.”
  • All writers have a diagnosed condition:  Duplicity. With a capitol “D.” While this could easily be understood in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reference, I enjoy Atwood’s explanation of it. “What disembodied hand or invisible monster just wrote that cold-blooded comment? Surely it wasn’t me; I am a nice, cosy sort of person, a bit absent-minded, a dab hand at cookies, beloved by domestic animals, and a knitter of sweaters with arms that are too long. Anyway, that cold-blooded comment was a couple lines ago. That was then, this is now, you never step twice into the same paragraph, and when I typed out that sentence I wasn’t myself.”
  • “The composition of a novel may be one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration, but that one part inspiration is essential if the work is to live as art.”
  • Writer: “Why this self-loathing? Perhaps it’s the gap between the image – inherited from the Romantics – and the reality. what will the glorious dead, the giants of literature, make of the ninety-pound-weakling descendants?”
  • “There is never any shortage of people who can think up good things for you to do which are not the same as the things you are good at.”
  • “Publishing a book is often very much like being put on trial, for some offense which is quite other than the one you know in your heart you’ve committed. They [critics] know there’s a body buried somewhere, and they’re keen to dig it up, and then to hunt you down. Trouble is, it’s not usually the right body.”
  • “It isn’t the writer who decides whether or not his work is relevant. Instead it’s the reader.”
  • Reader:  “A spy, a trespasser, someone in the habit of reading other people’s letters and diaries. As Northrop Frye has implied, the reader does not hear, he overhears.”
  • “How many writer have put on other faces, or had other faces thrust upon them, and then been unable to get them off?”
  • “The act of reading is just as singular – always – as the act of writing.”
  • “Going into a narrative – into the narrative process – is a dark road. You can’t see your way ahead. Poets know this too; they too travel the dark roads. The well of inspiration is a hole that leads downwards.”

 

As always, thank you Atwood for your friendly, and yet terrifying, mirror that you hold out for all writers (and society). I read this, warm with laughter at her mindset around the writer and the reader, and as I tucked it back into my bookshelf, I shuddered from the bitter cold this road may prove to be. Luckily, I am not far from the ocean should I need to warm my toes. Only this is laughable still, as it would be in Pacific waters.

XOXO

A Political Post: JK Rowling

54th Trial: Blaming time and money as my limitations

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 0

Weekly Choice of Tea: Irish Breakfast Tea

Biggest Success: I’ve decided to quit my job to become a sole practitioner, a writer, and open up a non-profit chapter here in San Francisco! My biggest success is change itself!

A thought happened upon me the other day, and I found a new inspiration for my dusty, ill kept blog. Can a blog site, used as my own journal for the literary pursuits of my novel, while the pursuit at hand is at a screeching halt, be used still as a vocal platform for all things literature? I would say absolutely, as the silence is still more deafening and lame to me of the fact that I am not writing at all. With this thought, it is exciting to announce to you all that change is in the air! Not just for me, but within our country, within our social systems, within health, and within the neighborhoods at our feet. I see nothing but positive change, especially in this time in America, as imagination holds the key to determining our reality. An imagination that we must all turn to, when threat is in the air and uncertainty becomes the shadow beside us.

Why do I say this? Because JK Rowling has inspired just that. Remember the years when the Harry Potter books were being released at midnight? And we fell in love with her ideas, her characters, her plots? We dreamed of Butterbeer, fantasized of magic hidden amongst us, and admired the unyeilding friendships of the admiring characters. That magic is real, and it comes in many shapes and presentations. It is the same world that will help us through the upcoming years of tyranny, and in facing all the foes to freedom.

I laugh, when I see the battle JK Rowling is having to face. Not her rightful battle against the idiocracy of politicians or Trump himself, but with the response that she is getting from people who used to stand in those very lines at midnight. Who loved her strong characters, who loved the story of overcoming evil at all costs. So many have turned away from her, completely upset that she speaks out against the politics of our day. And my only thought to them is this:

From the author of Harry Potter, could you have assumed anything less? Not only does she write about defeating evil and standing up for those discriminated against, she lives it. What on Earth did you like about her Harry Potter books, if you do not like her modern day vocal tweets and political rants? The essence of Harry Potter is in defending basic human rights, or did you think they lived on a cloud and Avada Kadavra was shooting people with bullets of cotton candy? For you who burned her books, or disapproves of how she is in the political realm, we are all thankful to no longer have your contradictory voices behind the force for good. Because it’ll take the purest imagination to get through this, and it’ll take the consistency that is illustrated in the Order of the Phoenix and in Dumbelore’s Army. Imagine that!

A Tete-a-tete With a Storm Cloud

52nd Trial: Being in Chapter 8, I am eager to go back to Chapter 1 and change so much of how it all started, even down to the descriptive language and the dialogue between characters. But back tracking at this point may be detrimental – I may have the same desire at Chapter 10, or Chapter 15! There will be no end to the madness.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  Since last post, I have wrote for 12hr! Take that!! **knife hand strike to the throat of my work week**

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey (I am on a kick!)

Biggest Success: There are two main successes that I am particularly proud of! I have begun writing the Boo books (a children’s book that Jamie will illustrate), as well as my training for the Alcatraz swim!

Last night I swam in a lap pool after work. It was the first time I jumped right into the water, instead of my usual big-toe-followed-by-heel-and-then-retract ritual. I usually look like the cartoon elephant that dips a part of its foot in the water then runs away with a trumpet sounding protest! However, the chill in the air was worse than in the pool, and so went away my reluctance to enter it.

I use my swim for many things, from sweating stresses to idle dreaming of me saving the world in some fashion or another. But mainly, I use it to consider the plot of my novel. Dialogue and relationships. What direction the story will take next. It turns out to be a poor brainstorming session most of the time, as I do not have pen and paper readily submerged in the water with me to jot down ideas. The ideas themselves struggle against drowning, and sometimes I forget them altogether. However, I at least reconnect with the big picture of the novel, and leave the water refreshed and aware of my purpose with writing.

My mind during this particular swim went on a fun journey, and thus the point of this blog. While reading Charlotte Bronte’s “The Professor”, I became fascinated with her unique character descriptions of a few undesirable students at the school. I enjoyed her ability to write in the negative space surrounding a persons shape and attitude but telling me what they are not, or where they differ from normal notions of beauty, intelligence, and humility. My arms pulled me up and down the pool as the images of these characters swam into my mind, as if the ripples around me were them. They were joined shortly by characters of my own, and I noticed quick how ill defined mine were in comparison.

As I continued swimming, the weather changed around the time my stroke changed, and my mind wandered once more. My arms grew bumps as they met the cold and windy air. As I began back stroke, I saw the descending light of dusk change with the approach of a menacing cloud, and soon its light presence was extinguished. The cloud was truly a dark cloud, and its black surface crept closer and closer to the sky above me. Time passed as it usually does in a pool, monotonously, and the cloud continued to approach in the same, slow manner. And as there is not much to do besides count laps and think over and over again, I was thankful I had a storm cloud. I began by describing it by what it was not. Then I chased it, and it chased me, as I lapped the pool as if I were in a pinball machine. Before I swam my last stretch, I wondered how this cloud could represent anyone or anything? Can a character be built based on the description of a storm cloud?

In truth this lead me down a strange path, which is worth mentioning, where I seemed to internalized the storm cloud. I thought of its scary and threatening nature, and imagined it to be my own expectations of the novel. Its color reminded me of my Earl Grey tea. Boo could be considered a storm cloud, as her black fur falls in a steady stream of hair. I am swimming in components of a cloud. I wanted pizza tonight…and while this was a stretch, I quickly realized that both are pleasantly salty!

Amongst the Rare

51st Trial: The first 30 minutes of the writing process. The sitting down, the picking of the pencil, and the blank and sometimes uninviting white paper.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  8hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey

Biggest Success: Successfully snowboarding down the mountainside in Northstar, near Lake Tahoe. I fell, I landed hard, and I conquered.

snow-boarding

Jane Austen claims that one who can write a letter with ease, cannot write ill. Yesterday as I struggled with the chapter’s momentum (I have started chapter eight, happily enough) those words wrapped me in an innocent bubble, because I can write letters easily. In this bubble I do not feel the weight of my own expectations or of those brilliant writers that any novel will be compared to. But instead I fell alone, and my writing and my story are what they are. My technique compares to mine alone, and my voice echoes from my own mind. It does not give me confidence that I do in fact write well, but at least I cannot write ill. I find, like with most letter writing, beginning it is the toughest, whether you are starting a new chapter or picking up where you left off. About 30 minutes into my writing do I then become involved and pick up speed, but those 30 minutes are dreadful.  Must look beyond dreadful – mental note!

I wished I had seen Austen during the book fair I went to during my Valentine’s day treat! It was in Oakland, and it was the largest rare book collectors fair in the world. Jamie took me there as a surprise, little knowing that any book there ranged from $400 – $100K. I looked through the rows of vendors, pining over the Dickens, the Brontes, the Wordsworth, and the Shakespeare. I held tightly to Arabian Nights only to have to put it down again. The series of Tennyson sat nobly overlooking my puppy set eyes. Austen though, evaded me. I felt her, along with my favorite stories by the Bronte sisters, in the booths of particularly dusty, well-used, and sometimes stained books. There were large world Atlases that reminded me of the young Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, and there were thick books of anatomy, horticulture, and beetles that took me into Mr. Rochester’s library. Rarity comes with a price, but it was worth it to hold and flip through the pages of History and Time itself.

Happily I found a first edition of Harry Potter, which came home with me later that night!

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The Hopeful Hue of Morning

50th Trial: How can you save money, and write during lunch breaks? It is winter still, and while only slightly chilly here in San Francisco, the rain has kept me in cozy coffee shops. I am doing as I faithfully promised you all weeks ago, dedicating 1.5 hr a day to writing during my lunch breaks. But this is now costing me $2-5 per day for the butterscotch lattes or earl grey teas! I realize there are worser things! 🙂

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  5hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey

Biggest Success:  I have utilized my typewriter finally, romantically filling our tiny studio apartment with the sound of punching keys and scrolling clicks. While I am handwriting my novel, followed up by typing it on the computer, I am in need to find a purpose for my typewriter. What author does not have a typewriter, I ask you! And so far I have practiced on it, trying to come up with an appropriate novel title, but as I am less than half way through my novel, I am not sure yet what it will be.

typewriter

My commute from the city to work is lovely. The dark and sleepy city streets are close to empty at 6:30 in the morning, even with the buses “pooof”ing and clambering slowly up the inclined streets. The stop lights batt their eyelids, looking to see the few cars that approach their intersections. By the time I near the bay bridge, dawn either lays a misty pink hue around the towering cable lines or obscures them with a light fog. At that moment I sip from my mug and welcome the day, meeting it again as old friends. I am lucky to be able to drive through the east Bay of San Francisco, because the now green rolling hills are beautiful in the morning. The landscape goes from cramped and on top of itself, to wide, open, and inviting. My day begins in this inspiring attitude, and I am thrilled to admit that I am writing daily now. Who knows where this new routine in San Francisco will lead me, but I can honestly say that I am happy with it. The world around me is changing, and a lot for the worse (I promise to keep politics far from my blog). But every morning brings with it its hopeful hue, and for now I will focus on the good that change has brought me.

A Perfect Perspective

49th Trial: What sentiments have I not already covered?

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  2hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Turmeric and Ginger

Biggest Success: To date, my work-in-progress is 70 pages typed

sf

I am a Chiropractor living in San Francisco, not far from the famed painted ladies of Alamo Square. I have started slowly writing my novel, a life goal of mine that seems to share the over-cramped room of my Ambition with other careers, other desires, and other interests. Currently, my tongue is raw from a pack of sour patch kids and my Alice in Wonderland mug is steeping tea. These are the hard facts for the start of 2017 and for my first yearly blog post. Might I remind all readers that this blog is to hold myself accountable to the purpose of my writing, as well as a faithful narrative of my journey. If only there were a way to hold myself accountable for up-keeping the blog…

2017 has started as most of my years do:   an outburst of all that I want to accomplish, followed by a deep, long stare, which inevitably sinks me into a state of mild depression. So, what will I do with the challenges I have placed at my doorstep? I’m willing to tell ya. I’m wanting to tell ya. I’m waiting to tell ya!!!

My first action step was to feed the lethargy with Gilmore Girl episodes, and luckily I did so. There was a moment in the episode that illustrated how perfect, the perfect perspective can be. To accomplish any dream or desire, is to simply fall in love with it. Become in awe of it. Be humbled by it. I am not a writer because Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters inspired it. I am a writer because I am a part of their legacy. We, non of us, are our own stories that do not share the stories of everyone around us or before us. My time on this planet is minuscule, and the importance of my novel even less. However, I have contributed to the inhalation and exhalation of San Francisco’s eclectic city as it builds and progresses. Every patient of mine has allowed me to become a part of their health. I get the distinct pleasure of sitting in the front row seats of Jamie’s life and that of Boo Radley’s.  I write to support the love and legacy of literature. Those thoughts alone bring purpose to itself.

jamie-and-cable-car

Boo.JPG

 

On Wolves and Hope

48th Trial: Confidence. Confidence that I can do it all. Because I don’t even have kids yet and I find it hard to shower, wash dishes, put on shoes, AND work.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  No. I’m not even going to tell.

Weekly Choice of Tea: Vanilla and Cinnamon Tea

Biggest Success: Just after my last post, I finished Chapter 7!! I need to type it up, and then come 2017, Chapter 8 will begin.

“What got you here, will not get you there.”

If I were to come up with a slogan for California, I would slap that on every roadway sign and cereal box sold here in the west coast! The amount of beautiful landscape in California is paralleled with the amazing opportunities offered here for careers, self discovery, love, and expression. I moved out to California and it welcomed me with open arms, besides of course, the police officer that pulled me over just over the Nevada line. I got the job of my dreams (honestly), and come January, Jamie and I move into an apartment in the heart of San Francisco. And we have Boo, who is currently snuggled up under the Christmas tree. She absolutely loves the tree skirt, and I have learned to weigh it down with presents so it doesn’t end up in the bedroom with her.

I have told many people, I feel like I am running with wolves out here. Trying so hard to keep up and succeed in all the happy expectations at my doorstep. So much so I want you to imagine me fist punching the air and screaming “heck yea, bring it on California!”, when in reality, it is challenging me with a cheap shot to the ovaries. The practice that I work at has allowed me to be the Chiropractor I always dreamed I’d be, and even though it has been a slow start for me, I have patients that are so dedicated to changing their lives, and so excited for their care, that I am filled with gratitude. And yet, with the new year and the non-exhaustive pace of the wolf pack, things can change like the flip of a coin here in California. Which brings the unease of insecurity–in one’s job, one’s housing, one’s dreams.

My dream of being a writer is not forgotten. I have been silent for many weeks since my last post, and I am sorry for that! But with my writing so wanting, my eyes focused on my practice, and the weakness for Hallmark Christmas movies, I was almost ashamed to write of my leave of absence. Luckily, with my up-and-coming move, my lunch hours will be open, as I no longer have the opportunity to come home and run errands. And you will be met with faithful narratives of how my own story takes wind in 2017!

After all, it is Christmas time, and with Christmas comes the inspiring hope that all things shape out the way they were meant to. It is full of wonder, of love, and of kind-giving. But hope is what I feel most right now. Besides, with just a little bit of exercise, I could run with the wolves. And have time to write. Why not?

Happy Christmas!

Fantastic Beasts: a Reality

47th Trial: “I never worry. Because it only hurts twice.”  A (summed up) quote from the ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ movie.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  3hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey with Almond Milk!

Biggest Success: This blog post is inspired by the incredible movie that I saw last night, where J. K. Rowling’s imagination again found footing in reality. Maybe it was because I infinitely enjoyed magic in America that I loved this movie, or because I saw the beautiful care of precious creatures, or getting to spend an evening watching Eddie Redmayne (who is singularly adorable)! But the effect of the movie was immense! I cannot come back down so easily from the high of Rowling’s wizarding world, and am eyeing the latest release of the illustrated second Harry Potter book, ready to begin reading it tonight again. For the 15th time.

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them” took even me by surprise, a die-hard Harry Potter fan. Its magic was innovative and full of wonder, and the creatures were fascinating. The movie was brilliant, funny, and brought back the names we know so well:  Albus Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald, and even Lestrange.

Rowling’s world has turned out to be endless, naturally. I look forward to all the possibilities of Newt Scamander’s world and those of the multitude of other characters. These books give hope to reality, as their trials are the trails that we too have faced. We are no different, in our differences. To worry, to feel estranged, to feel obscure–though natural and intuitive emotions, have the power to grow fear and violence. How right it seems, to have this wizarding world show us all in turn our differences and our ability to always fight for humanity–in ourselves as well in others. Whether it be for the innocence of beasts in the wild, the abused and oppressed child, or for choice and free will.

I worry from the recent election. I worry for my stability in society, and my footing in California. But where there is imagination, hope, kindness, (and for me, Harry Potter!), there will always be a beautiful reality worth fighting for.

A Top Hat-less Hillside

46th Trial: Liking what you have written. That comes in phases!

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  6hr over the past two weeks

Weekly Choice of Tea: London Fog Tea Latte

Biggest Success: I have finished Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaids Tale” and began Dicken’s “Bleak House”!

 

Isn’t it funny, how life just relentlessly goes forward? Even after the events that we feel will end us, or will hold us back from where we should be or ought to be? Timelines, examinations, milestones, detachments, and displacements are things that most humans experience–some more than others. It wraps us in its momentum or makes us feel stuck in a bucket of concrete, and we will believe that Life begins afterwards.

These past two weeks have been wonderful. My brother, whose heart is rapidly mending from his past, came to visit. We indulged in the present bliss of the “nowness of life” while we swung off the side of San Francisco cable cars, confident that the passing rain and fog over the city would not prevent us from moving forward. Worries, stresses, and heartbreak do cloud so much of what we see and what we experience;  but we realized that San Francisco was still there. And Madame City was just beautiful.

After he left Jamie and I explored a bit outside the city, and I came to a realization myself. We were walking through Briones National Park, when I became engrossed in its wide open fields, rolling hills, and grazing cattle. The green grass has returned with the wet season of Northern California, and the dead tall blades of spanish grass lay limp, replaced, and only in scattered patches. It was a sight that astonished me:  had I found in America what I dream about in England? The wide open fields, people on horseback (though without top hats and tail coats), and hillsides that give those inspirational views?

I cannot tell you how often I think, I will finish my novel in the Lake District. My dream and destiny is tied to me being in the place that has always inspired me the most. While nothing in my opinion compares to the Lake District in England, I am comforted in the reality that life will not wait for me to be there. In the meantime, I must run along beside it, finding as many open fields and hillsides along the way. And one day I will be in that smokey cottage beside the stone walls and grazing sheep, but my life will not be on hold for that.

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You Love to Write

44th Trial: A story is a part of you, like a cell maturing into an egg, that then grows in the womb (I understand I am skipping a few steps!). When you give birth to it, it becomes detached, in need for nurture and responsibility. This is a strange comparison, however I feel a bond with my novel, and yet a strange detachment. As if I neglected it, and I don’t know it as well as I did when it was only within me.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: Since it has been over 2 weeks since I last wrote to you all, I hate to admit that my writing hours amounted to a small, dismal, 30 minutes. Let me use the excuses of long weekends working, increase demand of attention elsewhere, and continue to justify my lack of progress.

Weekly Choice of Tea: Turmeric and Ginger, with the occasional Pumpkin Spice Latte (thank you Starbucks for now having almond milk)

Biggest Success: Finished reading the play, The Cursed Child. The magical world filled the empty pockets of my living room once again, and every time Time turned, I felt its rush! I look forward to seeing the play one day, happy to see the dynamics hold strong between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as I envisioned them to. I know the characters live always within Rowling’s mind, as she has stated, but in a way they never leave the reader’s thoughts or our hopes.

As I said before, I will no longer write of not finding time to write. Or that life gets busy, hectic, stressful, and long-winded. It will ALWAYS be ALL those things. It is a beautiful thing however, to understand that something you create comes from your love of doing so.  It may take daily attempts to see it this way. I love to read and to write, and that passion comes from nothing more complicated than my enjoyment of it. You always read the quotes that say “do more of what you love”, which means the majority of us do not. Though I will support that it is not without lack of trying for most. I never wonder why people do things they do not love doing, but it astonishes me when people ignore the things that they love. Be it the person you are married to, the purpose of your career, the pursuit of knowledge, or the beauty of art.

I sat down to write for the first time yesterday in a couple weeks. The story was extremely malnourished and frankly, I thought pitiful. I reread the paragraph I last wrote. The sentence structure was rudimentary and the language of my genius downright knickbockery. And yes, I just made that word up. Instead of letting self-hatred lead me to give up on my novel, I told myself this:  you love to write. And then I just picked up where I left off, knowing it is my own deficiency of character to NOT work for what I love.

Currently, I am reading Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaids Tale” as well as a children’s novel, “The One and Only Ivan”. And have not watched anything BBC in too long. It is time that I incorporated something more British into my routine.