Friday, July 27, 2007

Dueling Banjos

This morning I sent some personal tidbits to Chris Mandeville, the wonderful president of the Pikes Peak Writers. I am about to start my gig as editor of the NewsMagazine, following a really tough act in Ms. Pat Kennelly. Chris' dog, Ruh, does a regular article on different members of the group and it's my turn. So I sent Chris any weird little thing I could think of.

One of the items that sprang to mind was that I've been teaching myself how to play the banjo for about ten years. And I still won't play anywhere I think someone else might hear me. When I've been practicing (which isn't often these days), I'm actually pretty good. And I enjoy it. So why not stick with it?

A lot of flippant answers present themselves, but the honest answer is that I just don't have the passion necessary to set aside time every day. It's fun. It makes me feel good when it's working. But it's not that important to me.

Writing, on the other hand, can be frustrating and hard and a huge slog. It can also be wonderful. But in either case I can't walk away from it. I can't imagine my life without writing. Whether it goes anywhere or not. It is a passion. Even though it's scary, I do let other people see my writing. Not because it's any better than my banjo playing but because I need the feedback in order to improve.

Maybe one day I'll have the time to work on both. And then when I go to the coffee shop to write, I may be able to pick up some spare change playing a tune or two.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Let Down

I've been in a bad mood for almost two weeks now. Had a little respite this weekend while reading The Deathly Hallows. But now it's back.

There are some physical reasons for the mood. It's hot. I don't like the hot. A migraine has been threatening for a few days. Never fun. And there are psychological reasons. Work is more stressful than usual now so that's an impact. My sister lives with me. I was going to put an "and" after that and expound a bit, but I think that says it all.

Usually to help turn around my mood, I read. There's a stack of books on the nightstand. Another in the spare room. Another in the family room. So far, so good. But what do you read after a book that was just so much fun? Fluff won't cut it. Neither will anything too heavy. Not after :::::SPOILER ALERT:::::all the deaths, especially Fred and Hedwig. And little Colin.. (Highlight with cursor to read).

So what next? I'm thinking maybe Preludes and Nocturnes, the collection of the first 8 Sandman comic books. Or some short stories. Or maybe the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf. The latter would also fill Ali's challenge to read poetry.

Or maybe I'll just read it again. There have been a couple books that I've read and then turned around and read them again immediately. One was The World According to Garp. Another was The Prince of Tides. And in each case, now that I think of it, I was going through some bad stuff and the worlds Irving and Conroy created were ones I didn't want to leave.

Maybe I need to linger a while longer in Rowling's world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I guess I'll jump on the productivity bandwagon after Ali and Jenny. One of the writers we know was kvetching the other day because he'd only written 22 pages in a week. Poor baby! Not long after that he posted that he'd managed 74 pages the following week.

When I'm in the groove, I can pretty consistently turn out 5-10 pages a day. On the weekend I have been known to grind out 20+ a day. There was the month of November when I sustained that pace and was pretty happy with those pages. Not much cut or changed in the 'final' version that went to the group. But that is highly unusual.

What usually happens is what I'm going through right now. I manage a page or a paragraph after what feels like very heavy lifting. And I'm not sure I like what I produce. But there's a lot going on in the background. I'm working out character descriptions. Figuring out what makes them tick. What is the world they live in and how does that world impact them? I need to know this even if none of it makes it onto the page explicitly. Isn't that productivity too?

So, as I said in my comment on Jenny's new blog (which is great, by the way), is 20 pages of dreck productive? Maybe, if you needed to get through the dreck to get to the good stuff. But maybe not, if the 20 pages stretch into 30, 75, 150 and the story isn't going anywhere.

I see people set word count goals all the time. I do it myself. "I'll write 20k words this month" or "5 pages a day" or whatever it is. I think maybe a better goal is to "work on my writing" every day. That can mean doing research (see D.B.'s blog for her take on overdoing this one), fleshing out a character, letting a scene ripen, reading somebody else's work for elucidation and inspiration and actually putting fingers to keyboard.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I am very tired, but happy, after my sleep-deprived Harry Potter weekend. The book did not disappoint. It is, however, very difficult to say anything about it without giving something away. The surprises, and sometimes downright shocks, are scattered throughout the book. The first time I teared up was in Chapter Two and actually cried several times before the tear-soaked last couple chapters.

As seems to happen in several of the books, a certain scene goes on far too long. I'm not sure if this is a result of the books being originally aimed at a younger reader, but I felt myself thinking, "Got it, Jo. Move along." But once she does get moving again, the story really moves.

There was a certain satisfaction in seeing pretty much every important thing, person, place, whatever from each of the books at least acknowledged in some way in the last one. Tied it all together nicely, without there being too pat a finish. She leaves just enough questions to keep the fans speculating well into the future.

So 3.98 wands out of 4.