Monday, March 23, 2009

Learning Curve

Man would you just LOOK at the dust around here! Boy, this is some kind o' scandal. "Nice bloggin', Dale-Harriet." And this a writing blog? Swell. Dandy. Fine. OK - so what's yer excuse, Dale-Harriet?

(silence)

WELL? What do you have to say for yourself, Mrs WRITER WOMAN? How're you explaining this, what lame kind of excuse are you going to insult us with, after this length of time?

(silence...but head hanging in shame)

{major sigh} OK, let me try this: I've read that writers procrastinate. In fact, I've heard that the best writers are terrible procrastinators. Do you realize what this means? *I* am in that rarified group called "the best writers"! No, huh? Oh, OK.

Truth is - I don't really know. I still haven't managed to sit down and chew through my NaNoWriMo, start to finish. Furthermore, I've dibbled here and dabbled there, but haven't really written much of anything for EVER so long. I couldn't go to my last Writers' Group meeting -- see, I was sick. (Furthermore? I didn't have one single word of anything that I could take along. That alone made me a little queasy.)

In the old days - we're talking the early 1950s when I was in elementary school (Eugene Field, no less) I used to get this heady feeling the last week of school every spring. Oh, I know, "everyone does".......but mine wasn't a "No more tests, no more books, no more Teacher's dirty looks" sort of thing. It was a "oh goody, now I can really get some learning done!!" (That's TWO exclamation points' worth.)


Gratuitous Grilled Brats Picture



Now then, what was I saying? Warm weather...meal time...no. No, it was something else. OH yes, summer vacation! OK - so what that meant was, as soon as school was out I headed for the library. I spent my happiest summer days reading about whatever it was caught my fancy at that particular time.



One year it was Ancient Greece. I studied books of myths, and read about all the gods. I looked into the festivals and found costume books with illustrations of the Stola and Pallas. I found out what I could about the diet and about the different roles of different genders and classes. I even borrowed a book that taught me the Greek alphabet and a few words of vocabulary. (The only one I remember is "tatto", which meant "tactics".)

I also tried to "live the Greek life" that summer. I refused to wear anything but a white bedsheet, draped in the appropriate way (Mommy wouldn't let me out of the house dressed that way); I didn't want to bathe but rubbed a "fragrant oil" into my body. (I wanted Mommy to buy me some fine white sand to rub my skin with, too. She wouldn't.) I wanted to recline at my meals, drink only grape juice and have honeyed fowl stuffed with dates and almonds. (Mommy wouldn't do any of that either.) Now...I have to say - in retrospect (and suggested by my sister a while back) I was probably a 24k paininth'arse to my poor, traditional, accomplished 1950s housewife Mommy. This was just revealed to me last summer. I feel confident that it's correct. Oh - I think I was nine years old for my Greek summer.


The next year it was Ancient Egypt. I outlined my eyes in "kohl" (ok, so it was Maybelline, shut up). My ancient Greek scented oil served to slick my hair down. (Think on that.) It was the best I could do - this was pre-Internet so I didn't have an ice cube's chance in Hell to find cones of solid perfume to wear on my head.

I tried again for the honeyed fowl stuffed with dates and figs and almonds. Mommy said "NO" again. I wanted coarse whole-wheat bread. I wanted to drink beer mixed with honey. But hey, I agreed to sit at the table! Mommy said "NO!" I read about all the numerous gods and goddesses - and worshipped a select few. I studied hieroglyphics most earnestly. Mommy wouldn't look for "white pleated linen so fine you could see through it" so I wore t-shirts and shorts. It was a great summer -- from my point of view.

NOTE: As I sit here, I have a nagging worry - I hope none of that affected my poor mother's long-time history of severe migraines. She had them before I came along - but I do here apologize to her for being such a trial and I will tell her so, should the opportunity present itself in the Other World

Have I ever mentioned on this blog that I digress? No? Well....I do. FYI. Enjoy another gratuitous picture:



I am LAWVINGK on these zucchinis!

All right, so here's the deal. It's SPRINGTIME again. We're fast approaching what my internal clock tells me is "Out for Summer Vacation" -- and I'm feeling all over INSPIRED again! What all this boils down to is....today was my Writers' Group meeting again. I got up at 6:30 AM and wrote until 9:30 when I had to leave. I had a named character and not much else. ("Endear Louisa Hannah P---".) She was given a journal for her birthday ("today" in the story) and it's the third part of the 18th century, on a farm, probably in Ohio or thereabouts. She has two brothers, a baby sister, a genteel, well-bred mother and an educated father who now farms.

I took it with me to Writers' Group. (Just call me "cheeky as all hell", I deserve it.) They liked it! P and S said I have an "incredible voice" and a "gift with descriptions and evocative scenes". J said I needed only conflict, and JP gave me some suggestions, which the others added to: I suggested that the baby sister might die -- there was a suggestion that she might have died prior to the beginning, perhaps the journal was a gift to help her deal with the death. She might feel guilty about it - or be responsible for it.



And wonderful questions were posed: Why is this educated father farming now? What factors are responsible for the parents, who seem to be "citified" and scholarly, winding up in humble means on a farm anyway? I thought perhaps the mother is pregnant again...and perhaps she could die in childbirth. Endear reads and writes, and her father is educating her -- she dislikes her training from Mother in needlework and "womanly arts".

Bottom line? I now have a better handle on what is meant by conflict; I have some further ideas for this story; I have the "school's out and I'm inspired" feeling; I'm feeling motivated to truly de-crappify my nest this spring -- and I'm inspired to write again. It all feels very, very good indeed.

Now then..........gotta go buy me some brats.

4 comments:

Jen in CT said...

Oh, DH! I love your posts here. Just the other day, I was listening to a WONDERFUL podcast of a radio programme called Speaking of Faith and the woman she interviewed (Mary Doria Russell) that day made me think of you. Here's the link if you are interested:

http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2009/novelist-as-god/

One of the things she said was that if God is a novelist, then that explains the problem of evil--conflict, you see, makes for a better story.

Also, you would have done well at a Sudbury style school. And perhaps your poor mother would've had fewer migranes. ;-) Ah well.

Jen in CT said...

And furthermore--would you like to play in the 3am Epiphany some more, like we did back in October? My sister and I both are lamenting that we'd like to do some more writing, but we never quite seem to get around to it...

Tina said...

Hice blog:)

Jamwes said...

We sure are the best of writers arn't we. lol You should join us for mini NaNo April. I'm hoping to get more work done next month.