Sunday, August 31, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chop, chop

I've discovered it's much easier to edit a manuscript after watching a few episodes of "Dexter." Dumping three truckloads of stuff during a move helps, too. And so does letting a manuscript chill for a while.

But I've been grappling with this: When does a writer say, Enough! It's done.

I've been reading the book "On Writer's Block - A New Approach to Creativity" by the great Victoria Nelson (who happened to be my adviser last semester). She has this to say about "obsessive rewriting":

"Here I refer to the tendency to kill a living work by repeated surgery, amputations, transplants, and the like under the merciless glare of your analytical (not creative) attention. After many tries you, the mad scientist, produce a patchwork monster that bears little resemblance to your original conception."

Well. I've done that. Though I have to say my patchwork monster is a far better product than my original conception. Or maybe that's just the mad scientist talking.

Nelson says to "consider at least the possibility of putting it aside and moving on."

Now, that's a frightening thought. But it's an important thought, one that makes a good barometer: Am I still working on this book because it's a good story that's changing as I develop better skills and a more critical eye? Am I really making it better? Or is it just the walking dead?

Is it a manuscript? Or should it be a manuscrapt?

Or is there another reason all together why it's chronically undone? Nelson asks the writer to explore other possibilities: a fear of the unknown, of judgment, of emotional attachment connected to the manuscript.

But Nelson also says, "It takes time for an imaginative idea to grow to full term in the unconscious."

And I absolutely love, love, love this bit:

"If you are blocked at any stage in your writing career, the reasons for your resistance must be satisfactorily resolved before you can move ahead and start perspiring; you cannot leapfrog a single stage in your creative development. This natural brake is a great blessing because it compels you to tame an overeager will that must learn painfully and slowly how to adapt itself to the deeper requirements of the psyche."

(Snatch the pebble out of my hand, grasshopper!)

Maybe it's best to keep the book out of the woodchipper for now and see what happens next.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Words I Made Up While Doing Schoolwork in a Hurry #9

Someone give me a definition for "stumple."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #2

Go with your mom to the farm where she buys raw milk on the down-low.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job

Make a flower arrangement for your cousin's anniversary.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


One of the books I'm reading for school, "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman, examines what the planet would look like if humans just suddenly disappeared. The conclusion: Homes and cities would deteriorate rapidly, but a few things would remain and continue to impact the planet. In the book, University of Plymouth marine biologist Richard Thompson says the amount of plastic waste in the ocean is increasing and also getting smaller, meaning smaller creatures are swallowing it. One of the sources: tiny plastic beads used as exfoliants in beauty products.

"Can you believe it?" Richard Thompson demands of no one in particular, loud enough that faces bent over microscopes rise to look at him. "They're selling plastic meant to go right down the drain, into the sewers, into the rivers, right into the ocean. Bite-size pieces of plastic to be swallowed by little sea creatures."

It dawned on me that I might have one of these horrible products. Sure enough, there it was. I thought the product had a natural exfoliant but clearly, it doesn't: Microbeads. You can see the little blue pieces in there, and among the ingredients, polyethylene. I've been scrubbing my face with plastic and then washing it down the drain.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Words I Made Up While Doing Schoolwork in a Hurry #8

Someone give me a definition for "shildhood."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Signs between here and there

1. Along I-80 in Nevada, in the style of Burma Shave:

"A shot of tequila
Cold beer on tap
Good-lookin' 'wimmins'
To sit on your lap
Wild Horse Saloon"


2. "Right lane ends"

(Does that mean you'll be in the wrong lane? Think about it.)

3. In the back window of a truck being pulled by a camper:

"I go where I'm towd"


4. At the entrance to a construction site:

"Do not follow trucks into work site"

(Because ... this was a problem?)

5. Painted on a tractor tire in Nebraska:

"Outlaw Sodomy"

(And... then what?)

5. Advertising on the side of a pickup truck:

"Benny's Escort Service"

(Pilot vehicle and companionship?)

6. Another unfortunately named business:

"Kum & Go"

(Is it a convenience store or a brothel?)

7. A car dealership:

"Ford: Herb Green"

(That's right. Herb. Green.)

8. And, my favorite, courtesy of my hilarious dad (note the name spelling):

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Some doggerel for the road, ala my grandmother's autograph book

The truck is riding low
The cat is flying high
I'll miss my friends in Redding
How I hate to say goodbye!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Helpful tips for packing and moving

I recommend a flamethrower.

Friday, August 1, 2008

One of the best bad guys ever

If you haven't had a chance to see Heath Ledger's final performance in the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight," you're missing out. I feared all of Ledger's glowing reviews were hyped in the wake of his death, but his portrayal of the twisted Joker warrants recognition. (Posthumous Oscar, anyone?)

In fact, the performance deserves a rank on my "Best Bad Guys Ever" list, which includes Ben Kingsley in "Sexy Beast," Robert DeNiro in "Cape Fear" and a recent addition, Ben Foster's Charlie Prince in "3:10 to Yuma," which also stars Batman's Christian Bale.

Best Bad Guys are usually ruthless, have little or nothing to lose, and have a sense of self-awareness that translates into humor. Ledger's Joker accomplishes all three. (Watch early on for the Joker's "I'm gonna make this pencil disappear" trick, which is a nominee for the "Ickiest Way to Kill Someone" award.)

"The Dark Knight," however, runs too long, diverting into a storyline involving Gotham City's district attorney, which is aptly played by the fabulous Aaron Eckhart, but feels tangiential to the story between Batman and the Joker.

Or maybe it's just that I wished Ledger's performance would continue.