Sunday, March 31, 2019


Thinking about James Joyce’s Dubliners and Katherine Hepburn’s hair pins on her dresser backstage in her dressing room reminded me of a man whose house I visited years ago. He had a converted barn filled with theatrical props and my friends and I were thrilled to see a chair on which the great Ms. Hepburn sat in a production of a Broadway show. We spent the afternoon in his beautiful home, left, went for a walk in the woods and found a pristine lake. We stripped down to our underwear and slipped into the cool water. A couple walked by and stopped to watch us and when we came out, I noticed she was pregnant.
My friend and I spoke to the couple for a while as we put our clothes on over hot sticky skin. The woman said if she had a girl, she would name her after me.
We said our goodbyes and disappeared from each other’s lives. We made the trip from Connecticut to NYC in silence.

Friday, March 29, 2019

In Your Feelings

Some moods can make me crave avoidance of any kind of expression and being on automatic is a substitute for presence and feeling what you don’t want to feel. But, I’ve learned to lean into the mood and see what seems most purposeful in the moment — poetry, a short story, the skeleton of a novel, a scrapbook for future horror stories or a soliloquy.
The writing muscle continues to grow some girth and eventually, some definition. Being who you’re meant to be as a writer requires curiosity about the inner workings of one’s mind and the audacity to have opinions about everything and to envision the possibility of becoming an authority on something or someone. In writing through uncomfortable feelings, such as impatience, pain and grief, the writer wins. Boethius wrote in prison while awaiting execution, which reminds me to be a little tougher.
A hint of melancholy is just another shade in the color palette and not a reason to run from what has made life worth living on so many occasions.
Dark moods might inspire a radical departure from the norm. Writing through feelings is another experiment and what is creativity but a series of experiments?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Writing Advice...

Books and classes on writing will fill your head with disparate ideas about how to approach your story. Some authors will tell you to write about what you know and others will tell you to write about what interests you. Because I believe there is freedom within structure, I think it's a good idea to create an outline of each story. An outline is like a trail of popcorn leading out of the woods. You can write short stories of ten pages or more with no expectations of what they might become.

Working Outside Your Comfort Zone

Keep writing playful and lay off the cash-and-prizes pressure. To keep your creativity limber, choose to focus on something outside your comfort zone. And to assuage the terror, write down what you'll have to learn to write about historical figures, true crime, hospital settings or zombies. Writing about things that engage your mind, imagination and make you run to the computer or notebook each day is the samadhi of writing.

Fictionalized or Heightened Creative Nonfiction

It's tricky writing about family, old friends and childhood contexts. I always wonder how much we have permission to reveal about others' lives. Any criticism of an individual's behavior begs an exploration of his or her character and how that person became the evil-doer in a family or among a group of friends. Would you write your personal narrative as a fable? Would you consider stating the facts as they were with no regard about where you'd spend Christmas?

Where SHOULD ideas come from?

There is no such thing as a magical spout of story ideas from which we all fill our cups. We writers are wanderers in search of the next interesting thread and the desire to see where it leads. All art begins with desire. Writing from your navel has some definite advantages and staying there in the nebulous imagination of your past can be something that stunts creative growth.
Sometimes, I find it important to explore why I want to limit myself in my writing choices. Is it laziness to want to write from and about one's personal experience? Is there are a fear of being inadequate as a researcher that keeps some writers from writing a historical novel?
As a person who loves writing advice, I can say the best advice is to follow what motivates you to get to the pen and paper or computer. When you compare yourself to those writing in your favorite genre, you might become immobilized. And picking up on the latest writing trends feels like a cash grab in a clear booth on a game show. Ideas come from everywhere and the stories we weave can become bigger as we trust our abilities to learn new things and ask questions. Being an introvert and writer doesn't mean you never talk to librarians -- they are great resources. The human touch has not yet lost its touch, and when you're stuck, making calls to connect with your tribe or talking to humans at the local drugstore can break the spell of obsessive focus on rearranging the alphabet.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Morning Psychography

I have been writing morning pages every day for years and after a couple of weeks or months of writing accumulates, I do a quick scan and see if there is anything that could be transformed into readable text. I pick through, find words or sentences that flow well and save them for later and the rest goes in the recycling bin. A morning freewrite unencumbered by purpose, lets ideas breathe and some poems and stories have emerged. From freedom to structure is a process I enjoy. It feels good to know each word isn't precious and is just a mental warm-up or purge if I have been particularly challenged by something or someone. A quiet rage on the page is a rare event, but happens sometimes.
The guideline for those morning pages is to write quickly as a way to kick up what might be hidden from my consciousness but bubbling to the surface in one way or another.
And I focus on balance - keep it light on complaints and heavy on the gratitude.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Rock-Climbing for Writers

Winter is the time to be in the cave unless prodded out to go work outside your home, which I’ve avoided for the most part.
Cold is great when you're inside looking out; but to be in it, in the snow and hail and blasting cold winds is to play with the worst bully in the playground.
I have been editing and writing as a remote worker, which allows me to work with a blanket around my shoulders.
In my meditation groups, I get to socialize with people who are seeking enlightenment and those who are just looking to drain the excess information from their nervous systems, so they can concentrate and sleep and remember where they put their keys.
My Writer friends and I talk about the excessive amounts of information we ingest on any given day and it isn’t to be smart or the hit of the party we would never attend... it is just our football.

My latest obsession is persistence and those who exemplify this trait — particularly rock climbers. Persistence with the added flair of possibly falling off a rock to be eaten by bears is fascinating to me.

I can compare it to running long-distance with a fever, a cold and in severe weather.

What was it that made me run in horrible weather and, sometimes, in pain?

I think a solid hour of self-imposed and controlled suffering strengthened me for the day and also made me feel tougher than any weather.
Running was the old Transcendental Meditation where every problem fell away and nature seemed closer.
Life got simple and tasks organized themselves in my mind without my help.
As I write this, I realize my writing could use some rock-climbing persistence, so I will definitely brave the cold and run tomorrow morning.
I'll let you know how it went.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


I recently submitted some poems to a fancy magazine with a glossy cover. The photos are artsy and writers deftly place their adjectives in exactly the right places and I admire that. I also emailed two short snapshot pieces about my relationship with my sister and mother to a writers’ group.
I wrote these vignettes while they were both alive, so it’s strange to revisit the two most important female relatives in my life only on paper and in dreams. Editing scenes between us now gives me a sense of wanting to grasp each detail and hold it until I re-remember what each woman said and did. As I read about the dead, my mind polishes fragments of memory, so I can take a closer look and see the white hair framing my mother’s face and my sister laughing as her fat cheeks turned red.
The three of us had an interesting synergy: my mother was often exasperated about something, my sister was always mischievous and I attempted to be a mediator, even though no one asked. Reading through pages I hadn’t seen for a while helped me be slightly more objective and I was in awe to see myself left to tell their stories. In writing nonfiction, I make an effort to be understanding and compassionate in order to have a balanced view of people — writing with compassion is much more challenging than a flat dismissal of people and the hard work that may have been their lives. I’ve often heard writers speak about how writing about the dead proffered a sense of liberation because they could ‘write things as they really were,’but I feel a deeper sense of responsibility to tell stories about the dead. As I write about complex and painful experiences with certain people now deceased, I also have a desire to show each person from as many angles as possible; in their lifetime, a multitude of perspectives told their stories.
In telling of the flawed and wholly human time a person spends on this earth, forgiveness, compassion and understanding allow for a more compelling portrait.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Documentaries Make Me Happy

Vibrationally speaking, documentaries really rev up that whole invisible system that fills your subconscious with joy and excitement. I just watched Filmworker, a quiet, low key doc about one of my favorite filmmakers: Stanley Kubrick. The film focused on Kubrick’s relationship with a humble man named Leon Vitali. Vitali left an acting career to work as Kubrick’s shadow. He handled highly technical work as well as taking care of Kubrick’s cat.

Vitali left center stage, where he had been a respected Shakespearean trained actor, to work in the service of someone he considered an artistic genius. To Vitali, Kubrick’s work was more important than his own family and health. I say this without judgment; Vitali’s behavior showed where his priorities lay.
His children played in the office while he worked diligently in the background to provide all the necessary assistance to insure a Kubrick film would be made in the filmmaker’s very exacting way. Kubrick, like Vitali’s father, had a bad temper and Vitali learned to step back when Kubrick was having a meltdown. Sometimes, we work out confusing childhood relationships with coworkers or bosses ...

Listening to versions of a story in a documentary is always the most fascinating form of storytelling for me - multiple perspectives and to hear the exact details others notice about the subject. I wonder how much time we would save in life if a documentary could be made of our lives every five years.
A documentary is an epiphany for its participants and viewers and, for some reason, this kind of film makes the audience feel like participants.
And if you haven’t seen Barry Lyndon, do it now!