Tag Archives | craft

Lessons From The Snow

Its been snowing in Portland since Saturday and now we have about a foot on the ground.  I know that Snow 070
most of you consider Oregon a northern state and you thus assume that we always get a lot of snow, but such is not the case.  Its been five years since we've gotten an appreciable snowfall, and 40 since we've had this big of a storm.

Because we don't get snow very often, it is not cost-effective to maintain a lot of equipment to clear it.  So despite the fact that the city employees work very hard to plow roads, they simply can't do enough in a situation like this.  And most motorists don't bother with buying chains. After all, if you only need them once every five years or so, there are more compelling things to put in the budget.

So I've been mostly stuck at home with a houseful of people, a sort of early Christmas house party.  Yesterday, going a bit stir-crazy, we all walked down to the Daily, which, thank you God, was open.  All pedestrians walked down the tire tracks in the street as the sidewalks are just too drifted with snow to allow easy passage.  Later, we found chains in the basement and spent an hour digging the car out and putting them on.  Um, when I say "we" I mean the royal we because I wasn't about to get anywhere near a snow shovel. 

And did I mention that I only started my Christmas shopping on Friday?  In a panic, I started ordering things online.  Since then, I've gotten notice that the packages have been shipped but none have arrived on my doorstep.  You think its because planes haven't been flying in and out of PDX? Or because even trucks with chains on them are getting stuck on the snowy streets?  Hmmm, I wonder.

You'd think I'd be getting tons of writing done, what with being snowbound and all.  Think again–all this is incredibly distracting.  And, I will admit, lots of fun.  But while I may not have been writing much, I have, of course been thinking.  What follows are my profound Thoughts having to do with snow.  And writing, of course.

1.  It will all be okay.  So the presents don't arrive in time, at least the kids are old enough to understand why.  I'll wrap up cards that tell what they were supposed to get.  Or we'll have another dinner later and unwrap the real presents.  There's not a lot I can do about it, so why spend energy worrying about it?

2.  Details are what make the story.  We know this. Of course we know this.  But it is one thing to hear on the radio that buses are having a hard time navigating the streets and yet another to talk to my son and have him tell me that he saw 10 buses stuck in the snow on his way home yesterday.  Or to talk to my sister who was riding a bus this morning and just as she answered my call it got stuck and everyone had to get off.  The whole lot of them walked off looking for a new bus and when it came, it was so full it zoomed on past.  Aren't those details more interesting than the bland radio report?

3.  Stepping away from the computer is good for the soul.  Shocking, I know, but since we've been having our non-stop house party every night we drink wine, eat dinner, and watch a Christmas movie.  News flash: this is fun.  Even more fun than hanging out on my computer, writing.  Amazing the things you learn in a pinch.

4.  Showing up is what counts.  You might not finish the whole damn novel, but you can write a scene of it.  Or a paragraph.  Or even a sentence.  I know, I beat this drum constantly and loudly but over the last couple of days I've seen again how effective it is to spend even a minute or two with whatever project you are lovingly shepherding.  What with the tumult in the house, I've been hard-pressed to find time for my client's projects, let alone my passion projects.  But spending a half hour with Emma Jean yesterday reminded me why I strive to make time to work on my novel–and it made me feel like I'd accomplished something so I could go watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation without guilt.

That is it, the sum total of my Thoughts after being cooped up for four days.  But, hark, the sun is out and could it be I just saw a drip coming off the roof?  Never mind that the forecast calls for more snow tonight…

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Free Book Offering: Going To A Place Far, Far Away

Well, its not that far, really.  I'm heading up to the Washington coast to visit my Nashville friend Sue at her father's place.  What makes it feel far, far away is that there is no internet service and no cell phone service.   No blogging!  No Twitter!  No text messaging! 

However, I'm only going to be gone until tomorrow.   I'm taking my camera and since my new end-of-the-year resolution is to snap lots of photos, I'm hoping to come back with many of them to share.  In the meantime, here's a photo I took last night of the Christmas train at Oaks Park:

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Not quite sure how to get that date stamp off it.  Words are my forte, not photos. 

Which brings me to the point of this post.

I'm feeling a bit tired of it all and in need of some inspiration, which is where you come in.  I want to know what you want to read about in terms of writing, and what you need to know.  If you feel so inclined, pop me an email at wordstrumpet@gmail.com with answers to the following questions and in return I'll send you a free beta bcopy of my Ebook, Set the Words Free.  (But bear in mind that I'm going to be out of wireless range for a few days and thus will not be getting back to you with it until the end of the week.)

1. Do you write:
fiction
screenplays
nonfiction
poetry

2. What is your biggest writing problem?

3.  Do you struggle more with finding time and motivation to write or issues with craft?

4.  Are you a published writer?

5.  If not, do you aspire to be a published writer?

6.  If yes, what do you aspire to publish (ie, novel, short story, get a screenplay optioned, poetry, etc.)

7.  Do you aspire to make money writing?  If so, in what area?

8.  What kinds of posts are most helpful?

9.   What kinds of posts do you enjoy the most?  (ie, life of a writer or craft)

10.  What is your biggest writing goal for 2009?

11.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, what brings you back to it?

If you only want to answer a couple of questions, that's cool, I'll take any and all feedback.  Thank you so much and I'll be back with photos at the end of the week.

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Sharpening Pencils

This morning I was working on my daily 15 minutes devoted to the realization that I have no logic skills whatsoever, otherwise known as solving a Sudoku puzzle, when it occurred to me that my pencils needed sharpening.

Now I'm bad enough at Sudoku without having also to contend with blurry-pointed pencils.  The boxes in which you fill in the numbers are very small, you see, and you need to fit many numbers in each one as you keep track and erase and figure and re-figure.  So you need a very sharp pencil.

I have a container full of pencils conveniently stationed in the kitchen, where the Sudoku madness solving goes on but for some reason the pencils are never sharp.  (Could it be because my son the mathematician uses them to solve math equations?  You tell me.)

So it occurred to me to hie myself down the basement to where we have a good old-fashioned hand-cranked pencil sharpener on the wall, bolted there by previous occupants, many, many years ago.  (The fact that you must walk into the basement, which is dark and scary and full of belongings we don't know what to do with, plus has an open crawl space which you have to pretend to ignore, est the monsters jump out at you if you catch their eye,  might also have something to do with the fact that the pencils are never sharp.)

To get to the pencil sharpener you have to lean way over the washing machine and insert the pencil.  I'd taken a whole handful down with me, hoping to not have to repeat this exercise for quite awhile, not liking monsters real well and having perfecting the art of going a long time without washing clothes, and so I began sharpening the pencils.  And it occurred to me, as I struggled, because it also turns out that sharpening pencils via a hand-cranked pencil sharpener is a bit of a struggle, that sharpening pencils is a bit like writing.

Why?

I shall tell you. 

Firstly, if you force the pencil, it doesn't sharpen as well.  You have to hold it ever so delicately without cramming it into the hole.  If you just allow the pencil to rest lightly in the sharpener and crank like crazy, you get a perfectly sharpened pencil.  So, too, with writing.  If you force the words, they never sound right.  You need to learn to relax when you are holding the pencil in the pencil sharpener and you need to learn to relax when you are holding pen in hand to write.  And then crank out the words like mad.

Second, if the pencil gets sharpened unevenly from the beginning, it is difficult, bordering on the impossible, to ever get the damn thing to be sharpened correctly again.  Have you had this experience with writing?  I have.  Until I get the beginning shaped right, I can't write the rest of it.  Even though I am the biggest advocate of letting the words flow on the planet, I can't help it.  The beginning has to be right before the words can flow.  And so too with pencils.

Thirdly, it is really a pain to sharpen pencils, but the Sudoku solving goes so much better when I do.  Its important to have the right tools in writing, and since we don't need much beyond paper and pencil, choose your metaphoric tools wisely–your words and your technique, your craft and your grammar.

So those are the lessons I learned sharpening pencils this morning.  Oh, and one final one–it is important always to be up on current technology.  I'm buying an electric pencil sharpener. 

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