Monthly Archives: July 2013

Revising

I love the process of creating, of writing something for the first time, however crappy the result. Spending hours and hours creating new worlds and filling them with people I love. And those I don’t.

On the other hand, I detest revising and I doubt the sincerity of those who claim that it is their favorite part of writing. I’m envious of those in my writing group who excel at it, accepting the group’s “constructive criticism” with aplomb then returning a few weeks later with a new (and generally improved) version. (Not certain that they love doing it, however.)

So I was excited to read an article on revising in the Sunday Boston Globe Ideas section. Craig Fehrman focuses on Hannah Sullivan’s book on the history of revision. At the very end of the article I finally got to the part I was hoping for, that revising is highly overrated and even a waste of resources (in my own words—you’ll need to read the article for your own interpretation).

Writing a blog satisfies my need to write without spending much time revising. Sort of writing in a journal, flow of consciousness, where the goal is to get my thoughts down on paper before they disappear. And before I have a chance to evaluate their quality. Edit out the emotion. The real me.

I would be happy to put the effort into revising my life however. Edit out the crappy part known as adrenal cancer. Return to the life I used to occupy, one where I went to work every day, put money for retirement into my 401(k) every paycheck, squeezed in time to write, kept busy every second of the day, and rarely got sick.

I say that but now that I’ve left that world, would I seriously want to return to it?

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Relinquishing Control

Relinquishing control is hard. With the 4th of July festivities and the welcome invasion of family (this year 31 of us, 15 kids—not all in my house thankfully!) I am more or less forbidden to take charge of the food preparation and entertaining. That honor after many years of being my domain has been passed to the next generation. It’s hard to sit back and watch my daughters and nieces prepare the salad and heat up the beans while I am forced to lounge on the couch with my sister-in-law. (Turns out they took pleasure in their view from the sink of the two mothers doing nothing but chatting with each other!)

My form of relaxation until now has been to be busy, busy, busy, making sure that people have full glasses of wine, that the meat comes off the grill at the exact moment that the sides are lined up on the counter ready to go, that everyone has a plate, napkin, and a place to sit. It doesn’t mean I’m not proud that they are more than capable of doing as good a job, if not better, than I would have done. To see them work together is gratifying. It’s just that I expected this transition to happen in the somewhat distant future.

Now I am expected to take a nap in the afternoon, to look out for myself. To control my well-being instead of my guests’. Not only am I having a hard time accepting this, I actually resent having to think of myself before I think of anyone else. But one benefit is that my sister-in-law and I, both aspiring authors, have more time to talk about our writing–or rather our lack of writing. She will be here for a while after everyone leaves and that will give us even more time to continue this conversation!

Since November I’ve had to turn over control of my life to my cancer. It’s decided how I feel. What I can eat. What I can do. And especially when I can do it. There’s been a lot that I can’t do but I’m gradually getting back into things, like Pilates and yoga. And walking with Judy on her lunch break. My lunch break? Whenever I want it to be.

Turkey Dreams

Last night my first eight “testing the waters” blog entries were critiqued by my writing group. Their comments were encouraging but I can’t help wondering if it is sympathy due to my cancer… self-doubt always trumps being able to graciously accept compliments. John distributed samples of blog postings, which I read when I got home. Some were truly atrocious. I am confident I can produce something worth reading yet will my blog become my focus, taking time away from my “real” writing? I feel (hope?) that the blog will more likely prime the pump, dragging me to my laptop, away from my beloved HGTV. Yet this morning I am struggling with this post and only CNN is on with the volume down to 1.

thanksgivingdinner

I awoke this morning to a dream of a turkey dinner being prepared for me, Thanksgiving I think, and the cook was heating up the package of squash that I have kept secured in my freezer for months, not for a turkey dinner but in case I wanted to make squash soup.

 

Who am I kidding?

I have prepared so few meals since my surgery that it is more likely the squash will be heated up as is and eaten with a grinder from Village Pizza than that it will be transformed into an appetizing soup. I am certain the dream arose from our discussion last night about my post pitying my family for having to eat Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria. It’s too early in the morning to be talking turkey—I haven’t had my raisin toast yet or my yummy mitotane/hydrocortisone/ondansetron/metoprolol/pantoprazole/loratidine dessert! Remember, magic resides in those pills.

Dow has dropped 353 points over the past two days. Ouch. Now that I am retired this means a heck of a lot more than it did when I was still working.

James Gandolfini dropped dead in Italy yesterday. Apparent heart attack. I, at least, am forewarned. A young woman on the ACC Compassion site has died. She was forewarned. I hope she was able to take advantage of her remaining time to squeeze in a full life, albeit condensed. Not likely if she was undergoing treatment.

Quality of life and all that.

Deadlines

It’s three in the morning and I’m awake and on the couch.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, I’m my mother after all.”

Yet I’m too young to be my mother. She takes sleeping pills to sleep through the night. I’m not ready to add another pill to my daily regimen. Yet think of all the writing that I can get done if I get up at three.  Isn’t early morning supposed to be the most creative time for true authors?

I know why I am awake. Two reasons. My nighttime cold medicine has worn off—I got five hours out of it, which is just about right for me. The other is I am stressed over how to arrange the bedrooms for family that is coming for the holiday. Wouldn’t you think that because they are family and grew up in this house they would just know where the beds are and organize themselves accordingly? But no, I had to paint the bedrooms, buy new bedding, and even buy a new bed, for the few weeks–even days for one daughter and family–that they are going to be here. When you have an open concept house the bedrooms off the living area is very important. But only when we have guests. Otherwise I am not concerned with how they look, how clean they are. I just close the doors and only I know that they are receptacles for all of the detritus of daily living that lacks a home.

We have always used family gatherings as excuses to get things done on the house: baby showers, rehearsal dinners, weddings, anniversary parties, even Christmas dinners. If it wasn’t for these events, I don’t think we would have ever done any updating to the house. But the Fourth of July? Does that really qualify as an event worthy of a remodel, even a minor one?

People said that they were concerned that I would be bored when I retired yet I am finding myself saying what all the other early retirees before me have said:

I’m so busy I don’t know how I found time to work.

Yet busy doesn’t mean productive, nor does it mean living a meaningful life, something that should be of the upmost importance to me. I have to remind myself that it’s only been six weeks now since I retired and I am still getting used to not having to go to work, to now having nine hours of free time stretch in front of me each day that normally would be committed to work. At a paying job. If I could turn those nine hours into writing hours, or at least hours focused on writing, researching, reading about writing, just think how much progress I could make on my projects. I have a deadline, however arbitrary, and unknown, at this point.

Maybe if it were a concrete one I would be motivated. And then again, maybe not.

Deluding Myself with a New Trick

Been sick for over two days, one of them flat on my back with a temperature. Is this just another excuse to not write? Whatever happened to my commitment with Eleanor to write four pages a day, five days a week? Family is arriving from Arizona and Virginia and the bedrooms had to get painted and the office moved then the new shelves stained and polyurethaned. Did I bring this illness upon myself as a way to get out of painting or as a way to get out of writing?

behind the scenes book image

Just read a book that I actually want to reread. Soon or maybe even next. Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson’s debut novel. So many characters, plots, subplots, flashbacks, and backstory yet it all seems to work. I didn’t think it was going to at first. And now I need to return to the beginning and dissect the book. There’s so much to learn from her techniques. I guess from most any published author.

And I just came up with a new one of my own. Using my laptop in the dark, it’s hard to find the backspace and delete keys (ones that I use frequently when I am writing), and being too lazy to turn on the lamp, I activated the flashlight app on my cell phone. Works well until I need to type and use the flashlight at the same time.

I’m only deluding myself into believing that this even remotely has anything to do with writing.

Excuses

Managed to get through the worst part of the day—taking my morning medicine, all 13 pills. I know there are those who take more pills than that but I used to take only three: one for my acid reflux, one for my high blood pressure, and one for my seasonal allergies. Still, those extra ten are magic and I try not to forget that.

It’s Father’s Day and Steve has gone golfing, his usual game at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. It’s supposed to be my time to write. So far I have watched CNN, some HGTV, and back to CNN for Sonjay Gupta, then read the HGTV magazine, taken my medicine, texted Jesse, and now DIY is playing in the background as I finally sit down to write.

Are you getting tired of my excuses yet?

I am.

While I was painting the guest bedroom yesterday, I had some great ideas about my book (“Anne”). Unfortunately I couldn’t just put down the paint brush and dash to the laptop to get them recorded but that is exactly what I should have done as today they are just sort of vague but there’s enough of them left to work with. Except I just got another text from Jesse and she and the kids are on their way over so we can go to breakfast….Interesting that we are going out to a Father’s Day breakfast without either of the fathers…oh, and that I have already eaten a glazed donut and two pieces of raisin toast.

Buckle Down and Write

My writing group met last night and today two of us are having lunch and a writing session at my house. The women of the group have been doing Friday lunches for a while now—we’ve found that one hour just hasn’t been enough time together so we’ve added the writing session. Last week was our first one and although we didn’t accomplish any writing, we did make it a motivational session—for Eleanor. We committed to four pages a day for five days a week, whether original writing or revision. Not only did Eleanor stick to this for the week, she also managed to whittle an existing story down to 4000 words so she could submit it to a writing contest. She is motivated. Why aren’t I?

Maybe if I turn off HGTV/DIY, maybe once I get the painting and minor remodeling projects done, maybe when I’m done with physical therapy, maybe after the Fourth of July and family has come and gone, maybe, maybe, maybe…. maybe I just need to stop coming up with excuses and buckle down and write. Time is not on my side.

So do I want to fulfill my dream or don’t I?  Or am I just in love with the idea of being a writer, unable, unwilling, to invest the effort to realize it?

                     

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