Tag Archives: discipline

Don’t Look; Just Write

I’m tucking into my second book, finessing the proposal with the world’s most patient woman, literary agent Pamela Malpas and her sidekick, Louise. (Louise is a bunny; she has a killer kick.)

And I have discovered something about the process of writing. It requires more than discipline; we all know it takes that. What writing really demands is hardass blindness.

It requires ignoring dirty dishes in the sink, or eating off paper plates. It requires admitting the spice rack isn’t alphabetized, the car cleaned out, or your underwear folded before it gets stuffed in the drawer. Writing demands serious thought time; although some people can, I’ve never been able to work on a chapter for half an hour, then get up and go. If I can’t get a couple of hours in with some depth perception, it’s not worth it to open the laptop cover. Sort of like napping; what’s the point if you don’t get to REM?

Someone asked my hobbies the other day; I said crocheting, playing the harp, caning chair seats, and swimming. The person said, “And writing, right?” No, not any more. Writing is something to make time for, not do when I can find time.

It’s not just professionalism (read: a tight deadline) that’s shifted my priorities. Like exercise of any muscle, writing begets the desire to do more of it. H0bbies fall away as you clear time to write, but so does household tidiness, perfectionism, and deferring to the social obligations others want to demand of you. It all goes in the same un-emptied dumpster, overflowing with good intentions.

Someday, I’m going to put my good china in the upstairs cupboard and our everyday dishes in our downstairs bookstore kitchen. Feeding Valkyttie yesterday, I realized my Irish Waterford Crystal saucers had gone to the cat closet. That night I had soup from a plastic bowl with a very old decal of Snoopy on the bottom.

Where did we get a Snoopy bowl? I don’t remember buying a Snoopy bowl, and I haven’t had time to yard sale this summer, anyway.

Someday, I’m going to pick the delicious apples on our backyard trees. Meanwhile, we just keep calling neighbors to come get them. They’re lovely. The Golden ones are the size of my head. The neighbors who pick them always give us a couple; they’re great with peanut butter as a quick desk lunch.

Someday, I’m going to go back to playing Celtic harp, and pick up my Arabic language lessons again. Someday. I still swim once a week because it’s good for me, and I’ve lessened the exercise slack by walking to the grocery store. It’s just a half mile from our house; I use the time to think about narrative structure. Or what’s not getting done at the bookstore.

Someday, I’m going to make Christmas tree angels from old hymnals, create bath bombs with the kit I bought two years ago, and cane the rest of the chairs in our garage.

Someday I’m going to say to Jack, “No, honey; you cooked last night. Let me do it” and make something that won’t frighten him with its swiftness, use of leftovers, and microwaved edges. Someday.

Meanwhile, I’m writing a book. Someone call me when it’s Thanksgiving Dinner, okay?


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, Uncategorized, writing

Memorable Moments from Write Comes to the Cumberlands

Write Comes to the Cumberlands was held this past Saturday in Turkey Cove, at my friend Elizabeth’s old farmhouse. We had six writers, and a lot of fun. Here is a guest blog from Angelic, one of the participants who traveled from Missouri to be with us.

Elizabeth sighed contentedly from the back seat and I could hear the smile in her voice, “I’ve always loved Big Stone Gap, but I have to say that it’s even better since Jack and Wendy came.”  This was one of the more memorable moments of Write Comes to the Cumberlands for me.  I feel the same way – only different.

A week or so prior, Wendy had left me a note on Facebook wanting to know what I was looking for from the workshop, if I had something I was working on or was I hoping to start something new.  I hastily touch-screened a reply back to her on my cell phone in between phone calls and emails at work, blithering disconnectedly about blogging for my own bookstore, writing my life story, and making time to write in the first place.  She came back with a succinct version of “I think I heard you say….” And I responded with my even shorter confirmation of, “Wow. You’re good.”

However, I sat dumbfounded at the desk in my room the morning of the workshop– I had no idea what to write.  Wendy had started the day with a printed itinerary that included slots for each attendee to spend time one-on-one with her – I absolutely had to come up with SOMETHING.  Wendy’s words came back to me, “Build your word count.” “But with what?” I puzzled inwardly.  Wendy had said, “It’s like stringing a bowl of beads together.”  I checked my phone, where I kept my lists and notes, for a ‘bead’ of inspiration.  I felt compelled to come up with material for my bookstore blog, but these ‘beads’ were dull – ‘make bed’, ‘do laundry’, ‘price books’ – not real exciting stuff there.  Wendy’s words came back to me again, “Just get it down, don’t look, don’t edit, just keep writing.”  She was assuming I had a bowl of beads.  And I didn’t even have a shot glass of beads.

Right before we left for the workshop, I had grabbed a blank notebook that I found and tossed into my overnight bag for something to write on.  I opened it now just to be moving in the right direction. The notebook wasn’t blank after all.  I recognized the writing as my own and began to read.  It was an entry I’d written shortly after my mother’s death.  The tears began to flow – and so did the words – and I started stringing the ‘beads’ together, writing my story – another memorable moment from Write Comes to the Cumberlands.

After lunch, we all decided it would be a good idea to take a quick walk to fend off the desire to nod off during our afternoon session of writing.  Wendy led us down the gravel road towards some bridge I didn’t catch the name of, strolling leisurely a few yards ahead with fellow workshop attendees, Martha and Cathie.  My husband and I chatted with Mary, another workshop attendee, taking our time, enjoying the company and the weather. It was a beautiful day, mist rising off the mountains, butterflies fluttering about en masse, the sun toasting the tops of our heads  from above.

Wendy paused as we neared the top of a hill, turning toward us. “We’re about two-thirds of the way there.  Do we want to keep going?  Or…?”  We started to hem and haw, but were cut short by a crack of thunder so abrupt and so close, we all spun around on our heels like synchronized swimmers, laughing nervously as we made haste back to the farmhouse, Wendy chortling, “You can’t make this stuff up!”

Thankfully, I didn’t have to make anything up for this guest blog.  Elizabeth was right, I’ve always loved writing, but I have to say, it’s even better since Write Comes to the Cumberlands.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing