Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for Purpose

The Purpose driven life is one in which all things, when applied to your purpose, align. When we have purpose we have power. 

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” 
― Viktor E. FranklMan's Search for Meaning

This is one of my favorite quotes. Viktor E. Frankl - was a writer who wrote Man's Search for Meaning - here is a wiki on that book.

Man's Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. The book intends to answer the question "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?" Part One constitutes Frankl's analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory called logotherapy. 
So how does that work with our revisions? I do think when we are attempting something with such a broad scope - like writing a novel or book length memoir or non-fiction - we need to constantly go back to our purpose. Your purpose needn't be highfalutin   - it can be to entertain but there is usually something deeply personal and meaningful in why we write at all and in what we choose to write. It might be to show your third grade teacher that in fact you aren't a dummy! It might be to share something - a way of life - a part of the world - a personality - that most people don't really know about.

I have different purposes to why I write different stories or in different genres. I like writing mysteries (though I have ignored my finished and half-finished mysteries lately) because I like the puzzle of creating them (sort of like quilts) and because I think they are a good way to feature a part of the world most people know squat about. I have written my literary novels because I'm interested in the psychological effects of certain events on people. I want to understand how family works and how doesn't.  I write poems for a way to show how I see the world and its meaning to me.

All of them and everything else falls under another purpose - my overall purpose in life is to wake up and help others wake up. I happen to think we spend too much time in our past and future and I know when I write I'm actually in the present - I hope others get that too but it is actually secondary.

When I'm revising and the hot rush of getting words down is over I really need to remember why I want to finish and perfect each manuscript. I need to touch down on my purpose to energize getting through the million details of such a large work.

How about you?

Here's a photo of the Canadian Babes - my close buds. They will be just arriving in Cuba right about now and I'm not with them. Gah! Next year I hope. And no we don't always wear plaid shirts a la Bob and Doug but it was a special Canadjun moment, eh?

Friday, April 17, 2015

o is for open your heart

Open I say! Yes, you need your mind when you are revising (not your monkey mind but your clear thinking, non-attached mind) but you also need your heart. I feel that if there has been a subtler under theme to my abcedaria on revision it is this - revising isn't a cold-calculating art! We need to be open and loving to our ms so we can attend to the problems we are working with. If we are too removed, too above it all we won't be able to have the necessary energy to see it through. I'm having a tough time right now because my manuscript has been away from me for too long. I need to open my heart to it and contact the fellow who is reading it and ask him 'what gives?'  If I'm too cool (and yes, I do remember that being cool was one of my posts) but if I'm TOO cool it could come across as indifference. It could turn to indifference and then where would I be? More importantly where would my ms be? Ignored.

So! Open your hearts and embrace the whole messy thing. Sure you're going to clean it up - organize it so others can enjoy what you see in it - but first you need to fully embrace it. Go on! Love it.

Here is a photo I took last summer in Gros Morne National Park -Newfoundland. Isn't it so gorgeous?!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Numbers

Numbers! Can you hear yourself groan? Can you hear me? Remember I don't like numbers much but that isn't truly true. I don't like keeping track of most numbers. What do I owe the phone company? How many calories in a cheese Danish? But there are some numbers that are very helpful to be mindful of when revising. I should say that I find helpful. And what are they dear Jan?

How many pages, words, hours a day do I commit to in order to get through this revision?
When I get my ms back (and gosh I hope it is sooooon) I will have a general look see and then decide what the job is going to take. Are there red marks all through or major paragraphs of text from my adviser? Once I've ball-parked how much time I will need to spend, and ball-parked what time I have available and what external to the revising deadlines I might have (the mister and I are going on a little cruise up the coast to visit Northern communities this summer - think that might be one) then I'll know what numbers I need to crunch. It might look like this - I will spend one hour a day or 20 pages which ever comes first. My manuscript is 300 pages long so that will take me 15 days or so. Hmmm... I'm going to be on a bit of a work crunch in June with training so I better make sure I do

How many times do I repeat myself in the ms. (who cares how often I do in real life - well, I guess the mister cares!)
This means that I insert a program on a sampling of my writing that will do a word cluster for me - you know ...hmmm...what are they called? A word cloud and when it shows me a picture with the largest word being JUST - I'll go hunting those numbers. I know that doesn't seem like a number but in this case the program is doing it for you and making it all nice and graphic.

And today's pic is of Bella on top of the bank of snow next to our driveway. If you think she is awfully high up you'd be right. Any daffodils peeking their heads up would have to be 20 feet tall! Gah!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for monkey mind

Having a monkey mind is what we Buddhists might call believing our thoughts. Not a good idea for the most part. When we are revising we must quiet the monkey who will be chattering to us endlessly about how crappy our manuscript is and how we should just forget it.

How do we quiet out monkey mind? Well, first of all don't get engaged with it. Don't argue with monkeys - it just doesn't work. Say you hear your monkey mind says something like "this stupid novel is no good and who needs another book anyhow and your mother was right, you should have been a librarian. You certainly shouldn't bother with such nonsense as writing or any creative thing. Just a waste of time." (Whew! I'm way too good at bringing up a monkey mind train of thoughts) You might try arguing back "Well now I'm not sure - I think the world could use a good novel about love in Northern Climates and blah blah blah." If you do your monkey mind will go "pftttttt!" at you. Instead try something firm and decisive "Yes, you might be right but I'm in charge and we're working on this revision."  And then smile at the poor little thing and get back to work. You won't believe how quick that monkey will fold her tents and slip away.

Some other ways to quiet our monkey mind are to keep it busy doing other things. When it starts in on you it is because that part of you is scared so distract it. I might say (or think, because sometimes I'm in public) "You know Monkey Mind - I have a problem for you to solve - I need to know how to get my protagonist out of Wisconsin in one piece - I'm going to work on my next chapter and I'd like you to ponder that while I do." This works and I'm not sure how nor do I care. All I care is that it works.

Also - our Monkey Mind can be diverted by making sure we get plenty of exercise, good food and lots of premium sleep so keep your body in optimum shape when you are marathoning your way through a revision. It is crucial! (every time I think or hear the word 'crucial' I think of this British show in the fifties that had a doctor who had a Scottish nurse named Janet that used to say "But Doctor - it's crucial" with her thick accent. Does anyone have the vaguest notion of what I'm on about?)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for lamé - it simply has to be...

Here is a post from 2011 that I've plunked into almost every A to Zed and had written before I even knew about the A to Zed challenge. I kinda have to now. Even if no one notices... 

Lamé - the abcedaria of a writer

lamé  - oh, and you thought knitting was a stretch - well I'm pulling from my ancient files for this one. Long time readers of this blog will know immediately of what I speak but I won't keep the rest of you in suspense for long.

Here are ten things I know for sure about writing:

1. If you are the kind of person who doesn't like to be told what to do - your protagonists will resist your efforts to make them behave. It's weird - almost like they came from you and weren't born free of your influence. Wait a minute...

2. Life in all its wild chaotic nowness will rise up and lay a beating on you if you try to ignore it for your manuscript. And knowing it won't be half the problem solved.

3. A woman will come to you in your dreams wearing a fantastic outfit of that weird sparkling fabric from the sixties. Silver or gold lamé. That's it. She will insist on you feeling the fabric. She wants to be in your novel. Don't let her in. She'll drive you crazy and so will that itchy stuff.

4. You might not like Neil Young - I really don't think I'd like to spend a whole bunch of time with him - but he is a narrative genius. I want to know what happens to him when he's wandering lonely on the highway. I do. And he understands pace and mood and style.

5. In the middle of the night when the woman in the fabulous lamé comes calling you will wake up and lie there wondering if anyone truly truly knows what plot, story and structure are. And you'll be sure, because it is the middle of the night, that anyone does but you do not.

6. After you finish fretting about plot, story and structure you'll move on to wondering if you haven't been lying to yourself about everything to do with your writing. You'll also wonder what the slinky shiny material is called. You won't remember that it is lamé until the next day and even then you might need to spend an inordinate amount of time on google trying to find it. Time you could be spending on your plot, story and structure for instance.

7. Even though you know all experiences are treasure for your work-in-progress you will be perplexed as to how you can use your new understanding of various strange and out-of-date fibres in a plot where clothing of any sort has barely been mentioned and then it was describing First Nation's dance regalia. Perhaps you need to bring in another character, you'll think! It might solve all your plot, story and structure issues. Well it might! Just like having a baby with your philandering gambling alcoholic husband might help your marriage. Well it might!

8. When your head hits your pillow after a good day in those long dug out ditches that guys fought in WWII - what are they called? Oh, yes, trenches, after a long day in the revisioning trenches you will fall asleep like a baby and the answer to your plot, story, structure problem will come to you intact in a dream. The woman in the lamé outfit (her fifth one!) will explain it to you perfectly. You will feel so relieved. Until you wake up and you realize that she told you the key was that god backwards spells dog. Oh yes. It will happen.

9. You will rise none the less and you will work in your optimum time of day for success. You will eat good healthy brain food and you will stop only to do your pilates or your yoga (where are those tapes - damn it) or take your dog for a much needed walk because hey, he didn't ask you to be a writer now did he?You will find your groove because you've read King and Koch and Lamott and you know it is showing up that counts and the heck with the muse. It's work for heaven's sake not a calling. And you will churn out the work, the shitty first draft or the clarity revision or the final draft or whatever mixture of those three plus the diversions you've taken allow you to call it. Because you are a writer. And you will sleep the sleep of the just.

10. You will awake after sleeping the sleep of the just and look at your previous day's work even though Elizabeth S-C told you NOT TO and it will be brilliant! No it won't. But there will be threads of brilliance in amongst the dog puke and it will simply have to do. 

And that is what I know for sure.