Month: August 2011

Starting

[A video that has exactly ZERO to do with this post!]

This post is #38 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Forget the long hours, the unbelievable amount of writing, and the constant low-level anxiety about not raising what I’d set out to raise: the hardest thing about this whole campaign by far was sitting down to write the defining, outward-facing piece.

I’ve been turning various pieces of this idea around in my head for well over a year, more like a year and a half. I’d drafted rough copy, made lists, secured help with various pieces of the production and (my usual least-favorite thing) asked for favors in the form of goods and services for the perks. I’d even shot a video, with the help of good friends. And still, writing and then hitting “publish” on that IndieGoGo site was the killer.

I’m not sure why this should surprise me. I go through the same thing when the long shadows provided by time finally disappear and I can no longer put off the actual writing of that column, that article, that presentation. And delivery, whether it’s a “send” or a step up to the mic in real time, never gets easier. Not even as I get more adept at the writing. The bar just moves up a notch.

It will never, ever be perfect, whatever it is. It will never even be as good as I want it to be, most likely.

But one thing is even more certain than that: if I don’t start, it won’t be. And that is no longer acceptable.

And so I start. Again.

xxx
c

 

The missing step in writing

[A video that has exactly ZERO to do with this post!]

This post is #37 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

My struggles with that mythical circus balancing act known as the Brothers Work-Life are legendary and ongoing. And experts agree that in my case, the smart money is generally on Work.

Still, I make inroads. At a recent meetup of my master mind group, I was praised not just for taking the time out of this nonstop fundraiser-fest to do some exercise, but for exhibiting the knowledge that doing so was a significant achievement. Because while the first step to lasting change is noting where you are, and close behind it is setting an intention, then moving towards it, one frequently overlooked step is acknowledgment.

Or, they are also steps which stand there, unmoving.

There are two ways this has to do with writing. First, please remember that this delicious brain of yours that hooks the words together cannot keep doing its work without rest, without play, without a little care and feeding of its housing.

Second, at some point in your work, pause. Not just to rest the brain and the body that are working so hard for you, but to complete a cycle of work. This practice is baked into my favorite values-centered goal-setting system, Your Best Year Yet, the very first step to setting next year’s goals is reviewing the previous year’s accomplishments. And disappointments, but whatever. Other systems use a variation of this forward/backward technique, and I finally get why:

Completing cycles of work equals better work.

Live and learn.

xxx
c

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves

This post is #36 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Not to dismiss the efforts of my writerly gentlemen friends, but yes, I think it’s important to especially promote the writing of women and girls, as well as the tools and practices that get them writing. Anyone who has been a girl who is in class with boys (or, sadly, a woman who is in meetings with men) has at some point experienced the horrible feeling of turning invisible. The more girls (and, subsequently, women) learn to trust in the truth of their own voice and perspective, the more they feel the strength make themselves heard, not fucked with or over.

And so, WriteGirl. And so, Rock Camp for Girls, WriteGirls more musical sister.

And so, The World-Changing Writing Workshop, which is open to men, certainly, but was created by two very special freaky and awesome ladies for the benefit of people who might not feel the courage to be heard without the right encouragement. As I’ve mentioned earlier, all of my proceeds will go towards 50-for-50 for the rest of the campaign, and half of Pace & Kyeli’s, through today. (You can also get a pretty sweet deal on it through today. Just sayin’.)

We grow up believing in what we see, and we see what the people who came just before us created. I’m sorry to have created so many distressing images for girls and women via my participation in the advertising-industrial complex, and am working hard now to empower this next generation to grow up smarter and stronger than I by creating a better environment for them to soak in. I agree that the Internet has opened up vast opportunities for women and girls; yes, there are still wretched, unhappy creeps who single out women for attack, but we will not be silenced. We will write and we will talk and we will fight. We will not stand down, we will create and share and spread the tales of adventures and derring-do to nourish the next generation.

And you can take that shit to the bank.

xxx
c

Why most writing stinks

[A video that has exactly ZERO to do with this post!]

This post is #35 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

I’ve been thinking about this video conversation between Patti Digh and David Robinson since I watched it last week.

It’s short and worth a watch, but in case you’re more of a reader than a watcher (like I am), the takeaway is this: you cannot do two things at one time. Specifically, you cannot make anything good while you are simultaneously, not to mention paradoxically, worrying about what people will think of what you are making.

David, you see, comes from a theater background, and as such has spent many years watching actors try to do just that. Because if there’s one thing an actor cares more about than the choice he’s making on stage at a given moment, it’s what you think of him while he’s making it. And if there’s one thing anyone who knows anything about good acting will tell you, it is impossible to be fully in the scene, to do your goddamned job as an actor, when you are doing anything besides being fully in the scene, worrying included.

I never really “got” this as an actor, which is why most of the time, I wasn’t very good as an actor. My success in commercials is easily attributable to my extensive background in TV advertising; I’d been “acting” the commercials I wrote for art directors, bosses and clients for 10 years before I made dime one really acting in them. TV, film, and theater were problematic, though, because no matter how hard I worked at the acting part, you could always smell the want coming off me.

Writing is no different. There are many rat-bastard writers whose work you love to read because they are good writers, writing their truth.

There are also some very nice writers who love their audiences: Patti Digh herself is one of them. But she will happily tell you to eat sh*t and die (my words!) if you don’t like what she’s written. She is unwavering in the courage of her convictions, which is as it should be: they’re not really values unless you’re really willing to hold onto them.

For the love of all that’s holy, and your writing had better be included in that, hew to your path. Screw the “like” buttons and pandering and other tedious bandwidth-wasting circle-jerkery. Whether you’re writing about marketing or macramé or your love of the baby Jesus, stand for what you stand for. The opinions of others have exactly zero to do with your truth. Will this make you less publishable? Less-retweetable? Possibly.

Or not. There is something about single-minded focus linked to passion that is quite compelling. Watch who you watch and learn.

xxx
c

Writing by hand

This post is #34 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

You don’t need to convince people who use “journal” as a verb of the value of writing things down longhand. (Although some, you must convince of the the value of editing before taking things public.)

The Keyboard People can push back, though. “I can think faster than I can write longhand,” they say, or “I can’t read my own writing.”

Both of these things are true for me, and yet I have filled two cubic feet with chicken-scratchings on paper anyway. Because despite what I carelessly tossed off many years ago, the point of writing a journal by hand is to write a journal by hand. Period. That your journals provide a “map of you” is a kind of bonus-extra, a by-product of the true point, which is spend time quietly with yourself, being exactly where you’re at.

What can I say? You live, and hopefully, you learn. But in case it’s still not clear, I suggest you spend more time walking, and less time looking at your maps.

xxx
c

 

 

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #66: 50-for-50 edition

This post is #33 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Marion Agnew posted this absolutely gorgeous piece about the need to turn art outwards, and how the 50-for-50 Project fits into that scheme. Of all of the posts written so far, probably the piece that best expresses why I was moved to go for it with 50-for-50.

I love it when the Industry people join in on the action. Amanda, a former agency type who hails from the East Coast but has settled in with us crazies out here, gives a lovely plug for 50-for-50.

If you have not yet beheld the six-handed awesomeness of 3x3x365, Thursday’s post, which includes a loving token from Amy McCracken, is a really good reason to start. (But please, do NOT miss Wednesday’s pig brains.)

Nissa Sompels, a pipsqueak of not even 30 years, contributes to 50-for-50, then muses on what birthdays might best be used for.

In other news, we made the Friday Chicken! And as an example of the very best kind of good stuff!

Did you post about 50-for-50 and did I miss it? I would not be surprised, the days pass by in a hazy blur of frenzied activity, internet-related and otherwise. Please do let me know! I would love to highlight it here!

Death and taxes and love love love [+ a 50-for-50 video]

This post is #32 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

I spent the morning today at the funeral service for a friend’s father. I’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon and evening preparing my stuff to take to my tax guy tomorrow morning.

Death and taxes. Yes, really.

While I’d been dreading them both, a weird kind of calm settled over me as I drove out to the West Valley. Maybe it was the spirit of my friend’s father, showering love and happiness from the great beyond; by the sound of it, he was that kind of a guy, always full of love and a zest for life. Or maybe it was just so much sunlight everywhere, spilling onto everything. It’s hard for me to keep feeling badly when the sun is shining, which is part of the reason I’m unlikely to move to the glorious PacNW anytime soon.

Anyway, the service ended up being terrifically uplifting: wonderful stories of a life beautifully lived, angelic singing from his eldest son. Which is good, because it also ended up being terrifically long, I’d forgotten that’s how the Catholics do their celebrations. Lots of pomp, and lots of long.

But my favorite point of the show, and come on, it’s a show, folks, was the sermon. Usually my least favorite part, owing to the bombastery of 90% of the priests you tend to run into, this one contained useful and uplifting words about many things, most strikingly, forgiveness. You hear a lot about forgiveness, blah blah blah, but you don’t usually hear this: that Jesus talked about forgiving (an order of magnitude of forgiving), but he never said anything about forgetting. We are supposed to work on forgiving, and then leave the other party room for acknowledging and making amends. An incredibly loving and just and harmonious solution to the conundrum of life slamming you in the face repeatedly. My job is not to say “Oh, fine, it’s all good” but to process and forgive. Process and forgive. (And, of course, if I’m on the other side of things, to acknowledge and make amends.)

It’s a relevant subject right now because this 50-for-50 Project, for as wonderful as it is, is rousing all kinds of strange, old things inside me. Hurts from long ago blow up unexpectedly like ancient land mines, triggered by actions real and intents projected. Another reminder that there is no burying things, no hiding your garbage. You sit with it, you sit in it, you deal with it, and then maybe you get to move on.

For me, writing helps. It gets things out of my head and heart, even the long-buried, festering stuff. Not always pleasant, but life is not about pleasant, it’s about living. Loving. Moving. Growing.

I’ll let you know when I figure out what the taxes are for.

xxx
c