Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting Serious About Writing Part 2

My biggest problem with getting any writing done lately is time management. When I began this ridiculous task of writing a memoir (ridiculous because I don't know who would want to read it), I woke up each day excited to get back to it. Now I'm doubting everything from my opening line to the story line. I'm worried about embarrassing family members as well as myself. Doubt and worry has stopped me in my tracks.

One day, I started reading about the craft of writing which lead to reading about the business of writing, the demise of bookstores, using social media to build a platform, building a platform for your TV, and finally, that week's TV schedule. Before I knew it, it was time to make dinner. Every day after that for about a month, I would begin with the best of intentions but would allow myself to get side-tracked by the most mundane things.  Yes- my socks are organized by color, Yes- I know the lyrics to all my favorite theme songs, but No- I haven't written any new chapters. 

I managed to come to my senses and examined the ways I've been spending my day. I've been avoiding working on my memoir because it's too damned hard. That doesn't mean I'm ready to give up, though. While it's true that my story may not be riveting to anyone outside my family, getting it written is important to me. The fact that it's difficult makes me want to finish it even more.

I decided to tackle my daily schedule first- allotting time each and every day for writing, even if all I do is stare at a blank screen. Here are some great tips I got from the National Association of Memoir Writers holiday newsletter:

  • Set a writing schedule. Writing several thousand words a month--or a week!--gets you to the finish line of that first draft.
  • Journal regularly, freewriting memories and scenes that come to mind. This keeps you in the flow.
  • List ten significant moments in your life--and write each one. These turning points help you to focus your memoir. You can't write everything that has happened to you!
  • Think about your themes, the big picture of your story.
  • Write from the body--allow your hand to guide the pen through various writing topics and themes. Sometimes our body allows thoughts and ideas to come through that won't arise in the same way on the computer.
  • Research your story--on Google, looking at photos, talking with family. This feeds your imagination and memory.
  • Read, read, read. Read great fiction, memoir, poetry, and nonfiction. Learn your craft.
  • Commit to a critique group or workshop. Feedback, suggestions, and questions help get your work to the next level.
  • Write with joy, write with passion! Keep writing!

I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Serious About Writing

I have the opportunity to finally get serious about writing. All of my handy excuses for not writing are suddenly gone. Holy crap- no more excuses!

This is it! Now or never! Someday is now! Hugs not drugs! Wait. What? Oh, yeah, the whole writing thing. That wonderful, exciting, terrifying chance to write my ass off.

I've had short pieces published in the past, but once it became clear to me that I now have the time to work on something more ambitious, I decided to tackle a book. A memoir, to be specific. But how does one do that? And what does one do with a memoir once it's written? (More importantly, why am I suddenly writing like a snooty English nanny?)

In order to answer these questions, plus a few others concerning the theme song for The Big Bang theory, I turned to the Internet. I hooked up with mentors on Twitter & Facebook and have joined a couple of online writer's groups. Now my days are spent reading about writing.


I soon realized it's just another way to avoid the actual work. At some point I've got to look myself in the eye (perhaps while applying Amy Winehouse makeup just for funsies- trust me, procrastination is my thang) and ask how much I really want it. More than that, though. What am I afraid of?

I'm a writer because I'm not a speaker. I'm an entertainer who can't do stand-up or act in front of an audience. I want to share a good story and possibly make people laugh, but good God- I can't do that with live, blinking eyes on me. So...what if I write a great memoir and my publisher wants me to do readings, interviews or lectures? Would he get mad if I wound up in a fetal position under the podium? No, seriously, how bad would that be?

Hmm. Is fear of success just another excuse? Maybe. Probably. C'mon, I'm not that good. I'll be lucky to get an agent let alone a publisher. Writing is hard work. Reading about writing, answering e-mails, watching reruns of The Bachelor- easy. More specifically, avoiding the lonely, difficult task of writing is easy.

I thought it might be good for me to go public with my procrastination. If I take you along on this journey to finally buckle down, I'll be accountable to you to do the work. Coz, ya know, I love you, man. I'd hate to let you down. *sniff*

If you happen to be in my shoes, the first thing I'd like to say is, "Get out of my closet!!" Secondly, I'd like to know what excuses you make to avoid writing. More importantly, WHY?

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Someone told me recently that I never grieved the loss of my Dad, even though he died over eight years ago. I'm not sure what that means. I was there when he died. I cried. I wrote about it. I cried some more. I cried plenty and I miss him everyday. Isn't that grieving? So what if I still sob when his name is mentioned?

The only bits of unfinished business concerning his death that I can think of are the few special moments I had with him that I've never talked about. With anyone. It hurts me to think about them because even though I had a million good moments with him, these three pop up in my mind from time to time and lodge in my throat, making it impossible to speak. So I'll write about them and maybe get the closure this person thinks I need.

During one of Mom and Dad's last visits to our house in Texas, Dad put the newspaper down on the kitchen table where he was reading it and said, "Was I a good father?"

I paused in my kids' school-lunch-making, surprised by the question. "Yes," I replied with a smile. "You were a great father."

"Well, of course you're gonna say that," he grinned.

Folding closed the brown bag lunches, I told him, "No, I mean it."

My boys ran into the room just then, freshly scrubbed, teeth brushed, hair combed, ready for school. My personal and slightly awkward exchange with Dad was over. I wish I could have opened up more. I wish I had hugged him. But I feel OK about it none-the-less. He knew.

Years later, Dad wound up with a staph infection which had attacked his heart. A specialist who dealt with high-risk patients had been scheduled to remove a heart abscess. But then we were told that he wouldn't survive the surgery. I already had plane tickets to go up and be with the family during the risky surgery but now I knew I was going for a funeral.

My sister picked me up at the airport and took me straight to the hospital. Dad was awake, but not all "there." We stayed until the nurses kicked us out. The next day Dad was being transported to a hospice facility.

During the ambulance ride in the morning, they didn't give him any of the drug that made him loopy, so when he was wheeled into the hospice room, his mind was somewhat clear. I just so happened to be the only one in the room at the time. "Hi, Dad!" I called, matter-of-factly, as they pushed his stretcher in. He looked up into my eyes, gave me a big smile and mouthed "hi" through the oxygen mask strapped to his head. I was asked to leave the room while they got him settled. That was the last time I saw him with his eyes open.

Dad's wake was the first and only one I've been to. It's a strange ritual, I think. The body is laid out in the casket while people mill around and socialize. It didn't upset me, I just thought it was odd. Right before it was time to close the lid, my Mom, me and my three sisters approached the casket and stood, looking down at his shell. We said a prayer and finally dropped our arms from around one other and tearfully walked away. I was the last to leave. I wanted one last private moment with him, so I reached down and squeezed his arm. Wood. His arm felt like petrified wood. Dad?

So, there they are: three moments with my Dad that didn't include anyone else but me. Is writing about them the same as talking about them? Probably not- if I spoke the words, someone would have to be in the room to hear them. I would surely burst into tears. Sorry, but I just can't invite that. Instead, I'll cowardly hit "publish" and see if somehow my broken heart will be healed.