Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Put Down the Phone

07 Apr

I have to do it. I do.

I have a strange new addiction to watching videos in the evenings on my phone. Comics, beauty, organization. It’s like a visual, moving Pintrest of ideas and music and smiley faces. Games. And social media, memes … just flipping, flipping, flipping through … crap on the Internet.

It is quite the opposite of reading books. And I kind of miss those. Books.

I spend my days, quite naturally, reading. E-mails, manuscripts, proofs. Researching and fact checking. Often when I’m actually working on an actual story, I’m not “reading.” I’m editing. Or proofing, or looking something up in a style book …

The truth is, at the end of the day, cracking open a book, which used to feel like freedom, is often the last thing I want to do. Hence, the videos.

But I do miss it. I do like a time when I can read for reading sake, without taking an editorial eye to it. People who are not in the biz always make the assumption that editors will be quick to correct a person’s grammar when they’re speaking. This is simply not true. And not just because correcting someone’s grammar would make said editor seem like a pretentious a-hole. But because people talk how they talk, and verbal communication is very, very different from the written word.

Ergo, it’s so very difficult for me to take off an editorial hat when reading a book. Especially if it ain’t all that great. Know what I’m sayin’?

A great book, however, can totally bring out the writer in me. I find myself thinking and writing in the voices of characters I’m reading. I’m envious and appreciative of the actual writer, because they thought of this genius and I did not. I often find myself inspired and contemplative.

It’s what most often makes me put the phone down.

So it’s my goal, a new goal, to dive into a pretty good stash of books I’ve yet to read, and to start working them back in to my professional life. Another assumption of editors is that we are well read. And we are, up until the point where we start reading for money, and then the only thing we’re reading is our work. See the cycle?

So with this is my own pledge to start reading. And start reporting back. Stay tuned.


Reflections on NaPoWriMo

09 May

Last month, I took on the NaPoWriMo challenge: to pen thirty poems in thirty days. The exercise was to write a poem every day, and I nearly stuck to that. Poets work on an honor system, which involves pretending that we sat down to write a poem every day, instead of five in one day, or five poems for the entire month.

As a writer I try not to compare my writing with others, rather, I read as a reader. After the month of April was finished, I decided to check out some of my fellow NaPoWriMo-ers (at least, those that linked their web-published works to the NaPoWriMo site.) I thought during this project that I was constantly falling behind; that there was this demand for my words. As I clicked through more and more poetry blogs and sites, I realized many of the fellow writer’s did that whole artist thing … posting for the first few days, leaving off the last three, continuing past the month of April. Very few posted complete April collections.

I get it. The process itself was not an easy one. I kind of catalog it in “Writing,” how at first it was exciting, ideas falling out of the sky really, just by opening up my eyes to look around the room. By week three, it was more like: Dammit I have to finish a copywriting job, edit twenty more pages, unload the dishwasher, call my mom, give the baby a bath and finish the three poems I started four days ago …. Crap! And write today’s poem.

That isn’t to say that daily poetry writing is all bad. Some poems are a force; they just come right through you; the written equivalent of bursting into song. Other poems, like “Ritual,” just whisper themselves to you while you’re in the middle of the act itself. Others are woooorrrrk … it may be a great spark of a concept that never takes off; the words just lie there like dry seeds. Some experiments with topics (mothers, or love or tacos) soon fizzle with a sing-song like mediocrity. Many poetic starts just stayed in my notebook, not even making it to a Word file.

And yet. NaPoWriMo was a satisfying process, not just accomplishing the feat of writing 30 poems in a month, and not just jump starting creativity. Now, as I read back over the verse, it reads like a lovely little catalog of my days … my regular, everyday life is there, along with the spectacular thoughts and feelings that come with them. It is a sort of picture album of poems; which I am taking great pride in creating.


In Memory of Adrienne Rich

29 Mar
“A thinking woman sleeps with monsters.
The beak that grips her, she becomes.”
-Adrienne Rich, “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law”

There have been many bloggers discussing the life of Adrienne Rich this week; she passed away on Wednesday at the age of 82. And the Baltimore-born feminist certainly left a legacy in life and the written word, one worth visiting again and again.

There is a special sadness when one you have studied leaves the world; like losing a teacher you have never met. In trying to honor her, I began to do what one does to gain insight to a poet: I began reading, and sometimes re-reading, her poems. And in doing so, it seems only fitting that this blog became a poem itself, to one so fearless, and so beloved.

She Becomes

Like the luxury of copying famous quotations

Into a notebook,

On a bed in Tuscany.

That same author brought

Me to write of women monsters,

Springing forth from Adam. From Earth.


They didn’t call you a monster,

The chosen insult was: “political,”

What they really meant to say was, “liberal.”

They didn’t know—

Couldn’t know as a poet knows. Not provocative

In order to provoke;

But merely to respond to that

Which made you move.


I don’t believe

You would have wavered into that space … or carried

Old knives.

Had we met

I am sure we would have discussed the moon,

And light waves and men and their teacups,

And touched on the importance of

Style and form.

Yet your letters make me wonder,

If you will wander the halls still,

Who is your Rilke? Your students.

We will write our own requiems,

And then act upon them.


Thank You January

13 Jan

It’s the time of year for thank you notes to enter into our lives, in much smaller quantities than the holiday cards of December. I am reminded of this not only from my own card sending, but from my friend Wendy, who commented on receiving a number of thank you cards, and being revived that so many people were still sending them.

There is a feeling that no one sends thank you notes anymore.  Some of my younger relatives receive gifts from my husband and me regularly, but we have never received a thank you note. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I learned that when pressed about the issue, the parent said writing thank you notes was “old fashioned.”

So writing thank you notes, essentially, is un-cool?

I earnestly hope this is not the case, but this theory fits in with technology-based communication taking over more traditional forms (re: read my blog on friendships gone cyber). But as a whole, are we really that… ungrateful?

I know now that the art of writing thank you notes is taught (thank you, Mom), and being sentimental and creative by design, lean more toward piquing the interest of the fairer sex rather than the determined bachelor. Despite that, it is impossible to think of living in a world where people don’t take the time to write, “Thank you.”

I personally revel in thank you notes. I know part of that is a “writer” thing: it’s calming to write down a thank you, as I can express sentiment better with written words than anything else.

And to receive a thank you, well, what is better than that? Someone appreciated you so much, they took the time to buy the card, or retrieve it from a stack in the house, and write down how much they loved your gift or gesture or time. A thank you note triumphs with it’s simplicity: It leaves the receiver with a written record of the impact their kindness had on someone else.

Clearly, the simple act of putting thoughts down on paper carries a weight much heavier than the risk of being deemed “old-fashioned.”


PS: Thank you, Wendy, for this blog idea.
When to Send
There are a myriad of occasions to send a thank you note: after receiving gifts for birthdays, holidays, weddings or graduations; after a job or an internship interview; or when you wish to express thanks for a generous gesture, such as house sitting or helping host a party.

The best rule of thumb is to send a thank you note whenever you wish to express gratitude, and chances are the recipient will feel great gratitude in return.

Below are some links to thank-you related sites and topics.

Thank You Card Companies
Red Stamp

Vista Print

Etiquette and How-To’s
My Thank You Site

Martha Stewart Weddings

101 Ways to Say Thank You

The Thank You Book


Social Media and Faux Friendships

01 Oct

Unlike millions of others around the world, I’m finding social media depressing these days. Maybe I’m hanging out on Facebook too much, but suddenly I’m finding the old-fashioned idea of friendship put to the test, and I’m in unfamiliar cyber territory.

For example, one of my college friends announced his engagement online this past Friday. A few days later, I was the 27th person to send a congratulatory message, most of those other messages, mind you, are from folks I don’t know. Not that I had any expectations that my friend would spend his second day of engagement starting a phone tree to spread the news, but still. I think, who are these strange people that are “friends” with my friend, and why does this type of communication feel more like a competition than a relationship?

Meanwhile, while poking around on my BFF’s online page, I came across a section of photographs, most of which are of he and his girlfriend. They are pictures I’ve never seen, of places I don’t recognize or have never visited. Suddenly I feel like I’m peeking through the window of a stranger’s house.

I’ve come to realize that those people I have known for so long, the ones who know me better than anyone, are now scattered across the world, living lives I know nothing about.

When I first moved to Florida, the absence of my gaggle of friends was palpable. It was very different from my previous experiences of moving to a strange town, living alone and being alone. This time I had a soon-to-be husband roommate, with plenty of friends, but I had to figure out how to find new companions.

I remember lamenting with my now long-distance pals that maybe, at some point in life, we stop forming bonds with new people. Maybe, I was so blessed with amazing, quirky, loving, caring, thoughtful friends that there would be no new additions to the fold.

I accepted this, I believed it. Until I realized those far-away loyal companions were cheating on me with hundreds of other little cyber-buddies, and I wasn’t in on the action.

Maybe, in the long run, long-distance friendships cannot work. And these media sites, all bannered with “keep in touch” and “reconnect” slogans, are less of a technological wonder of communication and more of a modern-day cheat sheet to friendship maintenance.

Are we all really this self-centered? “Upload it and they will come.” We even post updates about ourselves in the third person for goodness sakes.

Turns out I’m not the only one pegging social networks for their self-involved tendencies; check out this article, Social Networking IDs Narcissism, from PsychCentral.

What happened to a verbal exchange, give and take? What about laughing so hard your stomach aches, or something cold comes out your nose, which turns into a story to be told and told and retold, until all you have to hear is the words “orange soda” and the laugher starts all over again? What about hugs, and greeting cards and letters (the ones that require postage) or long talks that last until 3:00 a.m.?

I know it’s possible. Surely I’m not the only person who talks to her college roommate every day, even though she’s in Texas and I’m residing under endless palm trees. Surely there are childhood friends who still have a monthly girls night or still use their cell phone minutes to catch up every week.

Funny, the call to action for friendship would best be suited, perhaps, to a social media site: Support the Back to Friendship Cause! Ugh. Once again, the world is filled with popularity and lemmings.