Wednesday, April 29, 2009
As I'm sure you can guess, I've scarcely written a word. Suddenly paralyzed with "I have nothing to say" and "What is this piece going to be? Where is it 'going'?"
I can't get underway with anything I'm reading. Knitting escapes me as if I'd never learned.
And then there's the Sunny Day Guilt. I should be outside; it's such a nice day. I should do some yard work. I can write when it's dark out. And yes, I bring my notebook outside---I know better than to fall into the I'll-be-a-great-writer-someday-when-I-have-a-laptop trap.
Where have my characters gone? Have you seen them? Are they in search of an author? An author better than me?
Anyway, I do have one antidote handy. Audio poetry. Makes me think, "Garsh almighty! Why don't I write more poetry!" Yes, I am the last one to the table, the last person alive perhaps who has not enjoyed the work of Billy Collins. (On the CD cover he's like the James Taylor of the Spoken Word.) He looks at the everyday things, really looks, and lets you remember that it's ok to think they're important. Not sentimental. Just fair and balanced and funny as hell.
Regarding the last American sacred cow, Man's Best Friend, the spirit of the dead dog speaks in "The Revenant": "I am the dog you put to sleep...I never liked you---not one bit...The jingling of my tags drove me mad/You always scratched me in the wrong place..."
This is life, right now, this second, and it is really important. Worth recording. Worth valuing. Yet worth not taking too seriously either. I just can't hear that enough.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I always attribute this quote to Jacqueline Woodson's website (though forgive me if she was quoting someone else): "There's no such thing as writer's block, only writing the wrong thing." So, move on. Work on one of your ten million other projects---I bet you'll find one of them was demanding your attention and you were ignoring or suppressing it. Write something funny when you can't figure out the deathbed scene. Write something you don't care about on the back of a checkout receipt. Write a haiku on your hand (then PLEASE post it in the comments section!). Write a to-do list for a main character. It also makes me think of another saying I can't properly attribute: "There's no such thing as boredom, only boring people." Don't be boring.
Sure, there are times I don't write as much as I should, or I get mired in a stuck place, but I never get the dreaded "blockage." Ok, rarely. These are some of my tricks to get moving again.
- The dictionary. Or a thesaurus. One minute you're rolling this wealth of luxurious words around on your tongue, and the next you're reaching for a pen to jot down a poem.
- Dylan. As in Bob. Just a few words, a few images and I'm connected to an imagined emotion. That ache. Other artists can do the same, but the fastest route for me is Dylan. I'm sure you'll have your own favorites.
- Census reports. You can't stay mad at the muse when you've got hundreds of stories per page, per individual. Sometimes you'll look up Great Uncle Stanley and get roped into what's happening with his neighbors next door. Or maybe, you'll figure out the solution to something in your story that just seemed unfixable. Sometimes people show up you've never heard of and you can't help but fire up a backstory for them. In fact, I have a beloved character named Hilary because some nun in Ireland couldn't read the crappy signature of someone named Mary. Far more likely for Ireland to have a Mary with bad handwriting than anyone named Hilary, don't you think?
- Write about water. I have taken this advice from my mentor PRG, and it succeeds in immersing you in the world of your story again. If you and your character can see, feel or hear water from where you are (and truthfully, when are most of us not near water in some form?), you're back to observing your setting, you're in the head of your character.
Monday, April 6, 2009
She came to the world in the usual way...
But there were planes to catch
and bills to pay
she learned to walk
on the dining room table in snow boots
Friday, April 3, 2009
Anyway, here are the silly bios that started it all. They are too long and too silly to be useful, so you can only enjoy them here.
Jame Richards spends way too much time thinking about what it would be like to be trapped underwater, or trapped in a mine shaft, or trapped in a coffin underground. Luckily, an overactive imagination is part of the job description for a writer. Her reluctant interest in history began in childhood, when every school vacation involved a family trip in the paneled station wagon to museums, presidential tombs, and historical monuments, where she bided her time until reaching the gift shop by wondering why they couldn’t go to an amusement park or the beach like everyone else. During those long car trips, she learned to write and revise stories in her head—a talent that comes in handy even now when an idea descends on her in the grocery store. Her “love” of history and twenty years of creative writing (sometimes even on paper) come together in Three Rivers Rising, her first novel.
Jame Richards and her family are actors in a Living History Museum of the Early 2000s in Connecticut.
Jame Richards loves history. After screaming her way through the witch-dunking exhibit (the accused never resurfaces), learning not to fire until you see the whites of their eyes, watching her sister throw up on the Liberty Bell, and seeing a guard draw a gun on a toddler at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, her parents decided to let the family actually go to DisneyLand, which by then seemed insultingly fake. To this day, she hides in false cupboards, cards and spins her own dryer lint, and shoots muskets in her nightmares. If you see her, approach with caution—it may not be safe to startle her, the same way it is not safe to wake a sleepwalker.
Richards and her family are actors in a