On Patience

I have discovered that over the years I have developed patience. I can sit for the required amount of time to unknot a chain on a necklace or go line-by-line through a story, essay or novel chapter to provide the needed commas, semicolons, dashes or periods. I am also capable of sorting through a drawer and separating out the safety pins from the paper clips. Who knew I would ever need that skill?

I believe that my writing has taught me patience, not just in the actual time it takes to produce and edit a piece, but also in the plans for publication – or not – of that work. The truth is that time has taught me not to always expect that something I consider exceptional will be the right fit for those who have the power to publish and with that knowledge comes a shift in expectation. I no longer expect to publish a novel or essay or short story that will make me famous; I only expect to continue to write to the best of my ability and hope that someone somewhere enjoys the end product. Ah, but this could be perceived as resignation, yes?

I supposed it is true that I have resigned myself to the improbability that my work will suddenly catapult my name to the top of the writing world and I will become one of those few famous writers. Of course, I still nurse a secret hope deep-down that I will produce something so real, true and exceptional that I will find myself unexpectedly rewarded for my efforts. So, I wouldn’t call that total resignation.

I suppose instead I would describe my current state of mind as a shift away from product and toward process. After all, when I unknot a twisted necklace, I don’t expect to suddenly be the star of a reality show called “The Greatest Unknotters,” or when I spend two hours line-editing someone else’s piece of fiction or nonfiction, I don’t presume that I will be featured in next month’s edition of “World’s Best Editors.” I simply do what needs to be done by focusing on the task at hand. I am not looking for fame or fortune or even recognition. I simply see that the safety pins have somehow gotten mixed up the paper clips and I tease them out of the clump, one by one.

That is my relationship with my writing at present. I simply see that something needs to be written and I sit down and do my job. No big fanfare announcing my beginning, middle or end. Just me and either my computer or pen and paper coupled with an idea for a story or an essay.

Patience is a great asset in life. It keeps the demons of restlessness at bay and instead nurtures staying in the here and now with no expectation for the future. Well, maybe a little expectation. That the necklace will unknot; the fiction/nonfiction will read better; the safety pins and paper clips will be separated; and that stories and essays will be written, not necessarily perfectly, but well enough to produce a satisfied sigh.

patience

 

Garage Sale Preparation

I am preparing for a garage sale on Saturday. This is not just any garage sale but the remnants of the last five estates we’ve been handling. Remnants meaning all the extra stuff that comes with an estate after we’ve combed through it for the eBay items, the private collector items, and the antique mall items. That still leaves lots of great stuff, all of which is coming out of boxes and being placed on tables in my back driveway.

Who knew the temperature here in LA was going to hit 90 this week? Alas, that is part of the process with a garage sale – taking chances on weather. At least there is no rain in the forecast, though we need rain so badly, I couldn’t even begrudge rain if it were in the forecast.

The garage sale begins at 9 (Beverly Hills rules) and will go until 6. We will have lots of goodies for reasonable prices. The goal of this sale is to clean out this accumulation, so the prices will be set to accomplish just that. If you have any interest in coming, then send an email to lenleatherwood@gmail.com and I’ll give you my address.

On that note, I am headed for bed. It is supposed to get really hot tomorrow so I am getting up early to beat the heat. I have more boxes to unpack.

No early callers, please. We will be bringing in more merchandise all the way through Friday so we don’t want to pre-sell.

Hope to see you on Saturday.

garage-sale

Back to the Pure Fun of Writing a Novel

I am back to working on my novel, one scene at a time. This has been an off and on process for the past couple of years, but now I am regularly putting pen to paper (yes, handwritten) and am moving forward.

I have determined that handwriting my first draft produces a deeper, slower look into the world that I am creating. I think that since I type so much faster than I hand-write, those extra milliseconds while I am shaping letters on the page gives my mind time to consider more options for the scene. Should the character stop here or there, do this or that, think one thought or yet another? I have time to consider those choices while my hand makes those marks on the page.

I might also be a bit less judgmental of my work when it’s handwritten. It’s still a draft, I say to myself. It has no business being anywhere near finished or complete. This helps me to not go into revision-overkill, but rather do what I need to do in first draft: proceed with the story. There’s plenty of time post first draft for me to go back and add to a scene, coloring in the details. Right now I need to determine if the character is moving in the direction he/she needs to go. That carefully rewritten scene may never even make it into the book, after all. Particularly since I am still exploring where the plot and the characters are taking me.

I am not a plot-driven writer, but rather am more interested in my characters and their challenges. I am also not an outliner, but rather what some people call a “seat-of-the-pantser.” Someone who builds a story line by line and sees how it all works out. I write to entertain myself and so knowing what’s going to happen before I watch it all unfold feels boring to me. I want to stay open and see where the characters go.

There are pros and cons to this type of approach. The pro is that the plot can be unexpected and therefore more interesting and the characters can have more time to explore their motivations. The cons are that it’s easy to get distracted by subplots and you also have to make sure you don’t veer into melodrama. Of course, melodrama is also a pitfall of an outline approach. The most dramatic scene is not always the best scene, particularly if it wanders over into that well trodden road called “hackneyed.”

The good news is that I am having fun with this draft. I am doing all sorts of stuff I’ve never tried before, one of which is to have the story told from the points-of-view of several different characters. That’s been fun. Also, to use several characters that I’ve wanted to use just because they have been hovering in the back of my mind, ready to be part of a story. Why not? Also, this is the story of two mothers and two daughters who do not see eye to eye on anything and who have to figure out how to make their peace with one another while dealing with dangerous people in an unfamiliar place. I find that concept intriguing. It is also a racial story, which has its own value for me personally. In addition, it’s a love story, with a love that transcends time and place, a concept that makes my own heart go pitter-patter.

However, there is nothing fast about this draft. One baby step at a time. I guess even with baby steps, it’s not too long before there’s something to show for your time. Besides, there are always the natural benefits of writing for fun: passion, a sense of satisfaction and pure, unadulterated love of the written word.

I hope to write a bit more tomorrow on this story that is starting to tug hard at me.

Good night, friends. We’ll see each other tomorrow if these fierce Santa Ana winds don’t blow us all away.

novel

“Compassion” by Miller and Lucinda Williams

Tonight I want to share a poem that a friend of mine shared with me today. This comes the poet, Miller Williams, who died on New Year’s Day of this year at the age of 84. Miller is the father of Lucinda Williams, the singer/songwriter and this particular poem inspired her new album. I saw Lucinda Williams about a month ago at the Troubadour and she sang the song she wrote based on her father’s poem.

Compassion

Have compassion for everyone you meet,

even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,

bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign

of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.

You do not know what wars are going on

down there where the spirit meets the bone.

Here is Lucinda singing a song based on her father’s poem.

Ray’s Belated Birthday Celebration

Today, our family celebrated Ray’s birthday (a few days late) by having a picnic on the grounds of the Train Museum at Griffith Park. The goal was to have a relaxed afternoon all together in a place that might be especially fun for Ray and Luna. Here are a few pictures to commemorate our day. Unfortunately, Rachael was the photographer for most of the photos and, hence, is not in any of them. I don’t know how I let that happen! But, thank you, Rachael, for serving as our memory-keeper for this event.

Our Picnic Lunch

Ray's birthday1

Ron, Liz, Ray and Luna on Train Ride

train ride

Waving at Rachael, Sarah and Gregorio from the Train

waving

Len, Luna and Ray near Trains

l, r, and l

  This was a very low-key birthday for a bunch of folks who have been working hard lately.  We all enjoyed lounging on the sleeping bags, strolling by the trains, people-watching and riding the mini-train around the park. Slow, simple and relaxed. Ray seemed pleased. ‘Nuf said.

KPCC’s Sunday Afternoon

Am I the only person who listens to KPCC on Sunday afternoon when they have “The Moth Radio Hour” from 2pm – 3pm followed by “Snap Judgment” from 3 to 4, then “Radiolab” from 4 – 5? These three programs are mesmerizing. The first two have true stories at their core, while Radiolab describes itself as a show about curiosity. You can find these on Sunday afternoon at 89.9 on your FM radio dial and I promise you will not be disappointed. These stories will move you.

I believe there are podcasts of all these shows as well.

Of course, then there is “This American Life” with Ira Glass, which has some of the best real-life stories on radio.

Check it out. All of these programs are well worth the time it will take to listen.

Here is the link to “This American Life” just to get you hooked:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/

Luna’s Day

I am one tired Grandma tonight.

Luna arrived early and stayed late and gave me a run for my money. She couldn’t have been sweeter, but she is one ball of energy. We played inside, outside, upside down and cooked and ate and explored and bathed with only one 30 minute nap over the entire 12 hour day.

Her mother arrived for a rare visit since she has started her residency and the truth is that I fell asleep at least twice while she was chatting with Ray and me. Ah, how in the world did I juggle three kids plus a job plus running a household when I was younger? I believe now the truth is that at that time I was perpetually tired. Just like Sarah looked tonight – and just how so many young parents look when their kids are under five.

Of course, I am already looking forward to Luna’s next visit. I can always sleep, after all; I can’t always have the pleasure of spending a whole day with my little beloved granddaughter.

And now i plan to stumble into bed.

Good night to all.

Luna