Saturday, January 27, 2007

It Takes a Real Friend to Tell You ...

Head hurts. Eyes puffy. Nose stuffed. Rough morning.

I might as well warn you now that I’m posting right now as a way to wake myself up, so I’m not sure if I’ll reach a point or even entertain. Let’s see where this goes.

My friend Jay is curled up like a shrimp on the couch, where he landed last night. I stayed up in the twilight with him because we were too scared to sleep. A cop chopper (ghetto bird) patrolled the area around my house for so long that I began to think a fugitive might be hiding out in my garage, along with the Razor scooters and an avalanche of sports paraphernalia. Skinny shards of ghetto bird spotlight crept along my living room walls. I panicked and double-checked all the locks. You’d think I’d be used to this by now. How the kids could sleep through it all is a mystery to me, especially Pigtails. Event the light whoosh of bills and magazines falling through the front door mail slot wakes her sometimes.

The boys are watching Saturday morning cartoons from beneath their blankets. How funny is that we think it’s so cripplingly cold in the morning here in Southern California? We’ve become such weather wimps. Pigtails is curled up in the warmth of her daddy’s armpit in bed. She’ll need to be decontaminated upon waking.

So last night Jay and I went to a trendy seaside neighborhood in the city called Belmont Shore. My husband stayed home and put the kids to bed without incident, or so he says. I believe him. He’s far better at parenting than me. Much more patient.

Anyway, Jay took me out for a latte and to look over what I have written for my book so far. Literally seconds into the first page, he looked up and said, “Whose idea was it for you to write a book? What did they base your ability to write a memoir on – your blog?”

“Okay, I suck. You hate it, don’t you.”

“No, it’s just that you use so many 10 cent words. It’s all over the place. I’m already confused and I’m still in the first paragraph.”

This doesn’t bode well. My completed first three chapters are due on March 8. Scary.

Yeah, yeah. I can already hear people saying don’t put so much weight into one opinion. Of course I know not to. But I’ve had a really hard time liking the book so far too. The whole effort’s been a struggle. I guess I got cocky and assumed that after years of writing experience, and not that many years in reality, that the contents of my memoir would gush from me. Maybe my first stab would even be artful, literary, entertaining and cathartic all at once. So far, no dice.

Everyone who reads it says it doesn’t sound like me. That if they read the first two chapters independent of me they wouldn’t even know I’d written it.

“Why are you trying to sound so smart? I mean, you are smart but you seem like you’re trying to prove something to your readers,” Jay said, as we packed up our empty notebooks. We didn’t even take one note.

“We should at least draw a stick figure or something,” I said. “Maybe a few tally marks with a slash through them. At least make it look like we accomplished something.”

But that was not to be. We accomplished nothing. No, something happened. Jay helped me realize that I need to find my writer’s voice again. My authentic voice. Not a trumped up with a million fancy adjectives voice.

Have you ever heard of KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid? Well, that’s what I’ll be busy doing tonight, after all the day’s birthday parties, after the kids are asleep in bed. I’ll be out at the local café trying to simplify what I’ve already written. Trying hard not to try so hard.

In an effort to motivate myself and remember that I used to be a decent writer, I dug out my dusty old journals and newspaper articles last night. Seeing my by-line next to some hard-won front-page articles really made me feel old. Rusty. Put out to writing pasture. How could I have written so much better back then? When I was only 19, 20, 21? Has becoming a mom sucked all the creative juices out of me? Turned my writing to pulp?

Even my angst ridden journal from 1995 is better than my first stab at a memoir.

How do you get back on the horse again and ride like a maniac with abandon? Without constantly worrying that you’ll fall of in front of everyone?

10 Comments:

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Em said...

I make no pretense at being a writer so I can't offer any support that comes from a place of intelligence. But I read what you write here...and it is good. It is entertaining. And it always makes me want to read more. So if you can do it here, I bet you'll do it there too. Don't give up!

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

Like Em, I'm not a "real" writer... just goofing around on the internet. I don't even know what a ten cent word is... (or if that means it is expensive or cheap.)

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I know what you mean. I found some old newstories I wrote a llloooonnnggg time ago. They are so much better than what I have now. My brain is mushy now.

I don't know what to tell you on writing a book. I've never done that before. But I wish you lots of luck and all the best.

 
At 7:48 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

For some reason my comment got lost.

I know what you mean... I look over stories I wrote a very long time ago. They seem better than the stuff I write now...

I've never written a book so I have NO CLUE advicewise. But I wish you lots of luck. Can't wait to hear more about your journey.

 
At 12:17 PM, Anonymous crunchy carpets said...

I can't even imagine getting beyond thinking I had any worth saying that was publishable....

the blogging things boggles me enough...but yeah..I don't even know what a ten cent word is..I assume filler???

 
At 10:40 PM, Blogger Loralee Choate said...

Criticism is tough to take. It is one reason that I decided that a professional opera career and I were not sympatico. Being on trial like that constantly would destroy me.

If you are really wanting to continue though, I would really listen to the people you love and respect. If they are telling you that this book is off, it probably is. It doesn't mean that you are not talented, gifted or incapable of doing the task at hand, it just means that you are going about it wrong.

So...how to undo the damage? My first suggestion would be to take it chapter by chapter. Outline the entire thing. Decide exactly how you want it organized and what your goals for it are. Then disect it page by page. If your verbage is off, change it. Make it YOU not what you think it should be. Slash the high falutin words and tweak until you are happy and it flows well.

Keep the revisions and have the same critics that you trust reread everything. Don't live and die by them, but they sound like useful tools.
The process sucks but I know you can do it.

 
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