My kids are upstairs, one playing guitar (12-year-old), one sleeping (16-year-old). My better half is moving furniture around in the next room. She does this periodically like other people bake or knit. It’s like that old Helen Keller joke. Good thing none of us are blind.
I am listening to music. Mumford and Sons for the accent and the swearing, Pink for the sense of murderous rebellion, Les Mis for the story, and Tracy Chapman to make me think about hanging out in Harvard Square bookstores and coffee shops in the late eighties.
I’ve stalled again in my novel writing. Life so gets in the way. Once I saw a Writer’s Digest in my dentist office wedged in-between the People and Shape magazines and stole it. It landed in the basement and was just excavated in the furniture moving process. I don’t know why my dentist had this magazine, but I stole it because the cover boasted articles like How to Write Your Book in 15 Minutes a Day, and 21 Ways to Beat Writers Block. Plus there’s a cheery woman on the cover in a blue turtleneck with eyeglasses who could almost be me. Except I never wear turtlenecks and my glasses make me look old and frumpy, not smart and chic. She’s holding a big coffee cup listing the Plus articles like Be the Kind of Writers Editors Love and Red Flags You Need to Know.
Anyway, I will share the sound advice of Writer’s Digest with you. It hasn’t helped me a bit. I would have been better off ripping out the 5-ingredient, low-fat. delicious, immune-boosting crock pot recipe in the back of Real Simple but maybe you’ll get something out of it.
First, stop obsessing about writing a book and instead, spend 15 minutes writing one page, five times a week for a year.
Seriously, 15 minutes on a page? Dear god I better just shoot myself now because it can take me 15 minutes before I get a coherent sentence on the page. In this same article you are supposed to write out a detailed outline on index cards, including anecdotes, quotations, scenes, plot points, what characters are in each scene, where each scene takes place, etc. Then you bundle these index cards in a rubber band and carry them with you everywhere. What a nightmare this would be for me. They would weigh 15 pounds, get mixed up and so stained with food they’d be undecipherable, and I’d wind up using them to wrap up chewed gum.
The 21 tips for curing writer’s block include dusting, shooting squirrels with a BB gun, playing solitaire, and running headfirst into a glass wall. OK, those are new.
They do spend some time answering your biggest writing questions, like, “How do I get paid on time?” OK, so this one is not weighing heavy on my mind just yet. They also tackle a few big grammatical issues, which I have plenty of, mind you, but unfortunately I already know the difference between e.g. and i.e., even though you don’t really see them in a lot of fiction.
And finally, the article on publishing your first book after 50 was particularly disconcerting. Apparently if you’re writing a war story, you’re not supposed to mention that you served in the Korean War because you’ll date yourself. Advice seems to lean towards a don’t ask don’t tell approach when it comes to the “mature writer.” I can’t even believe there is such a category.
Still and all, this magazine was totally worth stealing. It made me think about writing. It made me realize I could use some new strategies, even if they aren’t the ones in the magazine. And I’m growing fond of the lady in the turtleneck. I think she likes me and wants to share her coffee.
Got any writing tips for me?