Writing Advice, Writing On Writing

Hot and Sweet

My ancient fiction professor at Vanderbilt once told us about a man he knew who drank Dr. Pepper hot. When work was over, this man would get into his after-fives and stir it in a saucepan over low heat, delicately, like he was handling milk. “Sometimes,” Professor Sullivan said, “it’s all right to let your characters take life a little too far.”

-M.

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Gardening, Writing Life

This Isn’t Going to Become a Gardening Blog, I Swear.

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Watering the plants yesterday, I learned a lesson about patience—a lesson my plants have been desperately trying to teach me for some time. They must be as frustrated with me by now as I have been with them.

When I started taking care of them, they were all nearly dying of heat and drought prostration. I started watering them and feeding them and, at first, they got a bit worse. It showed especially in the hibiscus. The blooms they had all dropped off. I was extremely disturbed and couldn’t understand why the attention I was giving them wasn’t immediately paying off. I kept taking care of them though, because it did me good to get a little sun and a little peace outside and not lock myself in, being righteously productive with writing projects, (read: dinking around on the Internet and taking naps).

It has been about six weeks or so since I started taking care of them. I went out yesterday to water and feed and noticed all the hibiscus that had initially dropped their blossoms were now thick with leaves and blooming like gangbangers with huge, bright flowers, more luscious than the previous ones had ever been. The top branches of the plants, once charred by the sun, had greened up and proudly reached for the sky.

I smiled at myself and shook my head. Oh, yes… patience. Delayed gratification. Hard work paying off, surely, but SLOWLY. All those things we learn but discard in the now, now, now.

I used to consider myself a black thumb when it came to plants, and now I realize maybe I just never hung around long enough to see the results of what I put into them.

I used to consider myself a black thumb with some of my seedling writing projects. Maybe I just never hung around long enough to see the luscious blossoms come in.

-M.

Writing Life

All That Nature Stuff

Previously dead and dying plants coming back to life, like my writing.
Previously dead and dying plants coming back to life, like my writing.

This morning, as I watered the plants, I noticed some green leaves on a plant that, previous to me making a routine of watering, looked entirely dead and brown. I am grateful for this. I am grateful for life in brown places.

There is another plant, the day lily my dog Oliver likes to eat, that is also greener than it has been. There are mysterious bushes around the columns of the pergola that are green on the bottoms and just bare branches on the top. The bare branches wind around the columns as if clinging to life itself. I suppose I must have faith the green and growing foundation I am helping build for them will help them be able to stand on their own one day.

There is a metaphor here.

There is a metaphor for writing and life. Something about giving your writing sustenance and trusting the ground it is planted in will become rich and fertile again, even after long periods of drought. It’s like that with me. I suffered a terrible writing drought lately, but once I started giving it the lifeline of daily practice and play, of getting out in the light and the air and the gentle morning sun, my drought has come to an end. The trick is, like the plants, that because I know I am in a drought-prone area, (I go through periods of barren writing times fairly regularly), I must hand-water. That is, I must not wait for inspiration to fall from the sky like rain. I must give myself the life saving element and, when rain does come, let it come, but not to be dependent on the fickle clouds.

I am grateful for this metaphor and for the real plants that have inspired it. Who knew I would find so much inspiration in “all that nature stuff”? I am beginning to feel what other poets and writers have felt. Weird.

-M.

Humor, Writing On Writing

Screw that! …And Here’s a Picture of Me Smoking on a Vespa. (writing on writing)

c62c00d2190d21f290d97a72277536b2I have been going through some deeply dramatic changes in my life lately, not the least of which is my attitude toward writing. I drive myself hard, but it had come to the point where I had actually become cruel and, rather than that cruelty leading to more artistic production, it did the exact opposite and led to nothing but blocks, an acid stomach, and sleepless nights spent fretting and miserable.

All of that until I decided enough of that, took my life in a new direction in all facets, and committed to driving myself firmly, but lovingly.

In that vein, I found this picture the other day and fell in love with it. I’ve decided it’s me and it’s my new thing. When the writing gets tense and I hear the cruel voice start to crank it up, my response is going to be, “Screw that! …and here’s a picture of me smoking on a Vespa.”

(Because that lady looks all kinds of “screw that”, doesn’t she?)

It’s the best writerly advice I can give to myself right now or to anyone else. Find a “screw that” picture that speaks to you, keep it on your desk for those dark moments, and, when necessary declare:

“Screw that! …and here’s a picture of me… riding a llama, cavorting with bandits on a beach, goth-clad straddling a chair backward, petting velvet the wrong way, and/or the ever popular, smoking on a Vespa.”

(I’ll share it with you. I’m nice like that.)

Be free. Be free and kind to yourself. Write. Do it. You’ll feel better after. I promise or your money back.

-M.