Inspiration, Television, Writing

Laughter and Love in the Writing Room

I’m struggling a bit with the first draft of one of the books I’m writing this year. The story is meant to be lighter in tone than those I’ve written previously, which means I have to stop myself from delving too deeply into the dark side of my characters. But I entertain myself exploring that off page.

The main character in this novel is Chelsea, who’s twenty-three but having a hard time moving into adulthood. I’m long past that age. At twenty-three, I was married and the mother of two. So even if I could remember my thoughts and feelings back then, they would bear little resemblance to hers.

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But I know how to research. I’ve done a good portion of that by reading books and watching movies and TV series featuring characters who are young, single, and funny—and looking for love, of course. Life is all about our relationships.

You might recognize the photo accompanying this post. I’ve recently discovered New Girl. Yes, I know it’s been on the air for three seasons, but I don’t watch much TV and when I do it’s usually drama. Yes, I know the characters in New Girl are in their thirties, but they’re still single and immature and funny. And the show is many years more current than Friends.

Via Netflix, I watch a couple of episodes a night before I fall asleep. So far, that hasn’t inspired any dreams directly related to my book’s plot, but I’m sure my Muse is paying attention.  Plus, laughter is good medicine, which helps with my chronic pain.  And that describes what I’m writing—a little light pushing back the darkness.

I wish you a week filled with laughter and love.

Linda

Doubt, Fiction, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing

To Keep the Channel Open

Let me tell you a lie. It was not always a lie. It was the truth a month, a week, a day ago. It was true until an hour ago when I received an email from Ed, a man who’s braved being in a critique group with me. He wrote to tell me he’d had another story published and said he was looking forward to restarting our critique sessions. (We break for summer.)

channelI replied, “I no longer write fiction for publication.” And then I told him I’d be happy to read for him, but I no longer had need of a critique group. He asked why I’d quit writing.

I gave him reasons; just like I’ve given reasons to two other writers I’ve discussed this with in the last month. I explained it in various ways, but a lack of confidence in my writing is what it boils down to. I’m a perfectionist—and usually not in a healthy way. And concerning my writing, no matter how hard I try to push my perfectionist striving down, it always rises back up to choke me.

Nothing I’ve ever written is perfect. I wanted it to be. But I failed. Failed. I tried my hardest. I did the best that I could and that wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t perfect. And there’s zero chance I’ll ever write anything better, which I know because … like … I have these mad prognostication skills. Right?

Perfect is how this author writes. Or this one. Or even her, and she’s self-published like me. Or him, and he’s not even published yet. And besides, I’m not writing anything life-changing, so who needs my lame writing anyway?

I gave up. Hung up my keyboard. Tried to pretend I had no idea who that silly wannabe writer Linda Cassidy Lewis was. She’s not me. I don’t write fiction.

Okay. Yeah. So this man, Ed, took me seriously when I told him I had quit writing. And he sent me this quote from dancer/choreographer Martha Graham (emphasis mine):

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

The funny thing is, I’ve been working on accepting my personal limitations. Forgiving my “failures.” Learning to see the strength in vulnerability. Linda the Human has been working to apply this new mindset. But Linda the Writer never thought to pay attention.

So, it’s a lie that I’m no longer writing for publication. The truth is, I have no choice but to keep that channel open. I may not tell a story many care to hear. I may not tell it as well as other writers could. But I will tell it because it’s mine. It’s what I have to give. I must embrace that “queer dissatisfaction.”

It’s a new month, now. Let us proceed …

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Characters, Inspiration, Narrative, Television, Writing

My love affair with AMC … mostly!

Once upon a time—or maybe more—I’ve blogged about the TV programs I watch, and I questioned why they’re all dramas. Sometimes late at night I watch old sitcoms, some from the 70s, but none current. I don’t know why. Anyway, today I’m sharing thoughts on a few of my current favorite dramas—and four of the five air on AMC.

Photo credit: ellenm1 / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: ellenm1 / Foter / CC BY

I’m excited because the final episodes of Breaking Bad will air on AMC soon. I came late to the series and watched all four and a half seasons in two weeks this past winter. I’ve rewatched some episodes and I’ll  read the recaps of the others to refresh my memory before the last eight episodes air. Right now, I want Hank to bring down Walt and something good to happen for Jesse. And I still miss that villain extraordinaire, Gus.

Another show I came late to view is The Killing. I caught up on the first two seasons just as the third started airing. The writing and acting in the first two seasons was excellent, so it shocked me to learn that AMC had announced last summer they would not renew the show for a third season. Luckily, they changed their mind when Netflix bid to take it over. Emotionally damaged detectives Linden and Holder are amazing to watch.

Speaking of Netflix, they experimented by debuting the entire first season of their original series, House of Cards, at once. It was a big hit in our house. My husband and I binge watched, and now we bemoan the wait for the second season. The writing and acting is top notch. Francis Underwood has not done a single thing to inspire my faith in politics, though.

I believe I’ve told you before that I’m a fan of Mad Men, also on AMC, and though I couldn’t connect fully with this sixth season, I think that was my problem. The quality has never disappointed me, so I expect to appreciate this season more in retrospect. I’m beginning to think Don Draper is a cat—which of his nine lives will he be on next season? So many characters to love and hate—sometimes simultaneously. But that makes good drama, no?

My AMC guilty pleasure is Walking Dead. I can’t quite believe I’m watching a show about zombies, but there you go. Not a spoof or dramedy, this is a frightening and complicated tale as Rick and his tribe struggle to survive both the zombies and the psychopathic Governor. And three main characters were killed in last season’s finale! Actually, I guess I don’t feel guilt for watching it. I’m looking forward to October and finding out where the writers take the story next.

Two things these shows have in common are good writing and good acting. I think a lot about the writing, of course. Actors are inspired to do their best when they’re presented with good writing just as fictional characters are developed fully by well-written narrative.

I probably won’t ever write about drug dealers, homicide cops, politics, the 60s advertising business, or a zombie apocalypse, but drama is drama. I’m learning while I watch. As I prepare to start my next novel, I visualize my characters acting out their drama, but they’re only ghosts of who they’ll become when I flesh them out with narrative.

I can hardly wait to type The End.

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Inspiration, Motivation, Writing

Oh, for the love of writing!

2heartsIn a bit I’m going to share with you a post I wrote almost two years ago. I titled it “Write what you LOVE!” I wrote that post two months after The Brevity of Roses came out. I mentioned I’d starting writing a new novel, which became An Illusion of Trust. It’s now just about two months since Illusion was published and I’m in a “somber, angst-ridden” place again.

Partly that angst is expressed in working on this and that and the other, waiting for a project to spark my passion. Apparently, I’ll fall off the cliff after every novel I publish, but maybe the next time I’ll remember that’s normal for me and just ignore it. For now, I’m still anxious to experience that rush of being carried away with words. I’m hungry for that love of writing. Please, let me be “off and running again” soon.

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29 May, 2011

Yesterday, I started writing a somber, angst-ridden post. I guess the title and the hearts are clues this is not that post. My last post was a bit of a downer. Some of your comments led me to search my soul, question my Muse, and whine to some friends. Oh yeah, I can be a real joy.

The conclusion? I’d stopped writing for the sheer love of writing and started writing with the mindset of production. My work had ceased to be a creative expression and become merely a commercial product. I’d tried to force it. I worked on four different books. But ultimately, I ground to a halt.

Then a friend asked me to read the blurb for her next book, and the wheels started turning. Her blurb reminded me of one of my book ideas. I’d written up some notes and a couple of opening paragraphs. I looked for the file. It took me two hours because I couldn’t remember what I’d named the file, plus I thought I’d started it last year. When I finally found the right file, it had a nondescript name and was dated ’09.

I read what I’d worked up and realized the original idea wouldn’t quite work … but then … oh, then the floodgates opened! I could change this. I could tweak that. And—Oh!—what if this happened? I got so excited that I couldn’t write fast enough and had to go back to the computer to type.

I had doubts. “Is this crazy?” I asked myself. “Can I do this in my “genre”? “Could this be a good story?” I emailed a friend. She wrote back, “I think it would be great!” And that was confirmed when I remembered one of my favorite quotes:

“Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts.

Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.

Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.”

-Shel Silverstein

So, I’m off and running. I’m writing, writing, writing. I’m in love again.

Write what you love, dear readers. Life’s too short not to.

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Family, Fiction, Inspiration, Music, Writing

Oh, the places I go when I’m not writing

I had a blast this past Saturday night and you’ll never guess where. Neither you nor I could have expected me to say I went to an AC/DC tribute band concert, but that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t go as a closet AC/DC fan. I didn’t just happen to drop in. I didn’t do it on a dare. I went as a mom. My oldest son is a drummer, and Fuse Box is his latest band.

It’s always exciting to hear, and watch, him play, but he’s always been in bar bands that covered 80s-90s rock songs. And though his personal tastes were often harder than the music those bands played, I don’t remember him talking about AC/DC. Nor did I ever expect to see him play in front of such a large crowd in a concert venue.

Besides being a proud mom, I enjoyed the show. I was familiar with more tunes than I knew, they sounded great, despite the singer not having a voice all week because of a cold, and once again, I wondered why music is not as big a part of my life as it used to be.

I guess the answer to that wondering is that I write now. The only music I can listen to while I write is classical. Anything with a lyric distracts me. Anything with a beat has me chair dancing. I used to listen to music in the car, but I don’t drive much nowadays and when I do, I usually prefer silence because I’m thinking about what I’m writing.

Besides not having enough music in my life, I really need to get out more—I’m sure I’ve said that before on this blog. Not that I plan on writing about musicians, or concert, club, or bar goers, but you never know when you might see a person who sparks a fascinating character or overhear a conversation that your writer’s mind transforms into a terrific story.

I’m not saying we should cruise high-crime areas or engage in any other dangerous activity, but it never hurts to stretch a little, to toss your net into new waters to see what you catch. That advice is for myself as much as anyone. Fiction writers need imagination, but if we expect others to relate, we need to base that fiction on real life.

Okay, as you probably expected, I’m going to share a short video clip with you—short because I had no idea how long I could record on my phone. Next time, I’ll record at least one whole song. And, of course, they sound better than my phone picks up. Rock on.