Editing, Tips, Words, Writing

Those trippy little things …

I live in an older neighborhood filled with mature trees. Two of those are massive sycamores in my backyard. I love their shade; I hate their allergens. Squirrels adore them. Most of the time, I have no problem with squirrels. I’m not too happy when they eat my tangerines and peaches … especially when they take the last one I left on the tree for maximum sweetness, but what can you do? Naively, I thought that was all the trouble they would cause.


I had noticed a slight dimming of the house lights at times, like when the dryer started up or I used the iron, but recently it got worse. I thought maybe it had something to do with all the rain we’ve had. Then, one evening we nearly had a brown out when I started the microwave. The next morning, we called PG&E and they came right out.

We have above ground electrical service in this neighborhood, and those wires pass right through the sycamores on the way from pole to house. Guess what else squirrels like to eat? Well, maybe not eat, but they like to chew on the covering of electrical wiring. They had exposed parts of the wire, which led to our problem.

Yep, sometimes it’s the little things that trip us up. Even in our writing.

I recently emailed a draft of the short synopsis I’d written to my friend Tricia for her feedback. In her reply she advised me to revise the opening hook because I had used the words of and to three times each—in one sentence! Little words, big problem.

What are the trippy little things in your life?

Dream, Fiction, Novel, Writing

Speak louder, please

I dreamed about Sean Penn last night. I stood at the doors to a huge auditorium or theater and someone tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned around, he was standing behind me. He said, “Thank you.” Then he walked in the theater with his entourage. After I recovered from surprise, I realized I had no idea what he was thanking me for and called after him. He had moved too far away to hear, so I stepped through the doors, fully expecting the security guards to stop me. Lo and behold, they let me go.

Why so troubled?

I caught up with Mr. Penn and asked him why he had thanked me. Because this was a dream, he walked back up the aisle with me and out the doors. He talked the whole time, but so quietly, I couldn’t make out what he said. At one point, I realized that he was only a head … on the floor … and I figured that was why I couldn’t hear him. I got down on my knees, but still couldn’t make out what he said.

This was not the Jeff Spicoli Penn, nor the Willie Stark Penn. This was the I’ll-settle-it-with-my-fists Penn—smart, but troubled. I felt desperate to hear what he said because I knew I had helped him before and needed to help him again.

Suddenly, his head was back on his body, and as we walked, I glanced over and realized his scalp had a large gash. Blood ran down his face and neck, and I convinced him to let me take him to the hospital for stitches. From the hospital, I took him to my home (not any place I’ve ever actually lived) still feeling the anxiety that it was imperative I keep him with me and talking.

Inexplicably, I was searching for a needle with the right-sized eye for the piece of black thread in my hand … when the alarm sounded!

Despite the abrupt ending, I think there is plenty here to interpret. I’m sure this pertains to my writing. I rarely think of Sean Penn and haven’t heard him mentioned recently, so I think Penn showing up in my dream is meant as a pun. Now, what I have to decide is whether pen represents me as the writer … or my writing in general … or some part of the novel I just finished writing (or didn’t.)

I wish he’d spoken louder. Any lip readers out there?