Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week in Review - Back To Work, Writer Blogs, The Help, and No Raisins

The two weeks before the semester starts are always hell on the schedule.

For reasons I won't go into, I always end up working every day of the week, even when the actual workload itself is light. There are good and bad things about working short days - you can be very productive at work... but a short day disrupts your day at home almost as much as a long one. (Hmmm, I may do a post on the ins and outs of different kinds of schedules for writing....)

I noticed, though, that day job habits can be a metaphor for writing habits.

All through the school year, stuff comes my way. Tasks, notes, ideas, things to file, things to recycle, (things to leave anonymously in other people's offices...), calendar items, you name it. And all through the year, the most important and urgent stuff gets done. The moderately important and urgent stuff also gets done. The least urgent stuff? It piles up. In physical form. In my office.

At the end of the school year, I'm just glad to get out of that place, so I don't clear much of that dreck. No, the time when that stuff seems to get cleared is the beginning of the next school year.

I do this purely as a matter of procrastination... but at the same time, I find it works. When all the actual important stuff has been dealt with, I find that the beginning of the semester is the very best time for clearing the desk.

For one thing, at the beginning of a semester, my main job is to Be Available. (My job is a helpy trouble-shooty type job.) The people I'm available to don't always need me -- especially if I did my job earlier and planned ahead -- so I spend a lot of time at my desk being alert. Which is a great time for desk-clearing. And clearing your desk is one GREAT way to get yourself back into the swing of the job after being away from the main tasks over the summer.

This is similar to what it's like being on hiatus away from a novel for a while. If you have a copious mess of notes, you can spend a little time sorting them out, rereading the old material, and by the time you're done, you'll be back into the novel. This only works, though, if you were on a real break from the novel and working on something else, AND if you took good notes.

It doesn't work so well when you are dealing with an ongoing project. It only really works well after a long time away from the novel. And even then it only works if you took good notes. If you didn't you'll be frustrated as heck when you pick up that half-written novel, and it's fascinating, and you wonder where you're going with it... and you can't remember. Dang.

Evolving....And A Preview of Coming Attractions:

I'm easing my way back to more frequent blogging. Not to a full daily schedule yet, but this summer changed me. (As time always does.) I'm headed in a slightly different direction as a writer -- not much different, but I'm moving even further away from commercial considerations for the time being. I'm going more Existential -- writing for the sake of writing, and blogging for the sake of blogging.

I'll talk about that a little bit more on monday. In the meantime, here are the posts I'm planning for this week.

  • Monday: Is Indie Publishing a Distraction?
  • Tuesday: Revision and Artwork - Rewriting as Writing
  • Thursday: Writing Scenes in Layers

Some Writer Blogs I Love

One of the things I hear out there in Bloggy Land is that a writer should never blog about him or herself. "Rule Number One -- It's not about you!" they say. Don't write a journal, don't say how your day went, or reminisce about things that happened. Be focused. Think about your readers.

And yet, some of my favorite blogs do exactly what "they" say not to do. In one case, it isn't a blog so I can't refer you to it, but a private newsgroup, where one of the members updates us daily on her adventures as a parent and human being. Visits to the doctor, crazy silly things her kids say and do, books she has discovered, the progress in the reading competition she has with her older daughter. It's utterly fascinating, and if she didn't want to keep the stuff about her kids private, she could be a prize-winning columnist.

Heck, that's what nintey percent of LiveJournal is, isn't it?

Then there is a wonderful blog, "Just Thinking" by Earl Pomerantz, an old TV writer with a lot of great stories.

Writer Steve Perry's "Old Enough To Know Better" is another informal blog I really like. He seems to write about whatever strikes him, and what strikes him is interesting.

Same with Rhys Bowen. In her case, a lot of it has to do with her research or traveling related to her latest book, but it's still casual and just enjoyable read... like a magazine.

There are others. I'll post them as I think of them.

Movie of the Week: The Help

The Help is an interesting movie because it is not at all what it seems to be.

It's easy to say it's about race relations in America, but we've seen that all before. It's more personal, more down to earth... more like a "women's fiction" sort of story. A large cast of female characters, all with character arcs, all trapped in this bizarre society of the southern Women's Junior League. (You could even say it depicts 1963 as like a more dangerous version of junior high.)

Here's the irony: The apparent protag (who is not the real protag - just the catalyst) wants to write a book, and she pitches it thusly; in 1963 everyone was familiar with the "Mammy" character from the white point of view, but nobody had ever heard Mammy's story, and she wanted to write a book from the point of view of "the help." So it would seem to be a white woman turning a camera on the lives of the black maids and nannies. Except that in 2011, we know that story. What really happens is she hands the camera (which was previously reserved for white people) to the black maids who promptly turn it on their white employers.

And that simple shift in point of view is what makes the very familiar material fresh. And uncomfortable. It's a rigid, sharp society, which is also brittle, and it's beginning to crack.

Food of the Week - Zingerman's Raisin D'Etre

Last trip to Zingerman's for the summer this week. I have been considering getting their new "Raisin D'Etre" sandwich, because that turkey salad sounds SO good, and the radish sprouts seem like the exact right topping. The problem was the bread. They serve it on their Pecan Raisin Bread bread, which is not a bread I like at all. But after much contemplation, I got it on Challah, which was perfect. Really delish. It would go well on any light and buttery bread (croissants would be great -- I might get some of their turkey salad to take home next time).

See you in the funny papers.

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