Monday, January 24, 2011

Second draft blues

I'm not sure how other writers handle it, but the second draft of my second novel is so much harder than the first one. The first, for me, concerns story, so you're lay out the skeleton of the book, deciding who lives or dies or loves or seeks revenge. So far, good. But in the second, you're sculpting muscles and tissues, determining memories, adding landscape,charting backstory and future plans, in other words, you're playing Dr. Frankenstein.

My characters keep changing, especially at 3am, when sleep is nowhere to be found and all the mistakes of the day's writing are dancing in my head instead of sugar plums (what are they anyway?). Being open to change is good, but when it continues night after night, is that a sign that I don't know which direction to take? Or does it mean I'm flexible and able to shift when necessary, when the characters demand it? But if they keep shifting, they may steer me right into a padded cell.

God almighty, will I survive to do a third draft?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writing in Public Spaces

While I really miss having a workshop, an alternative which really spurs the creative juices is writing in a public place, ie a coffee shop. Once a month a writing buddy and I meet and for a couple of hours forget about 2nd drafts that have put me in the doldrums or why-am-I-doing-it-in-the-first-place-blues. You decide on a prompt, time for ten minutes (more, not less) and let your imagination have free reign.

I recommend it to all writers, no matter what their level, or even if you are an absolute beginner. You start writing, keep your pen to the paper (for this I don't use a computer)and don't look up until your time is done. Natalie Goldberg first introduced me to this for a public place, during a writers' week in Taos, but Judy Reeves, The Artist's Way, my former mentor Janet Fitch, all have versions of the same thing. It's the going wild, no holds barred to your mind which makes it all so exciting. Ideas and riffs will jump out that you had no way of knowing lurked in your brain.

Try it, you'll like it.
P.S. All the writers I mentioned have books or blogs which suggest prompts if you need some help.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Yesterday was both sad and hopeful. Debbie Friedman, a force for healing and peace in the Jewish music world died much too soon. Her music brought us comfort, prayer and a closeness to a divine power all set to melodies which caused your heart to cry, to love, to heal. Her negum (melodies) are used in synagogue services all over the world, her concerts brought joy to millions. I only saw her live once, this past Rosh Hashanah, second day, when she joined the services at B'nai Horin. She talked about moving back to the west coast, her energy was so uplifting that you just knew the New Year would be a better one. But, alas, her year did not last past yesterday. However her spirit and her love will be inspiring people for generations to come. Rest well, Debbie.

To follow that news with a rally by Jewish World Watch to show solidarity with southern Sudan in its referendum for secession from northern Sudan, into its own independent country somehow felt fitting. We waved signs, made speeches and tried to rally the consciousness of the world that the vote must be peaceful and recognized after it's completed. Too many people get killed in too many places around the world, especially in Africa, for wanting democracy, the right to independence and a peaceful life. It's 2011, when will we ever learn and be better human beings?

Friday, January 7, 2011

It's a new year and I've decided to start the blog again. This time I won't expect anyone to follow it, it will just be my personal occasional comments on what I see. Sort of like the diary I kept when I was fourteen. I only did it for six weeks, but when I look at it now, I wonder if I've actually advance any.

I stopped my full-time job of publicity a couple of years ago and since then have been waging a one-woman war against the word "retired." If you're not working ( and have not summarily been let go or fired) do you really want that tag of retired stuck to you? I'm a writer, active in politics, involved in Jewish World Watch which supports projects to aid women and children in The Congo and Darfur, do animal observations at the LA Zoo and once a week mentor a schoolgirl in reading. And believe me, there's still time left over.

To me the word retired means you've given up, not participating in life. You can do that at age 20, you don't need to wait until you've stopped working. But why would anyone want to give up? We all get into a blue funk, but there's too much going on in the world that needs us, to stop everything.

The writing of course is the most important. I'm on the second draft of the second novel and feeling unsure about the whole process, but that's a blog for another day.