Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I can't do any better than this:

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing

“Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”
In the winter of 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing published in The New York Times nearly a decade earlier, The Guardian reached out to some of today’s most celebrated authors and asked them to each offer his or her commandments. After Zadie Smith’s 10 rules of writing, here come 8 from the one and only Neil Gaiman:

  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Resting this afternoon, eyes closed but not asleep, my mind was drawn to more than 60 years ago, when days like this - warm, out of season days, dawning clear- would be tantalizingly warm at mid-day.  The seductive cologne of cut grass would draw a child to kick off shoes and socks to wander a bit in the cool grass.  If time and circumstances allowed, one might then plop down, belly first, head on crossed arms, and rest.

The sounds of the world would instantly recede, yielding to near-silent scurryings of the ant and bug world, and the subtle re-arrangements of the grass.  The world grew quieter with the declining angle of the sun. There might be a car horn sounding in a far-away fog, or someone calling children, or children laughing and scuffling as they made their way to the inside, evening world.  People went in for dinner, or started dinner, or were on their way home for dinner.

Eventually the child would wake; the sun would no longer feel warm on her back, her bare legs would be cold.  Someone might call the child, several times, each time the voice becoming a little louder and a little more irritated.  The child would roll onto her back, discovering that the sun had gone from the sky, taking the heat and the day with it.  She would sit up, stuff her socks into the toes of her shoes, and pad through the cold, early-dew kissed grass toward toward the lighted windows of her house.

A Day Late

Yesterday was full of little good things, but before sitting down to write my three favorites, I asked my DH what his were.  He thought quite some time, then said, "Good salad, good dinner, good TV."  Hard to argue with that.  Why?  I think because they made us happy.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

TGTs: It's Working!

Woke up this morning to discover that the musical dog trials of the night ended up with  "... all in their places with bright shining faces.  So this is the way - to start a new day!" 

We have three acres, half a dozen pens and enclosures, and three dogs (Kangals) charged with guardian duties.  They are large and gentle beasts, even with the chickens, except that one will kill the others if they come in contact, so she has to be kept separate at all times.  Also, she can't be on night duty because she howls and the neighbor complains.  But she can't be in the house, either, because the older dog is in there during the day so I can give her meds.  Then she can go out later for night duty.  She doesn't howl, but she does want to come in around dawn.  This involves a very complicated system of opening and closing gates, putting on and removing doggie door covers, calling in and rushing out various beasts, rewards with cookies and - of course - flawless communication amongst human caretakers so that we more or less know what is going on.  Last night the two dogs wanted to trade beds, so we tentatively reversed the routine - and it went splendidly!  Why?  Communication!  (And maybe careful gate-closures.)  Ta-da: Thing 1!

Thing 2 was when hubby gallantly agreed to put together some dinner for us as I sat knitting (and, ok, maybe pouting a bit) on the couch watching the evening news.  But I managed not to wine, I mean whine. 
"What's for dinner?"  he inquired, as he cheerfully emerging from a darkened computer room for the first time in hours. 
Me, quietly: "What dinner."  Silence.  "I did breakfast and lunch and I don't want to go in that kitchen any more today," I elaborated.  A brief discussion of how nice it would be to have a salad, and what leftovers were and were not left over ensued, and then he disappeared.  I returned to the knitting and the news. 
Then, suddenly a tinkling as welcome and the laughter of angles rang out at the table behind where I was sitting:  dishes, silverware, the table being set!  Glory, glory - dinner is served!

Thing 3 was born when someone admired a fleece that I had put up for sale, but said she wished she had more money.  I suggested that she make me an offer, and one thing led to another until suddenly we were talking PayPal and discussing various aspects of washing and dyeing and spinning and playing with fiber.  I feel good, she feels good, now THAT's a good thing for sure!

January, a Start of Good Things

So 2013 flew by faster than 2012.  How embarrassing.  Enough said.  People who know me know that I'm still alive, and for those who don't know or care, I am still here anyway.  Moving on.

Delanceyplace,, describes itself as "a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, primarily historical in focus, and will occasionally be controversial."  It is a delightful thing to find in your IN box, and I was especially delighted to see yesterday's selection,  from Flourish by Martin E. P. Seligman.  How can you resist the offer that starts out with, "You will be happier and less depressed one month from now. ..."?

I'm still working on the first suggestion - the gratitude visit - but the second item seemed to beg attention: "Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well."  So I am going to try.

1. Yesterday, I had breakfast with my BFF, then errands, then visiting a friend at home from the hospital, all done pleasantly and efficiently because I allowed enough time and didn't over-schedule.  Yay!  When I dropped off two huge bags of stuff at Goodwill, I even had time to shop a bit ( found "new" pillows for the couch,  baskets for wool, and necklaces for me),  and take a nap.  Why?  Because we had left-over Chinese food for dinner and I don't have to cook.  Yay!

 2. Had a delightful speakerphone conversation with grandchild #7, a charming and precocious 3 year old.  We often chat like this when mom picks her up and they are headed home after teaching and day care.  Fridays are especially fun, because all are in good spirits.  I thought of some good questions to ask: "What are you wearing?" invited a many-minute rundown of every single color on her, from toes to nose.  "What did you do at school today?" resulted in a detailed description of painting her play dough creation, which I thought was going to be a pancake, but apparently had become a dead bear.  "I just decided to change my mind," she explained.  Then gave it some thought and decided that maybe it could be a pancake after all, since it was painted purple, red and black, with some blue.  So it could be a blueberry pancake!  Mom interjected that they had blueberries at home, and could make pancakes for Saturday breakfast.  "Oh, YES!" she shouted jubilantly.  "We haven't had those for quite some time!"  These moments of sweetness happen because my daughter is a wonderful mother, and take the time to bring us together.

3. I did the evening chores on my own, since ML had to work late, and things went quite swimmingly.  Why? Because I started early and moved with deliberate intent.  Loaded two bales of hay into the 'Gator and didn't screw up the winch, fed, watered, etc.  All went well until I was coming out of the chicken pen with four eggs in hand, and gave the steel pipe gate a hefty swing to close it.  The latch missed it's mark, and the gate slammed into my face.  The pipe-to-cheekbone contact was so painful I had to sit down for a bit while tears ran down my face, then stumbled back to the house muttering and swearing.  Only later did I discover that I wasn't wearing my glasses any more.  By the time I got back down there to look, it was getting dark, and it is hard to find your glasses when you aren't wearing your glasses.  OK, for the good ending?  No eggs were broken, my cheekbone was not only intact, but barely bruised, and when ML came home he got his 10-million candle power light and found the glasses rather quickly.

And we had left-over Chinese food for dinner.