On the Periphery

Things change. Life throws us curves and changeups. It's good to have a place to vent.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In between all the things you HAVE to do and all the things you SHOULD do runs a quiet flow of things you LIKE to do.

I like the analogy of water. Think of a small stream, easing through a landscape. It seems innocuous enough--just there, never intrusive. Yet as time and erosion go by, that stream cuts deeper and wider, until you have a fissure, a gully, or even something akin to the Grand Canyon.

Think of that stream as your suppressed WANT TO DOs. If all you do are the things you have to do or should do, that stream continues, cutting deeper and deeper, until one day you have a hole that can never be filled.

That's why people take vacations. That's why the Orthodox Jewish idea of a Sabbath of absolutely no work or earthly care is refreshing. That's why people who never slow down enough to feel the joy of pure relaxation go crazy or grow bitter.

Life's short. Write about it, yes. But live it, too.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Killing my Babies

I haven't logged in for a while now because I have been in the throes of thesis revision, "killing my babies," as my advisor puts it. One of the hardest things for a writer to do is to cut a scene or passage he or she lovingly crafted and feels is so beautifully written it makes the reader cry. Unfortunately, often that very passage is dead weight, and must be eliminated or heavily revised in order to work. I know, intellectually, that every passage, every sentence, every word must actively do something to earn its place: it must either reveal character or move a story along or provide a necessary sense of setting or tone. If it doesn't, cut it out or make it useful.

In the process, I have made an interesting discovery in one of my stories: by eliminating much of the deadwood, I have found my story actually has a focus different from what I originally thought it was! Fascinating! That's when writing is fun for me--when my story takes on its own life and pulls me along for the ride. The ensuing rush is worth the pain when new, stronger "babies" pop up.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Well, the latest hoopla has been about that poor mom who wrote a "made up essay" (an oxymoron) to get her kid tickets to the Hannah Montana concert. The woman has been on the news all week, and this morning was even on "The Today Show." To tell you the truth, (ironically), I felt sorry for the poor woman. I do believe she honestly thought what she was doing was okay--simply because she did not know that an ESSAY is a FACTUAL STORY.

Kids write essays all the time in school. I wonder how many teachers actually say that it has to be a true story, though. As a teacher, I assumed my students already knew that (I taught high school), and by my instructions, truth was inherent. But this woman did not realize that there was a difference between a (nonfiction) essay and a (fictional) short story. So who is at fault? The woman for being uninformed? The school she attended or her English teachers for not being clear? The contest for not stating that an essay is factual writing, not fiction?

This situation typifies the importance of education in our daily lives. In a society that is so literal-minded that a hair dryer carries the warning, "Do not use in the shower," perhaps the contest should have been more specific, as in, "An essay must chronicle true events."

I'm just getting warmed up. Let me think about this and come back to it another time.

Happy New Year to all, and may all your writing, fiction or non, bring you joy and satisfaction (and maybe even publication).

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