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Archive for December, 2011

From NY Times article I cite - hmm - dubious legality here


There’s a really interesting article in the New York Times today (Tuesday, December 27) about brain chemistry and kids of “middle childhood”. It affirms most things I’ve come to believe about this age and reminds me of what I like most about them. They’re smart and alert and interested and growing in a million ways at a prodigious rate. They’re making connections and gaining a sense of themselves and others that younger children don’t have. This is related to “theory of mind” which is the realization that other people have their own minds and thoughts and experiences that are different from one’s own.
Truth is, this age – 6 to 12 – is mostly where I live in my stories (and many of my songs). Alert and not jaded.Great sense of humor. Great sense of justice.
Picasso said that all artists create from a certain age, and that he was (if I remember correctly) thirteen. Put me a couple of years younger and leave me there.

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The writer, happy at his work...


I have been working on a book over the past nine months. Well, really three years, but more intently for the last nine months. My schedule being what it is, and my brain chemistry preventing me from sitting still for eight hours at a time, I rarely write for more than an hour or two. But I kept working. As I got into the process, the story became more and more complex. More characters appeared.

And the end seemed to get further and further away.

But I have learned this about writing a longer piece – you stop looking at the end. You just write a certain number of words a day, or for a certain amount of time, then you walk away from it until the next day. The process is Sisyphean – just keep pushing the rock. It’s there waiting for you. Getting impatient does no good. You can’t just get it over with– it’s too long a climb. All you can do is show up.

I’m reminded of a friend of mine who, as a mid-life-crisis kind of experience, decided to ride her bike across the country. She was hoping it would be some kind of transforming experience, and she would have a revelation about who she was and what she should do.

“Was it a catharsis?” I asked.

“Not really” she said. “It wasn’t a big thing. It was just a whole bunch of little things. It wasn’t one 3000 mile ride, it was 75 forty mile rides, one after another.”

Which is like life, I guess. Or at least writing this damn book. In the past month I have been writing pretty regularly, and am now up to about eighty thousand words (many which will have to die later on – I don’t edit much as I go along the first time). One thing about writing on a computer – you can always check exactly how many words you’ve written in the past five minutes. Which is good and bad. Actually, mostly bad.

One scene after another. Just plugging away. Not looking at the ending, but filled with the vague sense of dread that it would never end and I would just be hanging out with Tantalus and Cerberus for the rest of my time on this mortal coil.(Mixed metaphor there, I think…)

Annie Dillard said that writing a book is like sitting up with a sick friend and hoping he doesn’t die.

Then on Monday I had a weird thing happen. I went out in the morning to stare at the computer, then checked the story line I had written months before, including possible scenes

Wow. There wasn’t much more to write. I’d taken care of all the scenes leading up to the climax of the story, and it was time to spring the trap. Suddenly, I could see the end. I knew where it was going! How did that happen? I still have another thirty or forty pages, but I know what’s going to happen. And I’m going to get there in the next week or two.

And I’ll tell you what – it’s easier to write when you can see the end.

The secret – there is none. Like Jane Yolen says – “The secret to writing – butt in chair.”

Of course, then there’s the next dumb step. Trying to sell it. Another rock waiting for me.

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Me and Ed Murrow - and a thousand others....


I’ve been a fan of This I Believe since its reincarnation by the incomparable Jay Allison a number of years ago. That said, I never got around to submitting one. But finally I did, on the Rhode Island NPR station, WRNI, which has continued the program under the direction of Rick Reamer. My offering played last week. It’s very close to what I’ve been writing about in this blog for the past couple of years, so I thought it made sense to share it here.

Click HERE to hear the piece:

And here’s an Old Year’s resolution – before the new one starts: More blog posts. Honest. Let’s see how I do.

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