June 29, 2009

eureka (I hope)

For the past few hours, I've been having a frustrating time trying to wrangle what should be a few simple paragraphs at the end of a chapter.
I have the ideal writing environment. No distractions. I haven't been procrastinating, for once. But let's just say it hasn't been flowing. So, after an internet search to find comforting tales of other writers in my position, I found this quote, and bingo, it nails my problem:
"I've often said that there's no such thing as writer's block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen--whether I'm working on a brief passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book--it's usually because I'm trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has no place."
(Jeffery Deaver)

Hooray. So with that nugget, I'm going to call it a night.
p.s. have you ever heard people say that they have solved story problems in their sleep, by writing out or articulating the issue before going to bed? Well, I'm trying it tonight so wish me luck.

June 25, 2009

clearing fog

June gloom cast a shadow long and wide this month, and trust me, I was under it.
It's bright today, I'm sitting by a window in the library looking out at the way the sun's dappled light is hitting the leaves, and I'm breathing a sigh of relief. And gratitude. Not just that the sun is here, but that I'm coming out of a fog, too. It was one unfortunately born of unpredictable and unstoppable circumstances, one that tested my resolve and hope, but one that is thankfully lifting.

It's always hard to reengage with writing when I've been forced away, to find that rhythm again, the flow, the feeling that you're living and breathing your characters. But, there's also something to be said about life and experience and the ups and downs that go along with it, sorting through the emotions and finding your place among them and then harvesting all that you've learned and hopefully finding a way to channel it into your work.

That's where I am now. Sorting through it all. Sitting with it. Listening to music and allowing myself to get back there. It will happen in time. Maybe not today, but I will get back.

One thing I know, even if I don't feel it all the time, is that writing is a gift. It's a way to try to make sense of the world, a way to express the contradictions, confusions, wonders we experience. It's a way to channel all the things that I turn over in my mind, concepts, feelings, questions, uncertainties -- and most of all, hope.

Because at the end of the day, no matter how hard life gets, hope usually finds its way back in, if it ever really left in the first place.

June 11, 2009

daily warm-up

Back in the day when I was an athlete, I would start my training regimen with a warm-up. It usually entailed riding the bike, or stretching, or doing a few minutes of light sprints on the court to get my body moving. For those who don't know, I used to play squash. It was literally my life between the ages of 10 and 24. I would train in the mornings, after school, on weekends. And once I graduated from college, I pursued it full time for a few months on the pro tour while trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.

Anyway, about a month ago I was reminded of my days as an athlete in a meaningful way. I was given the amazing honor of being inducted into the Harvard Varsity Hall of Fame. My husband and I flew back to Boston for the event, where I was surrounded by family and old friends. My college coach (who is still a close friend) introduced me that night before receiving my award. In his speech, he reminded me of so much from those days, but particularly the plan I put in place when I decided I really wanted to win the national singles title. I had lost in the finals the year before, and three weeks before the championship tournament, I had a chance to face the defending champion in a dual match between Harvard and Yale for the national team title. I scraped by with a 3-1 victory, but like usual, came off the court feeling like I wasn't fully in control, that I hadn't played my best. I was sick of that feeling, of not being able to own my victories, and I didn't want it to happen again three weeks later. So, I took out my journal and wrote a plan as to how I was going to improve, what I needed to do to win. But most importantly, I wrote down what I needed to do in order to feel like I was fulfilling my potential -- and not leaving the rest to chance.

I mapped out exactly how I was going to train every day, both on and off the court, for how long, what I needed to focus on, etc. And I followed it. Every day I consulted my journal and executed the plan I had laid out for myself. I was in control. I even wrote out two pages of motivational sayings, stuff that worked for me at the time, little sound bites I could repeat to myself between points when I was catching my breath. I had read them over so many times in the days leading up to the tournament, throughout the matches I played to get to the finals, that by the time I was playing for the title, they were ingrained in me. There wasn't room for the negative talk that so often finds its way in. I had trained it out of me. And the result? Yes, I won. And it was a satisfying victory. Not because I had become the national champion. But because I had left it all on the court. I had no regrets. I had done my best and it felt good.

I still have that journal and the two pages of handwritten motivational sound bites somewhere in the bin in my closet where I keep all my old journals, most of them unfinished, jumping months and years ahead sometimes between pages.

I thought about it this morning because I think it's what I need. A shedule to map out the work remaining through the end of this book. And maybe even a new list of inspirational sayings to pop in my head when the negative thoughts come creeping back in...

By the way, does anyone ever read their old journals? I also have a stack of old letters from high school in a giant box on top of my bookshelf that I keep meaning to comb through. But I guess, for now, the memories are enough.


June 10, 2009

and so it goes again

It's that time of year again in Los Angeles. June Gloom. And it's really true. It *does* get gloomy pretty much every day in June. Low white clouds cover the sky and hang like a low ceiling pretty much all day. I kind of love it. It feels cozy and makes me want to stay inside, which is good when you're trying to finish a book.

I'm about to re-write a chapter I've been looking forward to for a while. It was one of the first new scenes I came up with when figuring out how to approach the revisions, and it was one of the reasons I got excited about the work ahead. It lit that fire, so to speak, and helped me let go of what I had already written to be open to new and better ideas. So, now that I finally get to write it, I'm, of course, procrastinating big time.

But I'm not one of those productive procrastinators who gets things like laundry, bill paying, email-responding, cleaning, writing wedding thank-you notes (yes! over a year later and I still haven't finished, for shame), blogging (okay, I'm doing that now) done while avoiding my work.
No, that time gets sucked by either hugging my dog or random internet browsing (hey, I'm very up to date on current events and Michelle Obama's latest outfit). If I were a productive procrastinator I'd pay more attention to my succulent garden, or go for bike rides around the neighborhood (hmmm, maybe I'll do that later), or plant the herb/vegetable garden I've been mentally planning, etc.

The thing is, I've come to accept that this is part of my process. I rarely can start writing the second I sit down at my computer. I need time to sink back into that mental space. Some days it only takes a few minutes, others, like today, it can be up to or over an hour. But, I've realized that the work always ends up getting done, one way or another, so there's no point resisting it. A little cushion room is sometimes all I need to pave the way for a good day of writing.

And with that, I'm off to begin. Happy June Gloom.
x jordanna

June 8, 2009

I have a title!

Hello friends,
That is, if I still have any after being the worst blogger of 2009. But the year is only half over, so there is still time to rectify that, or at least to move a few notches up from the *worst.*
Okay, now that I've cleared that up, let me confess that I am retreating to this blank page in order to hide from another, at least for a few minutes. To be more specific, I'm revising my next book and as is often the case with revisions, that entails writing new stuff, not just revising the stuff that's already been written.

But, I'm really excited to announce the title! It's called OUR SONG, and should be out in June 2010. When I have a good synopsis to share, I will, but for now I'll just tell you it's a pretty dramatic love story and despite my temporary avoidance, has been so much fun to write.

You know, as a writer, I realized I'd been spending way too much time and energy trying to get to the finish line, wanting to already be done, to have this book behind me. But then as I approached (and blew past my deadline!), I realized that I'm actually having fun writing this book, inhabiting the minds of my characters, thinking about how they feel and act, and that I shouldn't want it to end, that I'll actually miss these characters when I'm done. The amazing thing is that this shift in thinking has actually worked. It has taken away the sense of doom and fear hanging over me and replaced it with a desire to take the time I need to do the book justice. I still procrastinate. I still have trouble starting most days no matter how well the previous day or days of writing have gone. But I don't feel panicked or wish it was over. Since I want to be doing this for a long time, I hope I can maintain this attitude for a long time, too. At least it's how I feel today.
Now I'm ready to go back to the other blank page. Happy Monday, everyone.
x Jordanna