A brilliant idea
Your mental desert
. . .
. . .
A brilliant idea
It was found
Fifty years ago
Today’s theme: Balance. There’s a fine line between not enough, and way too much.
Therefore, it is best to avoid:
The picture is from Wiki Commons. Public domain image.
I have sharpened twelve different pencils
Tested thirty different pens
Acquired perfect table and a chair
I have chosen carefully a keyboard
Checked its fit and click and feel
Run my hands along the buttons like a map
I have read the many works of others
And the works on works of others
And the works on works on works of them
I have read twelve step instructions
And the thirty step instructions
Outlining numbered hybrids in my head
I have filled the room with candles
Fluffed the pillows on the chair
Stocked the many mugs with coffee, cups with tea
And it’s all a preparation
Superstition or distraction
From the truth that no one ever wants to hear:
The only way to improve the writing
I have a game I like to play when I’m stuck in traffic or bored at…home. I call it ‘Non-Sequiturs’ and it’s a lovely game for writers.
Basically, you take two completely unrelated subjects and see if you can fit them into a single story. It can be as simple or elaborate as you want… and the results may surprise you.
For example, the other day I chose “Casablanca” and “tacos”, and ended up with this:
A drug cartel has taken control of a small Mexican town. Maria is desperate to get out – to seek help for the town and fight the cartel. She looks to her former lover, Pablo, for assistance – but things get tricky when a love triangle emerges and we find out Maria is married to the leader of an opposing cartel. The whole story centers around Pablo’s restaurant, “La Casa”.
Is it the best story ever? Probably not. But it’s a great exercise if you’re looking for new ideas.
So on that note, let’s start the next round. I propose “Frank Sinatra” and “The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.”
If you come up with a solution, or you’d like to propose another pair, feel free to post it in the comments.
The thing about it is
I don’t know you
So despite the social fizz
You subscribe to
I’m not the sort of girl
You give a line to
Not that you’re a liar
Or a real crook
I just don’t want to hear
A tactic from a play book
I don’t need Romeo
Or an ego-puff
Just say hello
Because that’s quite enough
We all know the necessary and (sometimes) painful exercise of killing your darlings – to rip out the well-written but ill-fitting sections from the larger work. I keep files and files of them. A mausoleum of discarded ideas. I visit, occasionally. Probing around for a possible, but unlikely, resurrection.
Worse yet is discarding a structure. It’s like trying to transplant someone’s skeleton. Horribly intimidating at first, but if you can get past the floppy stage in the middle, the result is quite satisfying. Or at least, that’s the hope.
So whenever I’m confronted by major word-surgery, I’m reminded of something a former employer said.
As a senior in high school, I had a part time job knitting sweaters. I’m not kidding. I worked for a textile/fiber artist, Anne. It was the best part time job I ever had, by far.
Anyway, I often worked with a knitting machine – which is not so much a ‘machine’ as a giant rig allowing the user to knit with many needles at once. ‘Twas a fickle thing. Every now and again, for no apparent reason, a thread would abandon ship and slide off its needle. And if you didn’t catch it immediately, it would cause a hole to open up in the middle of the garment. And you’d have to start over.
But Anne was the Zen master. Whenever something like that happened, she’d say ‘It’s ok. Just stop, take a deep breath, practice swearing, then take it of the machine and try it again.’
I now use this advice for writing. Whenever I have to cut out my darlings and reconfigure everything I just spent so many hours on: stop, breath, swear, try again.
Thank you, Anne.
Want to see Anne’s art? Check out her website: http://steelwoolstudio.com/anne-alessi.htm
The other day, in the Wal-Mart checkout line, I happen to take notice of the magazines. And while I waited in queue to buy my frozen vegetables and three kinds of soap, I had a little giggle at the selection:
One of these things is not like the other…
I have to admit, I almost bought the cupcake instructional purely because it had avoided the otherwise ubiquitous trifecta of standard magazine topics… Almost.
Or maybe just monotonous
The words of other people
Rattle in my head
And down my arm
And out the pen
And pages pages pages
Let out of their cages
And formed into a plot
Though it’s not
Ever quite what I intended
Always maybe something else
And turned out to left
When I was thinking right
But it might
Just work out in the end
If I add another bend
Or a twist
Or a kiss
And a quote
From the dope
That I added on a whim
Then we’ll see no more of him
And reWrite, reWrite, reWrite
So then someday it might
Actually be read.
Earlier this week, there was an article in the Entertainment section of the LA Times that stated:
Benedict Cumberbatch will return to the London stage next year to play the mopey prince of Denmark in a new production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” which will run at the Barbican theater.
…which struck me as kind of funny. Not Cumberbatch playing Hamlet – to the contrary, I’m sure he’ll be fantastic. No, I giggled at referring to Hamlet as “the mopey prince of Denmark.”
It seems like the kind of term most often used for children denied ice cream, or a teenybopper with an unrequited crush. Not Shakespearean princes, surely.
Although… if anybody had a reason to mope…it’d be Hamlet. I mean, think about it:
His uncle murders his father – total bummer. About a month later, Uncle Murder marries Mom – super awkward. He accidentally kills his girlfriend’s dad – oops. Then she goes nuts and drowns herself, leaving Hamlet to deal with her very angry brother. And if that wasn’t enough, practically everyone in Denmark thinks he’s going mad.
So yeah, Hamlet’s having a bad year.
Given all that, I think I’d be pretty mopey too.