Sunday, March 22, 2020

Surviving Coronavirus AKA Chasing My Tail

It's only been a week. We're a week into an usual shift to pull inward. Keep to ourselves. Flatten the curve. Be socially responsible by not being social. Well, I've had a bit of my own "come to Jesus" moments in that last 7-10 days, and they haven't been pretty.

Things about this pandemic that have been a challenge:
Staying off the news feeds. They could be the death of my psyche. With so much information available on an hourly basis (if you toggle, like I'm doing, between the NYT, NPR, and the Johns Hopkins virus tracker map), I'm chasing my tail. I never get enough (peace?) or the thing I'm truly looking for, which is: When will this be over? And, Can I guarantee no one I love will get sick or die? Answers to both are impossible.

Going outside. Logically, I know it's okay to go outside. It's fine. Fresh air is good, but for some reason, it's not as comforting as it should be. Not that I reasonably think anything bad could happen to me out in the open air. It just feels different. Solution? Go outside more.

Being creative to combat the stress. Artistic types are finding creative ways to do their art. So, what's up when you can't muster the enthusiasm to do your art? This is the first words I've written since the national emergency. I thought of a poem the other day but lost it in the dread to go into a grocery store. For the record, I have not stocked up on toilet paper.

Caring what others are doing to stay safe. This one is a biggy, because the directives of the White House, my city, and state, aren't universally being followed. Everyone has a different opinion about their freedom of movement. I can't control the behavior of anyone despite my decision to follow the recommendations. In fact, I can't control anything about these circumstances except my own response. I suppose I could put up a sign in my yard that says: Hey, follow the rules! But that wouldn't do any good either. My heart goes out to essential workers and people who can't afford to miss work. You need support, too.
My writing pal.

Upsides? There are a few:
Old friends are in touch. It has been nice to reconnect with many people this week. Hey, even though we're mostly on social media doesn't mean we're anymore likely to stay in touch. We see snippets of each others' lives from our posts but not the meaty stuff. This week, I'm having conversations that are more meaningful.

I appreciate my home more. So Much More! Frankly, because of my day job, I'm just not home that much. Yes, on weekends (in-between errands). But now I'm more thankful to have a nice place to live and a yard to walk around. I have a fridge and a washer/dryer and a garage that needs cleaning out. Rather than a burden, my overstuffed garage might actually get a makeover.

My pets love the company. My three cats have discovered ear-scratches are available anytime. Spoiled kitties.

My kid made cookies. For the first time in forever. Thank you, Ronnie. You're good to be cooped up with.

Let me know how you are doing.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Retro Writing: Why My Hands Win Out

Sometimes, a writer's job only involves contemplating the story. That's not the same as writing. It can happen between sentences, or it might take the form of long stretches when wistfulness clouds the eyes. Generally, my hearing stops working while my story is swirling around in my head.

This could change with technology, when computers gain the ability to read our thoughts. I've read that a form of this type of virtual reality technology is being developed. In my Luddite-lite worldview, my warning sirens go into Category 5 hurricane mode (BTW, 5 is the most severe hurricane). If thinking a story becomes a way to write a story, would a computer capture every thought and plot line that my brain thinks? How would I revise such a conglomeration? My thoughts go in hundreds of directions before I write them, so much so that the physical act of actually writing a coherent string of words is the thing that makes them coherent.

Writers have been using dictation to write stories for a while. I tried this once several years ago using speech-to-text software, but it wasn't sophisticated enough to understand all my words and the flow of my speech pattern, so I forgot about it. However, a case can be made that speech-to-text could be a productive option for many and make a writer's wordcount soar.
Photo of a book cover entitled "A Real Book"

There may come a time when the way we write doesn't involve "writing" anymore. Consumer pressure for more words and stories, faster and faster, to make a living and satisfy audiences could send the keyboard into obsolescence. Then we may find ourselves waxing nostalgically about the days when we used a laptop. Our Chromebooks and MacBooks would fall in with the dinosaurs and the rotatory telephone. (Somewhat ironically, the speech-to-text software marketed to writers is called Dragon.) Or, it could be that this development will peter out like other changes in technology. Hardcopy vs. ebook, anyone? I also know writers who still use pen and paper.

Nonetheless, if you have a rotatory phone because it's cool, rock on! And if your vinyl collection is lovingly intact, you are my hero! Maybe I'll just stay retro and write the old fashioned way, one keystroke at a time. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Where My Reading Took Me in 2019

Writers need to read, so it's good to look back at the year's consumption. I'm a notoriously slow reader, but ho! I did pretty well in 2019.

Finished Cover-to-Cover

These were a mix of old, new, famous and not-so-famous. Dan DeWeese and Leni Zumas are from the Portland, Ore., scene. The surprise was Elizabeth Hand. Need to read more of her. Venus was a major disappointment.

How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Fire. Plus... by Elizabeth Hand
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Gielgud by Dan DeWeese
I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan
On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks
Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Ten Poems about Love selected and introduced by Lorraine Mariner
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Still Want to Finish

Whitney Otto also comes out of the Portland writing community. Keya is my dear friend in western North Carolina who is incredibly smart and translated the work from Sanskrit. Yeah, it's okay to feel small now.

Dear Life by Alice Munro
How to Make An American Quilt by Whitney Otto
Philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita by Keya Maitra
Game of Thrones, Book One, by George R.R. Martin

Started But Lost Interest In

Gosh, I wanted to like all of these, but my attention span can't absorb multiple characters, too many plot lines (oops, I wrote a book like that!), or over-indulgent, self-centered figures (Henry and Hunter).

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Cat's Fancy by Julie Kenner
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
Hunter, The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S Thompson by E. Jean Carroll

Went Back to Again and Again

The Book of Joy, Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmund Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass
The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke by Anchor Books

Still to Read

It's good to have goals!

Moby Dick by Melville
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Suggestions?