Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good Thing I'm Not a Gymnast

The word of the day is: balance.

I'm terrible at balancing my personal and professional lives. Am I alone? Extreme? You tell me.

Being a writer, working from home, it is so easy to let others intrude, and/or stop to do laundry or water the plants. I've made jokes for years about having ADHD, which I know is not a joking matter for some. I'm tempted to seek out a doctor for a prescription for Adderall, but then I'll just be adding to my list of obligations that keep me away from my desk during my writing hours! AND, I heard that Adderall inhibits the creative processes of the brain. Lord knows I don't want to inhibit my creative process if I'm trying to write a novel.

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Who Are You? No, Really?

As a writer, it is essential to create characters as complex as real-life people, with likes, dislikes, friends and enemies, joys and worries, with a past and a future (unless you plan to kill them). A good writer will know her characters as intimately as she knows herself, her best friend, her husband, or children.

As a normal person, I wondered how many people, including writers, actually, truly know themselves? Or, better yet, if you were to hand out questionnaires to your friends and family members to describe you, how closely would their answers match your own? Do you see yourself the way others see you?

I have written two novels that my beta-readers describe as "definitely publishable", and yet, I can't hook an agent. It has been said that query letters are often so difficult because the writer is too close to his or her own work and therefore can't talk about it objectively, especially in 250 words or less. I must be one of them. I guess I need to get better at self-promotion and sales!

There are myriad examples of people who behave one way in public and the complete opposite in private. Any man or woman who's had an affair, is an easy example, but also actors who pretend to be happily married and then suddenly announce they're getting a divorce. Politicians and back-stabbing friends would be good examples. Two-year olds who've learned how to lie and bulimics also qualify.

But I contend that some innocent, well-meaning people often have no idea how they come across to others. Ego is often involved: some people have too much, others have too little. Still others just WANT to be someone they're not, so they act like they think they're supposed to, but not in ways that are true to themselves (stiletto shoes, plastic surgery, dyed-blonde hair, a car he/she can't afford?).

Interesting... this could go on and on. Sounds like a great conversation to have over a glass of wine.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is Money Good or Bad?

This past week my husband and I went to Boston to visit my oldest son, Ryan, who is near completion of his Master's degree in Composition at the New England Conservatory. He composes "Contemporary Classical" music.

Unfortunately, the inevitable question arose: What will you do post-graduation? (i.e. How are you going to pay your rent and buy food as a young composer with a disdain for commercial music?) The discussion turned (quickly) to how much money a person needs to survive and the importance of following one's passion.

There is a pie chart, figuratively speaking, about the balance of Talent, Drive, and Money when it comes to raising a "successful" child, which of course leads directly to them becoming "successful" adults. If children are given too much money, it can squeeze out their drive to hone their talents. Conversely, children of little means often are forced to focus on their talents (e.g. good grades leading to scholarships, or basketball skills leading to being drafted by the NBA).

Then we moved on to whether money squelches the highest quality creative talent or lets it shine. Who is more likely to be the next Mozart or J.K. Rowling? Someone who must succeed in order to feed his/her family? Or someone who has no pressure to feed his/her family?

The deeper I get into the world of writing and publishing, the more respect I have for people who are able to complete books while working full-time and raising a family. I don't think I could have done that with four young sons and eventually my art gallery. It wasn't until I closed my gallery and my three oldest boys were in college that I dove head first into writing. I am fortunate to have both a husband and father who have been very successful and provided me with the means to follow my passions (first the gallery, now writing). And this leads to our conclusion.

Of the figurative pie chart, which element is the strongest for you? In the case of Ryan and myself, our passion (and hopefully talent) for creating overpowers money. He and I (and my son Elliott who is also a writer) will always compose/write no matter what our bank accounts say; it's in our blood and our hearts.

But thankfully, for now, we aren't starving artists.

Monday, May 2, 2011

If Tigers Could Talk

Based on the recent rash of novels with "tiger" in their titles, one might think that tigers can talk, English that is.

Yesterday I saw the Disney movie African Cats. It was wonderful in a cinematography, nature-loving, awe-inspiring sort of way. It was also heartbreaking in a motherly, circle-of-life kind of way. Oh, my land, no one has it harder than lions! Unless it's cheetahs or gazelles or wildebeests or water buffalo. The only ones I didn't feel sorry for were the crocodiles, but I'm sure, they too have sad stories to tell. The circle of life is cruel! My husband even felt sorry for me as a mother, because the movie was essentially about a mother lion and a mother cheetah and the struggles they go through to raise their cubs, and how they often have watch them die or leave them behind.

And this is a DISNEY movie? Well, it did bring back memories of Bambi.

But what I was thinking was, if tigers could talk all of us writers would be hungry, cold, and penniless. The big cats' tales (not tails) were so difficult and sad that they put humans' stories to shame.

Then again, if I was hungry, cold, penniless, and being chased by a full-grown male lion, I think I could tell a pretty heart-wrenching story. I'll try to remember that thought as I work on my next novel. (Come to think of it, maybe that's what Jonathan Lethem was thinking when he wrote Chronic City.)