Dreaming of Detroit

Combine a mild cold with 3-a.m. viewings of Toy Story 3 and a late night or three up scrapbooking,throw in some cold medications, and it leads to some weird dreams. I was listening to Chinese Man’s I Got That Tune just before I fell asleep last night, and it put me in the 1920s mood I so desperately seek when I sit down to work on my novel.

I ended up dreaming my recurring sad Detroit dream; the one where I go through the broken landscape of burnt-out homes and businesses, and for a moment see What Used To Be. Not that Detroit ever had such a glorious moment in history; even the 1920s were ripped apart by bootlegger crimes and young children carting booze in their schoolbags.

I have a very vivid, very real memory of going to a downtown intersection with my best friend Chris, and looking at the ruin of an old bike shop that still had her family’s name over the crumbled doorway. Tin ceilings showed through the rubble. Once, I thought, this was a real place, a livelihood, it’s the reason she and her father still pronounce “battery” as “bat-tree” and talk about “going begging” on Halloween.

I know all these bits and pieces about my hometown, but I feel I need to be honest about them when I write, even if what I am working on is part fantasy/part historic fiction. I need to get back to Detroit…what’s left of it. I always get the best vibes from the past when I’m immersed in the city.

Children’s Book Publishing

First, “we” (the royal “we”, I guess) got mentioned at CNN. Pretty cool, even if they didn’t quote me directly (mouthing ‘call me’ to Anderson Cooper. Yeah, yeah, I know what team he’s on. Still.)

I was on fire to write my post this morning, and I’m going to stick with my topic even if it is later and I’m TIRED gosh I’m tired; tried to nap around 5p but it did nothing to revive me. Probably thanks to my son driving his Batman car around the house. Yes, the one with the tire-squealing sound effects.

Here’s a fact you’ll learn about me around 10 minutes into meeting me, because if you ask me what I “do” I’m most likely to tell you what I “did.” I worked at a small publishing house, as a jack-of-all-trades “Associate Editor” for 4 1/2 years. Well, 2 1/2 full-time, and 2 part-time after my daughter was born. That was also right around the time the company was “traded,” to use a sports analogy (since we also did sports books), then bought out AGAIN by an even larger corporate entity less than a year later. The company went from being a small, family-run place (and not very well run, since the owner readily admitted to not being much of a “reader” — see Sports Books, above) to an international conglomerate, and all the perks like flex time and human decency (I’m looking at you, former Senior Editor who-really-doesn’t-like-titles, EYEROLL) went out the door with the owners.

The company is still limping along in some sort of boxed-in corporate tower (they moved from the quaint offices they had in a small-town above-the-storefront space two years ago), down to 3 in-office workers and an equal amount of work-from-home-in-another-state masterminds who are probably the real ones keeping the pacemaker working.

Anyway, I didn’t want to talk about my bitterness over my last “real” job (don’t get me on the SAHM soapbox) since it’s all water under the bridge now. I’m glad I was home in my children’s formative years, and truthfully, I don’t think I’d have been able to have my son while working. I am much more relaxed, laidback, “Zen” about lif,e and working for The Man no longer appeals to me.

But I learned some interesting things along the way, and I will share them with you in another post tomorrow morning, after my morning coffee kicks in. Hope that’s not too much of a cliffhanger.

What’s the single most important thing you accomplished in 2010?

I’m drawing a blank today (not really, more on that in a sec) so I’ll answer the Daily Post suggested topic for today.

The most important thing I accomplished was writing in my daily journal. More to the point, writing down my gratitudes each day. So, you see, I CAN write everyday (okay, well…here & there I’d have to play catch-up, but never more than a week at a time, and even then that only happened once…or twice…but who’s counting?)

Another important accomplishment tied to putting my thanks in writing was finally reading my way through Simple Abundance (yes, 15 years late…). A lot of her lessons reminded me of things one of my favorite scrapbook artists/teachers, Ali Edwards, is always preaching…things like “it is okay,” “embrace imperfections,” being authentic, etc.

In honor of this latter accomplishment, I have chosen my One Little Word  for 2011. In 2009 I sort of chose “nurture,” meaning to  take care of myself, but small children and new gardens will get in the way, so I never followed through to the extent that Ali’s disciples usually do. My word(s) for 2010 might as well have been gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy — straight from Breathnach’s book.

I don’t know that I will follow through with my word this year, either, but I have at least chosen my word (or, as the disciples say, it chose me🙂 FOCUS. Something this entry could have used a little more of. But hey, it’s only January 3rd.

Love the Question

And that would be, Am I Really A Writer?

I have a lot of excuses *not* to be. I wasn’t encouraged as a youngster (in fact, I was strongly – and strangely – discouraged).

I was too sheltered to seek out the truth (even now I have a hard time seeing the big picture).

My juvenenalia was tossed out when I was 12 as punishment for hiding a bad report card (“daydreaming” was blamed for my poor grades…see my first excuse, above).

I had a vicious critic in my eldest brother, the one with Asperger’s, for whom NOTHING was good enough, and everything was laughed at for being “stupid” (no one was allowed to be smarter than him. It was all he had).

I spent *years* not writing…not exercising that muscle. It still feels flabby, despite years of keeping a daily diary and “online journaling”/blogging (intermittently) for the past 12 (!) years.

I still fear the criticism (firmly ingrained in my inner voice) and feel the Imposter Syndrome when I sit down to write. It freezes me at times (most of the time, actually). I need kind editors. I have become the sort of writer I hated working with when I was an editor at a publishing house, the needy kind who wanted constant encouragement, to whom every word was a precious baby that they couldn’t DREAM of cutting out of their beloved manuscript.

But for me, I primarily need to WRITE. To sit down on a daily basis and get the fiction in my head out on paper. I need solitude, which will be coming soon, when all my children are in school. In the meantime, I will keep checking in here and sharing my thoughts on writing as I live them.

And there is my final fear: that I’m not really a writer, because I don’t have The Fire to write. Maybe I have to write to find the fire. Maybe The Fire is just a myth?

If vacations lasted forever, they would cease being vacations. Right?

Blame it on my recent trip to Venice, Florida. Despite staying in an efficiency with a kitchenette, with the express request that I figure out meals to save us money, I still managed to re-energize myself to the point that I lit a fire under my writing dreams — again. This happened last June, driving down to Franklin, Tennessee, for a scrapbooking weekend. Nine hours by myself in a car, iPod fully loaded with inspirational tunes for my novel. Came home and wrote a detailed outline, with the help of R. Karl Largent and his brief but excellent How to Write and Sell Your Novel, which I picked up at the Ann Arbor Friends of the Library book sale for $2.

This time around, it was Carolyn See and her brilliant book on Making the Literary Life, which I found at the Sand Dollar Bookstore on Miami Avenue in Venice. I hadn’t planned on reading (or knitting) this vacation (see kitchenette, above); my husband threw in Ironside (which I was reading before we left) but it was too dark to be a frothy beach read. I surprised myself by consuming See’s book in just a couple of days instead.

The best advice this time around was her 1,000 words a day rule. Not 1,000 words of rambling, self-pitying navel gazing, but of fiction (preferably, or whatever topic you were writing about…not a journal entry, in other words). Four pages by the handwritten route. Easy enough, and I managed it just fine for 5 days (you take weekends off). Then I did a sixth day, then…I stopped.

One of the things I am discovering that I need is solitude. That is practically impossible with a 3 year-old around. Notice I said practically. I could certainly try around 10a every day, when Jungle Junction is on (his must-see TV). Of course, that is usually when I (finally) jump in the shower. But a shower only takes me about 15 minutes, and my son watches TV for a good hour, hour and a half some mornings. One thousand words can take me anywhere from a half hour (my speed record, and BTW, I loved what I wrote under pressure that day) to a full hour. That’s it! Doesn’t seem right, does it?

I find once I decide what scene I am going to focus on that day, I dive in and don’t look up. But that, for me, takes solitude. I understand why J.K. Rowling wrote in a coffeeshop (well, I am blessed with heat, which she wasn’t at the time, but she was bless with a daughter who napped, and both of my children stopped napping when they were two!) I love my coffeeshop, and yes, it offers solitude.

Here’s another interesting fact I learned about myself in this brief process: I can write any time of day. I always thought I’d do my best work in the morning (I still might, once my son is off to school daily), but it turns out I can write when he is in afternoon preschool (coffee helps).

Now I just need to get back to my 1,000 words a day. Next week is Easter break, so the kids will be around all. day. Here’s to hoping I can find my focus again and get back to my novel. I’ll consider it a mini-vacation from daily routine.