July 19, 2011

Random Thoughts on Writing From the Roller Rink

Yesterday I took my two daughters to the rollerskating rink for the first time. They had never been on skates before and there was about a fifteen year gap for me since I had. We were all pretty shaky and spent the majority of our time hugging the walls and wobbling across the floor-that is when we weren't flat on our backs! My youngest became frustrated after a few minutes because suddenly this very exciting sounding activity was starting to feel a lot like work. She sat in the middle of the floor. letting all the other skaters flow past her and cried.

Looking back on it now, it occurs to me that learning how to roller skate is a lot like writing a novel and trying to get published. At first, the whole thing seems exciting, a great creative adventure. You picture yourself gliding through a rough draft, polishing it with speed, each step a little challenging, but mostly thrilling and above all fun. But then you dive into the rough draft and find that it takes days just to get a few pages down. You stumble and fall more than you glide and your butt and your head hurt from all the abuse the both of them have taken. All around you more accomplished writers are speeding along, wind in their hair, smiles on their faces doing tricks you didn't even know were possible. And it all seems incredibly hard. This is the point where you want to plop down on the floor and cry, your confidence not only shaken, but obliterated. You want to give up. You want to say that maybe it just isn't for you, maybe the people who actually manage to balance on both feet and move forward have some special quality that you are sadly lacking. You are right where my daughter was yesterday, on the verge of giving up.

You have to ask yourself the same question my daughter asked: Is it worth it? Because if it is, then you're in exactly the right place. You can't learn to roll along until you've fallen on your face a few times. Gliding in writing or skating isn't natural, it's learned. Sure, some people pick up the basics quicker and stop falling faster, but does it really matter if the end result is the same? You can't control how long it takes you to make it all the way around the rink without falling, but you can control your ability to get back up after a fall, to keep going in spite of what others are doing. And let's face it, once you do find your balance it does get a little easier. You don't have to hold onto the wall as much. You start picking up your pace and trying out some tricks of your own. And when the breeze finally hits your face, it isn't a surprise, it's a cool reward for all the effort you've put forth.

My daughter got up and kept trying. By the end of the two hours we spent there she was holding the wall just a little less. She still has a long way to go, but she doesn't seem to care. She figured out that she wants to learn to glide and now she won't settle for anything less. In fact, we will be back on the rink next week. So what about you? Do you want to glide or not?

July 15, 2011

This Is Teen Event, Coral Gables, Florida

Next week I will be dragging my entire family down to Miami for the This Is Teen event with Libba Bray, Maggie Stiefvater, and Meg Cabot, yay! So excited that they will be within a five hour radius of my house. Which gives me a week to think of some good questions to ask them about all things booky.

I'm just hoping I can curb my usual compulsion to say something embarrassing and stupid...like I did to Dennis Lehane when he did a reading at the Writer's in Paradise conference and I told him my friend and I were the desperate housewives of our suburb--I meant desperate to write, but from the look on his face I think he thought I meant we were desperate for something else entirely:)

July 6, 2011

Stuck in the sticky middle of the story. Aaargh!

I am soooo stuck right now. I know what direction my story is going, but can't seem to get what's in my head on paper. And every minute that ticks by makes me crazier.

I went to Barnes and Noble last night to try and escape the three stooges-style fighting going on between my two little people. Okay, they weren't poking each other in the eyes, but the intent was there...and guess what? I ended up at a table way too close to another tiny person being quizzed by her very loud mother on what a cow says. Which I think isn't much more than moo, but it kept them occuppied for quite some time.

I couldn't concentrate and my pen didn't move much. I ended up in the YA section swaying slightly and muttering to myself. Which I'm sure did wonders for my already non-existent street cred with the eighteen and under set.

Now here I am again with my own personal deadline looming on the horizon and a growing stack of backlogged chapters...and I'm blogging instead of writing. Butt's in chair, but chair has taken a serious detour.

I'm hoping this is that weird period where my ideas need to cook crock pot-style, but still I worry, like every other time that this happens, that I've finally hit my dry spell, the last drop in my creative well. Sounds crazy, but I can't keep from having a mini break down. So what to do? One of two things: eat chocolate and wallow or eat chocolate and write anyway. How bad is it? Let's take a look at the chocolate scale and see.

Chocolate Scale:

A handful of M&M's =  mild, once I sit somewhere quiet the words will come.

1 s'more made white trash-style (style seems to be a word I'm in love with tonight) in the microwave = I'll struggle for a few days, but by the end of the week I'll be back on track.

1-2 (yes, I said 2--it doesn't happen often, so calm down, people) melted Hershey bars-with sliced banana, marshmallows and strawberries sprinkled with powdered sugar = possible derailment, definite 5 pound weight gain and complete mini-breakdown where I ask everyone I'm close to if they think I'll make it someday-sob!

Right now I think I'm headed for s'moresville, but only because I don't have any Hershey bars. My s'more will have to be comprised of chocolate chips tonight-desperate, right? I'll try writing through the pain. I'm crossing my fingers, hoping the writing might morph from bad to good sometime during this excercise...okay, I'm not crossing my fingers at this exact moment 'cause then I'd be elbow typing and that would just take forever, but definitely after this. We'll see what happens. Putting Hershey bars on the grocery list just in case, though.