Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tooth Brushing

For years I had a normal, manual toothbrush, the kind that moved only with my help. Then one year my mom gave me an electric toothbrush. This one has a timer so I always know whether I have brushed for the full two minutes or not. I don't have to brush for two minutes, I mean technically I am the boss of my own mouth, but most of the time I follow it's advice and wait until the full two minutes is up. I'm old enough now that taking care of my teeth is advisable.

The beginning of my tooth brushing is actually fun. I know I like it, I know I'm doing a service to myself, I'm focused on each tooth and it does feel refreshing. By about MINUTE ONE things start to shift, the toothbrush feels heavy in my hand, I pace around the room, and I drift from tooth-to-tooth, by MINUTE ONE-AND-A-HALF I cannot believe this machine is still going and I wonder (and I do mean every time) if the tooth brush is broken and has forgotten what two minutes is and that it will never come to an end. I'm always tempted to turn it off. ALWAYS.  I mean how important are the last few never ending seconds?

At some point in this daily ritual I realized that this is pretty much sums up how I feel about the writing process, especially the last 30 seconds, where I really have to give myself that final push and reach for the nooks and crannies I'd rather forget about. This revelation was actually helpful to me because now twice a day I'm reminded of this process. From enthusiasm and detail, to restlessness, to wanting to quit and having a feeling that the whole thing is taking too long.  It reminds me to keep going on because really writing and tooth brushing are the same. I just have to get through two minutes or two hours or two days or whatever, but that just like my teeth I will get somewhere by showing up and doing it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


The kids are at school, it's absolutely silent and I'm painting the kitchen, something that was left half done (or half undone depending on how you look at it) six years ago when Sean and I moved into our house. I've felt guilty about his every time I walk into the kitchen. That's a big pile of guilt. But I would have felt more guilty if I had painted it. That would have meant I was doing something else with my free time than what I really needed to be doing: writing.

Artists often talk about how cleaning is such a distraction, for me, it's the opposite. I successfully close out dirty laundry, half painted walls, even dirty kids with half painted hair, I mean tangled hair.

Of course, I still feel guilty, I simply shut it out because it turns out that writing is a distraction from cleaning. Maybe I'd do anything to avoid it. Maybe. But the question remains, what have I to show for all my ignoring? It turns out I wrote a book. Now that's as beautiful as paint on the wall, or folded laundry, or kids with brushed hair.

So as I pause from this book, I get to paint. I have to do it quickly because another book is churning up inside, and pretty soon I won't be painting, or folding, or brushing, or doing anything else around the house expect writing.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The teeth of a story

William Everett Crocodile lived on the banks of the River Nile with his mama. One day, Mama said, "William Everett, now that you have nice crocodile teeth, we must go to Mr. Hippo's store and get you a toothbrush before you start school tomorrow." Bill and Pete, by Tomie de Paola. This books starts one place and really ends somewhere else. You wouldn't think you'd see the tooshie of a man running away, but you do. Where does our story start? This story starts with teeth, and in fact, ends with teeth. The mean guy running away from some teeth he's very scared of. To the reader/listener teeth are really important. Losing them, growing them, brushing them. Mr. de Paola has struck the chord. The child is instantly hooked, and then the toothbrush is a bird. Perfection.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

borrowed costumes

Today is big. Really big. It's halloween. Pumpkins are carved. Costumes are organized (kind of). But this year is different. This year we didn't make them as in previous years. No skunks, no Yeti's, no moon or shooting star, no leaves. This year is more traditional. A ghost vampire and a witch. For so long I have leaned away from the borrowed costume. I like the original. But I can't do it every year, it's true. And more to the point my kids don't want it. But I had fun going to our friend's house and simply pulling stuff out of a dress up box. No needles or thread. No fun fur. The form is set. A witch is a witch, and a vampire ghost is merely a slight twist on the vampire, a long white nightgown is all that is needed (and we have one of those).

I'm just starting to write again, after what seems like a startlingly long time, it's actually only a month but there you go-to a writer it's a million years. Starting a new job, husband with a million deadlines, kids transitioning, time gets eaten up. I've had a bad time waking up early to write and a worse time staying up late, but really the truth is I felt zapped. I didn't have the energy to start something original (like a home made costume).

SO I've finally decided to go back to something already there. To the old reliable who still needs to be tweaked. Just like costumes, some writing is already there. The job needed is actually like borrowing a costume. Of course writing is inventing, but it's also borrowing and my job right now is to look in my dress-up box, and my friends dress-up boxes and find the outfits I know, and to take from them what can make the book better, to study the forms and traditions and like my daughter perhaps I too will have a book that is both traditional (the vampire) and original (a ghost- vampire).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Choosing the mode can be difficult...for a cat.

The mode could be cleaning, sleeping, disdaining, seeking attention, not seeking attention, wanting to be let outside, wanting to be let inside, wanting food, sharpening the nails on the furniture, sleeping on owner's neck, torturing the dog, or laying on top of the newspaper. There are so many modes to choose.