Category: Day-To-Day

The Big Stupid Smile

photo by Rhett Maxwell
photo by Rhett Maxwell

It’s interesting to note how people react to the idea of me writing a novel.

I don’t talk about my writing unless someone asks, and then, my answer is often colored by what I think that person wants to hear.

If the individual is a friend who’s a writer, reader, or an artist of any kind (which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a professional artist, but have a love for creativity), I willingly talk, share, and listen for hours. And when this friend and I part, I inevitably feel changed – deepened – by my friend’s personal pursuit for a meaningful existence.

I also have acquaintances who almost always begin a conversation with, “How’s the book coming?” I think they mean well, but I’m learning that those folks are really just using the topic of the book as a conversation opener, much like talking about that day’s weather or how bad construction is on Pima Road. The novel is what I’m identified with, which, as long as I restrict my answer to something like, “Good,” or “Fine,” is kind of nice.

Then, there’s the person who’s a Challenger.

I met one of my Challengers the other day as I walked the dogs. She’s a woman I’ve known for a few years. When I’d last seen her during the holidays, I’d mentioned that I’d finished the first draft of the novel.

“How’s the book coming?” she now asked as I stood there with the dogs.

“Fine,” I replied. “I’m now moving forward, inch by inch, on revisions.”

She looked at me with a stupefied expression on her face. She was almost angry.

“What do you mean? Wasn’t the first time good enough?

There was a time, not so long ago, when her remark would have cut through to the bone. Anxiety would have tightened its steely grip around my heart. I would have felt extremely guilty for not having achieved more, and for not having done it perfectly the first time around.

Instead, what I experienced was a deep sense of joy within myself. I began to smile, and I couldn’t stop. It was a smile so big and so stupid that I fought the urge to jump up and down and point it out to her.

I tried to explain my process by creating an analogy to painting, where the first draft is a sketch, and revisions are where things like color, texture, and emotion are added. It is, I said, all about depth of story.

I don’t think she understood a single thing I said, but that’s okay. It’s not my job to convert her, or teach her, or persuade her to think in any other way. Right now, my job is to go deeper within myself and take all the time I need, to tell my story the best way I know how, without forgetting to take joy from every minute of creating.

Each day, I live more and more for the big, stupid smile.

The Next New Year

Today I am hosting the neighborhood book club meeting and have been working since 7 a.m. trying to get the house ready. I’m not planning anything fancy (some of my neighbors have done fabulous book-themed soirees), but there is still the setting up of chairs, getting the wine and drinks prepped, ice in the ice bucket, glasses out on the counter, vacuuming of the living room, and many other things that weren’t on my to-do list but reared their ugly heads once I started to look around the part of the house we’ll be using.


I’m secretly pleased with myself that it’s taking so long, because that means I’ve let a number of things go in the “fanatically clean and organized” department since I’ve started writing. My mother would be shocked at my lackadaisical attitude toward clean counters and floors and the accumulation of dust, but I’m reveling in how good it feels. It’s a sign that I should let go of even more because I still feel like I’m giving short shrift to my writing time. I think this small revelation will go into my blessing jar.

I haven’t written on the blog for a long time, for many reasons. Writing the first draft of the novel (finished) was central on my radar. I lost my father in November, which wasn’t that traumatic but is worthy of a blog post or essay in the near future. Then the holidays, of course, which is no excuse at all. All to say that writing regularly in this space is one of my goals for 2014. While writing was supposed to be only a one-year sabbatical, it has turned into a permanent situation for me, thanks to the support and understanding of my composer husband. It would be foolish for me to let this gift lie fallow.


A Rare, Very Good Day

rare_drink1This has been one of those rare, very good days.

A big storm moved in from the west and has hung on all day, which means there was nothing to do but write. Got some revision work done and did a wee bit of work on the next chapter. Not too many words, but I got over the hump of dread that comes with starting a new scene.

Then I found out that I am the winner of a signed copy of Evan Roskos‘ new book, Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. Thanks to Evan and Matthew Quick for choosing me. You can read their open, honest, and insightful interview here.

Finally, I took a bravery pill and asked my current online teacher if he would consider taking me on as a student/client for line editing of my first draft once the class ends.  I’d figured he’d say no, as he’s busy as an author and Dean of Humanities for a state university. He wrote right back and said yes.

This was such a good day. I just wanted to write it down to remind me they exist the next time I spend the day staring at a blank screen.