Category Archives: on writing

>Time To Write . . finally, maybe

>

Oct 15, 2009

 

As I left my loft downtown, bouncing my bike down from the loading dock and donning my slicker, while coughing heartily into my hand, I encountered my neighbor.

Wow even in the rain, this cold, the bike . .  . really ?

 

 Oh well if you give your self a day off, or an excuse you are done for. . .

NO EXCUSES

With that I pedaled off coughing and wheeling into the pelting downpour. I was wearing no hat and had grabbed only thin sweat pants to wear. I was on my way 3 miles north to a Pilates class, having forsaken my warm home and the promise I’d made to write something today that didn’t involve work. Meaning neither a journalistic piece on quilts nor a grant to support housing for homeless women. All important, but  diversions from my creative writing.

 

As I peddled off I was rattling around in my head, Never give yourself an excuse or an easy way out. You have to brave the rain, cold to stay strong. Go on out into the rain on your bike. I seemed truly crazy. And has I felt my fever heat and cool me simultaneously and my cough kept me hacking I had a simple epiphany as I crossed Canal Street. I am nearly sixty years old, when can I give myself a day off ? Or when can I take a respite just because I feel like it. WHEN?

 

And just like that I circled back and rode home. I turned my metal mule around and bumped back up the slippery loading dock and came home into the warmth. Ate a crisp apple and read.

 

Rather than feeling defeated I felt as if I  made a grown up decision. Pilates is wonderful but this cold and sore throat will not get better by beating myself up. I have a few hours without meetings and I am a writer who says she never has time to write.

 

Please do not think this is what I am passing off as my writng time, no this is the prelude, the foreplay to re- announce my intention to myself. As Lizzie Simon said in her wonderful  SHEWRITES.COM webinar yesterday, “Practice being a writer by writing every day for 30 minutes. Be in the void” Hell I spend a half hour wondering if the cats are actually smiling at me. Another thirty minutes pondering banana bread or a trash toss; so I think can invest that time in me and my desire to amass words into a form that might become a book.

 

I also went to a poetry reading this week given in a local gallery by the seductive and talented Max Blagg who said, “ I write1000 words every day, not all good words, not all keepable words, but words to get the juices flowing and refer back to perhaps when the real writng starts. Like keeping the machine in order.” His words and rhythm are magical and if they come from a rigor of daily writing then maybe I can join in.

 

At any rate I am home having turned back from rain and cold and wheezing and embracing, for a little while, the warmth of my home and the comfort of words.

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>Last Performance

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9/29/08
I had to change the date on this posting, I thought I’d come home from the final performance and write, on Sunday night. Right as I came in; I would sit and write. Well I am a fool. I was wrung out, a puddle. Not tired, but done.

During the run of this show, at all 15 performances, we were all tested by heat, lack of working machinery, and nearly every cast member was so late on at least one occasion that it gave me palpitations. And I kept saying, OK so who can fill in for the clarinet? Or can we cover for Troy until he gets here? And they always slipped in right as I was about to call the Deep Lunatic Ward at Belleview, for myself. On top of that, we had endless and constantly morphing technical challenges in the near to ancient LaMama theater. On the final night, the lights went dark for a scene and a half as the cast and musicians kept playing while the less than competent electrician attempted to jiggle wires and reply things.

My frustration level was tip-top.

9/30 08
OK starting again.
It seems I am having trouble writing this.
It is the end; the end for now folks keep saying,
but I know it is the end of this artistic moment.

I have done no other work since March nearly seven months, a long time.
And for now it is over.

I’d love to, mount it again; but for this moment it is over.
And the ground swell and I had wanted, OH DON”T GET ME WRONG the press, the love, the applause, all were wonderful, but I felt it would be life changing.
I felt, or fantasized that I would be hired, or lauded to the point of being saved and that we would most definitely know where we going after this. My book would be picked up by a publisher and I would stop asking, begging, requesting things from others to help me or those I loved, respected and wanted on my team.

I felt I would raise or earn funds to pay people more that the tad they received. Hell, I didn’t think I’d be here attempting to figure out if we made enough to pay the violinist, the choreographer and the press woman. These three, the best sports, who have still not gotten their promised amounts. UUGH. Or that neither Doug nor I would be paid a cent, and would, in fact, be out of pocket. Not a fortune but now, what is a fortune? Grocery money, certainly, and where else will that come from? OK that is too dramatic, even for me.

As the country melts down financially, I await the word on REAL JOB.

I had my phone interview with the LA shrink hired to deconstruct the personality, aptitude test I took in haste last Thursday. Dr. Whoever was nice enough and we had some interesting off topic conversations about cooking, but still he did tell me there were others in the running. I said, “Well, I hope so as it is a plum job.” I didn’t say ‘and in a shrinking job market.’ I answered what he asked; I stayed on topic; I was friendly and open hearted–meaning I was a portion of who I am. I checked my fear in the hall closet and only occasionally gave the finger to the phone. That felt good, and let me stay calm and happy. I was. As I knew one way or the other, this was moving me steps closer to the decision.

The show is so vibrantly present in my front and back brain that when I can’t sleep, I sing the words and music constantly to myself.
“Nothing to do but breathe,
Nothing but sweet air.
Sweet air, in and out.”

Or when Zac leaves for work I sing, “Quick trip there and back. Quick trip.”

Silly.

I love this show and I feel like a bit of a failure, as I wish we were signed up to go to Festivals across the globe and across the country.

I loved, and was challenged by so much of this. I was dubbed a hot head by composer Doug, and I am sure I was, but I feel I got things done, I did light fires and made so many calls, wrote emails and sent actual mail. But there is this huge let down, a post partum, if you will, where I can’t help seeing and thinking of all the other things I coulda, shoulda done, felt, said . . .

This is no different than the culmination of a relationship, or job or maybe it is, because this is exacerbated by the fact that we are also living in terrifying times. And once again I am moving funds from here to there attempting to pay bills and not scare myself or those around me.

Today I cleaned, I straightened books, papers, magazines, scripts, invitations and I found all the back bills. I began to catalog the papers for CALLING to be able to retrieve and redo at a moment’s notice. And I attempted to feel the spirit of the Jewish New Year as it slipped quietly into New York City.

A few months ago, I made a promise to come here often to chronicle the making of this opera and I did that somewhat. I couldn’t be totally honest; as there were often so many emotionally frustrating and crazy occurrences and I felt it would have compromised the production to be an unflinching scribe. But now it is closed and I am exhausted and want to read, or eat apples and ride my bike to nowhere.

I went back to the gym yesterday and in my mind I screamed for the entire hour,
“RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!!”

It was horrible to stick with the difficult Pilates class, and to see the slippage of my corpus and my resolve. I am attempting to eat no sugar and drink no alcohol, but as we watched the news about Wall Street last night, I thought, the sky is falling better finish my birthday cake and have a glass of wine. And so I did. Getting back in shape is always a test, finding a slimmer, not slim mind you, me and ending the sugar highs that have kept me awake and functioning at all.

I’d like to visit here often, but I am making no more promises for a while.

>The Ides of Everything

>Okay, today is the 15th of September. I had an article due, I had a Guggenheim grant due and this is my first day off in three weeks.

Whew, the market, the stock market, took a giant dive, while I typed, and edited and talked to potential grant recommenders. It seemed all around me swirled craziness and I attempted to keep my head down and write a very large grant.

Although I have received grants, I have never written a grant for myself. Asking or telling or wanting for myself has always been difficult and today exhausted and over wrought it seemed I could only get engaged in long phone calls, calls I wanted, but I had trouble jumping back on the writing pony. But I kept going back.

I finished the story for the TriBeCa Tib and by the help of magic fairies; it must have been that, I rode up to the Mail Box place just as the last Fed Ex guy was about to roll out.

“Hey, wait please,” I hollered.

The cute Fed Ex guy stood while I wrote out the labels to myself required by Guggenheim.

“So if you get this grant, what will you give me?”

“I will take you out for drinks.”

“OK, but I am planning on winning the lottery first.”

“Well, you better take my number then in case I don’t win, then I will need a drink.”

AHHH sometimes I just love humans, the ones who get that a little extra time won’t kill you and it might even help a fellow traveler.

Yesterday at the theater, the show was the best ever, nice because we were video taping it. I joked with the cast saying that if they did a great job, I’d be overjoyed, as we wouldn’t have to re-tape. A joke perhaps but they were flawless, inspired, amazing.

I really loved the show yesterday afternoon and that was a great treat.

I am taking Tuesday and a part of Wednesday off and running away to the country to dig dirt and smell the roses, literally.

>Frozen in August

>It is exactly one month until the opera; I so haphazardly wandered into, will open.
How does one wander into an opera project?

I wrote a book about September 11th, A Mother’s Essays From Ground Zero; then two years ago I produced a fashion show (horrible incongruity I know, such is my life.) For the show I hired a young, most fabulous composer Doug Geers. After the show Doug and his virtuoso, violinist wife Maja asked me out to tea. I went. They inquired what I wanted to do next.
I blurted, “ I want to turn this book I wrote about 9/11 into an opera.”
They are an under spoken couple. “ Oh, let’s take a look at the book.” They sighed.

As I rode my trusty nearly 40-year-old Raleigh bike home from the meeting I had a spirited conversation inside my head.
“ I never knew you wanted to make an opera, you never tell me anything!!”
“ I thought you knew, after all you live inside here as well, do you pay attention to what I am thinking or are you too bludgeoned by the quotidian details of your stupid life to ever spend time with me, your interior life.”

My interior life won that battle, she was right I had been absorbed in editing a magazine, putting money away for college payments and falling in love with a garden, yet all this time my crazy imagination had been creating a secret opera. As soon as I was given a chance to talk about it, the idea blurt itself out, as if it had a life of its own.

And now it has a very real life, a web site, music, libretto and, a small, mostly volunteer team, growing astoundingly larger by the month, and now by the day. They are composing, designing, building and tinkering with this project, now entitled Calling: An Opera of Forgiveness. We open in the 99 seat LaMaMa First Floor Theater officially on September 12, but we have an invited dress rehearsal on September 10 and a benefit September 11. Today is the 10th of August and I am frozen in fear, even as the air around my shoulders reflects my inner body temperature. Heat surrounds me, but I am frozen.

Again there are two of me. The frozen, who is screaming,
WHAT DID YOU DO ??
WHY DID YOU DO IT ?
Then there is the calm rational worker bee who is making lists, creating blasts, writing small, small checks and attempting to think of every detail from folding beds to foot lights. I pass out post cards and ask each person to take one and pass one on. As if this Luddite, viral distribution will achieve the full houses we so desperately need for funds and a future.

The warm air beckons and I have a stack of gorgeous postcards, designed by a young Russian designer ( Vikotria Televnyy) yes of course for free, that sit here and upbraid me, begging to be handed out.

>Terror and joy

>I don’t write this blog regularly or even semi-regular-like as my father used to say.

I can’t.

I think all the time, but I want to escape from saving my thoughts.

I am in the midst of creating an opera from a book I penned.

Simple right?

It is terrifying.

We have very little money and a mountain to trek up involving artists and logistic leaps and slogs.

And so I move daily from abject terror to a giddy elation.

I never know how it will unfold.

Someone calls me back and I am high.
The calls go unreturned and I am reduced to a puddle.
My ex boyfriend sends us a $100 donation and I leap.
The fabulously wealthy mother of a Yale friend tells him to call me, to say she has NO MONEY and I am in a rage.
Can a heart and mind continue like this?

I suppose it is no different from what we see played out daily on Wall Street… big-huge, excruciating swings.
We hate the economy,
Then we are hopeful, and the market swings hundreds of points, like yesterday.
Today who knows?

Have we all been reduced to this pendulum of emotion because the real terror of the environment and war has inured us to the scary things that abound?
I have young adult children, 23, and about to be 20, well at my age, thank god they are not baby children. But I worry for these kids; I attempt to not obsess about their world or excessive expense and diminishing resources. I worry for their joy and freedom from fear.

As I write this I think that perhaps the wild ride of life has always been the impetus for writers, painters, and composers to create something else – to both divert themselves and others from tough times or to focus our energies on how to do things differently.

OK back to the OPERA salt mines. This week we finish scheduling auditions, which will happen next week. This means that the boat has sailed and now we head toward the dock and performances in September.
BON VOYAGE and Stay with us.

>Winter Reveals

>I am in the country writing. And waiting.
My husband has taken our son back to college after a semester of forced hiatus, during which he worked in Scotland as an assistant Game Keeper and grew up by leaps and bounds.

I am waiting to see how the re-entry goes. And I am waiting here at home, because Henry says everything is less dramatic without me. Now I choose to imagine that can be a good and bad thing. But when you are going back to college and you are a young man, I can see you might relish less drama. Checking into your new room with a very cool, smooth father has to be better than the whirling dervish that is me.

OK, so I am waiting to see if the room is nice, the kids are kind to him coming back. If he finds food. No point in enumerating. I wait to be told, “It’s all good.” The kid has shelter, food and some friends. And I promised I would sit here and force myself to write until my husband returned.

Well, I cracked. I had cabin fever of the chair. Of the computer screen.
I couldn’t sit still one minute more.

Let’s not lie.
I got up to do wash.
I got up to pee.
I folded some laundry.
But I wrote pieces.
I edited others.
I wrote a funding letter.

I scrawled a profile of an author who wrote an amazing book called How Starbucks Saved My Life and I wish I had written that book, but I never worked at Starbucks.
I wrote more scenes for the opera I am attempting to forge from my book of essays about 9/11
And I fidgeted until finally I had to go outside and walk in the snow and failing light.

I hate to walk.
It seems so slow compared to my usual means of transportation: the bike. But I need to walk more. I need to move my body myself; this means not the bike moving me, which I am so used, to it is no longer exercise. I have to do this, as I have gained 15 pounds since October and now I have high cholesterol to boot.

So I bundled up country style. I put big socks on and pulled them up over my sweat pants. I tucked my dirty hair into a wool cap and I zipped up and literally ran into the open arms of winter.

I ran up the hill, well scampered pretty fast. I detoured into the cornfield so see how much corn the deer had consumed. Nearly every stalk left to dry has been chomped clean of all the kernels.

I listened to the wail of the wild turkeys. I heard the errant geese honking, and I walked up the hill over to where the free range cows roam, well, free. The farmer door raises these wild cows with no pens or fencing and even the bull roams free with long strings of spittle waving in the cold breeze.

I yelled, “HELLO, COWS.” I mooed.
And I hollered “HELLO, CROWS.” And did my best caw-caw.

I had walked about a mile and was freezing. Thin sweat pants make for nice writing togs, but lousy winter wear. So I turned around and on the way back, between looking for bird nests and cataloging the juniper trees with the most berries I discovered a small pond.

Now this was discovery the way Columbus “discovered” America. This pond had been here all along, but it took winter to reveal it to me. I needed the trees to be thinned of leaves and the under growth to have been beaten down by snows and melts. And there it was right on the road where I take my walks when I am being good.

It made me wonder what else is out here hiding from me in spring, summer and fall. I am going to find out, but first I am going to finish the list on the wall.

>Starting the blog

>When you decide that you might have words, thoughts and emotions to share with readers on a daily basis what does that mean? Beyond writing in a journal, where you can say, I have new and detested hairs sprouting out of my mole that does seem to be really growing. Or, I hate my children sometimes, most of us have no place to venture forth, out loud with that. Or maybe I never should have had children, as I fear I have passed my insanity on to them, let alone the quirks and downfalls of their now abhored father.

What can we say in a blog that borders on honesty, but creeps over into a universality that vibrates with other readers? Readers who are, let’s say, women old enough to know better, or maybe old enough, but still learning. Maybe these middle-aged-mambo dancing women have children, either hated or beloved, or both in alternating moments who want to decode them in order to love them better, so these kids will read this blog. We can all hope that some of these gals have spouses who want in further, who want insight and clues, tid-bits that might lead to AHHH HA moments and they will creep onto our pages.

Perhaps if we were all more transparent,there really could be détente among the generations, sexes, or cultures. Honestly do I think a BLOG that unravels the musings of one wacky writer, parsing moments of hilarity and heinousness will facilitate world peace? NO, I am not delusional, much as my ex will disagree, really I am not, but when we share our fear, or joy we move closer to elevating ourselves to more. I don’t mean more in the sense of a bigger house, or a smaller body. I mean the real more that involves sanity and sanctity.

So welcome, come step behind the curtain and please do pay attention to this woman behind the curtain, because unlike the Wizard of Oz, I do want you to see the strings and machinations of all we do to make magic in our lives and I invite you to share with us what you do, think and see that takes your breath away.