Sunday, March 27, 2011

Forty-Seven Minutes

Forty-seven extraordinarily rare and precious moments, without the continuous ringing of the phone, the predictable work "emergencies," and the hungry cries of my little one - nothing but forty-seven beautiful moments of solitude with only the rhythmic clicking of the train's iron wheels.  Forty-seven minutes.

And no pen.

My phone is smiling at me with only one line of battery power indicator, barely enough for an emergency call.  My BlackBerry, that despicable device that controls my days and ruins my weekends, is hanging on its charger in my kitchen.

But I do have a piece of paper - a winkled receipt from Whole Foods, actually - and a black eye liner I sharpened just a few days ago.  And so it goes.  This story and then three-hundred more words.  And a completely blunt eye liner. 

Forty-seven beautiful (and lucky) moments. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On the Subject of Writing Competitions

I have not gotten far - yet.  Although it is still mysterious like a dark forest oppressed by rain clouds and dense fog, it's building and brewing - something is coming together in my mind.

I am also working on my novel and as I was reading a particular chapter the other day I thought that it would make for an intriguing short story.  It fits perfectly into my novel and it is one of my favorite chapters in it, but it is also meaningful on its own, descriptive and vivid, with a surprise at the end.

I wonder if I could enter that chapter into a writing competition as a short story - or would the best possible scenario for my short story (a top ten spot and publication - one can dream...) also mean the worst scenario for my novel (no agent would want to read it or represent it because a chapter of it had been published?)

A tough business this is, isn't it?  It all we had to worry about was writing....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Challenge A Day Keeps My Complacency Away

I submitted two personal / motivational essays in last year's Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition and, luckily, both my entries received honorable mentions.  Naturally, I am going to enter a couple of pieces this year as well, looking for affirmation (and a boost to my self-confidence) that maybe it was more than just pure luck that I ranked at all - perhaps I do have some talent.  And perhaps I can do even better this time.

But what do I submit?  I started several short stories over the last year,  experimenting with mysteries, young adult stories, and more,  but I did not find inspiration in them - I did not "own" any of them the way I own my motivational stories, essays, or my full-length work of literary fiction.  After picking them apart I realized that each piece felt off because it still read and sounded like me - my eighteen year old heroine simply felt too old and out of touch and my mysteries centered on character development and psychology instead of focusing on suspense and plot twists.  I was expecting my writing to change with, instead of adopt to, each genre. 

Now that I have figured that out, I just need to make it work.   I will enter a personal essay again, since I like working on them and I have become fairly comfortable with that form.  Yet, I know that if I want to develop as a writer I need to leave my comfort zone and explore the hidden corners of my creativity, learn to show not just the why but also the how and the what in various forms.  And do all that without losing my style.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Rudely Unaccommodating Muse

She strikes at the worst times and at the worst places. 

I am rushing across town, pushing my two-year-old's stroller like a madwoman so I can get her to nursery school and then catch the bus to my office, when a brilliant idea flashes through my mind, with words and sentences so perfect that I smile with a kind of satisfaction that garners raised eyebrows from my fellow Manhattanites.  But I can't possibly stop and start writing with a stroller handle in one hand, a lunch bag in the other, plus a purse on my shoulder, and a little (but infinitely adorable) screamer just inches from  my face - or can I?  No.  Maybe I need to improve my multi-tasking skills, but until then, the words will have to wait and circle around until a more convenient time, or at least until I get to the office and take the two minutes to write them down while I get "organized" for the day.
But when I have nothing to do or, rather, when there is nothing that needs to be done right away, and I sit with my computer or my notepad - nothing.  Not one lousy perfect sentence, not one brilliant idea.  Rather unfair, is it not?

Maybe it is time for an iPhone so I can record while I walk (or take the elevator to my office, or stand on line at Whole Foods, or cook the food I just bought at Whole Foods) - I think iPhones can do that, right?