Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lights in the World

As I wrote after 9/11 (on my website), when horror happens, as it did last week at Virginia Tech, I believe that we as individuals and especially as writers can make a difference. We can be lights in the world.

As writers: We can help give voice to the deepest pain. We can help people feel connected. We can provide what may be deeply needed diversion in moments when life might otherwise feel overwhelming.

As writers: We can remind the world that in the midst of tragedy there is also heroism and kindness and love and a desire to help others. We can help to shine a spotlight on the depths of despair some people feel--and why.

Each day we get to choose who we will be—as people and as writers. Each day we get to choose: Do we sleepwalk through our lives or do we really go after the things that matter most to us? Do we reach out to others, do we live our lives with honor and integrity—or do we choose to focus only on ourselves?

May we each choose to add to the love in the world, to see the best in each person we meet and encourage them to live up to that best. May we recognize that we are all far more alike than we are different—no matter what the superficial differences may be. May we each choose to be a light in the world and by doing so help to shape, help to create the kind of world in which we want to live.


Monday, April 16, 2007


I love history. I love all the unexpected bits of information. I love discovering the patterns of centuries—how end of and beginning of centuries brings lots of new ideas and change. How the middle of a century people seem more likely to resist change. How even clothing silhouettes (Western world anyway) have a pattern—one based on century cycles (usually narrower around the turn of the century, wider near the middle).

I love coming across tidbits of information. Discovering that Cincinnati in the early 19th century had a law that one had to throw garbage in the middle of the street (not to the sides) so the pigs could come and carry it off—otherwise one could be fined. Or that tea on a riverboat might include hung beef chipped up raw. I love reading about historical figures who defied the conventions of their day and I love reading about those who found a place within those conventions.

I love discovering that ideas we think are new were often written and spoken about centuries ago.

As someone who heard people say, far too often, when I was growing up that women couldn’t do math (I didn’t listen of course!), I love discovering that a woman’s magazine in England in the early 19th century contained math puzzles.

Whenever I read about the past, I can’t help spinning in my mind stories of what it must have been like to live in that time period. Which is, of course, one reason why I’m a writer.

Anyone care to share some of their favorite historical tidbits?


Monday, April 09, 2007

Strange Weather and Perspective

It was a strange weekend almost everywhere in the US in terms of weather. There was sleet and even snow in places that normally are in the 70s and 80s at this time of year. The weather wiped out lots of outdoor activities and required adjustments in others.

It would be easy to see only the drawbacks of this weather here on Easter Sunday. Instead, I found myself thinking what a difference perspective makes. Had I still been living in New Jersey, I would have been moaning over the gray skies and rain and sleet and wondering if spring would ever come. Because I was here instead, where we’ve had a drought the past couple of years and because I remember so vividly last August when it was over 100 every day except the two when the high only hit 99, I found myself grateful for the rain, knowing how much it is needed. I found myself trusting that the sun would soon be back out and the warmth back in the air.

I mention all of this because writing is a crazy business and it’s easy to focus on all the things could or are going wrong. What if we, as writers, instead focused on what was right about being writers? What if we focused on the joy of creating our stories, the opportunity to reach hearts and minds, the chance to try new things when one line closes—the one that perhaps we had pinned our hopes upon?

What if we extended that to our every day lives? What if each day we looked for what was good and could make us smile and feel grateful? What if we allowed ourselves to find moments of joy even on days that seem bleak? What if we looked for the possibilities in each new challenge?

Spring is a time of rebirth. For ourselves, what if each spring we looked at this as a time to recreate our lives anew? What if we looked at it as a time to let go of old assumptions—about ourselves, the world, what is and isn’t possible, and the stories we can tell and how we can tell them?

It is useful, I believe, for each of us to have a list of our strengths and a list of all the past successes in our lives. These lists are reminders of the tools we have to draw upon to make changes, to reach for our goals, and reasons to believe we can succeed. And study after study proves that our expectations have the power to determine our future.

The rain and sleet and cold here this past weekend were a reminder to me that even when the weather seems fine, there can suddenly be a burst of uncomfortable days—but even that discomfort may serve a useful purpose. It also reminded me that when the weather is horrible it is an opportunity to creatively find new ways to do what I want to do or to find something else to do that I might enjoy just as much.

Writing and life—as Barbara Samuels said in a speech a few years ago—these are inextricably entwined for those of us who are writers. Wishing all of you faith in yourselves and moments of joy every day—both in life and (if you are writers) in your writing.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Writing/Not Writing Every Day

I’ve heard the saying: You’re not a real writer unless you write every day.

I laugh whenever I hear it. I’m not sure there has ever been a time in my life when I could count on writing every week much less every day. The thing is, I always met my deadlines. I always got the writing done on time—just not by writing every day.

I mention this because as you’ll notice there’s been a gap between my last post and this one. Life happened. A family crisis came up and that took precedence over posting here.

So what can we do when life happens? For me, a key is always to have a notebook handy. Even when I can’t get to the computer to write, I can brainstorm ideas, flesh out characters or plot, make notes about a project. Sometimes I can write bits and pieces in longhand. If I can’t concentrate to write, I may be able to read—and analyze what I’m reading for what works and what doesn’t.

I don’t stop being a writer when I can’t write—the process just changes for a bit. Often when I go back to the actual writing the time away means that I sit down and write with renewed energy and ideas. Key to the success of this is that I’ve learned to make notes for myself each day that I do write as to what I need to write next. That means that if a crisis of any kind arises unexpectedly, when I do get the chance to sit down and write, I can look at my notes and dive in—rather than needing to reread everything to figure out what comes next.

So...the ideal if one is a writer is to write every day. The reality is that we find ways to write if it matters to us but not necessarily every day and the process will be different for each of us. The key is to know what works for YOU.


PS I wanted to thank Gaelen Foley for mentioning me in the dedication to her latest book HER ONLY DESIRE. It's a fabulous book, of course, and she's a real sweetheart.