Saturday, 8 December 2007

The magic of writing

I haven't written anything lately. I keep finding other things to do such as updating my address book, catching up on correspondence, doing Internet searches for boat parts, playing solitaire: anything to avoid opening my "manuscripts" file.

I know I'm procrastinating, but I'm being lenient with the writer in me. She has to be in the right mood to create. The editor too has to be in a certain frame of mind to delete and rewrite. And so it's been at least a month since I've written anything new.

Meanwhile, I received a letter of acceptance from one of my publishers, a note offering hope from another and a "we'll look at your manuscript in the future," from a third. All these encouragements do little to get my index finger to click on the "work in progress" file.

Yet, I know that I cannot force the muse to wake. She must be gently coaxed out of slumber. This is not a writer's block - I never have those, they sound too violent to me - an anathema to the creative process. And so I wait, and today finally I peek inside my "submitted" file folder and update the submission record for each of the manuscripts. And then, I just lightly click on the arrow "up" which sends me to the level above, and which has in it the folders with ideas and queries, first, second, and third drafts, ready to submit, submitted, accepted and in print. And then, leave the computer on that page. With no pressure to do anything. Almost as if I forgot to close it.

In a few minutes, the screen saver will cover up the desktop page and I can forget about writing if I choose to but the screen with my work on it will still be there when I come back and hit any key. If I want to do that. I might instead close the lid of the laptop and leave it on stand-by for hours or days. But I don't. Something has happened that I can't resist.

Slowly, like a slumbering giant, or a sleepy princess, the magic process begins to awaken. It unfolds like a flower when it feels the sun. And I, the human instrument can do nothing until the magic happens but when it does, must follow its call.

Friday, 7 December 2007

I can't because...

So you've always wanted to be a writer, but keep hitting roadblocks. You don't have enough money saved up to quit your regular job so that you'd have enough time to write that novel, and you don't have enough time and energy left after the job, the family responsibilities and the everyday things like laundry, cooking, cleaning and shopping.
Money, time, energy, job, family responsibilities – the list goes on. They are the reasons, excuses and challenges why we can't do something we say we want to do very badly, such as writing. However, you can have what you really want in your life or your reasons why not. Or come to think of it: both.
Here is how. Take a blank page and write down the heading: "I can't because…" Now tape it to your fridge so you can add the next excuse (sorry: reason or even better: challenge) you think of, of why you just can't write today. And underneath, write a creative solution (even a crazy one).
This is my list to help you get started:
I'm not an expert in… (take your pick: psychology, gardening, cooking, auto mechanics). All the non-fiction books are written by PhDs with 20 years practical experience. I have this great idea but no credentials. There are hundreds if not thousands of books and articles on the same topic written by people who really know the subject. What's the point of writing another one? Who will publish it? And who will read it? Book and magazine writing business is so competitive.

Friday, 2 November 2007

On being a writer

I love being a writer. I have many interests and writing focuses me. I get interested in something and then look for a way to write about it. I can write as short or as long about it as I want to. I still have way more ideas than finished projects, but they are in my 'ideas' folder for those times that I'm stuck for a new one (it happens).
Other projects advance through the first, second and third draft (sometimes they get stuck in one of those, too). After the third draft is completed, I write a generic cover letter and start a 'submissions' list.
Then I go through the list of prospective publishers and adjust the cover letter accordingly. I email my submission while a copy of the story with the cover letter and submission list goes into the 'submitted' folder. After that hopefully it goes to 'accepted' and 'in print' folders and after that back to 'submitted' for the second time to publishers who accept reprints.
And now and then, when I don't want to bother with the usual publishers and I'm eager to see a story in 'print,' I post it on my sailing blog.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

You should write a book...

Recently, several people said just that.
Sure, I'll do that just as soon as I can lock myself away for a year or two, glue my butt to the chair and find someone who will slide food under the door. I'd love to write a book, but there are so many reasons for not doing it.
* It's hard.
* It's lonely.
* It requires self-discipline and endurance, which I'm not sure I have.
* There is no guarantee of success.
Ok, so what would I do if I were to take the leap? I have lots of ideas and several books "in the works". But none of the people who encourage me to write a book are publishers. Or editors. Or agents. I think I need a guide to take me by the hand as well as massage my feet while I write.
Until I find such a person I think I'll just whine.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

A Firm Foundation

"To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse; the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea - 'cruising', it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. 'I've always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can't afford it.' What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of 'security'. And in the worship of security. We fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and some form of working activity that yields a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in a material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, and playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade. "The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. "Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?" - Sterling Hayden: Wanderer 

This quote fits perfectly into my present state of being. I’m glad Sterling Hayden wraps being broke in such heroic package. It definitely makes me feel better. 

I have a strange relationship with money. Right now, I have enough to pay for one more month of moorage at the marina where I hope to be for the winter and most of the insurance that should have been deducted already but hasn’t been for some reason. That’s all. None left for food or anything else. And no idea where any more will come from. 

I hope to sell some more of my stories and photos, but there is no guarantee. Perhaps manna will fall from the sky? Speaking of manna, I do have some pasta, rice and TVP (textured vegetable protein) flakes, olive oil, almost a pound of flour and some odds and ends, such as tea, coffee, powder milk, and beef bouillon. Not much else. The camping gas is running out, so I’ll have to buy some and I’ll have to pay for internet access when my remaining eight hours runs out, at nearly 3 euros per hour, so that I can send away my manuscripts. 

Yet it’s not always like this. The last time I went to town, I walked by a shop where four months ago I bought a dress, and a pair of shorts. Not expensive, only about 30 Euros for both, but still. I wore the dress once and the shorts never. Back on the boat, I note a 20-euro lipstick. Another one for 10 euros is in my purse. I know I can get perfectly good lipstick for one Euro, but I wanted a brand name one to show off. Where I don’t know. I think I do this, because I get tired of practical boating clothes and this is perhaps my way of rebelling, of saying, I want it all, and damn it, I’m going to have it all. And so now and then, I want to wear heels, make up, perfume, and an impractical dress that gets dirty just by putting it on. 

My coffee is running out and so are the filters, yet I make each cup separately instead of two cups at a time, which would halve my filter usage. I have started to boil a thermos full of water at a time to save on gas, and today for the first time I made two loaves of bread instead of one. I tried to sell my violin that I haven’t used more than once or twice. Perhaps I’ll have to play it (badly) on the street for spare change one of these days. 

I advertised for crew to come live on board (shared expenses) but no one has responded. It’s winter after all and most people are either back at school, at work or somewhere warm. I decided to stay in Greece this winter because I thought I’d be able to work here, but there is no work when the tourists are gone. Besides, Greeks get priority and I don’t even speak the language. 

I thought, I would be able to find a good safe and free moorage, but only two places have power, which I need for heat and my laptop, and both are marinas that charge 300 euros a month for a boat 10m long. I should be able to earn 15 Euros a day, but so far, I’m struggling. $475US for two articles is barely 340 Euros. I have been writing for the past three weeks steady and have taken the last two days off because I’m empty. I feel drained and spent. 

Time to regroup by reading some sailing magazines. I know I can write what is in those magazines; I just need to gather the photos and hope the publishers can fit me in. In addition, I need to find more magazines to send away to. I know I can do this. 

And so, as I drink my cup of coffee and eat fresh focaccia bread straight from the oven, I think to myself that life is not so bad; I don’t have to anchor out and freeze yet. I might have to later, but I’ll do whatever it takes to make it through the winter first. Come April, I’ll be out again anchoring or tied up to a free dock without heat, but until then, I’m cinching up my belt another notch. 

Sterling Hayden would approve.