The Man from the lobby

I had an hour to kill.

Decided to sit in the hotel lobby and people watch.  I was in town to give another presentation of a book I had gotten published the year before.

Then I saw him.   A man who had attended a previous presentation I had given 6 months before.  Felt a low-grade panic settle in my gut.  All I knew about the man was he too was an author.  Pretty sure he was a college professor.  My biggest concern was a good portion of my presentation would be similar to the one he had heard 6 months before.

Dang.

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I’m one of those people who when faced with a fear, 9 times out of 10 I will got after it head on, rather than stew.   I decided to head to the conference room early and re-introduce myself to the man from the  lobby.

He wasn’t hard to find.  He was sitting close to the front, right behind my table.  I walked up to him, and said I remembered him from before.  He instantly lit up. I put one knee down on the carpet, next to the table, and confessed to him, much of what he would hear  this afternoon was probably going to sound familiar.  I’ll never forget what he told me.

” You need to make sure you tell the story you told before, the one about the feedback you’d received on your rough draft. Bill So and So and I talked about that after your presentation.  That was so powerful.”

I looked him in the eyes, and thanked him profusely…for you see, the last time I had given my presentation, I had vented to the assembled.  I had gotten off my notes and shared some behind the scene angst on the writing of my book.  I questioned the wisdom of doing that at the time.  Come to find out, this seasoned author, this man from the lobby,  had been touched by that story, as much, if not more, than by my book.

We never know, do we.

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If you’re a long time reader, you may remember.  I’d written the introduction and first chapter to a book.  Shared it with someone I used to get together with on a regular basis, who had had several things published and seems to know what he was talking about when giving feedback.  Well, his feedback, while well meaning, was brutal.  I ended up second guessing myself to the point, the book project was shelved from 2008 until 2015…

7 years.

Then after 7 years, I still had this book rumbling around in my head.  The internal pressure began to build.  Those of you that have to write know what I’m talking about.

I had to get it out.

Even if it didn’t  measure up.

So in 2015 I wrote  the rough draft.

Then in 2016 I got it published.

 

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Here is an excerpt from my favorite writing mentor Brenda Ueland from her book If You Want To Write:

“How does the creative impulse die in us?  The English teacher who wrote fiercely on the margin of your theme in blue pencil: “Trite, rewrite, helped to kill it.  Critics kill it, your family.  Families are great murderers of the creative impulse, particularly husbands. Older brothers sneer at younger brothers and kill it.  There is that American pastime known as “Kidding” – with the result that everyone is ashamed and hangdog about showing the slightest enthusiasm or passion or sincere feeling about anything….

You have noticed how teachers, critics, parents, and other know-it-alls, when they see you have written something, become at once long-nosed and finicking and go through it gingerly sniffing out the flaws. AHA! a misspelled word! as though Shakespeare could spell! As though spelling, grammar and what you learn in a book about rhetoric has anything to do with freedom and imagination….

And so no wonder you don’t write and put it off month after month, decade after decade.  For when you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free, free and not anxious.  The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: Tell me more.  Tell me all you can.  I want to understand more about everything you feel and know….Let more come out….

Yes, I hate orthodox criticism.  I don’t mean great criticism, like that of Matthew Arnold and others, but the usual small niggling, fussy-mussy criticism, which thinks it can improve people by telling them when they are wrong, and results only in putting them in straitjackets of hesitancy and self-consciousness, and weazening all vision and bravery.

I hate it not so much for my own account, for I have learned at last not to let it balk me.  But I hate it because of the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages that it snuffs out every year.  It is a murderer of talent.  And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first to get killed off.  It is the brutal egotist that survive…

…. and so now you will begin to work on your writing.  Remember these things. …Work with all your intelligence and love.  Work freely and rollickingly as though you were talking to a friend who loves you.   Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters…”

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Well, time to get to work.  🙂 Later! DM

 

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A Peek Into My Writing Journal

Last night the Internet was down.

I was in the mood to read something stimulating, so  I opened up my writing  journal that I have stored on my computer hard drive.

My writing journal is a catch-all of anything  that grabs me….

The only criteria for getting into the journal is at that moment, I am thinking, I might want to revisit these words again sometime, and the words grab me.

Quotes I come across, articles on current events that are especially articulate, things I’m wrestling with personally, etc.

Much of it is highly personal, and will never see the light of day (at least on the Internet).

Raw and unfiltered.

It takes just a couple of seconds to copy/paste  something good for later.   I highly recommend starting one if you haven’t already.

Word picture…Did you know cows have (4) stomachs? Yep. Ever hear of a cow chewing it’s cud?  Basically, the cow coughs up something it has already chewed on and swallowed and chews on it some more.  That is what my writing journal is…good stuff I have already digested, but may want to chew on it again. 🙂

In 2013, I was second guessing myself as a writer.  Got some good feedback from several of you that wound up in the writing journal.

Here is one piece of advice on writing that caught my eye last night:

“Write about what interests you, and do the best job you can.  Publish it, and then move on to the next thing (If you don’t move on, you risk one of two things.   If your piece is good, you’ll spend too much time patting yourself on the back.  If it’s bad, you’ll beat yourself you.  Write, and let go.

If people offer comments or criticism, consider them, but don’t be ruled by them.  For heaven’s sake, don’t worry about the numbers.                Linda

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If you are a blogger, (or a writer but not a blogger)  do you have any goals/ thoughts/ rules, etc.  for how you write?  Any tips that work for you as to what makes good writing?  Define good writing as far as you’re concerned.  What suggestions would you give someone who wanted to start blogging, but wasn’t sure of where to start?  Any suggestions for what not to do?  Who are some of your favorite writers and why?  (Feel free to leave a link  in your comment, if you have one.)

Google image

 

Smells Of Walden

Smells are a funny thing.  Yesterday morning on the way to an EMT appointment, a smell flittered into our car that triggered an early memory.

Is “flittered”  a word?

I think so. 🙂

The smell reminded me of new school books.   Fun With Dick And Jane kind of books.

The smell of new napping rugs.

So we’re talking way back memories…

I liked school when I was little.

Heck I  still like to read, and take naps.

Pause.

Last Sunday morning, while walking through my buddy Jim’s sitting room, a book he is currently reading caught my eye. I was so tempted to plop down on his couch and check out.

Carpe Diem right? :

The room in his sitting room faces south.  I built the addition a few years ago. Encouraged him to put lots of windows in because of the view.

Very much like this:

1931d Grant Wood (American regionalist artist, 1891-1942) Corn

Grant Wood  print.

Grant Wood grew up just minutes from here,  and this picture is very typical of  the terrain around here.

This was the book he is reading:

Walden book cover

I asked Jim what he thought about the book.  “Hard to understand.” he said sort of sheepishly.

(I remember trying to read it myself a couple of years ago, and while I did muddle through it,  I remember having somewhat of a similar reaction.)

It is just a theory I have but I think many of us are more infatuated with the idea of escaping to the woods to live deliberately rather than being enamored with the contents of that book.

Walden starts out like this:

     “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Now that sounds pretty good at face value.  The thing is, Thoreau only lived in that setting for a short season of his life…parts of two years, two weeks, and two days, on the edge of town, in a cabin owned by his good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.   After that, he went back into society.

In 1995 we moved to an old run down acreage with a set of 100-year-old farm buildings. Curb appeal it did not have. The house and out buildings hadn’t been painted in 50 years. Nothing appealing except that it was 4 miles from town, and the foundation on the house was still solid.

I  have been  slowly  carving out my own version of Walden here ever since.

My vision of Walden  would probably looks different from yours.

But I would suspect it would be built on the same foundation stone.

The stone of living life intentionally.

Talk to me about living life intentionally. What does that mean to you?

 

On Writing (1)

I was thumbing through my 2009 Journal the other night and came across a review  Seriouswhimsey had written about me .  I’d forgotten all about it.

Her words stirred something within me.

Here is a portion of what she said:

“I am an explorer.  I love discovering new places in the blogging world.  Once in a while I come across a treasure which absolutely compels me to share it:

      Meet Heart to heart.  The first time I read this Midwest Farmer’s writings, he had me laughing out loud, and wanting to send Christmas Cards to a pig.

     Doug is also a general contractor- a manly man- who happens to have the eye of an artist, a tender heart, a riotous sense of humor, and an adorable wife who looks so young you’d never dreamed they’ve been married thirty years – unless they took their vows when she was, like six….

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OK,  here’s the deal.  It feels like there are two different people in my brain who write on this blog.

Sometimes, the words feel  forced and wooden, and other times I feel relaxed and the words just flow.

(That doesn’t mean I don’t expect to  edit after the fact, because I do…it’s just that sometimes even when I feel the stirring to write the end result is strained, while other times,  the end result does a better job capturing the real me as when I’m  relaxed.)

I am not alone.

Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered Wordsmith John Muir wrested with the same thing… 🙂

As I continue to slowly make my way through the book  John Muir  His Life and Letters and Other Writings, I came across  the following words last night:

 “…in letters to friends, Muir complained that in town he is unable to compel the right mood for the production of readable articles….”As yet I have accomplished very nearly nothing,” he writes…. “how astoundingly empty and dry – box-like!- is our brain…

     The fact is that Muir’s personal letters, like his conversation, flowed smoothly and easily; but when he sat down to write an article, his critical faculty was called into play, and his thoughts, to employ his own simile, “began to labor like a laden wagon in a bog.” … There was a consequent loss of that spontaneity which made him such a fascinating talker.”

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john muir the writer

John Muir 

Here’s to a new year of fascinating , engaging, and thoughtful writing!  The last thing I want to do is clutter up your inbox with dry,wooden, boring words.

Life is too short.