As any writer will tell you, reading the work of others stimulates our own writing. I've also realized that watching documentaries about great writers is also inspirational. I recently watched a Netflix documentary on Joan Didion— "Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold." She is an American journalist and literary icon. Ms. Didion's life story is a captivating one as it's full of remarkable and heartbreaking experiences that she used in her writing. It all began with her entering a contest (which she won) for Vogue magazine while she was a senior at UC Berkley. Afterward, she moved to New York and started her writing career working for Vogue.
Her love for writing began at the age of five when her mother gave her a notebook--telling her to cure her boredom through writing. As an adult, Ms. Didion spent time with movie stars, rock stars, and political leaders. In watching the documentary, it seemed there were few she didn't rub elbows with. She is Aunt Joan to actor and director Griffin Dunne, who did an extraordinary job sharing her life's story by talking with her and sharing archival footage. Ms. Didion told Tom Brokaw in an interview that her stories come to her as she is writing. A lot of us (including myself) sit and wait for something to come to us. All we really need to do is just start writing. Write anything; and the stories will come. In fact, I find that even if I sit down with a story in my head, it changes direction completely as I'm writing.
All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.
Ernest Hemingway offered this and a lot of great tips, such as stop writing when you know what will happen next. If you stop when you hit a road block, that's exactly what will be waiting for you when it's time to write again. Another is to not feel the need to describe the emotion of your character, make it. Identify the action that caused the emotion and present it. A lot of times, we want to spoon-feed our readers. Allow them to create the intended emotional response along with your character. It's always helpful to learn from writers whose work we admire. We want to explore their processes and find out their secrets--hoping to gain some divine knowledge of becoming a great writer. The good ones will only tell you their secret is to read a lot of books and write everyday. Hemingway said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." Writers can't teach us how to write, only how they became a writer. W. Sumerset Maugham, known for "Of Human Bondage" and "The Razor's Edge," said it best:
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
Another inspirational documentary was not specifically about writing, but the tool in which to write--the typewriter. I watched "California Typewriter," which is about those dedicated to the typewriter as a tool and muse. Everyone shared their love for them, making me want to buy one immediately. I had one growing up and even took a typing class in high school (yes, I'm that ancient). I used it all the time. Many of those commenting in the film were writers in some form or fashion. Tom Hanks, the most fabulous actor ever that I’ve followed since Bosom Buddies, has about 250 typewriters in his collection. In fact, he’s written a book, "Uncommon Type"—a collection of 17 short stories featuring a typewriter within each one. The late Sam Shepard—actor, screenwriter, and playwright—received one from his son and used it almost every day. John Mayer, singer and songwriter, bought an electric one online and types out his random thoughts that may or may not become lyrics for his songs. Then there are renowned writers like David McCullough, who has used only his typewriter to write his books. Books such as his two Pulitzer Prize winning works, "Truman" and "John Adams." McCullough hopes that one day his grandchildren may write their very own books on his 1946 Royal KMM. I completely understand the magic behind typing on a typewriter. With all of the technology we have today, such as computers and iPads, it is a lost art form. They aren't just antiquities on a shelf, but a tool used to encourage creativity—seeing your words instantly in print, typed one letter at a time.
I love to write. Whether it's in a notebook, laptop, or my soon-to-be-purchased typewriter. However, life gets in the way and becomes the excuse to abdicate. And, I love to read. I have a library of books that constantly grows. I willingly fall into a world the author has created for me. I actually imagine all the characters stopping what their doing in the story when I close the book. They just wait, chatting amongst themselves, doing the things people do when waiting for someone. They can get impatient with me and I imagine their annoyance when I'm taking too long to start reading again. It brings a smile to my face to hear them cheer as I start reading again. That's precisely what I love about writing and reading—bringing the characters to life.
I really don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. Why wait until a new year to start doing the things you want to do? I constantly think about the things I want to change—all year. Let’s call it a coincidence I’m starting in January. I guess you could say with all the talk of resolutions, it’s made me think about making some changes. Perhaps it’s in the phrasing. So, I’ll change “I plan to…” with “I want to.”
I want to be more proactive in my goals, which includes getting a job that allows me to be creative. This essentially means using my brain as guiding people on where to vacation has felt sales-ish. I guess if there are incentives involved in booking vacations, that’s really what I’m doing—sales. That is not why I chose a degree in writing. I want to devote more time to writing, not just blogging. However, I do need to get back into doing that, too.
I want to be more effective with my time, accomplishing what I need to in a timely manner. I have this knack for procrastinating and then feeling stressed when it’s crunch time. I want to make lists, which is writing (see what I did?). That extra time can be better spent doing other things, like napping. I’m kidding, but I’m not. However, there really isn’t anything more satisfying than crossing shit off your list.
I want to be more steadfast with my kids as I seem to have adopted their lackadaisical attitude they have housework and homework. They need discipline and so do I. I could spend hours talking about how this will help with raising respectful, responsible kids. I can’t expect them to be accountable if I’m not, even if it’s just to myself.
I want to clean more. This sounds like I’m being funny, but I’m not (although I am sort of laughing as I write it). Now, I know I have kids for that, but there’s a certain way I like things and I have become flippant about even that. I have hoarder tendencies and need to keep that in check if I want my home to look clean after spending the time doing the maid stuff. Mopping around boxes in the corner or wiping down counters laden with mail is absurd if you think about it.
I want to be more efficient in my household shopping. Planning out meals and keeping an eye on toiletries will not only save on time, but it will prevent those last minute trips to the store for toilet paper. I’m not a huge fan of buying in bulk, however with a family of five sometimes you have to let it go. Seeing 50 rolls of toilet paper in the closet can be sexy from what I hear. I do enjoy cooking and creating a menu for the week would benefit everyone, mostly me. I can’t stand the daily questions of what I’m making for dinner, especially if they are watching me make it. Hearing ”whatcha making?” as I flip a hamburger is justifiable homicide, right? Then there’s the concept of posting menus as it lends itself to disgruntled family members. One doesn’t like roasted chicken, but likes it breaded. One doesn’t like potatoes mashed, but likes them fried. Those with kids totally get me. And you can forget about vegetables of any kind with the kids. I guess you could say since I buy the food and cook it, I decide. However, I HATE throwing food away. And, making them eat what’s on their plate is such a pain. Besides, I hated that as a kid, too. I’d rather buy vitamins, in bulk. I’ve tried various recipes, including those that trick them into eating veggies. Now, there’s joy in saying, “HA! You ate a vegetable and liked it!” However, then they won’t trust my cooking and that would piss me off even more after spending time deceitfully (yet artfully) making meatballs out of black beans and cauliflower.
I want to be more connected with my family. With so many things going on in my own life, I forget to ask about theirs. I love chatting with my siblings, they’re super funny. Not to mention, talking to my grizzled Dad and spirited stepmother. You’d think they weren’t in the same room together when they’re faux-bitching about what the other is doing, but they are. I miss them all. I don’t want to only call when I have a problem, or have to call because of an ambiguous Facebook post when I should have known how their lives were going. I want the good stuff, too. And, I want to get to know my fiancée’s family, as well. Surely they can’t be crazier than mine.
I want to read more. I did sign up for my Goodreads book challenge. But, it shouldn’t be a challenge to read a book. I used to lock myself away and read ferociously, but that fell by the wayside as of late. That’s the last thing I needed to stop doing. The only way to become a better writer is to be a better reader. I read that somewhere.
I want to not be on the resolution bandwagon and mention exercise, but I will. I want to exercise. Although I look amazingly younger than I am (I got carded at the liquor store), I want to have energy and not continue the thigh-vs-jean melee every morning. I think I still look good, but I could do better. My fiancée is a runner (although on temporary hiatus) and what better way to get closer to him than to enjoy what he does? He wants to train me and I know it will make me say ugly things, but it will be good for both of us in the end. And he knows I won’t mean it when I say things like asshole or suck it.
Well, there are my not-resolutions so far. I want to have more, I think. Like travel or spend more time at the beach or go antiquing or perhaps meditate. But, I want to pace myself for now.
I am a woman-child at heart; continuously evolving to find my place in life. I am a mother, a daughter, and a sister. I am a lover and a dreamer--an explorer and a traveler. But it's my passion for writing that allows me to explore my ingenuity. This is something that undoubtedly carries over to the many roles that make up the ever evolving woman I am.