Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Less Dim Bulb

Hurrah!! One constant and nagging problem, solved!

For as long as I can remember, I have needed and wanted and thought about and tried to design some system - some product - some technique - anything to keep my ideas where I can find them when I want them. Since I began a few weeks ago to wake up very early in the morning to write, more ideas than ever have been flooding into my brain, and a couple of days ago I realized what almost all of these ideas are. They're titles. These are things I want to write about, that's what they are.

Now, what to do ... what to do ... file cards? Some people live and die by their file cards. (I fondly remember the file card box I handed in to my Marriage and Family instructor, back in the day. I was the only one in the class that had decorated my box and cards, and the only one who had used an elaborate filing system so that my box of 3x5 cards was much more Byzantine meets Rococo in a Rose Garden than office product.) No. Not file cards. After I design my perfect system for filing, I'll never keep up with it. Too fussybusyfloweryfoofoo.

A white board? A chalk board? A bulletin board? The thousand and one sticky notes my boss uses at the library? Huh-uh. Same problem, less foo foo. I'd never keep up that system. The problem really is that my system already exists. It exists in my head. And all I need is a navigation technique for what's in there (and there's a lot of stuff in there!)

Well, one morning it hit me! So I've been trying it. And it works!

I use an ordinary (sewn spine - no staples - they rust) composition notebook of lined paper (because the lack of lines makes them less easily perused in after years -- thread over staples, and lines over blanks, courtesy of Mario Milosevic's writerly experience -- thanks, Mario!) I use a blue or black ink pen. I follow, as any chronic student type would, the faint red margin line on the outside edges, and this leaves me with a border. And so, every time I have an idea for a piece, I put ... no, I draw a little light bulb.

And now, when I am casting about for ideas, all I will have to do is leaf through a journal, looking for little light bulbs, and there, on the page, will be the stream of consciousness as context, the date on that entry, and a sweet little title, just waiting to be plucked and chewed on. It might not seem like an enormously important thing to many people, but for me, this light going on has extinguished a few decades of frustration. Hurrah!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Season of Inconvenience

It's that time of year again. I'd like to think that my current state of "ACK!!!" would be nonexistent if I were not also in school, but I know it's not true. It's Advent. It's inconvenient.

Inconvenient to shop in the chilly rain or sleet. Inconvenient to find the decorations and wonder how on earth the camel became a cripple during his year of storage in the box of figurines. Inconvenient to do finals for school, or to prepare for the Christmas pageant during a highly inconvenient spate of surprisingly violent illnesses (for kids' parents, of all things!), and employment changes for kids' parents, and schedule craziness for kids' parents. (Maybe I should just gather up all the children after Thanksgiving and keep them together someplace safe.) It is inconvenient to relocate wrapping paper, or to paint the living room (a thing I might still attempt). I have no idea when I'll have time for Kringla baking. But I will have time. Always, in the end, there is enough time, and all in all, this is simply, inconveniently, the way it goes.

And why should it not be this way? After all, it's not particularly convenient to travel to a different town during the ninth month of one's pregnancy, and it's certainly not convenient to have a baby in a barn. It wasn't very convenient to have the holy oil profaned by the soldiers of Antiochus. It's not convenient to chop wood to bring in for heat, or to see to the animals during a storm. The season of lights happens because of the darkness -- and Advent brings us the most convenient thing of all.

Lamps in the temple. Baby in the stable. Candles in the windows. Such small things to conquer the powers of darkness. So inconvenient.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Word Wonders: Hemingway

"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. 

If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer."

Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961), U.S. author. By-Line Ernest Hemingway, ed. William White (1967). "Old Newsman Writes: A Letter from Cuba," first published in Esquire (New York, Dec. 1934).

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Map of the World, on the Saturday before the First Sunday in Advent

Today is the Saturday before Advent I - the first of the four Sundays before Christmas Day. Today, I place three purple candles and one pink one into a brass wreath I keep in a cupboard. In that same cupboard the set of Fontanini figurines I add to each year is waiting, in the happy hope of someday having a whole village surrounding the Holy Family, and a pack of grandkids to help me set it up in future years, and in the meantime, I have my own peaceful delight in placing the characters on top of the piano, interspersed with the various candles I will light every night from now until Epiphany. This year, I will also work on some final projects for school - and I will wonder how many more years the first half of December will be a time of school projects (and whether I can find a way for this always to be true). And my office. I want to start on another straightening up and rationalizing of my work space because my map of the world after the new calendar year will include a more explicit intention for the things that happen in here. My map of the world does not need new continents placed into it. It just needs new labels and illustrations.

There are a lot of ways to look at a thing - at a life - at a life's work. Perhaps I have finally traveled far enough to know a little more of what is important and what is not, and what is important to me and what is not, and to make room for building the things I can build. Maybe we have to know enough about living before we can choose our lives. In any case, my map of the world is changing again, and this time, I know it. This time, I choose it.

And what that's called when it's at home is this: writing in the wee hours, before the rest of the world wakes up (which I hesitate to say online because I don't want anyone to take this as an invitation to call me!) Writing at least once a week at the Hood River Library, which I discovered this week, and where I felt precisely like Alice. All I did was fall down a hole, and suddenly worlds and characters and places and many, wonderful, lovely, perfect words and a universe of impossible things were --- they just were.

“It's no use trying,” said Alice. “One can't believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven't had enough experience,” said the White Queen.
“When I was your age, I did it for an hour a day.
Why sometimes, I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1832–1898), aka Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson