Wednesday, May 28, 2008


E did her angiogram at Children's today. So far so good. She was cranky after the general wore off, but improved enough through the day to eat a cheeseburger and smiley fries for dinner. The plan is to keep her overnight for observation, and to continue flushing her system. (A contrast dye was used so docs could take pics of the brain and kidneys.) As long as the evening's uneventful, E will be home by lunch time. Good news on the test: No new aneurysms to report, and existing ones look stable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lessons from Mother Mallard, Part II

Mother Mallard has abandoned the nest. The incubation period passed over the weekend. The eggs look so perfect nestled there beneath the greens of the daffodils. What made Mother Mallard move on? Did she know from the beginning that the eggs were for practice? Or did she change her mind along the way because something didn't feel right?

Her actions feel similar to ones I've taken with my own work. For the sake of KM, I've tossed hundreds of pages and false starts. And like Mother Mallard, I've feathered my nest with characters only to abandon them later after I realized they didn't belong, no matter how witty their banter.

I can't always articulate why it's time to abandon a darling, but I usually know when. Call it intuition or the muse or both. I listen to the little voice inside and follow its lead. When I'm wrestling with a particular passage or a bit of prose, and I'm lucky enough to be deep inside the heart of the story at the time, a kind of knowing accompanies the process. Inside this space, entire hours go by in what feels like a few minute's time. Inside this knowing, I'm one with my characters, and know with certainty what their next move should be. It's a feeling similar to the one experienced when sculpting, sketching or painting. Burnt sienna feels right to add in one spot, carnelian red in another.

Inevitably during the creative process, there comes a point when I've muddied the paragraph, sculpture or piece of paper beyond fixing, and starting over is easier. I open a new file, scrape the canvas, or reach for a clean sheet of paper, and begin again. Maybe Mother Mallard decided to start over, too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Caging the Critic

Plagued by procrastination, perfectionism or both? Consider this Old English proverb as an effective way to cage your mugwump:

The shortest answer is doing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Writing lessons from Mother Mallard

Last week on the way downstairs to give E her morning meds, I spied Mother Mallard standing on the wooden walkway near the front door. The sighting delighted me. It meant there's a good chance the eggs she laid earlier this month must be more than testers. Why else would she risk being chased by our two retrievers and tom cat?

Seeing her I felt a pang of envy, probably because I wish I had half her fortitude when it comes to my own work. How does she come by her faith? How does she know her little ones need her on the coldest nights? How can I have that same knowing that the ideas I place down on paper will someday give birth? Brings to mind a story from the Bible. The one about faith the size of a mustard seed. Talk about patience and perseverance.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Critique Groups, Angiograms, Choir concerts (and a Duck Sighting)

What do critique groups, choir concerts and angiograms have in common? They're but a small sampling of the events/activities competing with butt-in-chair time this month.

1. Critique group--Technically this activity doesn't compete with butt-in-chair time so much as inform it; but it bears mentioning because the three-plus hours we spend together twice monthly represents a considerable amount of time away from my work-in-progress. Re crit group, J, A and I met today, and I'm thrilled to report that after months of writing my characters into one corner after another as I experimented with various entries into KM, I finally won an enthusiastic thumbs up re my current approach! Next meeting, scheduled for two weeks from today, has been postponed for a week because of a heavy-duty medical test for my middle daughter E. (Hence #2.)

2. Angiogram for E--This upcoming test is a necessary evil in our quest to keep E on the road to recovery. Here's the backstory: In 2001, our middle daughter E suffered from ruptured brain anerysm. She was nine at the time. The event left her in a coma and unable to walk and talk. She defied all odds by learning to walk and talk again, but remains prone to aneurysms. We need regular pictures of her brain in order to check that no new problems areas have developed. The look-see is called a brain angiogram. The last time we did a test like this, we learned E needed surgery to prevent a rupture. My muse is less than thrilled with this upcoming test. Sitting butt in chair long enough to put in my two pages for the day has been a challenge. I didn't connect until today that maybe the upcoming test was to blame. Probably also explains why even with Jazzercise 4 times weekly to combat stress, I've been grinding my teeth at night.

3. Choir Concert--Amidst the stress of experimenting with KM and making a conscious effort not to worry about E's upcoming test (after all, it is what it is, and no amount of worrying will change the results), I've been actively embracing the inevitable concerts and awards ceremonies that come with the end of the school year. Last night was my youngest's choir concert. Tonight, she bridges from Junior Girl Scout to Cadet.

4. Duck Sighting--Spotted a female mallard standing on our walkway before butt-in-chair time yesterday morning. I take this as a good omen that the eggs she laid aren't testers. With a cat and two retrievers in the household, why else would she risk hanging around so close to the house?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Egg Watch

No ducklings yet. Still a bit early for the hatching. Haven't caught mama poking around the nest, but once in a while I hear quacking near the creek on the other side of the neighbor's yard. A bit of research has revealed that the females don't sit full-time on the nest until the eggs are near term. Hoping the eggs weren't testers (which I'm told happens quite often with new mothers.) If the eggs hatch, they should do so on or near Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Morning Pages Musings

After morning pages sessions lately, I've been reading Julia Cameron's book Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance, and journaling about it. A number of insights have emerged from my early morning writings. One I find intriguing--and humbling--is how connected my muse is to the ebb and flow of my family life. I shouldn't be surprised. Because I'm a writer mom, my butt in chair time is often dictated by my girls, their schedules, dramas and health. I do my share of grousing about how scarce uninterrupted creative time is as I pursue my art. Yet, I'm convinced that if I gave in to the urge to take a walkabout, my muse couldn't survive long. The truth is that ultimately, my life--with all its glorious ups (and downs)--informs my art.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Killer Bunnies, Golden Carrots and Amusing the Muse

Every now and again my mugwump lodges me in a hole I can't easily escape. I thrash around my story, writing my characters into dead ends until I remember that maybe all I need in order to summon the strength to climb out is amuse my muse. Lately, I've found inspiration in a most unlikely place: a wacky card game called Killer Bunnies, Quest for the Magic Carrot. Think cute little bunnies (most of them anyway) with flame throwers, asteroids, cabbages, and more, on a quest for the game-ending magic carrot. The game's more than a bit twisted. But the way I see it, if it appeals to my muse, I have to trust the process, right? :)