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The Frugal Life

11 Jan

I am moving. To Turkey.

This is probably the most fabulous thing to happen to me, like, ever. The Husband and I will be jetting off to Ankara in about two weeks, a deadline I feel much better about now that we actually have our student visas in hand (adventures in bureaocracyland is not a book I will ever write, but if I did, it would be a lot like The Castle, by Franz Kafka. Do yourself a favor and don’t read it).

In the course of all this madness, we have naturally been packing. Apparently, between the two of us, we have about 2-4 boxes worth of stuff not including clothes. By boxes, I mean those medium sized flat-rate boxes you buy at the post office. Having just finished drafting a noir-ish mystery type book, which clocks in at 47K (i.e., a good 10K words shorter than I’d like), I feel my writing life and my real life are exceptionally spare.

The bones of the novel are there. The twists are built in. But there are missing things. It’s like I’ve got this fabulous apartment that is in need of a paint job and some fripperies to make it feel like home. Which is really ironic, because guess what’s in those boxes we just packed up? Extras. Pictures, tchotchkes, small works of art that can immediately make a new apartment feel a little more comfortable, a little more ours.

So I suppose the lesson of this month is to metaphorically unpack all those boxes into my writing, and take the basic necessities from my writing and apply it to life. Which will be convenient timing for, you know, finding an apartment in Ankara.

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Life, Interrupting

16 Sep

 

It’s that time of year. You know, when you spend too much wonga back-to-school shopping, pumpkin flavored lattes are selling like hot cakes, and idyllic rural towns in New England are preparing to be mobbed by leaf peepers. It would be such a good time to sit back, relax, and write. Except for one tiny problem.

Homework.

That’s right, I still have on year left of school, and approximately 50 pages of non-fiction to write by the end of the semester. Actually a lot more than that, since I am a chronic over-achiever. Which brings me to my subject for the day. In a really roundabout fashion. Inspiration. Where do ideas come from? Let’s have a little fun with metaphor, shall we?

Life is not a box of chocolates. It is a dirty, filthy counter top, riddled with salmonella, crumbs, and enough bread mold to make the next Jonas Salk really excited. The writer is a sponge. The writer’s job is to suck up all the nit and grit, leaving the formica nice and clean. For the purposes of this metaphor, this pretty much means you need to pay attention to everything, especially if it is weird or scary or funny. The writer/sponge then is wrung out, pouring all that mess into their work and rearranging it to suit their story.

Which is why I don’t complain about homework. (Much). Because even when I spend unhealthy amounts of time studying the Greek civil war or American interventions in Latin America in the inter-war period (for non history buffs, this is between WWI and WWII), that is all fodder for when I go about building a world or writing credibly about the one in which I live.

Even the annoying kid in German class who will not sit at a desk if there is gum on the underside of it and must write everyone’s first and last names in his little notebook (like the world’s most conspicuous CIA agent) is a useful inspiration. True, I will never have a character quite like him. Because really, there is no way to do that kind of weirdness justice, and frankly, I would shoot myself if I had to spend a whole book with someone like that in my head. But still. Be glad that life is annoying and bizarre.

Because the Gods do not bestow stories ready-made into our skulls. We have to steal them where we find them.

Which should be everywhere.