I’ve been dreadfully busy, these past two weeks. Some people don’t take that as an excuse to miss blogging and writing, but… I guess I do. Some people say writing needs to be a habit like brushing your teeth in the morning, but guess what? When I get too busy, I don’t remember to brush my teeth. Don’t remember to drink water unless I’m reminded. Don’t remember to eat. Don’t remember to write. I’m that bad at habits.

To be fair, these past two weeks have been fraught. I’ve been planning trips, making reservations, driving my family around, navigating without GPS, seeing sights. Castles. Palaces. Rivers. Shops. Paris in one day. You know, the firstest of first world trials. We can’t afford to eat at most of these places. I don’t remember to eat much of what we packed. Don’t remember to drink, unless my mother, or sister-writer, press bottles into my hands and order my hydration. Don’t remember to write.

When we do eat out, I forget anything else. Revel. Carp! I forget anything else. Eclair! I forget anything else. Warm brie and pear! I forget anything else. Sister-writer remembers to take pictures. Bad lighting. Good faces. Good food.

I’m bad at all-the-time habits. But I’m good at coming back to things. Circling back around. Beginning again. Carrying on. Remembering, if not in time, in time. I walk through the woods with my mother. The light is perfect. I remember to take pictures. She’s beautiful.

I think maybe that’s how I’m meant to be. Not remembering always, maybe remembering enough. I see my mother in Paris and forget to take pictures. I see my mother in the trees, and remember. It is good.

I remember to write a blog post. I’ve forgotten dinner.

Maybe it’s enough. Maybe it’s good.

Deerstalkers and Hands-Free Blackberries

*Walks along in rain, contemplating Serious Decisions in my Writing Career Plans*

*Stares down at rainwater rushing past feet in a stream, begins by extension to contemplate the condition of the universe, man, chaos, order, and art*

*Angst and ennui* *Everything is so much vague but potent feeling or something*

*Glances up and sees a deer, freezes*

*Deer glances up, sees a me, freezes*

*Deer goes back to grazing*

*Swallows whoop of excitement, begins stalking deer*

*Freezes every time deer glances up*

*Crouches in brush, creeps through trees*

*Scares deer away*

*Laughs and runs back through grass, thoroughly soaked*

*Sees drips of water on leaves, licks them off*

*Sees blackberries, makes game of eating them off their bushes without hands*

*Ow ow ow thorns*

*Walks home in rain, contemplating serious decisions in my writing career plans*

*Green hair plastered to head, can’t stop grinning, can’t take self too seriously because just stalked deer for no reason and ate hands-free blackberries*

*Yay for rain! Yay for the universe, man, chaos, order, and art!*

And so my quest to become the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to my own Angsty Serious Artist carries on swimmingly.

A Skimping Shell

A single truth,

A truth entire, that words all fail to tell,

A single word,

To truth attached, as paltry, skimping shell.

That single word,

A single word no image can contain,

One single whole,

A thousand pictures try to hold in vain.

A single truth,

A single truth, ill-wrapped inside a name,

And all attempts

To speak or write or show it seem to shame

The truth entire.

You can find slightly more specific poetry here.

A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation

I tried, a few times, to read Strunk and White, and never did manage it. I tried reading a few other grammar books, I tried looking up grammar guides online, and every one left me confused, upset, and still with little idea how to write any better than I did.

Then I found A Dash of Style, by Noah Lukeman. It did far more than I’d have asked of such a handbook. It revolutionized the way I looked at words and the tiny marks that guide them. The subtitle isn’t kidding when it reads “The Art and Mastery of Punctuation.”

The book trains your eyes to the subtle differences that separate a masterful sentence from a weak one, like a Jujitsu master trains your hands to the differences between a powerful wrist lock, and uselessly twisting someone’s fingers. Or like a chef learns that the difference between a simply good soup and the great soup he wants to make is a pinch of this, and a dash of that.

Here’s the full review I wrote on Amazon.

Web of Art, part II

Web of Art

Rapture in the story,
power in the strands,
beauty in the blood and sweat and tears.
The web in all its glory,
the best of men’s laid plans,
ensnares us in our greatest loves and fears.

The Strands

The Strands of the Web are the elements that make up the Story. They are the stuff that story is built of, the glue that holds it together, and the structure upon which it is built.

Specifically, in writing terms, the Strands are– everything. Plot and prose and punctuation, every decision the writer makes– every decision the director or painter or choreographer makes– is a strand in the Web of Art.

It is a fine thing, as a reader– or viewer, or listener– to take pleasure in the story, to be caught in a well-woven web. That is, after all, its purpose. But would it not be finer yet to take joy in the Story and the Strands both?

The Strands– spun right, strung right– are powerful in and of themselves, and it can be awe-inspiring to look past the tapestry to the stitches.

Can you love the composition of a paragraph, not simply the paragraph itself? More than being swept along in its flow, to step outside of it and run your eyes over the workmanship and wordcraft.
That carefully chosen, single-word sentence, then the poignant line ending in a semicolon, followed by a breathless string of commas, ’til the words smash into the period– then one short sentence, the wrap-up or summation or stroke of finality.

To look at a well-built anything, in awe not just of the finished product, but of the craftmanship, will add levels to your love and layers to your life.


Web of Art, part I

Web of Art

Rapture in the story,
power in the strands,
beauty in the blood and sweat and tears.
The web in all its glory,
the best of men’s laid plans
ensnares us in our greatest loves and fears.

The Story

I have never heard of anyone who did not find rapture in story– some story, some way, somehow. Certainly, there are people who don’t like reading stories, but stories stretch far beyond and above and behind the art of writing.

Movies and mothers and Marvel comics tell stories. Barroom braggarts and quick-witted liars tell stories. Grand greek statues and modern pop hits tell stories. And all these tales, long or short, clever or cliché, wicked or wise or warning or wonderful, have this in common:

They seek to capture, to enrapture, or at the least, to hold their prey suspended by fascination. All stories seek this, whether their artist knows it or not.

Even the palest lie whispered in the heart is there to capture; to hold the tale-teller wrapped up in what they wish to believe.

And the story I see in the spread of a tree, branches sparse and stark against the sky, or drawn in close to the trunk like a cloak, can take my breath away as I wonder at the whole tale.

But most artists know they are creating a Web of Art, whether they intend to catch themselves, their family, or millions of readers and viewers.