Curing the Crankies

I am a grouch this morning. There’s no other word for it. I didn’t sleep well because my knee was hurting and I have this restless leg thing happening after the surgery that’s quite annoying, and I don’t FEEL like doing my work, but there’s a lot piling up and it needs to be tackled.

Also, there are about 27 jillion errands that must be run. My mail has gone missing in this weird little Twilight IMG_7361Zone transfer of addresses and I can’t seem to get it straightened out, so my poor daughter in law has to keep forwarding it to me. Then it gets sent back to her. Rinse and repeat. There’s a box with books for my eldest son that’s been sitting here since Christmas. I spent the weekend running around doing fun things, but then I got super tired and haven’t recovered. Yesterday I forced myself to go swim because I need to get my aerobic capacity back after six months of doing almost nothing to take care of that. (Also, my core strength is not what I’d like and that needs work, too.)

I’m still healing from getting my legs chopped in half then put back together again, and it’s a long road. It’s a good road, but like any long journey, there are times you stop, weary of the same landscape, wish for rescue by helicopter. There’s no helicopter here. Just me and my precious body, on the road toward feeling better.

This morning, I should be writing, but I can tell you right now that’s probably not going to happen. I’m tired and resentful of life roaring back at me so hard, and I’m not quite ready to leap in with such intensity. Because I am a writer and I set my own hours, I do have a certain amount of freedom to step back.

Instead of coming into my office to write, as I planned, I moved things around. The new bottle of gesso I bought last Friday found its way into my hand and I found a brush in the other and I glossed some paper with it, just to play. Some little something started to breathe in the midst of all that irritability. As the paper dries, I pull out a photo of a tomato that I want to paint, and look for the right paper, the right size and weight, and I’m starting to draw. Later, I’ll add a little bit to the small journal of watercolor pages that seems to be a long, long love letter to my darling girl. I miss her terribly, and this is helping. Last week, we had a long, rambling, cheerful chat via Facetime, the first time she’s been really engaged, and she didn’t want me to “leave her house,” and showed me thing and blew raspberries and laughed when I kissed her. At one point, she said, “Nana’s stuck inside the iPad,” which has been haunting me slightly ever since.

All of this inner drama is why I haven’t been writing blogs as I promised. This morning I realized that is dishonest. I’m not always cheerful—far from it, actually. My life doesn’t always flow smoothly, and things show up in clusters—the urgent need to replace my knees, my parents’ ill health the past year, my beloved granddaughter and her wonderful parents moving 800 miles away—and I struggle to keep an upbeat attitude.

I have no wisdom today except that I’m going to take some pleasure in this little cabinet I bought to keep art supplies more orderly:

I’m 1454626_819401144817143_7649465128040458001_ngoing to paint and write something on those gessoed pages. I’m going to listen to music and see if it will speak to me about this book, and I will take a long nap. I am tired. I am healing. I am human. That is what I need today.

What do you do to cure the grouchies? 

Love,
Barbara

Go Ahead, Be Terrible

One of the hardest things about starting a new book is the awfulness of it. I’m there now, at the beginning, no longer thinking about the book or making notes or even writing long backstory and character pieces—which is actually one of the most fun parts of writing. If it was only that part, I would be the happiest writer in the world.

Instead, I’m actually starting to write the thing, in scenes, with characters talking and moving and all that.

This is the point of ruination. I’ve talked about this before—every book is perfect before I must try to bring it into the world. They live in some other place, in the Land of Books Waiting to Be Written, and some are mine to write and some are yours and some are still waiting for their person to get busy and bring it over into the Land of Books That Can Be Read.

As I try to bring my book over the wall into this world, I ruin it, almost from the first word. (more…)

Writers Don’t Get Lonely

As part of rehab for my brand-new bionic knee, a physical therapist comes to my house five days a week and puts me through my paces. As I’m standing on my toes and cycling on a portable little bike, we chat. He’s a guy of a certain age, with an intriguing history as a Shakespearean actor and a director in New York, and we’ve found lots of things to talk about. We were talking about various kinds of work, and introverts and extroverts and I mentioned that I was spending a lot of time alone with the rehab, but that’s pretty much the shape of my life.

He said, “But writers don’t get lonely, do they?”

It gave me pause, because I had actually been feeling…oh, not lonely exactly. More at loose ends, like a bead banging around inside an empty can. I don’t get lonely, for the most part. I love being alone, puttering in the garden or taking photos or writing. My head is filled with people, lots and lots of them, and they amuse and entertain me quite nicely. I also just like to think—about the vast reaches of space, about how tea is harvested, about the young woman on the radio who said both men and women should be hairless, all over. (Really?) I also love the company of other people, and find people interesting, which might be why they tell me their stories.

Just now, however, I’m not engaged in much of anything, and I guess the word lonely might have been floating around. CR works all day. My concentration is a bit splintered. I’ve been doing a lot of watercolor exercises, which is distracting and enjoyable, but there are only so many a person can do in a day.

It turns out that a writer who isn’t writing actually does get lonely. When I realized that, I sat down and opened the Scrivener file for my MIP. The two main characters have been poking me, and followed me all over England (I wrote pages and pages of plotlines on trains) but I thought I should be more focused before I started actually writing scenes. I’m floating in a world of narcotics and know from experience that there’s a reason they keep you high for awhile. (Another PT said, “Do you know what they do? Basically amputate both bones in your legs and then get you on your feet the same day.”)

But it’s not like I won’t go over them twenty seven thousand times between now and the time anyone sees it. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing here.

I opened a file and started writing. Funny—I wasn’t lonely anymore. More, there’s something freeing in doing it through all of this wild year. I’m a writer, and what I do is write. I write to understand things, to celebrate things, to decipher things. I write stories and essays and blogs and articles and letters and posts of all kinds. I write because that’s what writers DO—sick or well, sober or high as a kite, furious or peaceful or silly. Writers write.

Have you ever discovered a loneliness that can be eased by working on something?

A Writer Not Afoot

I’m in recovery from a knee surgery last week, so not really coherent enough to write a long post. I’m in that strange convalescent phase that means I drift along like a bottle on the sea, admiring that swath of sunset or the way the light catches on my cat’s whiskers but nothing much more. In the back of my mind, I’m working on my next Barbara O’Neal book, which is taking on a life of its own and going places I didn’t expect, but that’s fairly normal for my process.

I have discovered Scandal, which everyone told me to watch and told me to watch and told me to watch, and once I got past the first episode, it was great. What else would you recommend?

Oh, my monthly column will be up at Writer Unboxed tomorrow, called originally enough Not Writing, about my favorite subject, filling the well. Come on by.

Have you ever had a few weeks of forced inactivity? How did you fill the time?