I have spent many decades trying simultaneously to earn a living and find out what I want to BE. Not just do. I've always, always wanted to be a writer, and always, always written. Stories, poems, plays, fragments, in addition to the millions and millions of words I've churned out as part of paying and volunteer jobs. But until now, I haven't BEEN a writer. (Not least because I couldn't stand the thought of not earning money and paying my own way. Accepting that my husband and I are an economic team when I'm not earning as well as when I am is the hardest part of all this Big Adventure.)

My husband the composer often tells students and prospective students that if you can do something other than music, you should. It's only right for you if you see no other choice, if it won't leave you alone, if it's the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing at night, and it's what you think about most of the time in between.

If I apply that to myself and ask "What hasn't left me alone? What have I been doing compulsively since childhood? What do my dreams of wild success actually look like?" -- um, writing, writing, and they look like me writing.


Refreshing change? Or lack of self-discipline?

Last night I treated myself: instead of revising a Clarion story or working on the novel, I started a new story (I'm trying my hand at YA). Is this a beneficial change of pace that will ultimately boost my productivity and attitude? Or is it a distressing sign that I lack what it takes to follow through and complete projects?

In other news, I've sent "Foul Play in Dapto" and "The Salad of Success" out to a (very busy and highly regarded) theatre company in the Sydney area. They are, strictly speaking, amateur, but their shows run for seven or eight weeks each, and always to packed houses. It would be fun just to volunteer with them, actually, whether or not they ever produce something of mine. I'd like to know more about theatre, as I'm sure it would make me a better playwright. Plus, as I've mentioned before, nothing a writer learns or experiences is ever wasted.


Hitting "send"

The instant the "send" button descends is the most heady and terrifying moment of the whole writing process. The din in my head ("No! It isn't edited enough! Did you read ALL the formatting guidelines? What are you DOING???" "Shut up! It's a beautiful, powerful story ringing with universal truth and relevance!" "But you've messed up the guidelines, I'm sure you have! They're going to think you're an idiot! And your story is actually crap!" "I FOLLOWED the guidelines, and no it isn't -- shut up, shut up!" "Oh my God, it's too late, there it goes, it's too late, too late....") is unbelievable.

And yet once it goes, the exhilaration spikes: I'm being a Real Writer, I'm sending my stories out into the world to seek their fortune.


I thought I was a geek.

And then I read this: a description of Pi Day. Which is, apparently, today. I was particularly taken with the description of early celebrations: "The Exploratorium began an annual public celebration of Pi Day in 1987 or 1988, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, and then consuming fruit pies; the museum has since added pizza pies to its Pi Day menu."

Apparently it's also Albert Einstein's birthday.

Clearly I am only paddling in the shallows of the ocean of geekdom.


Theme, premise, guiding light....

I've just started reading the classic of playwriting, The Art of Dramatic Writing, by Lajos Egri. (You can see where the guy who wrote How to Write a Damn Good Novel got most of his ideas. Pity Egri is long dead and can't sue him.)

Anyway, Egri's first and most emphatic point is that all the stuff about conflict and setting and tone and all that are only effects of something much more important: premise. The premise of Romeo and Juliet, for example, is "True love defies even death." The premise of Othello is "Jealousy destroys itself and the object of its jealousy." If you devise a strong, dynamic premise -- and only one -- you end up with a much better story. If you just kind of waffle along, writing what seems like a good idea at the time, you end up with a crap story.

Your job as a good writer is to find a powerful premise and use your story to prove or disprove it. (Usually prove.) If you believe your premise is powerful and true, and you set out to show how your characters and what happens to them proves the premise, you are much more likely to write a good story.

The reason I'm pondering this so deeply is that, although I've heard this advice before from various people, I am now in a position to start considering it in a much more personal way. (Probably a symptom of making it through Clarion: without much conscious decision, my awareness of deeper levels of meaning and technique seems to have expanded.)

So I'm looking at various pieces of my own writing, and asking "What is the premise?" Sometimes it's relatively easy to find. Sometimes it's hard. But up to now, I haven't been deliberately starting with a premise. Egri says you don't really have to start with the premise in the earliest stages of playing with a work. But by the time you're full-on into it, you'd better have figured it out. Or the rest of the piece is probably going to be crap, and definitely less than it could be.

Sobering thought.


Campaign for the Restoration of "Disinterested"

It means "not taking sides, even though one has a keen interest in the question itself". It does not mean "not interested". (That's "UNinterested".) Please, act now to save this vital and cruelly misused word from decay! Yes, the English language is a moving target. But that does not mean all its movements are upward!

Here's what you can do to help:
  1. Use the word properly. "Disinterested" when you mean "impartial, yet fascinated". "Uninterested" when you mean "uninterested".
  2. Teach your children and/or students to do the same.
  3. Conduct original research into effective ways to tell your boss, best friend, or partner the difference between "disinterested" and "uninterested".
  4. Earnestly join your efforts to the diligent meditations of those sitting in darkened rooms thinking "I am disinterested, not uninterested. I am disinterested, not uninterested."
The world needs more people who are disinterested (not uninterested). This is the secret to scientific inquiry, social progress, genuine theological advances, and the development of a compassionate, caring world. And the only way we can ensure that this happens is by preserving the word! There is a reason it's going out of fashion: the concept itself is being forgotten.

Act now! Save civil, compassionate social involvement!

Become disinterested today!

Meanwhile, back at SES....

Last night I went back to my (unpaid) job as training coordinator for my State Emergency Service Unit for the first time since before Christmas. I got one of the bigger shocks of my life to find out how glad people were to see me back. I suppose this doesn't have a lot to do with writing. But it was a nice thing to experience.

In other news: the perennial question "What have I done today to advance my dreams towards reality?" remains unanswered for today. Except that I earned a bit of money that will mean I can focus just that much more on writing once this editing gig is done. I guess that counts.


Post-Clarion Stress

I'm feeling pulled in a thousand directions, because for six weeks I had one direction -- one. I'm horribly frustrated and feeling incompetent because I'm only writing one or two hundred words a day, on a good day, whereas for six weeks I wrote thousands of words each week. I'm resentful that I have to actually choose which clothes to wear to an office, while for six weeks I only had a few items of clothing with me and they were my favorites and my most comfortable. (Good thing this is a really, really informal office, at least, and I don't have to do the suits-and-painful-shoes thing.) I miss my Clarion buddies.

The stress is leaking out in lots of little ways. I'm trying hard not to be surly and irritable with my family. I feel weepy at any kind word from anyone, particularly if it comes from a writing colleague. I'm far more sluggish than I was at Clarion, on far more sleep than I got there. My focus is shot at the moment; it's even harder for me than it usually is to keep my mind on whatever it is I'm working on.

I sure hope this is only temporary.