Category Archives: writers

This Being an Addendum Rather than a Conclusion

I have finally come to the conclusion that I will never invent time travel or finish any story because my house doesn’t have a basement. Furthermore, I have come to the conclusion that, even if I burrowed out a basement below my house and axed any animus projections resembling Oso, I would still never invent time travel or finish any story, including the one about Oso and Julia. Despite my numerous attempts to create conclusions, I have failed to erect such a finished structure.

This reminds me of a creative writing/short story class I once took at UNM–oh, heck, why keep the professor anonymous? He was Gregory Martin. His class was memorable for multiple reasons, including his abilities as a memoirist. During one critique session, in which we were slicing and dicing a highly polished, but essentially lacking story by a young woman in class, I asked if this story could simply be considered finished. Perhaps it was time for the writer to move on to a new one. Professor Martin then waxed philosophic about how stories were never finished. This concept disturbed me to the point that my backbone straightened up for an argument with him. It became a face-off–the professor and I arguing over the silliness of an incomplete story which equated to an incomplete life, while the rest of the class fell silent and listened. At the time, I understood what he meant all too well. He was absolutely correct. But it’s crazy-making to never find satisfying endings.

Memoirists understand the world in a different way than you or I. Memoirists don’t like endings because endings signify death. In a sense, their best skill is time travel, and for the express purpose of never concluding anything. I am, you might suggest, projecting my own psychological workings onto an innocent professor of creative writing, who has, no doubt, forgotten the argument that left such an impact on me. I should probably cease and desist before digging my hole any deeper. I really need a basement, though. I need one in order to invent time travel and to finish something, anything, even if I have to fly backwards in time in order to do so. Forgive me, then, because I’m going to continue digging until I’m deep enough to begin climbing stairs that will take me back up to the world of the sky.

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Why are Writers Self-Deprecatory?

That’s my question for today.  It’s a question that’s been bugging me for a while.  Writers seems to lack confidence in their very natures.  They wear masks of humility to spare themselves criticism and pain.  Occasionally, an arrogant writer surfaces from the depths of the blogging circles, but the arrogance seems only another mask meant to cover a defensive and self-protective nature.

Where are the confident among us?  Why must writers live this way?  Why can’t we boldly step up to our laptops and say, “I’m going to break the rules.  I’m going to write the story of my heart.  And I’m going to do it because I know I can.  Damn those negative thoughts that tell me I can’t!”

I wonder if my writing would improve if I were to take on this air of confidence–if it would bring zest and life to every story.  I wonder if writer’s block is simply another form of self-deprecating nonsense, in which I tell myself all the reasons why I can’t, instead of why I can.

Humility is a virtue.  I get that.  But, for heaven’s sake, I’m tired of reading the humble entreaties on writers’ blogs– including my own.  I’m tired of living in my self-deprecating mind, cursing myself and my own work.  Just to clarify, confidence is not the same thing as pride.  Pride says, “I don’t need improvement, so don’t even bother to criticize me.”  Confidence says, “My work needs improvement, but it’s better than it once was and, by gum, I know I’m capable of bringing it to that final level!”

I want this to be my year of confidence.  What about you?

p.s. In case you can’t tell, the image above is supposed to be of Sor Juana’s hand.  She was one of the greatest writers and poets of Mexico, and yet she renounced her writing and books, and signed this renouncement in blood with the words yo, la peor de todas!  Translated, that means, I, the worst of all!

p.p.s Sor Juana was forced by the Inquisition.  The only Inquisition forcing us into self-flagellation is ourselves.

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The End of It All

Yesterday’s post was completely uninspired, so I apologize for that. It’s time to finish off this silly idea about health-for-the-writer that I started. I’ve already discussed the importance of moving and stretching and the importance of going outside for fresh air and sunshine–as if you couldn’t figure that out for yourself! The problem lies in forcing yourself–ahem, myself–into complying with the program.

The last bit in this series is, perhaps, the most difficult to take. Writers are far too introverted and, for them to truly achieve glowing health, they are going to have to look outside themselves and stop internalizing everything. I’ve been around artists all my life, and they are all the same. It doesn’t matter how magnanimous and broad-minded they think they are; the truth is that they are as narrow as their own minds and visions of the world.

What to do, what to do . . .? I’m not one to give advice in regard to this issue! I recommend reading biblical Psalms, particularly those written by David. Search his model of “woe is me; everybody hates me; why don’t you listen to me, God?” Then read what follows. He complained and spilled his problems in songs and then lifted up his voice in prayers and praise of God. In other words, he ultimately forced himself to look outside himself.

Well, there you have it. If you combine all the advice I have to give, then you will run out into the sunlight (or lack thereof) and walk briskly while praying madly. So why am I so tired? So why does my back hurt? Hmm. I’m sitting, slumped in front of the computer when I should be in bed.

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Would you be healthy?

Most writers I know are pressed for time and, when they have a little of it, they spend it sitting in chairs. This is not a bad thing, if the chairs they are sitting in are facing their desks and/or computers. If so, hurrah! Hopefully, while sitting in these chairs, they will close out their internet browsers and open their document programs and begin typing away to ticking egg timers.

Accomplishment is good for the soul. Setting goals is a way to keep the brain sane. Unfortunately, sitting for long periods of time is not good for the body. It puts pressure on the tailbone and doesn’t do a whole lot for blood circulation. Add to that the neck that is often in a craned positing, and many writers will be attempting to rub the tension from their necks while simultaneously patting themselves on their backs for a job well done.

Movement is key. Notice I didn’t say exercise. Health professionals have conflicting opinions on what kind of exercise is good for the body: whether running wears away at the joints, whether exercise must raise the heart rate above normal for so many minutes, etc. The truth is difficult to arrive at because every person is different. Some can handle an hour’s worth of intense cardio, while others suffer heart attacks at the mere thought of intense exercise.

I prefer yoga, dance, Pilates exercises, and very mild cardiovascular workouts. If I’m stretched for time, I choose yoga because, in twenty minutes, I can stretch most of the muscles in my body, while strengthening my muscles at the same time. A half an hour of a sun salute routine with a few twists added is surprisingly satisfying if you’re addicted to the exercise-endorphin-release (see Yoga for Dummies if you want a simple routine). I also keep a handful of yoga/Pilates mix videos on hand that are no longer than thirty minutes each.

Yoga can be problematic for writers due to the risk of carpal tunnel. I hope that you are already aware of ways to avoid this problem. If not, then here are the general guidelines: place a rolled hand towel under your wrists to prop them up while typing, take a regular dose of fish oil, and keep your body fed with a steady supply of B vitamins. I prefer EmergenC powder because my body absorbs it well; plus, eating an apple a day along with a nice green salad will provide you with most of your B-complex. However, carpal tunnel may already be a problem. In that case, do all of the above and use a yoga block to avoid placing pressure on the wrists.

I may have claimed to prefer yoga, Pilates, and dance, but honestly, I think walking is by far the best exercise for a writer. And that brings me to the next on my list of health articles, so I will have to get back to you on that as soon as I can.

Here is an addendum: Manzanares St. Cafe was not exactly on the “meet the artist” tour that I described the other day, even if my name and my father’s name was on the list. Oh, well, so nobody went there to meet me, and I didn’t sell any cards. I did, however, write a new, better query letter while drinking my coffee there. For the record, the cafe makes a lovely pumpkin soup that warmed me up. And I will have another chance to sell cards at the Luminarias on the Plaza event, which is another local artist/tour venue. My time will come (that’s what I keep telling myself, anyway).

p.s. Just to reflect my hope as a writer, I posted an image of luminarias.

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Writers: could they, would they be Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise?

Writers are, in general, an unhealthy lot. Their health issues range from the mild (back pain) to the more severe (cancer). These ailments are caused by the nature of the intellectual life: They

a) sit frequently with their necks craned forward.
b) do this sitting indoors.
c) internalize everything.

Some time ago, I read a statistical analysis of writers and their average life span as compared to the population at large. Although I can’t find the original study that I read (it was a while back), I did find several articles about the study. Here is a link to a New York Times article. While writers tend to have shorter than average life spans, there is also a hierarchy of doom amongst different types of writers. Nonfiction writers live the longest, and poor, sad poets live the shortest and most tragic lives.

Due to the hierarchy, I would guess that C is the strongest component in ill health for writers. Poets are far more likely than nonfiction writers to suffer from worry, doubt, angst, and narcissism. For that reason, I’m going to write a series of articles on health, beginning with A and culminating in the most important, C.

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