Thursday, January 9, 2014

You do not hurry and do not rest

Title of post taken from an Annie Dillard quote I read in Still Writing by Dani Shapiro: "You climb a long ladder until you can see over the roof, or over the clouds. You are writing a book. You watch your shod feet step on each round rung, one at a time; you do not hurry and do not rest."

This ended up being quite the lengthy post. I've been working on it for a few days, and I just kept finding more things to include. So here is everything I've been thinking about since Monday. =]

I am really loving Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. A nonfiction book has to be really good (even if it's about writing) for it to hold my attention, and I find myself continually reaching for this book over the other four fiction books stacked by my bed. Some of the essays do not resonate with me, but others blow my freaking mind. Like this part:
There is only one opportunity to write in complete darkness: when you’re at the beginning. Use it. Use it well. The loneliest day in the life of a published writer may be publication day. Nothing happens. Perhaps your editor sends flowers. Maybe not. Maybe your family takes you out for dinner. But the world won’t stop to take notice. The universe is indifferent. You have put the shape of your soul between the covers of a book and no one declares a national holiday. Someone named Booklover gives you a one-star review on

So what is it about writing that makes it—for some of us—as necessary as breathing? It is in the thousands of days of trying, failing, sitting, thinking, resisting, dreaming, raveling, unraveling that we are at our most engaged, alert, and alive. Time slips away. The body becomes irrelevant. We are as close to consciousness itself as we will ever be. This begins in the darkness. Beneath the frozen ground, buried deep below anything we can see, something may be taking root. Stay there, if you can. Don’t resist. Don’t force it, but don’t run away. Endure. Be patient. The rewards cannot be measured. Not now. But whatever happens, any writer will tell you: This is the best part.

I definitely need the reminder to savor the writing. To remember that I am writing stories to make people cry, and burn, and squee, to run to their friends and tell them holy fuck you have to read this book I looooved it!  It gets to the point where I drop everything to get my writing in for the day, and if I don't get to the writing, I beat myself up over it. (Not to mention the laundry piles up in magnificent piles of stink. Seriously, it's gets so bad we can't contain the clothes in the bathroom closet.) This is the wrong way to do it. Everything needs to be balanced. I tend to binge on something (a tv show, knitting, oreos) until I'm so overwhelmed I avoid it like the plague for two weeks.

While I need to take it seriously enough that I actually sit down and DO the writing (as opposed to just thinking about it, or reading about it (come on, you know you're guilty of that, too)), I need to remember that this is not my job. Not yet. While I'd love for it to be full time one day, right now I only have a few hours in the evening to decompress, eat, write, read, clean, catch up on tv, whatever. The writing should be a way to decompress, not additional hours at a second job. ENJOY it, dammit!

Speaking of writing as a day job, here is another great, realistic post about writing and money that arrived just in time for this little reminder to myself. To remember that if I ever get to a place where I can write full time, it is to tell more stories, not to make more money. The money is not why I do this. I do this because I have to, I have to tell these stories and get these voices out of my head, otherwise I become some crazy bitch monster who is pms-ing on high gear and the people around me try not to get burned in my fiery aura of hate.

This is another quote included in Still Writing, and I don't think it needs any explanation to be awesome (seriously, read this book):

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not hear it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even need to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others. – Martha Graham

I read this review of Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow, and I must say it sounds freaking awesome. I especially loved the "love can be more painful than hate" line. Please just check it out, because her review is much better than anything I could say about it. While I have been reading Still Writing most of the time, I am also reading Invisible Man, Tell the Wolves I'm Home, The Wise Man's Fear, and The Secret History. It's a very heavy reading list...

As I read book reviews, I keep a separate TBR list of books that relate to my current WIP, even if it is only a small thing that relates, to read them like a writer and take notes and dissect it and to figure out how that author created their magic.  But whenever I do this, I fizzle out. I don't know if it feels too much like homework or if I am too spacey to stay focused when  need to divide my attention between what is happening in the story and what I am keeping an eye out for, as opposed to simply immersing myself in the story. It is so easy for me to toss a book aside when I am reading it for pleasure, it is even easier to do so when I am reading it for research. Does anyone else feel this way?

I've been a cooking fiend the past few days! Firstly, enchiladas over the weekend (it was either cook all day or watch football all day...), and I make some banging enchiladas. [Recipe below!] Then this simple recipe for hummus, which is not my first attempt at hummus but the first time it's been good! And it really is a simple, delicious recipe. Highly recommended. Then, these veggie burgers, made with sweet potato and cannelini beans. The burgers are awesome, but I wasn't a fan of the garlic-maple-yogurt sauce. Blegh. I've been eating them with spinach and sriracha sauce instead. (There is something magical about sweet potatoes and sriracha.) Next, we finally bought a blender! Hooray for gift cards! And where there is a blender, there are smoothie packs! I also made a cola cake, but it was a dud. Not sure if I just don't like the recipe (it came out a brownie instead of a cake, like I wanted), or if I forgot the baking soda. Definitely a possibility. (Pictures taken from their respective websites.)

To add to my craftiness (and yours), here is a great website with patterns for friendship bracelets. You know, the kind you made at camp, with knots in embroidery floss. Except these patterns are INSANE. And awesome. Make a book-themed bracelet!

We are Huxleying ourselves into the full Orwell. The internet as we know it is dying. A very scary outlook about internet security and privacy. I am all about keeping people safe, but you know, there's a line. You can't be protected from everything. (If this topic interests you, read Moxyland by Lauren Beukes. Among other things: cell phones implanted in your wrist that can be controlled by the police, shocking offenders to immobilize them, and such.)

The Chris Christie Bridge Snafu. Oh politics, and the games you play... I really don't understand how people think this is okay. I liked how Christie handled the hurricane, and as far as Republicans go he isn't completely offensive, but he's lost some points here. (I'm not including this for political reasons, I'm including it because it's local and ridiculous. Also because I hate shifty, conniving games. People, man... PEOPLE.)

Banging Enchiladas
I usually double this recipe, and make 12 servings-worth in two 9 x 13 pans. This gives us a huge dinner and enough leftovers for a few days of lunches.

enchilada sauce
2-3 chicken breasts, baked at 350 in covered dish for 35 minutes, then shredded and tossed with taco seasoning
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked with 1 3/4 cup water for 30 minutes
1 package large tortillas (there will be 8, but I can only fit 6 in a pan)
1 can refried beans (I like the vegetarian kind)
1 can sweet white corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 large package (1 lb) shredded mexican blend cheese (the unseasoned kind)

Smear a good bit of refried beans onto the tortilla, down the middle. Add a palmful of cheese, then a heaping spoonful each of corn and beans. Add shredded chicken, and drizzle a spoonful or two of sauce over it all. Fold each side over, and without tucking in the ends place seam side down in the baking pan. After filling pan, pour remaining sauce over the tops of enchiladas. Bake uncovered at 350 for 35 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and bake for a few more minutes to let it melt. Eat, and burn your mouth with bliss.

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