Friday, June 04, 2010

More great reasons not to write

I realize I've been procrastinating lately about writing my procrastination blog and the guilt won out (that and I really don't feel like working yet this morning). Here's a really interesting interview with Anne Rapp... Anne Rapp's 10 Rules of Writing.

One of her top tips to being a good writer is to be a really good reader and not just magazines and shlock. Real books. Really good books. She even recommends a few, none of which I've read yet so I'm immediately going Amazon to get all of them... yes, that's a favorite past time of mine, one-click has seriously ruined my life and my bank account. I'm avoiding buying a Kindle because then I'll really be in trouble and never get my writing done. Anyway, I'm always reading about 3 books at a time, depending on my mood. Ever read a book that you keep thinking "Hmm, this book seems familiar," and it takes until about a third of the way through to realize you've read it already? I've done that. But I try to keep current and inspired as well. I'll read a popular, well reviewed YA book, a science fiction book and a damn well written recent novel going in my "reading room" at the same time. What can I say I'm fickle, nerdy and often constipated. I get a lot read that way.

In any case, I haven't read any of Anne's stuff yet, but now I think I will. Anne writes short stories and has written movies that Robert Altman directed... so you figure she's really close in the chain to Raymond Carver, who wrote Short Cuts - Criterion Collection that Altman made a pretty decent movie out of (though I'm not sure I can ever get my head around Lyle Lovett playing "the baker"). I love Raymond Carver's stories; therefor, by loyalty lineage, I love Anne Rapp already.

More advice has to do with putting your desk facing the wall, not the window. I totally agree with her on that one too. Every desk I've ever had faces the wall. I learned a long time ago that a writer like me with ADD will get painfully distracted by anything but a blank wall.

She also recommends a clean house/workspace and getting rid of clutter... in theory I totally agree but in practice, not exactly. I find it very difficult to manage my clutter on a daily basis. Instead, I save it for those day long projects where you start "straightening up" and end up with 5 garbage bags full of papers and stuff you thought you absolutely needed but have no room for and are feeling too lazy to file. Great procrastination method, lousy for actually writing though.

Another tip is not to marry or live with another writer. Been there done that, she's right.... for SOOOO many reasons.

Then there's the "Room of one's own" tip that is totally accurate, though I wish she'd give credit to Virginia Woolf for first suggesting it, if not for any other reason than I totally LOVE Virginia Woolf's work (Mrs. Dalloway rocks... and don't tell me you saw the movie, I don't want to hear it). In any case, for crying out loud if you want to write anything you definitely have to kick everyone out of the house for a while to do it... or do it when they're all sleeping. Sleeping, I find counts very much like being gone... if they're unconscious or comatose, nobody's gonna bother you.

I'd also add a caveat to the "alone" rule to say it really helps a writer to have a dog, or dogs around. That is IF they're the right kind of dogs. No yappy, high energy hounds that want to lure you outside to take them for a walk. I'm talkin' lazy, lounge about furry creatures that are totally content to sleep at your feet, your side, somewhere near you to send comforting, loving doggie vibes without bothering you at all and will let you scoop them up and snuggle them for a minute if you're looking for a break or a reason not to work that won't last too long (if I hug too much, my Shitzu, Cuddles gives me a little growl to warn me to get back to work and let him get back to sleep... and yes, his name is Cuddles, you did read me right).

I guess I also like the idea that I'm not the only breathing thing in the house. That and if say a snake or tarantula should come crawling out of a hole somewhere, I could cower behind the dogs, or they'd distract it by barking at it while I ran for help (especially my mixed mutt, Daisy, who does a great keep away bark and also has the nifty habit of eating mosquitoes and other stray bugs straight out of the air like a lizard. Saves me oodles in insect repellent).

Tarantulas? Snakes? You think I'm joking here but I'm not. I live in Southern California near canyons where these things really do come out to play from time to time. First week we moved here, my husband stepped on what he thought was a big hairy spider, turned out to be a wicked big tarantula. Ever since, I'm on the lookout for other spider family members seeking vengeance.

If you live in NYC or Florida and don't need to worry about such things, you still have those cockroaches that are bigger than either of my dogs (and don't say I'm stereotyping, I've lived in NYC, they do exist in abundance there. I once stayed at a girlfriend's basement apartment for a year and we called the garbage under the sink "The Zoo." You can figure why, I'm sure).

Now I know some of you are wondering why I mention dogs instead of cats. Admittedly, I am a dog person. I have nothing against cats and yes, they are low maintenance and can be nice to have around... but you realize no cat will face off against a snake for giant bug for you. No way, no how. So what good are they in the long run, that's my feeling.

There are more rules, some things to avoid; books on writing except the ones by Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. I wouldn't run from anything Bradbury's written, though I'm not familiar with this particular writing book. I do know my Stephen King though and I absolutely adore On Writing and Danse Macabre -- she's totally on the money about reading those. I can't even say that reading them is procrastination fodder, so much as considering it as a work related read. File it under education, save yourself the time and money of going to a writing class and read those books. Of course, if you write screenplays, maybe that's different. In any case, you need to read my former teacher form UCLA and personal yoda, Lew Hunter's:Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434: The Industry's Premier Teacher Reveals the Secrets of the Successful Screenplay . I wouldn't write a word without consulting Lew's tombe first. Screenplays are really about structure more than other kinds of prose, so bone up. I also might add Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life to the list for inspiration, though it's been years since I've read it. Still, it's on my shelf. These are the only books on writing on my shelf by the way... so in theory I guess I'm agreeing with Anne about not wasting too much time reading every little ditty about how to write. Writing's not really like that, it's not a passive thing you learn from reading about... it's more a sport. You learn by doing and falling down a bunch and getting back up until it works for you, or not.

Anyway, you can now log in the 10 minutes or so it's taken you to read this blog entry into your procrastination log. Now, it's back to work or starve!