Friday, February 15, 2019

Love and Roses

14th February 2019

In Scotland, as in the rest of Great Britain, Valentine's Day is the celebration of romantic love.  In USA, in true American homogenizing fashion, everyone is supposed to be included. Grandmas and mothers receive Valentine's cards alike. Every Valentine's Day of my youth was spent in expectant desperation, checking the mail, checking my desk at school, just in case some boy had slipped in a card when I wasn't looking. It was all quite depressing, because my notion of what my life would be was not characterised by chastity or loneliness of any kind. To those boys who actually did fancy me (and there were some, I later learned), I spit on your timidity. I would have rejected you, of course, but you should have given me the chance!

But then that lack of substance is one of the many problems with the notion of romantic love we have fostered in our culture. "Love is not love that alters where alteration finds," saith the Bard. But what is love? One thing I am fairly sure it is not is anything connected to red roses and heart bleeds. I spent much of my youth swooning (for years at a time in some instances) over one male person or another. Often, I had very little contact with that person, so I have to think whatever I was feeling (to point of death, it seemed  - I was a very dramatic girl!) it had more to do with me than them.

Because romantic love is something of a fabrication, it is by nature insecure and requires constant reminders that it exists. It's all a bit neurotic and needy, and yet this is what the film and music industry,  together with the industry of Romance books, perpetuates.

I think love is a conundrum and may have almost nothing to do with how we feel. As the modern bard Paul Simon sings, "Love is not a game, love is not a toy, love's no romance." There's an old saying that love is not two people staring into one another's eyes, but two people staring in the same direction. So, maybe that's why I don't celebrate this day, Valentine's Day. I wish I had realised earlier in my life that love might just be the equilibrium between two egos, not an Egoism a Deux (Fromm)

Friday, February 1, 2019

For Writers

February 1st 2019

I am nearing the end of the re-write of my current book set in Israel. I sent out the first draft to a few friends and got very mixed results back. What became clear, though, was that I had committed my usual sin of starting off a novel trying to pack in pages and pages of backstory.  In this particular case, I thought I was justified. But it should be clear to me by now that, as a teacher once told me, you have  to "stay in the room," not just once the story gets going, but from the very first sentence.  You have asked that reader to step into your office and you need to keep him or her there by showing them a few pictures.  "Let me show you my etchings," used to be an old funny pick-up line, but it really is how you keep a reader engaged.  I know that. But I always forget it.

So, I got depressed. There were about fifty or so pages I would have to completely redo. Throw the old ones out the window and start from scratch.
I kept procrastinating. I'd written the damn book, and I didn't want to re-write a whole new section. You'd think I would have picked up along the way (I did, but I forgot) that, as the adage goes, "Writing is Re-writing."  Don't you just hate that?
Eventually I pulled myself back into my desk chair. I opened my computer, and lo and behold, it wasn't that hard. I knew it wouldn't be. I just forgot. Instead of simply "telling" my story, as another old adage goes, I began "showing" the reader who these characters were.
The great thing is, if you do that, you begin to draw yourself in, too. By the time I had reached a crucial plot point in my story, I was in tears - which hadn't happened before when I was telling and not showing.

I guess what I am trying to tell you writers, is not to be discouraged.  Okay, be discouraged. There is nothing that stings as much as a rejected manuscript. You want to cry out, "But I wrote every word in my own blood."  Okay, but that has to show on every page, and if the reader ain't smelling it, you need to go back and bleed a bit more.

Lovely thing, this writing life....