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Writing for Writers

I learned to identify birds, like this lilac-breasted roller, one bird at a time, which is the same approach Anne Lamott suggests we use for writing. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I learned to identify birds, like this lilac-breasted roller, one bird at a time, which is the same approach Anne Lamott suggests we use for writing. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” – Anne Lamott

Who Gives the Best Advice?

My favorite book about writing is Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” which by the way is also a good book for how to live your life.

Anne-Lamott-2013-San-Francisco

Anne Lawmott — Wikimedia photo

In it, Anne quotes E.L. Doctorow, who once said that “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

She thought it was right up there with the best advice on writing she had ever heard. So do I.

I also identify with this quote by Anne:” “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstance, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it, and find out the truth about who you are.”

As I said, “Bird by Bird,” is about living as much as writing.

As for her advice that perfectionism isn’t a good thing, I find myself fighting this battle each time I’m about half way through a writing project, and start thinking my writing is not good enough.

Then I find it’s time to take advice from a Nike slogan: “Just do it.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: A Recorder and Puberty  http://tinyurl.com/lhkptek This blog took me back to my parenting days, and I laughed because I got through them.

Bean Pat: Yellow-crowned heron http://tinyurl.com/ow8xjyu You can even find them in Queens New York.

This is a coffee plantation in Arusha, Tanzanika, where I spent a night in 2007. The guest houses were scattered among the coffee plants. The experience turned me on to African coffee. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is a coffee plantation in Arusha, Tanzania, where I spent a night in 2007. The guest houses were scattered among the coffee plants. The experience turned me on to African coffee. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee. “ — Flash Rosenberg

When You Drink It with a Straw

A selfie showing my bandaged face after a basal cell carcinoma was removed. I drank my coffee this morning through a straw. The big bandage, thankfully, comes off tomorrow and then there is just the tape over the stitches.-- Selfie by Pat Bean

A selfie showing my bandaged face after a basal cell carcinoma was removed. I drank my coffee this morning through a straw. The big bandage, thankfully, comes off tomorrow and then there is just the tape over the stitches.– Selfie by Pat Bean

I drank gobs of coffee when I was a deadline-writing reporter. There was always a coffee cup near my hand. And I liked it black as sin and as strong as a desert sun at noon.

But after years of the habit, my stomach complained. So cold turkey, the same as my mother did when she quit smoking at 76 because the blinking things became too expensive, I gave up coffee.

After a couple of headachy days, I felt fine – except that I was no longer sleeping very well at night. I conceded that the headaches were a result of my coffee abstinence, but didn’t relate the sleepless nights to a lack of the beans. I mean coffee is supposed to keep you awake, right?

Then a couple of months later, when I had a late meeting to attend for work, I decided to have a cup of coffee. I’m not sure the caffeine helped my alertness, but for the first time in weeks I slept all through the night.

Hmm. I thought. I should have known. I have never been one to react like the crowd. So I went back to drinking coffee, only this time in moderation. I now drink two strong cups of “good” coffee – call me a coffee snob if you like – daily, and generously lace the liquid ambrosia with half and half.

No more stomach problems, and sleepless nights only when I can’t turn off the little gray cells.  Even coffee won’t stop that chatter.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat http://tinyurl.com/nvbteas  Fairytale Rooftops.

Sassy Squirrels

“If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.” – George Eliot

When I hear a squirrel chattering away in a tree, my first thought is what bird is that. But then the little gray cells chime in, informing me that it's a sassy squirrel. -- Photo by Pat Bean

When I hear a squirrel chattering away in a tree, my first thought is what bird is that? But then the little gray cells chime in, informing me that it’s a sassy squirrel. — Photo by Pat Bean

Scattergories

I love playing Scattergories, a game in which you are given a letter of the alphabet and a category — like an R and restaurants. If you came up with Red Robin, you would get two points for the double R.

So one time when the letter was S and the category animals, I wrote down sassy squirrels, but the other players wouldn’t allow it.

Now I ask you, have you ever seen a squirrel that wasn’t sassy?

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: The Pop Up Camper: http://tinyurl.com/kpqedtj Capturing memories, and doing it quite well. Memoir writers might truly enjoy reading this one.

            Bean Pat: Abandoned Resolution http://tinyurl.com/l3orww7 I simply can’t get enough of this blogger’s sassy art. It usually makes me laugh at myself, and that is one of the most freeing things in life.

What’s Your Hurry?

“We are all treading the vanishing road of a song in the air, the vanishing road of the spring flowers and the winter snows, the vanishing roads of the winds and the streams, the vanishing road of beloved faces.”   – Richard Le Gallienne

Find a stream and sit be it. Listen to the birds, glance at the sky, become one with yourself. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Find a stream and sit by it. Listen to the birds, glance at the sky, become one with yourself. — Photo by Pat Bean

Sit a Bit

” Everyone should sit by a stream, and listen, ” was a bit of advice I recently read.

I couldn’t agree more.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Wyoming breezes http://tinyurl.com/ndu87gh Everyone should also look to the sky … and simply breathe in the beauty.

“I noticed every time I spent a lot of time in the bathtub, I would just get fantastic realizations about myself, and they were so valuable and liberating.” – Leonard Orr

I don't care who invented it, but of all the bathtubs out there the best is the claw-footed, whose shape invites one to soak and read at the same time. I can't tell you how many books I've read over the years that ended up waterlogged.  A bathtub was the only thing I truly missed in my nine years of living on the road in Gypsy Lee. -- Wikimedia photo

I don’t care who invented it, but of all the bathtubs out there the best is the claw-footed, whose shape invites one to soak and read at the same time. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read over the years that ended up waterlogged. A bathtub was the only thing I truly missed in my nine years of living on the road in Gypsy Lee. — Wikimedia photo

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

One of the blogs I follow is called Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/  I thought it an odd name for a blog, but that’s as far as the little gray cells went – until I read “The Crocodile’s Last Embrace,” a Jade de Cameron mystery by Suzanne Arruda.

Jade is constantly using odd phrases as a substitute for cursing, and in this particular book, one of those phrases is Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. My little gray cells lit up like a neon Las Vegas Strip sign on coming across a second reference to the phrase. It was a sure sign that I was going to learn something new this day.

But I don't think I would have missed this early version of the bathtub. -- Wikimedia photo

But I don’t think I would have missed this early version of the bathtub. — Wikimedia photo

It seems that in 1917 (Arruda’s book takes place in the 1930s in Africa), H. L. Mencken wrote an article about the introduction of the bathtub to America, saying it was opposed until President Millard Fillmore had a bathtub installed in the White House in 1850,  which made it more acceptable.

The article was entirely false. Not only had an earlier president had a bathtub installed in the White House, but the tub’s invention was much earlier than 1842, which is when Mencken said it was invented.

Mencken fessed up in 1949, saying: “the success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity … Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions.”

The story still won’t die. Even today there are sources that quote Mencken’s story as fact. Now I ask you, in this enlightened age of the Internet, how many other stories do you read that are fabrications of the truth?

Too Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub many for sure.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: A Mixed Bag http://tinyurl.com/prdkb6c If you want it, then make it happen. Lots of good advice on how to do it.

Bean Pat: Antelope horns and gray hairstreak butterfly  http://tinyurl.com/kqdhgxm If you like nature, you can’t help but love this blog. I had never seen a gray hairstreak butterfly before. It’s beautiful.

I find it deliciously intriguing that Miranda James is a male author posing as a female author.

I find it deliciously intriguing that Miranda James is a male author posing as a female author.

“After all those years as a woman hearing not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough  … I woke up one more and thought, I’m enough.” – Anna Quindlen   

And Ain’t It Great

I nearly bust a gut laughing when I discovered that Miranda James, who writes the “cozy” Cat in the Stack mysteries that I enjoy reading, was actually a male author.

Shades of George Eliot and Harper Lee, I thought. George and Lee were just two former female authors who used male pseudonyms for a better chance of getting published and read. Eliot, who was the author of such Victorian era books as “Silas Marner” (1861) and “Middlemarch (1871), was actually Mary Ann Evans; And Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is actually Nelle Harper Lee.

Nelle Harper Lee is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007 -- Wikipedia photo

Nelle Harper Lee is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007 — Wikipedia photo

Other early day authors who used male pseudonyms included Louisa May Alcott, who wrote as A.M. Barnard before “Little Women” was published under her own name; The Bronte sisters, who first published under the names of Currer Bell (the first editions of “Jane Eyre”), and Ellis Bell (the first editions of “Wurhering Heights”); and Karen Blixen, who wrote “Out of Africa” as Isak Dinesen.

I guess just as these women writers thought to get more attention as males, author Dean James, AKA Miranda James, realized readers of cozies might be more attracted to mysteries in this category written by a female.

I suspect he’s right. What do you think?

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Queen of the Gypsies http://tinyurl.com/p7m4gog I read blogs because of all the trivia I learn. And this one intrigued me. I’ll stop by the next time I’m in Meridian, Mississippi. I love the early-day motorless version of my RV Gypsy Lee, and wondered what it would be like to travel the country in that.

Red-winged Blackbird

            “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

Red-winged blackbird sketch I made after seeing this bird during an Antelope Island outing. -- Illustration by Pat Bean

Red-winged blackbird sketch I made after seeing this bird during an Antelope Island outing. — Illustration by Pat Bean

Puzzle Solved

            I didn’t become a passionate birdwatcher until 1999. Until then, while I enjoyed watching the winged miracles when I saw them, unless it was a cardinal, blue jay, mockingbird or a few other quite common species, I couldn’t name them.

Female red-winged blackbird. -- Wikimedia photo

Female red-winged blackbird. — Wikimedia photo

But when the birding passion hit me, I became obsessed with identifying any bird that came into view. So it was that I spent nearly an hour at Green River State Park north of Moab, Utah, one afternoon trying to identify the bird pictured in the photo on the right. There were more than a dozen of them flitting around the reedy edges of a small stream of water.

I went back and forth through my birding field book without success. Then a male red-winged blackbird flew past – and the light finally penetrated my little gray cells.

I finally knew I was looking at female red-winged blackbirds, whose gift of nature are feathers that camouflage the girls when they are sitting on eggs and raising chicks.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Photo Nature Blog http://tinyurl.com/nymzhmb   One of my favorite birds — and this is a great photo capture of a red-winged blackbird  in flight.            

Bean Pat: 47-million year-old bird fossil http://tinyurl.com/ncbdvtr I found this discovery fascinating.

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