Receiving Everything Most Loved

April was a writing month for me. I pushed myself. Pushing was the right thing to do, because now I am exactly where I wish to be, deep into my book draft.

Today I am changing my creative routine, receiving rather than giving. It’s a reward for all the creative work, and it’s one of the things I love most. I’m having a reading weekend, beginning today.

Julia Cameron would say I am replenishing my creative well. Yes, I am and with great pleasure.

My book list contains one mystery novel and three non-fiction. The non-fiction include one on energy work, one on creativity, and one a melding of memoir and creative writing. Here is my list:

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear. This is a murder mystery set in 1930’s London, and the detective is Maisie Dobbs. She searches and solves with both heart and head.

The Answer Is Energy by Jarrad Hewett. Everything is energy, including thought, belief, and emotion. Jarrad’s work helped me to heal fibromyalgia.

Keep Going by Austin Kleon. This is Austin’s new book. Yayyyyyyy!

Tomorrow I’m adding one more book to the weekend reading pile. The staff are saving it for me at the local bookstore–Where The Past Begins: Memory And Imagination by Amy Tan. I read her previous book on writing, The Opposite Of Fate: Memories Of A Writing Life, and completely enjoyed it. There is fourteen years between these books, so I am curious to see what Amy has to say now.

I haven’t decided if I will read through one book before moving on to the next, or if I will hop back and forth. The choice is mine, whatever I feel like in the moment.

A stack of books. Hot milky coffee. Background music by George Winston and Joe Hisaishi. My comfy studio couch. Four days of receiving something I love most–good writing.

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In this post:

Jacqueline Winspear http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

Jarrad Hewett https://jarradhewett.com/

Austin Kleon https://austinkleon.com/

Amy Tan http://www.amytan.net/

The Shape Of The Story

I love the phrase ‘the arc of the story’.  I see an arrow in true flight, rising high and piercing the target.  A single, loud note sounds (middle C) as arrow and target become one.

Sorting out my story’s arc is not so direct.

I begin with the form I learned in high school, the arc of arrow to target.  For three years and two drafts, I attempt to fit my story into this shape.  It’s a struggle, and I think the problem is me.  A first attempt at writing a book—what do I know?

More than I think I do.  I know it isn’t working.

And less.  I don’t know there are other shapes for a story, and I don’t know I am free to invent a shape.

The name of a book falls into my lap.  Austin Kleon, in his weekly Friday eletter, talks of reading Draft No. 4 by John McPhee.  He talks of how John diagrams the shapes of his stories.

I am a visual thinker. I need this book.

Here is a revelation.  John’s stories are shaped like algebra equations, like maps, like an uncooperative graph line.  Whatever shape fits the story is what he imagines, and then writes to.

Here is freedom.

I go back to my draft.  I picture the story in my mind’s eye.  All the pieces.  All the experiences.  I see how my writing keeps circling a set of themes.  With each circle, I learn something, and carry that knowledge into the next question and the next circle.  A bird rising on the thermals of a summer day.

My story is not the arc of an arrow.  It’s the circling rise of a spiral.

This I understand.  I know the feel of a spiral.  My life moves in exactly this shape, and has always done so.  Of course the story I am writing does the same.

I see how my story builds upon itself, how it begins, moves, and completes.

Again I see the bird rising on the warm summer air.

The view from here is exactly right.

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In this post:

Austin Kleon’s new book is out!Keep Going, Workman Publishing, NY, 2019.  https://austinkleon.com/

John McPhee, bookDraft No. 4: On the Writing Process, Farrar Straus and Giroux, NY, 2017. 

Yesterday I discovered ‘Picturing the Personal Essay: A Visual Guide’, by Tim Bascom, on the Creative Nonfiction website.  https://www.creativenonfiction.org/online-reading/picturing-personal-essay-visual-guide

What do I want to do today?

Coyote Calls to the Protectors-detailIt’s the end of July, the middle of summer. This is how I feel when I write this. Momentarily sad.

It is how I felt as a kid every year in the middle of summer holidays. Then I would plunge into August, and forget. I’d go back to waking every morning, hear the crow family having breakfast, hear the songbird I had never seen. Feel the warm air fall through my open window and across my face. And then my first thought, always–what do I want to do today?

Anticipation. Excitement. Pure pleasure.  What I was really asking?  What do I love today.

There is luxury in waking like this, in love, knowing I have the whole day to play. No demands. No have-to’s.

I am doing this today. A gift to myself, to be in love and play, all day.

I want to write. That’s a given. Haven’t done any writing for the better part of a week and my mind is itching to go.

What else? Sit on the back deck in the shade under the grapevines. Let Edgar the Cat drape himself across my legs. He can nap. I’ll daydream and not do anything else at all. Just be here. Just be.

Maybe, after that, I’ll get one of my puzzle books from my studio and my blue-purple-green-pink pen. Return to my lounge chair in the shade, do crosswords and logic puzzles. More word play. I love it.

I’ll wander inside to make lunch. Sesame bagel and cream cheese and Tuscany ham. Green olives fished from the jar. Cool water from the tap. Oreo cookies, the originals. Each one carefully pulled apart and eaten in layer order. Summer lunch. Satisfying to the stomach and the soul.

What else do I want to do today?

Read. All afternoon. The book recommended by a friend and borrowed from the library. Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work. Small book. A gem. Read the obituaries, he says. They’re about life and risk and creating a heart’s desire.

Then, begin rereading Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird. This is my fourth reading. My fifth? I’ve forgotten. Parts of Anne’s book live inside me now. There is a reason people talk of devouring a book, of being a voracious reader. That’s me. My body is words from the books I love.

Dinner now. Easy. Rice and sweet-and-sour pork leftover from last night. A two-night dinner, I call it.

Finally, a game with my husband and son. Klondike, or a few rounds of Sorry, or Scrabble (more words). We played Scrabble last night. A close game all the way, the best kind of game. Long and short words, all over the board. Corner to corner. We make up our own rules, and they change each time we play.

This is my day, in the middle of summer, the end of July. A day to play, to please myself. A gift. No demands. No have-to’s.

I wish you such days in your life, such gifts. What do you want to do today?

Enjoy.

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Mentioned in this post:

Austin Kleon, book Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, Workman Publishing Co., 2014   http://austinkleon.com

Anne Lamott, book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1995   www.salon.com/writer/anne_lamott