I've been quiet on the blog after a week spent teaching my online class, "The Marathoner's Guide to Writing: How to Stay in It for the Long Haul without Losing Your Patience, Your Persistence, or Your Mind." (Link is to the blog post that inspired this online class, along with a talk I give to RWA chapters by arrangement.) It was a fun class with lots of great feedback and participation. It was also a timely reminder of the qualities that keep a writer from losing herself amid the maelstrom of competition and negativity that the world too often hurls an artist's way. One of the things I love about teaching is the opportunity to re-learn the important lessons, the kind too often forgotten when you're out in the trenches every day. As I shared with the students, they shared with me their dreams, their doubts, and the fears that often mire us in destructive, or at the very least unproductive, behavior. Number one among these, to my way of thinking, is the temptation to give away your power, along with the discernment you've developed as a reader and a writer. When this happens, one becomes so desperate for affirmation that she spends all her time entering contests, sharing pages with others and inviting comments, and clicking refresh on her e-mail program after a submission. When the response doesn't come quickly enough (and it rarely does, with writing), the author wastes time fantasizing, obsessing, and doing frivolous time fillers instead of continuing the writing. And when Judgment Day comes, she imbues that individual's assessment with magical powers far superior to her own. When the feedback's bad, depression ensues. When it's good, it only makes us desperate for another hit of affirmation (whether or not it's meaningful as well.) We becoming a bottomless pit of mewling, infantile need, Sally Field at her worst moment--not that we all don't have those. I'll admit, I have been guilty lately, allowing my own nervousness over the opinions of others to overshadow what's important. And discovering, when I could tear myself away from Facebook (Like me, like me!), Amazon (Like me there, too, to boost me in the Mysterious and Ever-changing Holy Algorithm!), Twitter (Tweet me!), and all the other glittering, soul-eating distractions, that the writing itself offers the only sure refuge from the craziness. Yesterday, I rediscovered that refuge, and today I re-commit myself. Writing first, distractions later (if at all.) The story and its people matter, along with the craft, the growth, the work that only I can set down, if I don't choose to waste it on anxiety, addiction, or complaint. This week's ever-so-helpful and highly-recommended reading: Steven Pressfield's Turning Pro. A more detailed review will follow, once I've done my work!
Earlier this week, Colleen and I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", the extraordinary movie based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved it. Colleen not s'much. (I was sitting there choked in tears at the end of the three hour film, so I only vaguely remember her saying something about "watching paint dry.") I want to see it again, so I'm trying to get the Gare Bear to go with me this weekend, but I won't be surprised if he reacts the same way Colleen did. The movie is long. And odd. It requires patience and a complete suspension of disbelief that modern audiences simply aren't trained for, so you've got to be in the right mood for it. The same is true of the short story, though the story and script have very little in common -- at least superficially. The story is very Fitzgerald (though it's not an example of his best writing, IMHO), and the setting -- Baltimore during the industrial revolution, Spanish Americ