Tag Archives: #amwriting

W is for Weary, Work, and the Wonders of the Web

 

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April by Martiros Sarian, 1947 Oh, April – what a speedy month you have been! In, out and yikes! May is just arond the corner!

 

Wow. What a month! It looks like I might just make it to the end having made my goal of a post a day, but sheesh – it’s been touch and go! I suppose I should have known better than to try to combine a big book deadline with much of anything else, never mind a daily blogging challenge and a trip or two!

 

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Woman at Her Writing Desk, by Lesser Ury, 1898 Yep. That’s pretty much where I’ve spent the month of April. 

 

I can’t really complain. I’m so lucky to be able to do the work I love and even more lucky to be able to do it from pretty much anywhere in the world, as long as there’s an internet connection available. I don’t know where I’d be without being plugged into the web, I must say.

This book I’m working on now, for example. It’s about medically-assisted dying (euthanasia, assisted suicide, mercy killing, murder) and all the many medical, ethical, legal, moral, and personal considerations that lie behind the decision to live or die. The Internet has proven to be a rich source of raw material. From documentaries and news clips to lengthy articles in mainstream newspapers to scholarly dissertations in all manner of obscure academic journals, as well books and audiobooks, I’ve been kept busy plowing through more sources than one could hope for in terms of finding lots of background on the subject.

 

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Death and Wife, by Albrecht Durer, 1510 In a strange way, Death has been my companion for the past many month and thousands of words… 

 

I’ve also been talking to people online – through texts and emails but also through online ‘phonecalls’. I’ve been able to use an online transcription service to record and then transcribe some of those conversations. Even ten years ago, such a wealth of information would have been much more difficult (impossible?) to access. I’ve been working on this book for 18 months or so, reading, researching, thinking, listening, watching and learning in Paris, Spain, the Rocky Mountains, the Caribbean, and on the west coast. I’ve downloaded books and articles onto my phone so I can read while I’m standing in the lineup at the grocery store or while trapped in waiting rooms or getting from here to there and back on planes, trains, and automobiles. I’ve dreamt about death. Thought about it pretty much every day since I took this project on.

 

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Birmingham Reference Library, the Reading Room by Edward R. Taylor, 1881 I bet this library had a card catalogue. I must be among the last humans on the planet to have been taught how to use a card catalog. Computers were creeping in everywhere when I was at university, but to find a book at the library, one still had to thumb through the soft-with-use cards.  

 

The problem isn’t really ‘can I find the information’? it’s, how on earth do I distill all this, organize it well, and then shoehorn it into what is actually quite a limited word count, considering the vast quantity of information I’m starting with?

Whenever I think, impossible! I need to expand the manuscript! I need more words! I think of something my mother once told me. She said that you don’t really understand a subject properly until you can explain it to your grandmother from another country. By which, I think, she meant that if you really know your stuff you should be able to explain anything, even the most complex of topics, clearly and succinctly to someone who has absolutely no background or understanding of the subject.

 

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Scissors and Lemon by Richard Diebenkorn Cut. Cut. Cut. That’s what I’m doing next. Which seems a bit odd since what I’ve been doing for months is add. Add. Add. Write. Write. Write. 

 

The other lesson I learned early (in my capacity as a copywriter at a radio station) is that you should be able to convey a complicated idea (in that case, usually about a business, product or event) in very few words. A thirty-second spot can’t last 35 seconds. Concise. Precise. Economical. Those were buzz words back then, and that early training has made me aware that cutting and paring are more fun if treated like a puzzle and a game. Just how many words can you take away and still tell your story?

 

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Death of the Countess by Alexandre Benois, 1910. This might just as well be named, Death of the Writer as this is a pretty accurate likeness of me at the moment. 

 

With that in mind, I’m going to embrace my next couple of days of slicing, dicing, chopping, and cutting as I whittle away at what is currently a too-long draft. I have 72-hours before the deadline. I can do this. I can.

O is for Opportunity, Outlines, Opening and Getting Organized

 

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Typewriter Eraser, Scale X  (collaboration with van Bruggen) by Claes Oldenburg (1999)
This is one of my favourite sculptures in Seattle. A huge typewriter eraser, it brings back memories of the bad old days when I had to retype whole pages when faced with more than two mistakes. Those erasers chewed holes in the page if you weren’t careful!

 

OK. Whether or not I get this post done will be in the hands of the blog gods… because, yeah – I’m not as organized as I probably should have been today. Both of my writing groups meet today – one in the afternoon and one in the evening and, of course, I’m scrambling to polish the opening of the assisted dying book to whip it into reasonable shape so I can get some feedback. That’s how it goes, sometimes. Often, if I’m honest. The deadline looms and suddenly I am a writing machine.

Which is not to say I haven’t been working on the book for the last… oh, I don’t know – 18 months or so. I have been steadily busy – reading, researching, making notes – organizing my thoughts, writing outlines, writing sections and then – making more notes, re-organizing everything, adding more stuff, finding better ways to express complicated ideas.

But there’s something about knowing the editor needs the manuscript on her desk on May 1 that sends terror into my heart, lights a fire under my backside, and sends words flying across the keyboard (or, fingers flying across the keyboard and words scrolling across the screen).

 

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Sometimes it’s a real challenge to follow my thoughts as they zig-zag all over the place during the revision process…  

 

It’s coming along. I will get the draft done on time. But wow – this has been a tough project to wrangle into shape. That said, when I had the opportunity to explore a topic as interesting and relevant as this one, there was no way I was going to let it slip away. In that way, I am a ‘yes’ person through and through. I’ve never been one to walk away from a challenge. That’s not to say I’ve always been successful with every project I’ve attempted: failures have taught me as much (more?) than my triumphs. But neither (successes or flops) would have been possible without trying.

 

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Edouard Manet: Young Woman With a Book (1875) It’s sooooo much more fun to relax and read a good book than it is to pull out your hair trying to write one… 

 

And that, my friends, is all I’ve got today. Here’s hoping things will be a bit better balanced tomorrow and I won’t be writing this with one eye on the clock and my heart beating just a bit too fast than is probably good for me.

 

 

Ah, Paris…

In the interest of sparing you the details, just let me say my ability to sleep on airplanes is greatly diminished these days. Are the planes really getting that much smaller? Or am I getting that much older and less bendy? Maybe a bit of both… What is not getting old, though, is arriving in Paris in the evening and heading out for a stroll around the block in order to see the tower sparkle!

At the top of each hour after dark, the tower twinkles as tour buses pull over and selfie stick-wielding tourists grin and snap photo after photo. I would have done the same except my selfie stick had not yet been unpacked, such was our haste to get out into the streets and take in the sights.

 

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Booksellers along the Seine… Just strolling by makes me happy!

 

Today has been a day of fighting jetlag, running errands (in the rain), and sticking close to home while trying to stay strong and not nap. I’ve also been making lists – both for work and for pleasure. On the work front, I was busy this morning (wide awake at 4am I eventually gave up on the going back to sleep project, and instead had a shower, breakfast and worked on the book about assisted dying). After reworking a rather cumbersome section that deals with definitions of suicide (surprisingly more complicated than one might think – while jumping from a tall building is pretty obviously suicide, if a very sick patient decides to stop eating and drinking, should that be called suicide? After all, the end result is the same…) I started working my way down the list of people I am planning to contact with questions relating to some aspect of the subject.

 

As darkness falls I write...

As darkness falls at the BNB, I write… (and sketch in my notebook… one day maybe I’ll be brave enough to share those primitive efforts…)

 

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

With work out of the way, it was time to start making a list of what I’d like to try and see and do while I’m in town. I’m very much looking forward to a lunch with writing friends on the weekend and tomorrow am also hoping to meet up with a bookbinder/writer friend for coffee… I’d really like to get to the Rodin Museum this trip as well as pay a visit to the Musée d’Orsay. I’m not sure where the best place is to go to see portraits… I don’t think Paris has the equivalent of the National Portrait Gallery, though all the major museums will, of course, have some portraits in their collections. I’m particularly interested in self-portraits at the moment, in part because I’m intrigued by self-portraits, but also because of what’s been going on with Dad’s artwork ever since we did our Camino in the fall. Because I’ll be doing the AtoZ Blogging Challenge, I’ll save the details for one of the April posts…

Meanwhile, though, the list of possible museums to visit is long… As is the list of possible live performances I could take in. Comedy… musical… drama… And then there’s the English language cinema club… and the Shut Up and Write Group… and, and, and…

Because I have promised myself that I will continue to push ahead with this draft of the assisted dying book, I do need to allocate a certain number of hours a day to work, as well… All of which to say, a week in Paris is not enough!! Not nearly long enough…

Spindrift Near Banff

Being back here I am having one of those moments where I really wish I could clone myself. I love my home back in the mountains (I mean, what’s not to love?), but I really love this city, too…

Love Paris? 

When we were here last year I tried to come up with a list of reasons why I like this place so much… If you missed that post, here’s a link… 

Edith Piaf Alert

In case you are curious, the soundtrack in the background here this evening (actually the evening of my second full day here… I’m already way behind on ye olde blogge…) is an Edith Piaf playlist courtesy of Spotify. I have to make do with this as all tickets seem to be sold out for the Edith Piaf show I had wanted to see… Le sigh. Not sighing at the playlist, I hasten to add… at the dirth of tickets.

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Over on the writing blog… what’s keeping me busy these days…

After three months of being a writer in Paris (oh, it was fun to just write that phrase!), I am back in the Rocky Mountains with a list of To-Do lists! [Click on the link below for the rest of the post…]

via Pushing Forward on All Fronts — Nikki Tate – Author