Tag Archives: Entertainment Weekly

Hello, Sandy Beaches!

4 Aug

Have I mentioned yet that I’m so ready for this vacation?  

I mean, a month of very diligent writing and editing has been great, but the beach is sounding pretty good right about now.  Especially since I’m beginning to act on things that annoy me; actually leaving sticky notes that say “Dear Idiot, Driving a BMW does not make it okay for you to wrongfully park in a handicapped spot.  Hope you get a ticket…” is not something that I do unless I’m in a real funk.  (Yesterday.  Barnes & Noble parking lot.  I think I’d be a much happier person if I never had to deal with parking lots.)

Anyway – we leave in an hour for Puerto Rico, and it looks like it’s actually gonna happen this time.  A while back I wrote a little post about how I think this trip is jinxed, but so far so good.  Right now, it looks like a little 30% chance of rain is the only threat to our vacation.  We’ll see.

This will (probably) be my only post until we get back, so I thought I’d leave you with some random stuff to do while I’m gone.  

  • For all you Lost lovers: these websites can keep you busy for hours, weeks, days…maybe even until the final season returns in January!
  • Or, you can do some Sudoku and pretend you’re going on vacation, too (we get a tiny bit addicted whenever we take plane trips…)
  • You can make this delicious Lemon-Raspberry Tart
  • I’m taking Julie & Julia (Julie Powell) with me, along with Bright Lights, Big Ass (Jen Lancaster).  You may not be at the beach, but beachy books can take you on a mini-vacation, too!
  • Check out Sandra McCracken’s amazing new album, Live Under Lights And Wires.  It’s incredibly good.
  • If you’ll actually miss little ol’ me, you can peruse the archives for stuff you haven’t read before.
  • Last, but not least, you could order these fantastic post-it notes.  They are perfect for a wide variety of things – everything from researching your novel to leaving snarky notes on illegally parked BMWs.

Alright!  I’d hate to be all “Look at me, I’m going on vacation!” and leave you high and dry, far from the beach, with nothing fun to do.  Hence the list.

Hope you all have a wonderful week!  I’ll see you when we get back…

When Hard Work Goes Unnoticed

22 Jul

I want to be remembered as someone who did the very best with the talent she was given.

– J.K. Rowling, J.K. Rowling: A Year In The Life

Motivation: we all need it.  Some of us have it.  It’s sometimes easy to lose, in the face of difficulty or after hard work that seems to go unnoticed.  It’s definitely easy to lose in the face of hard work that will never get noticed.

I’ve been thinking about my novel’s characters a lot lately, and why they do the things they do.  It occurred to me to ask myself, the author, the same question: why is it that I do what I do?  Why do I love this work so very much, why does it feel so satisfying when I complete something that may never get appreciated by someone else?  I hope it gets noticed by someone else one day, but there’s no guarantee of that.

So why do I do it?

The quote above resonated in me when I heard it.  It’s no foreign concept to me – for a while now, this has also been one of my main reasons for writing.  What struck me about it is that it was THE answer she chose – not to be remembered for her uncanny knack at telling a great story, not for her rags-to-riches story, but for doing the best with what she had.

About a year ago, I was on my knees, scrubbing coffee from the undersides of the tables in Starbucks.  I spent countless days, not making the lattes, but taking orders and handing drinks out the window.

The years before that, I cashed checks and made deposits all day, most every day.  My cash drawer always balanced, and it was perfectly organized.  I got yelled at (um, cursed at, rather) for asking for ID.  I got yelled at for things I didn’t do and couldn’t change.  

I did those jobs as well as I could, though.  I learned how to craft great drinks.  I scrubbed the tables vigorously (more from annoyance than from love of scrubbing, I have to add).  I smiled at the people who yelled at me.  

I did the best I could, but I felt a gaping chasm where I should feel at least a little satisfaction in the work I got up every day to do.  I tried to push my pride aside when the (evil) man in the Starbucks drive through said, “Oh, your parents paid for college? I bet they’re really proud of you working here.”  I tried, but I was truly, deeply unfulfilled.

Why, though?  People do these jobs every day.  We need people to scrub tables, we need people to deal with the money.  Goodness knows I need my lattes!  I rationalized myself into staying with them, because they are good jobs and I am not above them.

One day, though, it occurred to me:  these are not bad jobs, but they don’t use all of me.  They use my people skills and my ability to be responsible with money, but what about my brain?  What about my passion to create?  What about thoughts about life, love, morality, spiritual things, and people?  What about my heart?  Where does being project-driven fit in jobs that have no end and make no progress?  

It’s not just about doing the best you can – it’s about doing the best you can with the talent you are given.  

For me, writing is where I feel myself blossoming.  Hours and days fly by before I know it.  Writing a novel seems to be the perfect combination of using my brain, my creativity, my discipline, my organization, and working in all sorts of things I care about.  I get to explore so many avenues of myself just by sitting down to write.  Therein, I find motivation.  

Doing the best with what I’ve been given might lead to some great side-effects – publication, success (whatever that is), and seeing my printed ideas in the hands of other people.  But it might not.  Whatever happens, I love what I do every day, and it is satisfying to exercise all, not half, of me.

How about you?  What was it that motivated you to write in the first place?  What drives you to keep going, especially through times when you feel like nothing you’re doing is making a difference?  

 

PS: J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life is a documentary put together by James Runcie, a novelist/filmmaker.  There’s an article about the documentary here.

PPS:  I notice, often, that people find this blog by searching for “When my hard work doesn’t get noticed,” and other similar things.  If this is you, I hope your situation gets better soon.  Under-appreciation is never fun, and boy do I understand.  Please feel free to drop a line in the comment section, I love hearing from new readers.

Thunderstorms and Influences

29 Jun

Days like today are my favorite kind.  

I love the dark sky, the thunder, the sheets of rain.  I love this weather because I find it inspiring, and everyone needs extra doses of inspiration on Mondays, right?  Some people want to sleep through this weather; I (almost) always want to get up, drink a latte, and get down to business.  

Lately, I’m reading Pretty in Plaid, by Jen Lancaster.  If you’ve never read her stuff, you should – at least, I think you should.  This is her fourth memoir, and her voice is refreshing, genuine, and absolutely entertaining.  As a writer, I aspire to – like Jen Lancaster – have a distinct voice.  I long to bring something original to the table; something fresh, yet classic; something that will emerge from the furnace of critical opinions and easily-distracted minds in one solid piece.

I can easily think of a handful of people who do this with admirable dexterity:  

J.K. Rowling, who creates a magical feeling in the reader merely by her words, and whose very  first novel was wildly successful.  I’d say she’s my number-one inspiration.

Patty Griffin, folk artist whose skillfully woven voice, lyrics, and melodies create music like no one else.  I want to meet her and have her disciple me in the ways of improving my song-writing skills.  

Jeff Jensen at EW.com, one of the most well-researched columnists I’ve ever read, consistently delivers articles that transform my weekly addiction to LOST into mental yoga.  

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, writers of LOST, who have skillfully paced their addictive plot and juggled an ensemble of intriguing characters.  

Michael Slezak at EW.com, who is not afraid to put his opinion out there on all things Idol-related (and by the way, if I ever make it on the show – totally giving him a shout-out). 

Jen Lancaster, who puts her life on the page in such a familiar, yet totally distinct, tone.  (www.jennsylvania.com)

 Jodi Picoult, a master at conveying tension, emotion, and the intricacies of life-destroying situations, all through the use of written words.  

Evangeline Lilly, an actress who seems to have retained her humility and uses her resources to make a difference in the world.  

Jonathan Larson, who wrote the Broadway masterpiece RENT, its music and cast deftly woven together.

These people inspire me, some more than others.  It is my hope that their various influences will trickle into my own creative work to make something wholly other – something wholly me.  

So, on this inspiring, rainy Monday, I wonder – who inspires you?  Someone famous?  Someone not-so-famous?  And, what are they inspiring you to do?  I look forward to reading your comments!