Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dear Semi Driver on I-57 N,

This is an open letter to the semi driver that brushed (not quite the right word, evoking gentleness instead of crunched steel and a shattered window) against my car Monday night at 7:50 p.m. in Urbana Champaign, then, after slowing a bit, continued to drive.

My writer's brain immediately thought through all the possibilities of your motives. Chances are, you just didn't look before coming over into the right lane. Not that that excuses you at all. But it's a fairly easy and logical explanation--likely the right one.

What is less simple is why you didn't stop. A witness stopped and called the police. I saw you slow down, so I know you had felt the weight of my little car against your large bulk. Why, I ask?

The most simple explanation was that you thought you'd get in trouble, which you probably would have, to be frank. But that doesn't mean that you are excused for not doing the right thing. Sometimes the right thing involves sacrifice.

Then again, maybe you are a Decepticon (ala Transformers). That's not really an excuse either, though, you could always join the good guys if you wanted to. All you had to do was stop.

Whatever the reason, I just wanted to let you know that by not stopping, I'm afraid you removed the possibility that you would be on my Christmas card list. I hate to say it. But that's how it is. Without contact info, I simply can't put you on it.

So yeah, if you see this, please leave your info so I can add you back in. If you don't want to contact me directly, I'm sure the Illinois State Police would get in touch with me if you passed the info on to them.

In the meantime, I do hope life goes well for you. I hear that the Decepticons lose in the end, so I'm sorry about that ahead of time. I do wish you well--or at least I'm trying to. Sooner or later, forgiveness is likely to come, but frankly, it might take a few days.

Oh, and I hate to tell you this, but as I'm a writer, a version of this incident will likely appear in some of my work sooner or later. I'd contact you to make sure that's okay, but then, I don't have your contact info. Please consider this my attempt.

Deborah Leiter

P.S. I should admit that I'm pretty bad about actually getting Christmas cards out. But if you were on the list, I'd make an extra effort.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Article about Facebook; and, on Lack of Laptops

So I'm back from my road trip (just barely, but that's a story for another time). What I've been wanting to tell you since Friday is that I have a new catapult article up. This one's about Facebook...

The other big thing I noticed on my trip is that I don't do well trying to write on trips without my laptop--at least when I want to work on something that's already in an on-computer form. During some of the more techie conference sessions, I got some great writing outlines and brainstorming done. But a few stubborn writing projects that had already migrated into Word got very little further.

I've noticed this before--I can start in handwritten notes. And, once started, I can brainstorm further in handwritten notebooks. But once I've gone digital with a project I simply find it impossible to write new material fully in a handwritten form. Not sure if I can "fix" this process, but it's worth remembering in the future, especially if I continue laptop-less.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Down to It (Once Again)...

Remember that paper that was originally due May 20 and is now due on June 15? After a week of doing practically nothing, I wrote 12 pages of it yesterday. I also started on the article I'm writing for next week's catapult.

Since I'm leaving town early Sunday morning, it was sort of important that I get going on these things, so I'm glad it's finally starting to flow properly.

So I've got to do another 10 or 12 pages on the paper today (which will leave me with a hopefully fairly good rough draft), plus finishing the rough draft on the catapult article before packing for my week away.

Saturday is for revision.

The most encouraging thought is that I still took a lot of breaks and spent a lot of time procrastinating yesterday. So if I cut back on that today, I might be able to plow through this in better time and get done with one or two other things I need to get done, while also sleeping both nights I have left.

After all, it's a long solo road trip next week, so being rested is important. Sleep is good.

Oh, and word counts: 3438 on the paper so far and 125 on the catapult article. Not bad for one day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Forgot about THEM--and they got stronger

Okay, so going along more-or-less merrily during my school year, in which I HAD to write because things were due (the joy of extrinsic motivation), I'd completely forgotten about THE CRITICS. Now that it's summer, I realized that, despite my pretty lists, they're back with me in spades.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, Anne Lamott's fabulous writing-neuroses book Bird by Bird puts it best:
What I've learned to do when I sit down to work on a s***ty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head. First there's the vinegar-lipped Reader Lady, who says primly, "Well, that's not very interesting, is it?" And there's the emaciated German male who writes these Orwellian memos detailing your thought crimes. And there are your parents, agonizing over your lack of loyalty and discretion; and there's William Burroughs, dozing off or shooting up because he finds you as bold and articulate as a houseplant; and so on.
She suggests visualizing each voice as a mouse, picking up each by the tail, and dropping them in a jar.

I'm going to try it. My critics are different from hers. In fact, most of them aren't criticizing my writing at the moment, but at the moment are taking on other things in my life. No matter the object, they're completely blocking off most of my ability to do stuff (ironically, academic work as much as anything else). Something must be done, especially since I'm pretty sure they've strengthened their muscles, what with the critic growth that's encouraged in grad school.

Now that I've recognized I have a critic problem, it's all about triage. I think a bout of Julia Cameron's morning pages are in order.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dreams into Fiction

I've had a series of unpleasant dreams this week. No need to get into what they were--I'd just like to state for the record that they were all pretty unpleasant. (Not nightmares, just unpleasant.)

The point is this: I've spent the last half-hour trying to figure out whether it would be useful for one of my characters could have a different series of unpleasant dreams, in one of the stories that's been on the backburner.

It's a beautiful thing when the creaky wheels of that part of my brain start to move. Love it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Meeting People by Meeting Books

Great post over at Good Letters on the merits of reading books themselves before reading them through theoretical lenses, as well as the serendipity of finding a book seminal when you had not expected to like it.

I'm not sure what such seminal books would be for me, but my reading has certainly taken me down some alleys that I would not have expected to go down ahead of time...and I've delighted in the unexpectedness of those paths.

I'm delighting this summer in the opportunity to read a bit more unexpectedly again, without all of it being assigned to me. The PhD path of reading brings plenty of serendipity and new ways of seeing the world on its own, but less-directed reading (supplemented by re-familiarizing oneself with previous readings for the fall's Big Nasty Tests) is a nice change of pace.