One of the “as-yet-untitled” screenplays I’m working on began its life as a novel. The idea for which came to me in much the same way as the poems and story vignettes I wrote about in Summoning the Muse. It was a month or so after the 911 attacks and I had recently miscarried what would have been my first child. As often happens during times of stress or hormonal fluctuations (e.g., the phenomenon of post-partum hair loss), my hair had begun to fall out. In clumps.
In retrospect I’m sure my thinning hair didn’t even warrant a second glance from passersby, but to me, my visible scalp shone like a beacon, announcing to the world that I, a woman in her early thirties, was, in fact, going bald.
“But I can only write what the muse allows me to write.
I cannot choose, I can only do what I am given, and I feel pleased
when I feel close to concrete poetry – still.”
Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006)
Scottish poet, writer, artist and gardener
When I was in high school I was what you might call a prolific writer. Words flowed like water. The muse would often visit while I was lounging in a hot bathtub (I’ll tell you about one such visit later), or just sitting still. Complete poems, song verses, or story plots would come into my mind as if injected there during some kind of creativity-transplant operation. The quote above pretty much sums up my “process” during that time. If I didn’t feel inspired to write, I didn’t. Except for school assignments, I never took pen to paper just to see what would happen. I usually ran in search of a pen to capture some wisp of smoky perfection before it spiraled upward out of my reach, forgotten.
Many years ago I went to see author Anne Lamott speak in San Francisco. I had read several of her books and was a fan of her work. I was eager to hear more about what this quirky, honest, often emotionally raw writer, had to say about how she approached her craft. When asked about her writing process she claimed to always carry around a pen and paper with her wherever she went. Lamott joked that if an idea came to her and she wasn’t able to capture it, well, then God would just give it away to somebody else. And to prevent that from happening she had to be prepared. At. All. Times.
My daily smoothie
Deciding to eat better at the flip of the calendar to a new year is cliche, I know. But it’s become so for a reason. The older I get the more I realize that there is less time left for me to become the person I want to become (a healthy and fit one) and live the life I want to live (running around after my kids and actually keeping up with them). Maybe turning 42 recently has jumpstarted this desire. Or perhaps it’s having just had my third child and finding it three times more difficult to get back to my healthy self than it did with my first two babies. Hmmm, probably both.
These days with our household so busy and my sleep so scattered, I’ve been working in triage mode. Feeling hungry? Grab whatever you can shove down in the five minutes you get to yourself. Need exercise? Push the stroller as you run (in a completely stressed-out manner) the six blocks to school with the other two in tow trying desperately not to be late. While that second one works in a pinch, the stress of the rush in the mornings likely cancels out any benefit of the sprint down the street. Sometimes we’re in such a rush that I leave without even eating anything. And as a breastfeeding mama, that leaves two of us really unhappy.