Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

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I’ve always been a sponge when it comes to learning. Since I was in my twenties, I have either taught myself or learned how to do the following: code basic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (although those skills are a bit rusty), edit video, make soap, sew, make jewelry, crochet, knit, write screenplays, use most of the programs in Adobe Creative Cloud, and let’s not forget how to use WordPress, among other things. I perform these tasks with varying levels of expertise and even wildly differing frequencies. The point I’m trying to make here is that, yes, I DO think it’s possible to teach even an old dog (or an old bitch, if we want to use the technical term) like me a thing or two.

The process of learning, at least for me, is often one fraught with extreme emotions. In the beginning, when I have no idea what the hell I’m doing, I feel overwhelmed, inadequate-—depressed even-—because the task or skill I’m attempting to master is just so far outside my current skill set. But then, there comes a day when you experience the proverbial “Aha moment” when you suddenly feel confident, euphoric, even, when you realize that you’ve mastered whatever skill you set out to learn. (You will recognize this moment by the sound of angels singing, the Heavens opening up—in short—you’ll be smacked upside the head by your own understanding.) But how, exactly, does one arrive at such a point?  Continue reading »


Wherever You Will Go

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IMG_6338One 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.

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Summoning the Muse

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“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.

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