For all those wonderful wall-song suggestions! Even the silly ones. Maybe especially the silly ones, because I can always, ALWAYS use a laugh. It’s good to have a pile of new music, and from so many different genres, too! I am a little astonished that nobody suggested “100 Bottles of Beer”, however.
I was thinking about walls, in particular, because I have been feeling like I’ve put a wall around myself, and I don’t like it at all. I had big defensive walls when I was young, but I tore them down years ago and decided I wasn’t going to live that way anymore. Somehow, though, getting published and making this transition from “Nobody You Ever Heard Of” to “Somebody a Few People Have Heard Of” has been scary and uncertain enough that the walls went back up.
Have you noticed this blog getting more boring and impersonal over time? Yup. That was the walls going up. If you read the entries sequentially, you can see it happening, like time-lapse photography. Little by little I said less and less. It got to the point where I could barely write anything here at all, where I felt the internal censor half choking me any time I tried.
The thing about my internal censor – and my defensive walls – is that they get super zealous about their jobs. They weren’t just applying themselves here on the blog, but everywhere. My “real” writing. My life. I have been cutting myself off at the knees, truncating my thoughts, boxing myself in at every corner.
And for what? Am I so scary that I need to be contained? Are my honest words such a liability that I need to keep a muzzle on?
There is nothing terrible I want to say, but I have to feel absolutely free to say something terrible or I find I can’t say anything at all. Writing – the thing I chose to do, the thing I love – has become a misery as often as not. I’m tired of that, and I’m done suffering. It’s not necessary. I can say exactly what needs to be said. I have the power, the right, and the ability to judge rightly what to say.
The first rule of shame-Grendels is never talk about shame-Grendels — but that’s their rule, invented for their own self-preservation. They know that when the sunlight hits them they will dissolve into dust. That’s why I’m saying this here, because it will help precipitate their disintegration. It is time to stop shouting at myself and enjoy my work again.
And I really, REALLY want to get to the point where I can explain to you why listening to YES is like eating an excellent sandwich. That’s a goal, perhaps. I will know the last brick has been kicked aside when I can finally be that funny and serious — together — again.
That would be ME, darlings. I haven’t been here in a while, and I apologize. I travelled and rested, and in the meantime my editor perused the draft and came up with twenty thousand ways I could improve it. I’ve just dipped my toe back in this week, and… well, it’s always cold at first, until you get your midriff in, and then it’s all right. In fact, I’ve found a number of things to be excited about.
So there you go. Work proceeds apace (a slow pace, maybe) and work is good.
The flowers have all come out over the last few weeks, which is helping enormously. I really ought to spend a day just photographing cherry trees and putting them up here, that I might have something lovely to look at during the long cherry-blossom-free months. They are stunning, like clouds rooted to the ground, or branches laden with barely-pink snow. The sheer decadent abundance of flowers. I walk the dog by specific routes, just so I can pass under all my favourite trees and gape up at them. Someday a blossom is going to fall into my mouth. I’ll let you know if it does.
Huh, they both start with piano solos. I hadn’t noticed until I listened to the beginning of each in close succession.
In honour of the great Scottish poet, we’re having haggis tonight. My husband, always keen to try new foods, located a source of haggis, I bought one, and this afternoon I shall steam it.
I’m trying to decide whether to post pictures, or whether that would just disgust everyone. It is in an actual sheep’s paunch, yes.
My favourite part so far is the cooking instructions. It’s made by a company out in Maple Ridge, and it says right on the label: “Roanes cannot be responsible for the misuse of haggis.” So of course, I can’t stop thinking of ways to misuse it.
In any case, a good excuse for a little party, and for reading some good poetry. Here’s “To a Mouse“, which incidentally is said to have inspired Jethro Tull’s song “One Brown Mouse“. I love them both.
I had such a long, wonderful, life-affirming, idea-synthesizing blog post brewing in my brain all weekend. It’s not getting written up today, however. My ulnar nerve – the right one – has decided today would be a super nice day to start twinging ominously.
Nerve, dude, not cool. I have a lot of typing to do. A LOT OF TYPING.
Extracurricular typing is going to have to wait, therefore. Here’s an article on narration, however, that I found particularly inspired and inspiring. It was the springboard of all my thoughts. Read, enjoy, and I hope to get around to disquisition on the topic at some point.
Ah, 2012. Memorable? Yes. Fun? Sometimes. Challenging? Always. On balance, though, I’m really not sad to see it go.
2012 was great but exhausting.
A friend of mine chooses a word at the beginning of each new year that she hopes will encapsulate the year to come. That sounded like an interesting idea to me, so I tried it at the beginning of 2012. I chose the word perspective, thinking that was something I was going to need when my book came out and reviews started coming in. It was an aspirational word in some ways, a recognition of how hard it was going to be to keep my feet on the ground, of the effort I would have to exert to keep from getting overwhelmed by everything.
It turned out that perspective was important, but not exactly as I expected. I thought perspective was something I already possessed, something I had to maintain, but that was only partly true. Perspective is also something to be gained, a broadening of vision and a new understanding. That’s sometimes a painful and harrowing process, however worthwhile.
What should this year’s word be? I wanted something that included ideas of healing and restoration, as well as openness and optimism. I need all those things right now, but that’s a lot of weight to put on a single word.
Unless the word is art. I believe that’s my word for 2013. Let’s see how it goes.
And happy new year to you and yours!
We celebrated Saturnalia on Sunday, ourselves, because the weekend was the most convenient time to open presents and prepare our Roman feast. This year it was leg of lamb, lentils, cucumber salad, barley, and our old favourite olive relish. Mmmmm. Olive relish. I could just scoop that stuff into my mouth with a shovel, and I don’t even like olives particularly. That’s the wonder of Saturnalia.
I’m sure you’ve got celebrations of your own up and coming, or already celebrated. Best wishes for a joyful season to you all! I, for one, am seriously ready for the days to start getting longer again, but even the anticipation has cheered me up immensely. We’re almost around that corner, and winter in Vancouver is only ever a prelude to spring, really.
Seraphina got a lovely mention on an NPR best-of list today. My heartfelt thanks to Maggie Stiefvater for that.
Last but not least, a favourite bit of never-fail seasonal cheer, whippet style:
Last week a friend told me an interesting idea about art, and I think I need to write it down. She’d told me before and it fell right out of my head. Clearly, there’s too much in my head if stuff this interesting is falling out, but the blog is just going to have to be my auxiliary brain for the moment.
The idea, most simply put, is that art is medicine.
It doesn’t sound so earth-shattering put that way, though. And what does that even mean? Art therapy? That’s not a new idea.
Art therapy tends to focus on doing art, though, which can indeed be a very healing activity. My friend’s angle was slightly different: when we make art we are not just healing ourselves, we are facilitating other people’s healing. It can take so many different forms: a blanket around someone’s shoulders; a forceful blow to the diaphragm that will dislodge airway obstructions; a strengthening elixir.
(Note: this is not the only thing art can do, and not all art does it. But it’s an interesting reason to make art, I think, and an interesting by-product sometimes when you think you’re doing something else)
Whatever we’re suffering, someone else is suffering too, has suffered before, will suffer again. We think we’re isolated and alone and unrelatable, but we’re not. We’re non-unique in the best possible way (to paraphrase John Green in An Abundance of Katherines)(My favourite John Green book for precisely this reason: Colin and I have suffered many of the same doubts and revelations).
Anyway. Just laying that out there to remind me, because this is something I’ve forgotten before. If it jogs an idea loose in you as well, hooray, and welcome.
We already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada, but I wanted to be sure to wish our southern neighbours a merry day of feasting as well. We need some kind of late November holiday up here, I think, because the stretch from October to Saturnalia is unrelentingly grey and grim. Of course, I say that every year, and the answer always seems to be, “Yes! Now organize something, Rachel!” And of course I don’t, due to being massively busy (and lazy, simultaneously).
However, in the spirit of the day, I would like to say how very thankful I am for you, my readers. I know that’s cheesy, but y’know what? I love cheese. What to do? There’s no getting around it.
I am thankful for all the people who’ve taken the time to read the odd products of my wee tiny brain, for all the people who enjoyed it and took the time to tell me so, for all the super interesting people I’ve met on this journey, for all the wonderful individuals in publishing and bookselling who helped Seraphina be the very best it could be.
Okay, whew! Gorgonzola!
I now return my nose to the grindstone. Someone was just asking me about the sequel: I am still writing it. My books are built in layers; the first layer of this one was structurally sound, but pretty dark. This second has a lot more texture and some glimmering glimpses of light. I’m loving it and finally (I think) understanding the book. (yes, I know, I’m a weirdo, but I don’t always know what I’m writing about until after I’ve done an awful lot of writing. I mean, I think I know. I go in with an idea. But the subconscious wants what it wants, and it doesn’t always like to tell me what it wants. It likes to make me work for it. I try to be easy-going about this, because there seems to be little I can do to change it.)
It’s November, darlings! Anyone doing NaNo this year? If you want to buddy me, I’m “amyunbounded”.
I’m only sort of NaNo-ing, though. To be perfectly honest, I’m cheating most egregiously. I’m not really counting words, because I’m revising and I CAN’T. I’m logging hours spent, only I have to convert them into words (through an algorithm of my own devising) or the graph won’t graph it properly. If I work for the (arbitrary) number of hours I’ve set for myself, I credit myself as having made par on the word count. Today I worked longer than my goal. Woo Hoo.
I am, as always, in it for the camaraderie and whining. Also, a little public accountability is nice. Also, also: keeping track of how much I work helps me see that I really am working, even on days when it feels like I got nothing done. Which is distressingly often.
And look, I exceeded my goal AND there’s time left over to blog and go to the store! OK, so I got started ridiculously early because I have a cold and couldn’t sleep, but still! It feels good to be off to a roaring start!
Anyway. Camaraderie! Whining! Who’s writing this month?
To the kids at the event today who were wondering about the Estonian bagpipe metal, the band is called Metsatöll. Here’s one of my favourite of their songs, with plenty of bagpipe and a men’s chorus (special for this song), performed in a somewhat more formal venue than usual:
Yes, I really did mention them at my event today. The kids seemed interested, but then who wouldn’t be? Estonian bagpipes, after all. Supah awesome.
My heartfelt thanks to the organizers of Vancouver Writers Fest, who put me together with some really wonderful writers for these events. I got to talk to Susin Nielsen, Susan Juby, and Kenneth Oppel, who were all thoroughly delightful. I met a few more YA authors last night as well, Richard Scrimger, Arthur Slade, and Janet Wilson, and got to see my pal (from last week) Shane Peacock as well. Lots of good writing happening in Canada, friends! I merely mention the fact!
Ah, but I’m ready for things to slow down now. I have had so much fun and met so many people that I can tell it’s time for quiet, work, and (of all things) rain. Vancouver’s providing a lot of the latter right now, right on schedule. It’s perfect working weather, maybe because I don’t feel any real drive to go out in it.
Neither does the dog, who gave me a sarcastic look when I tried to take her out at noon, walked stiff-legged for blocks, and then decided to show her enthusiasm for turning back toward home by pulling my arm off. Ah, yes, back to normal!