Ever since I was little, I’ve loved being read to.
If we’re lucky, we start out our parents’ laps, hearing the same stories over and over (supposedly Margaret Wise Brown was my favorite), absorbing the love passed on to us with the story.
But then we go off to elementary school, and most parents stop reading to their children. We don’t need the words said to us, right? We can read them ourselves!
As children become adults, some of us never lose that desire to be read to. You know us. We’re the ones that sit with our children at library story time and are more attentive than our children.
In graduate school, I took a Children’s Literature class. I learned a lot, etc., etc. But the one thing I remember the most is that on the last day of class, we brought our pillows and the professor read to us the whole time as we relaxed on the floor. It was heaven.
There’s something about the sound of a story. The inflections, the characterizations, the ability to make it seem different every time you read it… And the closeness. You feel like the person reading to you cares about you, because they are performing that same act that a parent does with a child, that devotion to your understanding.
Since no one really lets me sit on their lap anymore (except maybe my husband, but that’s a different thing entirely), I listen to audiobooks in the car. I don’t have a long commute, and my kids are with me in the car most of the time, so I don’t always get them finished before they’re due. But they make the ride go faster, and at least I’m not on Twitter when I drive (really!!).
Right now I’m listening to Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. S. Epatha Merkerson reads it, and I can’t help thinking that she’s telling me the story.
I’m such a narcissist.
“The teacher told us to pay attention to our breathing, and said if a thought came into our heads we should pretend to write it on a balloon and let it go. If a thought came? Right. As if my mind ever quieted. Still, I gave it my best try.
Breathe. Breathe. What color would the balloon be? Would I write on it with a Sharpie? What color Sharpie? Would it pop, or blow away?
Breathe. Are everyone else’s eyes closed? Better close mine. Is my shirt riding up? Better pull it down.
Breathe in, out. In, out. In, out. How is that girl so thin? Does she even eat? Stop thinking.
Breathe. In and out, and in and out. I am the biggest person here. I am the ugliest person here. How do you write that on a balloon? Stop.
Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Again. Don’t cry. Everyone will notice.”
Most writers I know crave quiet. They’re most productive in a home office, or writing with their laptops in bed, or at the library.
I am one of those people who works best with noise around me. And caffeine.
At the moment I do almost all of my writing at Starbucks. I have my favorite table, the one with the fuzzy back seat right next to the fireplace. (C’mon. Admit it. You’re jealous that my Starbucks has a fireplace.) There are tables I won’t sit at, because they’re too much in the center of the room. I’d rather wait for one of the good seats on the sides, or join someone else at one of those tables until they’re too uncomfortable and they just happen to leave.
And then there’s the drink: iced venti skinny vanilla latte with three Splendas. A few times they’ve made the drink for me before I’ve gotten in line. Yep, I’m there that often.
The conversations swirl around me and I don’t hear them at all. I like the pleasant hubbub of voices. It’s like white noise, which I also sleep with. Some writers listen to music as they write, but I can’t concentrate like that.
Now, there have been exceptions to me ignoring the conversations. Every once in a while, there are conversations that are so interesting I have to eavesdrop. It’s… character analysis, right? The three conversations were: a first date–at the end she asked him to go to dinner and he said he had an early meeting the next morning–ouch!; a job interview (almost as awkward as a date); and a woman telling her friend that her daughter had died. I’m not trying to be flippant, I swear. It was just a conversation that shouldn’t have happened at Starbucks.
I suppose I should go to a funky local coffee shop instead. The problem is, I like the conformity of Starbucks. I’m instantly at home in any of them. I can find the best seats, relax into the conversations, and drink the right drink.
I may be a sucker, but – it works for me.
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I read about 95% fiction, but my husband thought I might be interested in reading Flow for the psychology involved. (I do like a good why-do-our-brains-act-like-that book, as long as it’s in real people language.)
According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is itself so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
For me, this is writing. When I’m writing, I’m completely within myself. I’m unaware of time or anything around me. I’ll sacrifice to make time to write, too. I leave work a little bit early, pick up the kids a little bit late. No naps on the weekends anymore… that’s prime writing time. It’s flow.
I got a massage tonight, and I was thinking about flow, curious to see if I would float into that lack of personal thought. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put my thoughts aside; I kept wondering whether I was experiencing flow! Ah, well.
Last thought: how did this guy ever learn how to spell his own last name when he was a kid?
So here I am, finished with yet another draft of my Contemporary Young Adult WIP (work in progress). It feels pretty good. I know I have a few layers of revisions left to do, but I’m getting there. Most of the things I need to revise are story structure things, like where exactly is the climax of this book, and am I totally screwed if I don’t know where it is?
But then, one of my critiquers on scribophile.com (a fabulous peer critique group for writers, check it out!) asked if one of my characters was a placeholder or whether she was supposed to be a real person.
Agh. So that was yucky. You know why? ‘Cause she was right.
As I looked at the character of the main character’s roommate (are you following me here?), it’s true, she’s just a placeholder. She moves the plot along once or twice. Otherwise she’s totally one-dimensional.
Apparently if she’s important enough to be in the story, she’s important enough to have a personality.
Crap. You know what that means?
reminds me of shining possibilities, skies and stars, white-blond hair
Sky empty and luminous
beyond all attachments,
Me, the setting sun
resplendent with light,
Will not remain at all.
I pass behind the western summit
To reappear again soon,
Above the mountains of the east.
-Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdroll
What’s a word you love?