Playing Scales

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It’s not that I have nothing to write. I have a list of things to write. An essay nearly finished,  interesting exercises that I could run through, the writer’s equivalent to playing scales. Tonight an invented one: I found a website that generates random photos. When I asked for one, this is what it sent me.


I can do something with this picture. I can invent a story about it. That might be fun. For awhile I noodled around with it, but other than riffing on themes of (first) abandonment and (second) longing I didn’t get anywhere. One of the toughest things about writing fiction is keeping out of the cliches that riddle our psyches like land mines. Maybe I’ll write a story about this photo, but I have to think on it awhile.

Years ago, a man disappeared on a jet ski in a local lake. It’s a man-made lake, and it lays like a little dimple on the Ohio landscape. You could sit in a canoe in the middle and see every shoreline and everyone on the shoreline could see you. They found the body of the man, may he rest in peace, but by then I’d already written a story — in my head, of course– complete with Maury Povich, Belize, and the underbelly of Dayton’s east side. I need to get that stuff down on a page.

Non-fiction is so much easier– you just tell the facts. Or try to. Journalists are human, so bias creeps in, even if it’s just in the choices of adjectives we make, or which quotes to include. Yesterday, the Register Guard newspaper of Eugene, Oregon ran a story about an elderly dog who was stolen out of her yard by “rescuers.” Not “a woman”. Not “a thief”, but “rescuers.”

The story, by Chelsea Gorrow, has gotten an enormous amount of play on social media lately. The dog turned out to be 17, and was being provided with palliative care by her life-long owner. This news story called the dog “Hope” the name the “rescuers” had bestowed on her and quoted them as if their beliefs were gospel. Even though the dog’s name was Zena and they knew that. Eventually she was returned to her owner, who felt his hand was forced and took her to be euthanized the day she returned.

I was moved by this example of bright yellow journalism to do something I rarely do anymore–  to correct the story and send it back to the writer and all four of her editors. They all ought to be ashamed. Of course, I didn’t hear anything back, they probably chalked up the email to “some crackpot old woman.”

But aside from those kinds of egregious lapses in judgment, writing non-fiction is just answering these challenges: make it plain, make it engaging, make the reader stick with it. Who, what, when, where and why is also helpful.

Of course, fiction has those too, but starts with the initial enormous hurdle: make it believable.

I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that.

Like I said, I have a list of things I intend to write lo, these 40 days. A list.

So, how is it that I find myself, once again at the keyboard after one in the morning, writing the equivalent to chopsticks? It’s everything I can do not to creep into the living room to watch Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar  host the Late Late Show. Bob Newhart’s his guest. But if I do that, nothing will get written. Nothing at all.

I am just so damned tired. I have projects on every burner, some of them in crisis, some of them boiling over. Today I took time out to go for sushi with my friend Rita. We’ve been trying to get together since before Christmas. It’s been close to a  year since we actually went to lunch. So even though I wavered for a moment this morning and thought maybe I should just work instead, I didn’t. I went to lunch, by God and I’m not sorry. Friendships deserve tending too.

Then I worked.

By the time I was heading home from the office, I felt crummy. One arm aches. I’m plagued with lightheadedness. There are weird twinges here and here and here. I keep dropping things. I believe that stress is either killing me or making me a hypochondriac. Maybe both. So I had a nap on the sofa, and didn’t get anything written and now I’m too tired and I have to go to sleep!

There’s a little flourish, there at the end, did  you hear it?

Maybe there’s some benefit to just dragging my carcass here to the desk and writing something. I hope so.




Running on Empty

Home late, after driving two orphaned Boston Terriers to Indianapolis to be fostered. They’ve been with us since Wednesday. Their person, a lovely woman, died on Monday. They are a little shell-shocked, still confused and full of grief. I believe they will be cossetted until their new forever home is found. When they jumped into Beth’s car, though, they did not look back really, and that’s a good thing. Still, we’ll miss them here, the ladies.

It’s a hell-on-wheels sort of week coming up. I don’t know if I will have the energy tomorrow to get up and go show our setter at a dog show half-way across the state, but I’m going to try. I am curious to see if I find it less taxing to sail around the ring with her.  Saturday of next week marks our own kennel club’s show, of which I am ostensibly the Grand Pooh-bah. My chief partner-in-crime is the club president. She keeps telling me that everything seems like it’s in good shape. I keep remembering things I still have to do.

All of this is leading up to saying I don’t know how much writing I’ll get done this week. It may be all I can do to keep steps and consumption and target numbers recorded. But I will try.

I loved this song when I was in high school on the tiny island province of Prince Edward Island. Which is kind of funny because other than occasionally being allowed to drive the lime green Volkswagen that belonged to my then boyfriend, or swanning around in my mother’s boat of a Chrysler stationwagon, I wasn’t logging too many miles. What did I know, I was seventeen. Perhaps it was foreshadowing, because I’ve sure racked up the miles since, running into the sun.

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels,

I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels

I look around for the friends that I used to turn to pull me through, 

Looking into their eyes, I see them running too.

Running on, running on empty,

running on, running blind, 

running on, running into the sun

But I’m running behind. 

Target number 63.  Steps today 6065.  For breakfast: hard boiled egg and glass of v-8. Lunch: cup of chicken tortilla soup, half a grilled chicken breast, green salad, quarter cup chopped fruit, pretzel for a snack, dinner was a cup and a half of gumbo (and I shared much of the sausage with my slender husband) and half a cup banana pudding, because life is too short to not eat banana pudding once in a while.