Tag Archives: writing

Not A Morning Person

19 Aug

“Much to my mother’s eloquent alarm, I became quite industrious with the pen and developed certain habits to which I have adhered ever since, namely sitting up to write late into the night and making up for that by lying in bed the whole morning next day, a shocking let-down to the wisdom that associates early rising with health and wealth, not to speak of the catching of worms. (Let us on no account speak of the catching of worms.)

My tendency to this excellent mode of life is in fact constitutional, since I am always suicidal in my feelings when I get up, so choose to get up at, or after midday on the very good grounds that the afternoon is no time for suicide.”

(Robert Nye, The Memoirs of Lord Byron, Abacus, p 53 – 54)

Writing Is Not A Contest

29 May

Every writer is starting from a different point and is bound for a different destination. Yet many writers are paralyzed by the thought that they are competing with everybody else who is trying to write and presumably doing it better. This can often happen in a writing class. Inexperienced students are chilled to find themselves in the same class with students whose byline has appeared in the college newspaper. But writing for the college paper is no great credential; I´ve often found that the hares who write for the paper are overtaken by the tortoises who move studiously toward the goal of mastering the craft. The same fear hobbles freelance writers, who see the work of other writers appearing in magazines while their own keeps returning in the mail. Forget the competition and go at your own pace. Your only contest is with yourself.”

-William Zinsser, On Writing Well, p78

The Post and the Lemonade Stand

18 Sep

(Warning: might have some spoilers, regarding the film The Post. But not really big ones, because the story itself is history, so it´s like saying “the Titanic sinks”.)

True storytelling isn´t just about the story you follow consciously. It´s also (or even more so) about the stories that you undergo unnoticed and that stay behind on a deeper level. I came across a beautiful example of this when yesterday I watched The Post, a film Spìelberg made last year about The Washinton Post trying to publish the Pentagon Papers.

The messages of the film are very clear: the government should not obstruct the freedom of the press, and women can run a business.

To clarify that second message, we have the lovely Meryl Streep playing the part of Katharine Graham, the woman who took over the Washington Post after her husband died. We can see her struggle as she tries to become the leader no one expects her to be. The indefensible statement by Samuel Johnson that she quotes (*) to give her daughter an idea of what she was up against, gives us but a glimpse of the internal and extrenal obstacles she had to overcome.

The first message, the one concerning the freedom of the press, is also conveyed in a very explicit way. For the thicker ones among us, there´s even someone at the end of the film saying loud and clear, and with tears in her eyes:

“The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill their essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”

Message received, loud and clear.

This morning I wasn´t thinking about the film anymore. I was pondering over some other issue, that had to do with parenting. How can we teach girls to go for what they want? How can we teach them to stop asking for things in the hope someone will give it to them (and getting frustrated when that doesn´t happen), but on the contrary take active, concrete steps towards the fulfilment of their dreams?

And that´s when a few scenes of the film came back to my mind. But they didn´t have Meryl Streep in it. They weren´t about Katharine Graham overcoming her fears of being a weak leader. It was about something I had noticed but hadn´t given much importance to up until then.

When the journalists get together at Ben Bradlee´s house to work through the Top Secret Pentagon Papers that are lying spread all over Bradlee´s living room floor, Bradlee´s daughter is outside the house selling lemonade at a self-made lemonade stand. While everybody is hastily rummaging through the stacks of paper and frantically typing away to get an article together in time, this little girl offers them drinks and cashes the money. And later, when everyone has gone home and Bradlee is left alone in the kitchen with his wife, she shows him the money his daughter made that day.

It´s just a detail in the film, it hardly takes up any space. But it´s such a great message: girls can set up a business and make money. They can, just as well as men. And they shouldn´t be embarrassed about it.

What a charming symbol that lemonade stand is!

Message received. Slowly and subtly, but deeply imprinted.

 

Pin by Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza on Cezanne and his ...

 

(*) “Sir, a woman´s preaching is like a dog´s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

Dreamjob

9 Jul

A year or two ago, when I had just started writing short stories, I passed by the library and thought: “Wouldn´t it be great to be a writer? Dropping off my daughter at school in the morning, going to the library to write for a few hours and then pick her up again for lunch? What a perfect job that would be.”

This summer I decided to hire myself for my dreamjob. Just for a month and without any pay, but oh, how nice it is… Every morning I go to the library and I write. It doesn´t matter when I come in, it doesn´t matter when I leave, there are no deadlines and nobody´s assessing me. It´s only me and the story that wants to be told. I don´t know if I´ll be able to finish it, and if so, if it will ever be published. But I´m writing and I´m happy doing it, and that was the whole point.

They say “don´t push your luck”, but there´s nothing against gently ushering it in the right direction.

DSC_1644