Writing In The Wild

‘I don’t want to go.’

‘Yes, you do.’

‘What are you going to do for me in exchange for going out and speaking to people?’

‘I’ll fix your phone screen.’

‘Good deal.  I prefer messaging to speaking.  Actually, I hate people.’

‘No, you don’t.’

‘I don’t.  But how bout reading?  Can I stay home and read?’

‘No.’

‘Harsh, dude.’

But I left Neil in the kitchen with my phone, working on his end of the bargain.

I got in the car.

We drove.

‘Y’know, let’s just go on a road-trip.  C’mon.  I don’t really need to do this.  Mairi, don’t make me go in.’

‘Get out of the car.’

‘I’d probably get more writing done at the at the house.’

‘You wouldn’t, though, Mummy.’ Isla pipes up from the back.

‘Who asked you?  And seriously, HOW OLD ARE YOU?’

She just looked at me.  Like, into my soul.  That kid has been making me pull up my big girl pants since before she was born.

So I went.  To a short story workshop.  That involved other people.  And we weren’t in my house.

It was at the library.  For five minutes, it felt like being back at school.  I had a new bag, a notebook, a pen.  Because, y’know, writing.  Did I mention it wasn’t at my house?

So, introductions.  I don’t remember what I said.  Whatever it was included KID and BLOG and NOT AN ADVERT.  HI.

Then there were some hand-outs that made me realise I’m a bit rusty on the short story front.

Like, did you know that 2 or 3 characters are enough characters?  And shit has to happen to them?  And the story has, y’know, an ending?  And then you WRITE ANOTHER ONE?  I had NO IDEA.

And I’m only being halfway sarcastic.  Finishing things has always been my issue.

And again, not being funny here, but I have issues with ass-on-seat-and-finish-the-shittin’-story-thing.

I’ve missed the freedom of fiction.  Anything can happen.  And I love the point where writing becomes automatic for me, and I don’t have to think about where the next word is coming from.

Take this snippet.

The fruit was waxy on the table.  Ashtrays smoldered with lipstick edges. Steepled hands and toothpicks, things unsaid stuck in cheeks.  The room buzzed.  He smiled.  She did not.  But the look on her face said, what is she wearing?

I figured that I was writing to this photo.

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Other than that, where the shit did that come from?

Photo: I’m related to all those people.  Mostly, my grandparents sitting in the front.

 

 

 

I Should Take My Own Writing Advice

I’ve been writing for longer than you think.  I’ve been writing for longer than I think sometimes.  I used to write fiction, had five novels on the go.  Used to write short stories longhand.  On my bedroom floor.  When I was 25.  I used to draft things, even when people said to leave that shit in.  I used to type my writing at 3 in the morning, while blasting music I found on Napster.  That’s how far back we  go.  Even farther than that.

I used to run writers groups for young writers that I am now OFFICIALLY too old far.

I got some stuff workshopped at Uni, had stuff in school papers.  They spelled my name wrong.  Twice.  It ain’t that hard.

Then I left.  To write.  To travel.  To get over myself.  And others.

I also left the novels unfinished.  The poems well-hidden.

I took jobs where I edited other people’s writing.  My red pen was purple.  I wrote 5O word artist bios, research reports.  Stuff with charts.  And numbers. Company newsletters, life-coaching worksheets.

And then, Neil says one night, ‘I’ve never read anything that’s yours.’

I started this blog to write stuff that was mine, that might be enjoyed by people who aren’t Neil.  Or my parents.

I tried a thousand words of fiction.  Again.  They got burned.

We moved here and I thought about hiding and writing and actually finishing something.

I spend A LOT of time telling others they should be writing.  And it’s true.   You should be. But so should I.

But before I start again, I’ve thought about HOW.

And this is what I got.

Write like nobody’s reading. Yet.

Write for you.  But write with someone in mind.  Write to them.  Tell them everything.

Write dialog like real talk.  Because that’s what it is.

Aim for 500 a day.  Less is OK.  More is gravy.

Work on your schedule.  I can’t write at 3am anymore.  After I’ve had coffee, I am a morning writer.  Those people used to scare me.  But I get it now.  Thank you.

Don’t talk.  Write.  Write now.

Screen your calls.  Ignore everyone but your children.  If your children are being annoying, work it in somewhere.

Write more than you talk, but read more than you write.

Do you.  If you write better with music on, blast it.  If you don’t, don’t.  Loud depressing music with intricate lyrics used to work for me.  Not so much anymore.  Now I prefer instrumental stuff.  Like the dishwasher.

Put your heart on the page.  Or the screen.  Or that envelope on your kitchen table.

And if it sounds like writing, re-write it.

What works for you?

Tell me everything.

 

youshouldbewriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome To The Pub

1._lucy_does_a_tv_commercial (1)I’ve decided I’m gonna be a bit freer on this here blog. I’m feeling a bit more isolated than usual these days and I feel like I need to connect/write/talk more.

Truth is, I don’t get out as much as I used to. Skye is often CLOSED or some shit. I sign up for things out of the house that are canceled. For reasons. Like I’m the only one interested.

I get very excited when my PAs arrive in the morning. (I have two people who come in on different days to help me Isla-wrangle.) The mothering is mine, because she is, but there’s some physical shit that I can’t do. I’d like to do ALL THE THINGS and worry every day that I am not ENOUGH. And if you’d like to bash me for having someone open her juice or cut her strawberries, or lift her out of the bath, then go ahead. Because it’s nothing worse than I’ve said to myself.

Whoah. Tangent. Sorry, not sorry.

My point is. I get excited when PEOPLE come in to my house.

I’m like HI PEOPLE. Allow me to tell you ALL THE THINGS. I can be a bit full-on. Sorry, really sorry. I even annoy myself.

And so. I’m here. Hi.

Some current truths:

Isla and Neil are indeed my everything. I’m trying to work on that, so I don’t annoy them. And so I get myself back. But for now. There’s us.

I miss my friends. In Edinburgh. In New York. Anywhere that I am not.

Every time Neil goes away for work weeks, I feel bad. I miss him, yes. I know he’s working for us, yes. I know it could be worse. He’s not in the military. I mostly feel bad because everyone hauls out their calendars to make sure I’m ‘covered’ overnight. In case I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. Which has never happened. *knocks on head, like it’s wood.*

My pre-and-postnatal Anxiety has never gone away. These days, it’s Generalised. Which is a heap of fun. I take a teeny tiny green-and-yellow thing called Prozac with my morning coffee.

I used to cry every day. Worry that I haven’t memorised Isla’s face enough. I still do those things. But now I’m medicated. The crying jags are shorter.

The coffee is stronger and I do three cups a day.

I ask Neil to hide the junk food, and then get mad when I can’t reach the cheese balls. And the marshmallows. But I never eat them together.

I worry that I sit too much. And I feel bad when I stretch out on my bed.

I get really involved in TV shows and books after Isla goes to sleep. I’m taking it almost personally that Bloodline is canned after season 3.

And it sucks that Neil has another Edinburgh week this week. And he had one last week. And we won’t be together for our wedding anniversary on Thursday. I should grow up. It could be worse. But it still sucks.

So, that’s all my shit for now.

How are you?

An Alternate Universe

I used to know the difference between jealousy and envy, but I’ve lost track of which one is less painful.  The one that doesn’t eat you up.  The one you wouldn’t wish on anyone.

In an alternate universe, I got married to Neil wearing a purple dress.  Me, not him.

It was catered by my Nana, but she also had the best time.  My Grandma was there, too.  And she remembered everything.  In one photo, I was flanked by them, not unlike when we all went to Disney World.

The cake was my Grandpa’s apple pie.  My Poppy handed out cigars.

There’s another picture.  Neil and my Dad and my brother who looks like me.  Because a girl can dream.

‘Can you handle Mom and Dad, please?’

‘Naw, dude.  It’s your turn.’

‘I’ll flip you for it.’

In an alternate universe, teleporters exist.  Distance is nothing.  I’ll be there in five minutes.

We’d live by the water with an actual beach attached.  We’d have bonfires and collect beach glass.  We’d go to the movies and see three in one night.

Wine wouldn’t give me heartburn.  But I’d still like beer better.

Bookstores would have several floors.  And shopping carts.

We’d have neighbours we’ve known for years.  And socially-conscious jobs that we loved.  Because just not hating them is not enough.

I’d still wear glasses.  Because I like them.  And I still can’t imagine voluntarily poking myself in the eye.  The heart, maybe.  But not the eye.

I’d still be on wheels, but the world would be ramped.  And people wouldn’t be assholes.

Maybe I’d be a lawyer.  Maybe the world wouldn’t need them.

Everyone would appreciate country music. The Mets would win the World Series every year.

Pay it forward and give it back.

And who doesn’t like coffee?

I’d write my words, and go outside.  Everything would be open.

‘How my doing?’

‘You’re fine.  Keep going.’

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This will always work.  In any Universe.

One More Thing

Last night was date night/Twin Peaks night.  Neil and I haven’t had one of those in a long time, so Isla spent last night at Dad and Anne’s, playing with their cats and probably having too much sugar.

She left and my heart felt like Swiss cheese. She came back and I touched her face and said I love you.  She gave me her plastic Skye from Paw Patrol to keep until she gets back and out she runs demanding that Campah turn some music on for the ride over the river and through the woods five minutes up the road.

I was nervy yesterday.  Hours before, I’d made Isla a sandwich so big it didn’t fit in her purple lunch box, which goes with her in her teal panda bear school bag to nursery which is another place she goes without me.  But she loves it, and that’s how life goes.

Anyway, she left again for a sugar rush.  And I gave Skye the plastic toy an actual hug.

Neil and I watch Twin Peaks while eating shrimp stir-fry and and at various intervals I’m saying, ‘What the shit are we watching?’  Which is not entirely unlike what I said when we binge-watched it a few years ago.

‘What the shit are we watching?’

‘Twin Peaks?’

‘True.’

We watched and wondered then it was this morning.

We had coffee and thought the house was too quiet without cartoons on, but didn’t feel the need to fill the silence.

I was reading and thinking about another coffee when Dad ‘stops in’ as he does, to talk about ALL THE THINGS.

He’d dropped Isla off  at nursery this morning and today’s topics over coffee were:

  1. Siberian kittens
  2. Internet connections and how they are so, um,  temperamental up here.
  3. Isla’s birthday.  Three next month.  How?

 

Dad left several times and then came back, not unlike Isla or Columbo,  for one more thing.

Now.  Y’all know I love my Dad.  You can read about it here.

However.  On the sixth trip back after 1.5 hours, I said , ‘I love you, get out of my house.’ He leaves, but then smooches his face in the kitchen window singing the old version of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme. To which I replied, ‘I love you, FUCK OFF.’

Now.  You might also remember my father doesn’t like when I swear.

He thinks it shows a lack of whatever the hell it is, I forget.

However.  I’ll always remember a conversation with my Grandma, the one who’s Dad’s mother.

When I was a kid, I asked Grandma if I could swear.

‘Creatively.  And only when there are no other words for it,’ she said.

And I’ve kind of thought of it that way ever since.

In related news, I hope Isla and I have the kind of relationship where when she grows up she can always come home for coffee and one more thing.

And I hope she lets me in when I visit and we talk about all the things.  She can even tell me off sometimes.

Like when I smudge her kitchen window with my face.  And I’ll laugh, the same as Dad did today.

Dad, one more thing.  Same time tomorrow?

 

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Everywhere

Weekend-Coffee-Share-Nerd-in-the-Brain-4The snow of a few weeks ago has melted and the sun has come out in Skye.  I’ve spent more time outside than in this week, and have been drinking more water than coffee.

I wore Isla’s sunglasses over mine when I picked her up at nursery, because when I do that it makes her laugh.  And her laughter is brighter than the sun that’s come out, dried us up and slightly fried our brains.

This week has included road-trips and picnics and stopping to let cows and sheep cross the road.

Isla made friends with two dogs, and conquered actually jumping on the trampoline.  Up to now, she’d just been standing in the middle looking really excited about a time in the future when she actually took a jump.

The future is now.  Or something.

One of the road-trips of the week was to check out a second-hand treadmill that now lives in Neil’s home-office.  (How many hyphens can I fit into one garden-path sentence?  Well.)

Neil actually used the treadmill this morning, while Isla and I played hide-and-seek.  Very early this morning.

We then made Isla go out and wash the car.  Isla asked to go out and help Neil wash the car.  I followed after with a book and the vain hope  of getting a tan on my other arm.

However.  And.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I miss you.  That I wish I was in Edinburgh listening to Constance Hall with you.  Or running with the books with you at The Strand.  Or helping you avoid writing up your placement notes.  Or having coffee with you.  In Australia.  Or Glasgow.  In your living-room.  Or in my kitchen.

In Levittown.  Or Miller Place.  In this year.  Or 1987.

I’d ask about your week.  And your life.  I’d throw you a book.  And give you a hug.  And we’d watch Isla on her trampoline.  Because I have a kid.  And she has a trampoline.

Hi.  Have a coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home

I’ve wanted to update my About Me page for AGES.  Or four years.  Because somehow, I’m now 36.  Even stranger, my fiance has been my husband for nearly four years.  And the tiny human we made is now very tall and seventeen, nearly three years old.  They are awesome people and I’m glad we get to do life together.

However.  That’s not really About Me, is it?  But it’s been what I’ve been all about for awhile.  I no longer think in sentences, but Isla-isms and cartoon theme songs.  It’s a good day if Isla has a good day.  It’s a good night if I sleep.

We’ve moved to Skye from Edinburgh, into a house that’s needed more work than we originally thought.

I love our quirky house, but I’d love it more if we could plant it somewhere with neighbors.  And a bookstore.  And a Starbucks.  And my friends.

I’ve become accustomed to missing people.  Most of my friends are everywhere I am not.  Because I’ve moved a lot.  Before I met Neil, moving and starting over just seemed to be something I did.  I was good at it.  Until realised I didn’t want to do it anymore.

My first move was from Dallas to New York, I was a baby, but it counted.  I lived on both ends of Long Island, flitting between Mom’s house and Dad’s house and both sets of grandparents.

My Dad moved to Scotland when I was 12ish, and I started going back and forthish.  I was just a girl, landed at an airport asking the people of the country beyond its doors to love her.  I loved both.  I love both.  I’m from both.  I’m from neither.

I never kind of embraced my third-cultureishness, but there it is.

You tend to think about this stuff when you turn 36.  And you have conversations with your too-nearly-three year-old that go like this:

Isla:  Daddy’s from Embra.  So, where are you from, Mummy?

Me:  How long have you got?  Let’s just say Canada.

As I write this, I’m at my kitchen table in my kitchen on Skye, drinking coffee and eating cheese on toast.  The snow from two days ago has melted and I’m listening to country music.  Figure that out.

Neil is working from home as he does up here and Isla’s at school because she’s too smart, already.  We have New York magnets on the fridge.  Next to our penguin-in-a-kilt magnet.  I’m surrounded by books and those envelopes with bubble-wrap lining. I use them to send stuff to my friends, where ever they are.

I sometimes wonder if my confusing cultural clutter, even with it’s frequent-flyer positives, is well, confusing for Isla.  But then we have conversations like this:

‘Where are you from, Isla-Monkey?’

She avoids the question entirely.  I told you she was smart.

‘This is my home,’ she says.

‘Yeah.  Mine, too.’

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This is my home.