the writer’s routine

Believe-In-Art

We writers often find it fascinating to find out what kind of “routines” our favorite writers maintain as they write.  When I was in grad school, I remember overhearing many conversations about this, and hearing many students ask this question, repeatedly, to visiting writers, as well as the writers who mentored us.  Personally, I have never had much need for this kind of thing – it has never seemed highly relevant to me, or important,  how my beloved writers worked: How many hours a day? / Standing up, sitting down? / With music, or without? / In a cafe? At home? In a small room? In the midst of bustle? …

…All I have ever cared about, is that they spent the time, and hard work that was necessary, to send their gifts out into the world – allowing us, me!, to benefit.  I spend a great deal of time with my nose in a book, and the gratitude I feel for these wordsmiths (for artists of every persuasion) is immense…and I would very much like to join their club.  And hopefully, that will soon come to fruition :) After many years, hours, and re-writes, I have finished my novel A Burden of Light and I am in the process of preparing it for publication.  So just for fun, I thought I would jot down some of my routines, and if any writers out there care to respond with routines of your own, I’ll add them to the site for inspiration to other writers out there.

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*I write in the morning – I enjoy this time of day the best for working.  My head is clear, the world is quiet, and my kids are at school:)  Before kids, I would wake at 4 am, and write then…which is my preference.  The world always felt like it belonged to me, just me, so still and silent. (I get to bed too late now, sneaking quiet time to read – so waking up before 6 is a little rough on my body. I get too grouchy with my kids – so…one learns to adapt)

*Tea.  I make a pot of herbal tea, or Sencha, a beautiful tea that I get at a local tea house in Pasadena, and fill my handmade pot (a gift from my dear sister Mary) and begin my work.

*I don’t listen to music – I find it a distraction to hearing what’s happening upstairs in my head.  But I can write in coffee houses, amid bustle and noise and whirring espresso makers…that kind of sound, daily sounds, do not interrupt me at all.

*With my first novel, I wrote the first draft freely, one long continuous movement forward.  It made for a lovely writing experience, that ever forward progression – but it also made my re-write process a little more…prickly.  I am at work on my next novel and I will proceed as I did with my re-write of Burden… begin my morning by re-reading the work from the day prior, cleaning up the kinks, and then moving on.

*I stop writing when I know where I’m going – that way, the next day begins with greater ease, and at least a moment, of certainty.

*I have a sweet little space in our garage, a small room that makes me feel happy to be in, and to write in.  I fill it with newspaper clippings, postcards, drawings, quotes, magazine articles, photographs, etc…things that I can turn and look at, and be reminded of my connection with other artists who have done, and continue to do, this very same thing: spend great periods of time, alone, creating.

For those of you who are interested – I just stumbled across a brilliant site that is dedicated to this very thing – the routines of famous writers.  The site is called The Daily Routines of Famous Writers and I highly recommend it.  It’s a gorgeous site – and incredibly inspiring :)

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Leonard Bernstein

 

The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, s/he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure the one note follows another, and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.  - Leonard Bernstein
The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure the one note follows another, and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.                    – Leonard Bernstein

As many people as we have on this planet, it is remarkable that every now and then, a single human being can enter this life and claim it so superiorly, so richly, so giftedly, as to make us pause, hold our breath, and watch in wonder.  Without question, Mr. Leonard Bernstein was one of those individuals.

Not long ago, I was driving home from dropping my kids off at school, and I was listening to KUSC, our local, listener funded, classical radio station.  It’s a terrific station, and they were playing one of Leonard Bernstein’s lecture series that he presented at Harvard in the early ’70’s.  It was brilliant, touching heavily on poetry (at least the portion of the lecture that they played on the air) and his theory of zeugma…where a single word in a sentence can cause a “pivot” if you will, that allows the sentence to be interpreted in more ways than one (note: a zeugma is related to the syllepsis).  He talked about how this related to music and how music can create this same kind of experience.  What he discussed in the lecture did not stir me as much as the simple act of hearing Bernstein speak, and listening to how his mind worked – his passion, curiosity, lust for knowledge, and the obvious joy he derived from sharing this with whomever cared to listen.

If any of you are interested, I highly encourage you to tune in and listen to his lectures.  They are lively, engaging, and filled with zest.  The lectures are available on YouTube …the link provided here is the 1st lecture in the series, and if I remember correctly, there are 6 lectures in total.

The quote above, in reference to the great artist “…he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure the one note follows another, and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.”  This quote is applicable to any of the arts, and I personally, insert the “one note follows another” with one word follows another…” in reference to all the brilliant writers that have taught me the value, the importance, the significance and weight, of the one properly chosen word, followed by the next one properly chosen word.  Derrida had a name for this kind attention to craft, called – Logic of Supplementarity; each word paving the way for the next word, and each sentence carving the path for the next sentence.  It is “logical” (no pun intended!) and yet, surprisingly, we often come across tangled sentences that leap into the future without giving the reader an insight as to where they are going, or why.  When we read someone with superior talent with words, or listen to someone with enormous talent with music, or watch the way a person can move their body as they dance – we are affected by their gift, and this gift is usually one that has been crafted over countless hours of work, practice, dedication, and attention to the details.

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…and so it is with Bernstein. (just look at this above picture – the passion!)   How I love technology, and our ability to reach into the past and watch, and listen, to the great minds of our human collective.   Leonard Bernstein, I hope you are still making music, wherever you may be. You continue to inspire here on this planet, and for that, I am (and countless others, I am certain) eternally grateful.   xxoxoxo

cultivating gratitude

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The older I get, the more I understand the importance, and the enduring gift, of the power of gratitude. There’s a great line in the song Stay by Rihanna (I have young children, and they are neck deep in popular music…hence, so am I)…

                                               It’s not much of a life you’re living
                                          It’s not just something you take–it’s given

This is a powerful reminder for a pop song.  Life is given.  Each and every one of us was granted this gift – the gift of life, the gift of being alive, a gift that was given to us………..and every day, every moment, it is our decision, our choice, as to how we choose to build this gift.  Do we take?  Do we give back?  It is up to us.

When I was studying the path of yoga, as taught by Krishnamacharya (the grandfather of yoga as we know it in this country, and largely abroad as well), my teacher – a happy fellow here in Los Angeles named Robert Birnberg, who spent many years traveling to India and studying under Krishnamacharya’s son, Desikachar – instilled in us the power, and grace, of practicing gratitude.  A great part of our instruction was based on this premise, and we were all “urged” to keep a daily Gratitude Journal, as a way of planting gratitude deeper and deeper into our daily experience.  For gratitude, like anything else, is a prism through which we view the world, as is hatred, or love, or anger, or self doubt, or the countless prisms that we can, and do, construct as we move through our lives.

The cool thing about gratitude is that it gives back, it instructs with a tenderness that other prisms simply do not.  Anger clouds my judgement, whereas gratitude clarifies it.  Resentment closes me off to those I love, whereas gratitude opens me to them.  Every moment, of every day, we each are presented countless moments of choosing how we will respond to any given situation, or any one person, that we encounter. Even when the situation might appear, at first response, as something that deserves our anger or annoyance…if we take a moment to breathe, we can usually see the “something”  in the situation that allows us to expand, to grow, to improve the quality of our own humanity, on some level.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the aim for us as people, was to develop a superb quality of humanity?  What if awards were given out for that – like the Oscars, or the People’s Choice Award…and people from all around the world would tune into the award ceremony to find out what fantastic human being took home the prize? That would be pretty amazing!  Imagine how much we would get done, how incredible our societies would be, how limitless we would look at the future before us.  Utopia?  sounds like to me.  Impossible?  In truth, I don’t believe so.  It begins with an idea, a dream, and a belief that we can strive toward our greatest selves, as individuals, and as a society – and with commitment, and practice, we can achieve precisely that…the quality of superb individuals, practicing being human.

I deeply encourage you to practice gratitude for one month, on a daily basis, and see how it moves through you and your daily experience.  I keep a gratitude journal, and prefer to write in it each night before turning in to bed. I write down whatever it is I am grateful for, from my day.  It can be the smallest thing (so grateful for sleep!), or something of deep significance (I’m grateful for the love my husband shows me).  The pointedness of clarifying specific moments, or people, or events, thoughts, feelings, etc…and writing them down, reinforces the grace of gratitude.  It is this intentional act, this intentional practice, of strengthening and flexing this perspective, that allows us to grow deeper and deeper into our best selves, and build richer and more extraordinary lives.  Don’t believe me? Try it out…and see :)

Consumed with anger, the world is an ugly place.                                                                                       Bathed in happiness, the world is a wonderful place.                                                                   But aha! The same world.                                                                                                                                                   – Taitetsu Unno

 

   

 

birthday girl….xoxoxo

Today we get to celebrate this Beautiful girl!  Our Harper Matilde Sky Glassing – 6 years old today:) She is the most dynamic, amazing, beautiful, powerful, loveliest, brilliant daughter we could have ever hoped for.  We love her more today than we did yesterday, and will love her yet even more, tomorrow.

our little Rock Star!  about to gorge herself on her Halloween booty! :)
our little Rock Star! about to gorge herself on her Halloween booty! :)

6 years ago, I was nearly 2 weeks overdue…I was out trick-or-treating with my husband, my 3 year old son, and my mom who had come out from Minnesota for the birth of her grandchild and I had to turn around, head back home from the pangs I was feeling in my belly…the midwives showed up at 11 pm, and Harper was born at home at 12:12 am, on The Day of the Dead, or All Saint’s Day (depending on your persuasion:) …our persuasion is, of course,  Harper Day!

Happy Birthday star shine – you light up our world and fill our hearts, every moment of every day.  xxoxoxooo

Devil Daddy....Mad Scientist Momma!  Stunned our girl is already 6!!!!!
Devil Daddy….Mad Scientist Momma! Stunned our girl is already 6!!!!!

Your brother, the "Thing" is speechless...
Your brother, the “Thing” is speechless…