• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
  • Archives

I’m Ready To Go Anywhere

Do you think before you write? Or do think as you write? Or do you write first and think later? Or do you write to figure out what you’re thinking. Do you write in your head? In full sentences or fragments? When I was young I would say, I just write. ANd what I meant was I don’t plan or think about what I’m going to write. it just comes out, and then I work with it. Now, with screenplays, I figure it out down to the index card, but that’s because a plot it required. These posts: they explode from the constellation of stars in my head, the tiny petals of a daisy plucked to death, a datebook covered with extravagant doodles from the point of a classic ball point pen. They come from the well of a car door crammed with maps, napkins, receipts and wrappers. From a Neil Young sky and some beloved old boots.

What’s in your pocket?


45 Responses

  1. Tonight my pockets are empty, but I am at home and I generally empty my pockets (keys, change, angel money, handkerchief) when I arrive.

    For the writing, it all depends. Take today. I was walking downtown, from the bank back to my office, and a poem started coming into mind. I hardly ever write poems anymore. I didn’t have paper and pen with me, but I thought about the title (sort of a seed from which the poem would grow) and the first line several times to fix them in memory, and I thought about the mental image at the heart of the poem, and I thought about what the next few lines might be. After I returned to the office, I forgot about the poem for about a half-hour while I tended to other matters, then I remembered it and wrote it in an email to myself. It didn’t come out the way I thought it would when I was first thinking of it. That kind of mutation during the creative process is something that used to bother me. I would think, Oh, I’ve got to get this down right away just the way I’m thinking it or it will come out later in a diminished way. I’ve since learned to be more relaxed and have confidence that, even if what I’m thinking of writing doesn’t come out the way I first imagined it might, I have enough skill so that the important stuff won’t get lost.

    But I write in all the different ways and often in the same piece: think before, think during, think after (aka, rewrite), in sentences, words, ideas, images, fragments–whatever it takes to make it work. Some works demand more structure and some works demand more freedom. It all depends. Like right now, this is a slightly structured spew in response to a given set of parameters (i.e, your questions). A screenplay, of which I’ve written only one, took a lot more careful planning and tight execution on my part.

    I could go on and on about this, and I do tend to go on, so I will wrap this comment up. It’s taken a lot of study and a lot of practice–and those never end–but I can play my instrument. Words on the page (screen)–that’s my instrument, and I can play it. I can sight-read and I can improvise. Whatever it takes to make a melody that suits me for a time, however long or short, I can do that.

  2. I leave my pockets empty – I’m at that age when, unfortunately, my body bulges in competition with pockets. The purse is a different matter: it holds a veritable portable office/idea factory.

  3. My bright pink flash drive, a stubby pen I swiped from my kids’ last birthday gift bag and a couple of decommissioned library catalog cards.

    I blame Anne Lamott.

  4. I think hard. Then I talk back to myself. It’s all in my head, of course. Some access heart though head, some vice-versa. I’m the former.

  5. My pockets. A phone, a set of keys, a wadded post-it note and a tampon.

    • My pockets contain 2 biodegradable poop bags. This is my life.

      • I have the feline version of this. Just this morning, I was dragging my 2 cats into a city apt., in the rain, and this older-than-me, well dressed woman smiled, shook her head and said, “I had that life one time.” I burst out laughing and almost dropped the carriers in the process.

  6. It comes out of nowhere, sometimes, the way an old lady stands on the street corner with her sign, a bright flash of color, the moon hanging low in the sky. There is always writing in my head, fragments, pieces, sentences, themes, and sometimes I’m too busy earning a living to pay attention, and other times I write it down, and nothing happens with it, or something does happen with it, and then I make it into something more, and then maybe it comes together, or maybe it doesn’t, but there’s always something else right behind it. It’s crowded in there, with all the fragments that want to come out.

    My pajamas don’t have any pockets. Or do they? You made me look, and there are no pockets.

  7. For real writing, I try not to think too hard. I try to empty, limber up, prepare the terrain. I like not knowing exactly, or tricking myself with an unexpected key change. It’s ghastly and gorgeous. Hell I am missing it right now. For blogging I work out a starter when I’m driving, then shoot from the hip.

  8. I’m a blogger so I just write what happens in the day or random thoughts. Also because I’m a blogger my pockets are empty.

    • I’m saddling up next to you on this one, Bobbi. The words are in my finger tips. They have a mind of their own and only come out at the keyboard.

  9. The thinking never stops.

    If I could somehow record my every thought, I’d save the time spent trying to remember things I’ve already thought and forgotten. It seems the best lines are fleeting.

  10. If I think first the words flow, the idea is almost solid needing few rewrites.
    If my fingers start before my mind is sure, I puke on the page; usually needs a lot of cleanup.

    What I am working on, what is complete, what I am querying, ideas, snippets, words, meanings, dialogue, bill paying, the dog’s ear infection, coffee, my anniversary (today 32 years), sex, my job, daughters, my editor, rain, yadda, yadda, yadda, in my head not my pants. My pockets? Empty of crap, full of dreams.

    Oh, everyday on the way to work I’m interviewed by Faith Middleton, gotta practice for when I hit it big. On the way home I’m on The View, Barbara is never there, only Whoopi, we swear a lot.

  11. Well, it is sure as hell not a rubber.

  12. “toot toot”, can’t resist a little boasting.

    Hey Tet, this is MY kind of parenting.


  13. I write in my head and keep it there until the idea is fully formed, and then I try to memorize it while I’m finding a pen and some paper, or getting to the computer. Then I keep writing till the well is nearly dry. I try to keep a little something back to prime the pump again.

  14. I think before I write, and make little diagrams, often a circled word with an arrow leading off toward er circled word. Sometimes other words get scribbled along the arrows path.

    Then I start writing, thinking and correcting as I go, writing toward the second circled word. But sometimes something happens, an idea intervenes, and I go with it, checking my map, making sure I don’t get lost chasing that rabbit.

    I write in my head all the time, in fragments and sentences, and I listen to others talk, and watch them. When the boat is underway, I don’t write at all, because I’m there, and only there. At anchor, sometimes I scribble, but mostly I just take it all in, and deeply. Later, though, those moments often find their way to words in circles, or alongside arrows.

    • Frank, years ago I owned a shop in a big marina around here. I sold marine supplies and nautical gifts. Up at 5am for the boaters and closed the bar at 2am with the boaters, (I napped in the afternoon while teenagers took care of the tourists.)

      You’re a rag man, I take, I was a stink-potter.

      There is little to compare with what being on the water does for the soul. Maybe it’s the immensity on which we float, or that we are made of so much liquid, which moves us so. Nothing like it, no, nothing like quieting your mind as being on the water.

      • I’ve always thought a marina was a tough gig, unless it was small and out of the way, and those are getting scarce.

        Yeah, I’m a ragboater, and though we’ve sailed big boats, we’re small boat people, and I favor a simple rig. The newest boat is a 12 foot SCAMP, and I took it down a river, 105 miles or so, and then to Cedar Key, beaching and overnighting on empty isles. The water is thin, so a small boat works best, ’cause there’s a lot to see from just above the grass- puffer fish, a seahorse or two, rays, sharks, mullet.

        I think of being on the water as being at the intersection of art and science, myth, and science. You’re right about it being quieting, too…
        the most stunning trip ever was ghosting through a heavy snowfall, where the world faded, white on white, to infinity, and the boat moved quietly, as though she was as awed as I was.

        I’ve had many a good trip, and a couple of scary ones, but that one still takes my breath away when I remember it.

      • “I think of being on the water as being at the intersection of art and science, myth, and science. You’re right about it being quieting, too…
        the most stunning trip ever was ghosting through a heavy snowfall, where the world faded, white on white, to infinity, and the boat moved quietly, as though she was as awed as I was.”

        That, right there, is a book that needs to be written.

      • Sailing in the snow, I’d read it, I want to be there.

  15. Worse thing I ever had in my pocket: a joint when I went to visit someone in Elmira prison. This was years ago. The guy I went to see had shot and killed his mother, my friend. He was strung out, robbing her house and she came home early. Shot her once and then a second time to quiet her death gurgles. The second shot was what put him in jail for a good long time. I always liked the kid and wanted to understand why this had happened. I found a vacation postcard from his mother in my house from a couple of years earlier, asking me to check in on her son while she was away. Then he wrote me from prison asking me to smuggle in some pot. I refused, but said I would visit and here I was stoned and stupid sitting in one of the scariest places I had ever been, hard core convicts joking and smiling with their loved ones then shooting me quick, hateful warning stares when they caught me looking at them. I was blissfully ignorant of the doobie in my pocket and when I found it later while in a motel room in Cortland, I turned whiter than a puffy cloud in a blue Canadian sky. My carelessness could have landed me in prison and I still didn’t have any answers to my questions.

    In my pockets these days are crumpled notes, different details written upside down from other thoughts. I write on napkins, old cardboard backing of long used up pads, botched bank deposit (or withdrawal)
    slips and store receipts. What’s written down gets polished and transferred to computer files, but what’s still stuck inside my brain, languishing and set on simmer, is what I’m still trying to understand. A simple question lights the flame and gets it all boiling again, but there’s one thing I’m pretty certain of and that’s not to carry weed during these seatbelt/inspection sticker roadblock times.

  16. I have pockets full of students, and luckily, they offer up most of my material.

    As for the writing, well, that depends. Sometimes (yesterday’s post, for example), I just sit down and report on what’s happening around me. My teenage son is living biblically for 3 days a la A.J. Jacobs, wearing a white curtain and sandals, carrying a walking staff he found in the woods, and keeping a list of his biblical “violations,” so that really gives me more than enough to work with.

    Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a clear picture, and I have to rush downstairs in the darkness to get it all down before it goes away.

    Sometimes I have a fragment, a broken bit of something that has to be reunited with the parts of a larger picture. The only way to do that is to mess around, fit different ideas together, turn the fragment this way and that amid the other pieces, and see what comes together. I think this is how my writing works most of the time.

    And that’s when things get magical, when the whole that emerges is a story I did not even know existed in my mind. I love that. That’s the high I chase.

  17. I only think about writing when I physically can’t write, like when I’m cooking, walking, jogging, stuck on the phone, in the shower, or trying to go to sleep. Kind of like when you walk into a giant store and suddenly and painfully have to go to the bathroom: you gotta go, and you gotta go bad!, because you can’t.

  18. Since a child I’ve lived in my head, carry nothing in my pockets. What’s to keep but memory? I put it all down on the page.

  19. I have a camera and some Peggy Lawton chocolate chip cookies in the pocket of my backpack today. I will leave the notebook, pens & computer at home. My smartass-muse-girl needs a play date (same as some others I know!) so we’re hitting the streets of the city to take pictures of alleys. And yes, I definitely (over) think when I write, which is why muse-girl is fried today!

    • You go, girl. The street is the perfect playground.

      • I know, but two years ago, in Haight Ashbury, some strung-out street musican chased me for taking his picture and demanded my camera. It was a crappy disposable so I tossed it to him and ran, dragging my freaked-out husband behind me. It was thrilling! Best play date ever!

      • This is exactly why a zoom lens is my most trusted companion.

      • Seriously. I need an upgrade!

    • I’ve dragged my little muse-bitch to the coffee shop and she still won’t cooperate. No movie date for her unless I get the Big Scene finished.

      • Ok. Fine. You win. It’s paddle time.

      • Counter-cycle time, Averil. You’re maybe pushing too hard. Pretend to ignore the little muse bitch and shortly she’ll get frightened and sad and come tug on your hem and tell you she’s ready.

      • If she’s smart she’ll run like hell. But at the moment I’ve got her in a headlock and I’m dragging her along with her heels leaving tracks in the dirt.

        A young guy sat next to me at the coffee shop. He started typing really fast. I heard him and typed faster. Then he typed . . . then I typed some more . . . fuck him, I refuse to be outdone . . . Pretty soon I had a whole new scene which sprang up out of pure competitive spite toward a complete and adorable stranger who was probably writing a YouTube comment or some cute little Facebook post.

        But he folded up and left the cafe first. So I win.

        (Sadly, the scene I wrote was some nonsensical observation by one of my characters watching a murmuration of starlings over the Puget Sound–unfortunately, starlings don’t flock that way in the summer off the coast of Washington. I think the little muse-bitch is having her way with me.)

  20. After Peter DeVries died, his son discovered that in every jacket in his father’s closet there was a comb and a pencil in the pocket.

  21. I’ll go with Teri, I only think when I can’t write physically.

  22. Last night I was working by what I’ll call instinct, for lack of a better word. I know that there’s a lot out there that will say one should trust one’s instinct and intuition and all that shit. I’m a little suspicious as my instincts have mostly been terrible. A friend suggested I keep a log of what distracts me while I write but that’s multi-tasking and at least for me, a terrible idea. If at home, at least multi-tasking while writing means a purring cat.

    I miss the days of wearing my collapsing jean jacket that I sewed and resewed each time it ripped, decorated with ghost bead strands. It got me through my teen years and fit a flannel lined hoddie under it for winter in college. Each inside pocket fit two beers. It’s last life was a mouse nest in the basement where it dropped from a hanger when the left shoulder disintegrated.

  23. As a news reporter fighting deadlines I developed a habit of dictating ledes to myself in my head, so I wouldn’t have to start from scratch when I got to writing the story. It’s a nifty trick I often employ in writing fiction—composing lines of dialogue when jogging, for example. But fiction is, well, different, and sometimes I find that my subconscious demands to be set free, and I look at the resulting discharge and think, what the hell just happened? But more often than not my characters just take control, and all I can do is record.

  24. Sometimes I think and plan about which memory I’ll write about next, but that’s what I’m writing now.

    It’s non-fiction. The book I’ve finished and want to publish is fiction. It required planning and thought, not just remembering.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: