The Neighborhood

Why Writers Procrasti– SQUIRREL!

Photo by Marko Kivela / Creative Commons

Great article in The Atlantic by Megan McArdle about why some writers (ahem…) procrastinate.

I fit the “good-in-English-class-so-therefore-creative-writing-must-be-easy” type. When it isn’t easy, it feels like failure.

But good writing is all about failing. A lot. What exists as a work of staggering genius in your head grows feet of clay as it flops with a wet plop onto the page.

The bad news is that being a writer means having to get comfortable living in a place of failure, feeling like you’re always coming up short. The good news is that we get to fail in private. (For a while, at least. At some point, you have to send your little darling into the world…but that’s a topic for another post.)

I just read about a writer who titles every first draft “Crappy First Draft,” so she doesn’t get hung up on being perfect. The trick is to just keep on failing (i.e., rewriting) but trying to fail a little less each time. (“Suck less” is practically a motto at Pixar.)

All writers fail their way to success. The catch is that the rest of us don’t see the failures; all we see is the finished product, the masterpiece.

But masterpieces are like ducks, gliding ahead with seemingly no effort, while just below the surface feet are churning like mad.

Duck Paddle

Intellectually, rationally, all writers know this; but most of us suffer from Salieri syndrome, convinced that we are the impostor, the no-talent struggler, surrounded by Mozarts dropping masterpieces like loose change. The reality is that almost every writer I know is a Salieri. (The article touches on “Impostor Syndrome,” too.)

So what’s the trick? Pretty simple:  Keep paddling.

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Radar’s First Post

Radar’s first post is up, complete with photos.

I think he’s better at this than I am.

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Eleven Things That Didn’t Exist on September 11

Welcome to the Neighborhood!  Glad you could stop by.

When I was growing up, my mother used to drive me and my brother crazy making lists for everything — grocery lists, chore lists, homework lists, lists of lists to keep track of her lists.

So I’m sure she’ll be pleased to see me start off this blog with a list.

Here are Eleven Things That Didn’t Exist on September 11, 2001:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • #hashtags
  • American Idol
  • The TSA
  • Homeland Security
  • iPads
  • iPhones
  • iPods (!)
  • Parents filming sixth-graders on iPads/iPhones/iPods
  • Today’s sixth graders

If you’re an adult, you probably remember exactly where you were on 9/11.

If you’re a sixth grader, you probably weren’t even born yet.

I can still recall the details of that day with startling clarity:  living in Los Angeles, we woke up to news of the disaster on the Today Show.  I remember standing at the foot of the bed, one sock on, staring in disbelief at the footage of airplanes flying into buildings.  There were rumors of more attacks coming on the West Coast; we could see downtown from our house and kept counting the buildings and watching for smoke.  I remember how the normally busy skies grew eerily empty as no more planes were allowed to fly.  A friend gathered a bunch of us together for a quiet dinner that night.  I remember every face at that table.

It’s still so vivid to me that it’s easy to forget that most kids today have no memory of that time.  It’s as remote to them as the Korean War was to me.

Still, if you’re a kid, you’ve probably heard about 9/11, and maybe you want to know a little bit more about it.  What happened that day, and why’s it such a big deal?  Why do adults get quiet when they talk about it?  Was it all bad, or did anything good come out of it?

What was it like to be a kid that day?

That’s why I decided to write this book, eleven, to help young people who weren’t even alive then begin to understand not only the difficult events of that day but also the heroism displayed by ordinary men and women, the kindness shown by strangers to strangers, and what it felt like when this entire country came together as friends and neighbors.

I also wanted a good excuse to write about a dog.  (Radar says hi.  He has promised to take over this blog from time to time but agreed to let me have the first post.  Watch for him hanging out at Radar’s Corner.)

So I’ll be posting regularly here to talk about reading, writing, publishing, dogs, 9/11, dogs, old people, young people, books, teachers, school, our country, our world, and dogs.

Welcome to The Neighborhood.  Stop by anytime.

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