Sparked by Words

All Night Long

The light of day shows best in the middle of the night. At least that’s when I get in my best edits, insights, and revisions. It’s an extension of parenting young children decades ago with no time to write except in the middle of the night when they were finally asleep. When I should have been asleep. It’s the reality of now working full time, which we all know encompasses far more than the requisite eight hours on work tasks, but also includes two to three or four hours of getting oneself ready, getting to work, getting to lunch, and then getting home. Eleven is the new eight hour day, and only if it isn’t actually 12 that’s the new eight hour day, because there’s always some extra work from the real (meaning paid) job thrown in, just in case you have time.

 

lit-street-lamp-among-pine-branches-at-dusk-190x190

 

The point of this rant is that my writing is not done even when it’s done, and then it never happens until it begins – in the middle of the night. Stealth – a surreptitious movement while unobserved, to grab loot – becomes the modus operandi for this writer not gifted with attendance at writing conferences, writer’s residencies, or university writing workshops. The luxury of writing does not exist for me at a secluded location with a farfetched title (think Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Middlebury College in the forests of Vermont – I mean, really, Bread Loaf?) but here in the suburban faux eucalyptus woods of Orange County. The trees are real enough but the woods idea is no more genuine than the straight-row planting done by some guy with the wrong idea about what kind of trees would provide great lumber for railroads. Yes, I’m off topic, a not unusual aspect of writing on a catch as catch can basis. Sigh, the way life interrupts my work – tut tut. I steal more time to write.

Insight strikes me much the same way. Harum scarum. I struggle with a chapter if it meanders without advancing the plot, or if a character is tediously authentic. A lizard scurries across the outside deck and I flinch at the distraction. It dashes into our staghorn fern, and I catch a glimpse of the scene I need to write. Scratch the mundane descriptions, allow the hero to dash unexpectedly, cause my reader to flinch but not toss the book. Revision begins with those kinds of epiphanies, equations of unlikely elegance. I suspect because I am willing to be up late at night to the detriment of a good night’s sleep, I also remain open to suggestion at moonlit hours. (It is now 11:14 PM and my alarm plays Bach at 5:00 AM. Ridiculous, aren’t I?) Maybe when I’m sleep deprived, my muse finds me vulnerable and easy to seduce. Um, don’t spread that around.

My other quixotic trait is that I frequently traipse around my house spouting parts of my books, trying out phrases, testing the dialogue, or reading passages to the spider webs in the rafters. The wandering helps me grab hold of a singular word, the reading aloud lets me gauge flow and rhythm. I try out dialects and accents, puzzling how to capture them in my story, tossing them when they don’t work. It’s like fishing in my house only I don’t have to stand in a river wearing high waders, or gut the thing on the end of the line. No raging current, no wriggling fish, maybe a dynamic re-write.

I’m diligent about writing – and rewriting. First drafts are imbued with passion and creativity, but also stunted by lapses and clumsiness. I get those first drafts on paper, and then rework them to make them as perfect as possible. Reread, reconsider, rewrite, and repeat. Sometimes only the computer light keeps the night at bay, sometimes I nod over the keyboard, sometimes I pack up the book into its virtual filing cabinet and set it aside. But one night a few months later I’ll get back to my WIP and tackle it again. Dinner is over, the house is quiet, I keep company with the moon, to its nocturnal rhythms and monthly phases. And one day when the moon is sleeping off its evening watch, when I have finally and truly pronounced my book complete and final, I hope an editor will find my work compelling, and will publish my work.

I won’t care if readers prefer to read my stories by the glow of the moon or the glare of the sun, just as long as they read.

Night time, photospublicdomain.com

 

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Comments on: "All Night Long" (42)

  1. I find myself thinking of my manuscripts and screenplays at all hours of the day. Every chapter needs to move or the plot along to some extent while presenting charcterization.
    Keep at it.

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  2. You are eloquently describing the creative process and a mind that seeks out possibility – such a wonderful gift from God.

    “Keeping Company with the Moon” – you’ve inspired a poem. Methinks you should be a motivational speaker for the creatively impaired (or creatively stymied at the very least)

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  3. Wait–did I miss a new job? Or did you mean past jobs? I’m so confused.

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  4. I just finished a 400 word story for a blogger and after 10 revisions…I’ve decided I’m not a writer. Just acting like one. The work is much too hard. Sigh. I do, however, still love to read and it’s a joy to read your thoughts. You have true writer moments and I’m envious. ♡

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    • Audrey, please don’t give up. Put it aside for a while. It sounds like you’re trying to write to a deadline. That’s not a good strategy for fiction writers. You need to move at the pace that allows you to research, write, develop, and eventually edit your story. Especially since you’ve been recently through a harrowing personal experience, you might not be in the right frame of mind to tackle a big project at the moment. I’m not sure if I should tell you how old I was before I finally began to write The Inlaid Table, my first adult novel, but old comes close. I had to get to the moment in my life when I could devote myself to writing for long periods but also remove myself from my own history in order to see what the rest of the world was like. Your poetry is lovely; stay with that for a while and let your story gather moss. But keep it close at hand.
      And thank you for your kind comment.

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      • I was offered an opportunity to write a post for a pretty busy blog. The catch was all in or nothing, so I’ve been spending my time focusing on that for the last two weeks. I agree with you 100%. I’m not ready to move forward on my novel. Seems my poetry is suffering, too, but one day I’ll find my legs. I have to continue to write it though…I love it so. Thanks for the pep talk.

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      • Congratulations, Audrey, that’s fantastic. It must feel wonderful to be recognized as worthy of this opportunity. I can’t wait to read it – please let me know where and when.
        I really think that loving what you’re doing is the ultimate key to success. I truly love each of my novels and the new one in progress. Heads up for everything, right?

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      • I’ll be reblogging it, for sure, and it was good for me to be pushed hard. Anything available to purchase of yours I hope you’ll let us know here, Shari. Heads up, indeed. Thank you for sharing your gift. 🙂

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      • The blog hosts invited a great writer. I’m looking forward to reading your post, Audrey.
        Thank you for the sweet comments. I really do need to get myself writing those queries.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You seem to have a fantastic work ethic, Sharon! I’ll bet the spiders in the rafters must be pretty erudite by now too after all the reading you do to them.

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  6. You work late into the night where I work early in the morning. I wonder if they become the same thing. I find the initial writing is the easy part. I can do that reasonably quickly depending on whether it flows or not. I don’t know that I could do fiction quite that easily but I love research so one day I’m going to give it a go. The rewriting, however, is another matter. I think one of the secrets is as you have said — let it rest for awhile so that you can come back with fresh eyes. I think that is one of the problems with what I am doing now. I don’t have the luxury of time. A big thank you for giving me a reason not to get rid of the spiders

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    • A little secret here, Irene. I do often work late at night – it’s just about 1 AM now – but I’ll often drift off to sleep for a few hours earlier in the evening and then get up to work on my writing. I’ve noticed that I’m sometimes the first person who reads your newest post, so I think you and I are up at about the same moment but our clocks read differently. Now that ought to inspire a verse or two, don’t you think? Writing to a deadline is a whole other and very demanding experience, but you’re earning a degree. I’m so impressed with your accomplishment.
      Now, about those spiders…

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      • Absolutely. You are the poet…. I haven’t got there yet Sharon. I could get a big F but I have passed the point that I care. I have too many projects awaiting me that I really do want to do.

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      • Irene, you are not going to get an F – And I’m still excited to read your exegesis.

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      • I like your confidence Sharon and hope you are right.

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      • I think you’re a bit nervous – understandably. It’s been a long program and a long, detailed write for you. I still think you’ll come out with high marks. It’s a low reflection of a program to let someone fail or even do poorly, and I think most programs only accept candidates who are likely to do well. Besides which I sensed your passion for the project, and that always reveals in something well done.

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      • Nervous, me… Of course you are right. I did have the passion but throughout I’ve never felt scholarly or as though I fit in to the academic world. But then, do I fit in anywhere except in my head. Thanks for your faith in me. It actually does make me feel a little more confident.

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      • When you started writing about taking this advanced university course, I was envious. I’ve been trying to get into a program for years, but every time I’ve gotten close, some personal or family issue gets in the way and I have to drop the idea. (I was even enrolled in one but had to drop before I’d begun.) Now it’s gotten so expensive, there’s no way I’m going to pursue an advanced degree and am putting my efforts into getting published. Not sure what scholarly feels like but I’ve known any number of pretentious people. If that’s scholarly, I’ll pass it by. I want the validation that I’ve done something important, and I want to leave my family with a small legacy of value. Maybe that’s pretentious as well but I lean towards gaining confidence, like you. To my mind, you are very accomplished.

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      • I can understand you wanting to leave something. That is one thing that I have pondered on and come to the conclusion that most people leave their legacy within their children. Not having children I will just cease to exist but getting something published that legacy will be there at least as long as the library stands. Maybe its pretentious but I don’t really care. I guess when I think scholarly I think of the papers I have attended given by other research students and professors and the like and I sit and listen and think I don’t know what on earth you are talking about and I wonder if they know but the words coming out are huge and impressive but I wonder what is the point if people don’t know and mainly don’t care (as you see them on their computers and mobile phones). I just want to be able to talk and understand what the other person is on about. Have a two way conversation. I appreciate that you think I am accomplished. I have brushed that critical monkey off my shoulder and I am just going to believe you and thank you very much.

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      • I’m smiling here, big, wide smile. I was an art teacher for more than two decades in several schools and through a city recreation program. Was also an artist in a company that designed patterns for casual clothing – swim suits, Hawaiian-style shirts, etc. My undergrad degree is English, emphasis in Creative Writing, so I read, reviewed, discussed, and wrote for many years, mostly literature, but also history, philosophy, religion, foreign language, the usual courses that make a broad education. I have only the equivalent of a minor in art, having taken classes with the intent of earning a masters in studio art. That last endeavor never happened for reasons that had to do with family obligations, not because I’d been denied entrance to a program. I’ve painted, drawn, crafted, and worked free lance as an artist since I was a kid, even won a few art prizes. My formal credentials are weak but my experiences are varied and lengthy.

        Throughout the time I took all those college art classes, I subscribed to a couple of respected art journals. Now, think about all I’d learned about literature, writing, and art, including art history and every aspect of creating art, as well as the impact of history on culture, people, and art. Here’s what I learned: art journals, the ones that describe current exhibits and the work of emerging artists, are full of bunk. They’re pretentious and nearly impossible to comprehend. They don’t describe the art, and they simply don’t make sense. You can learn about art in history books and in the captions under work shown in galleries and museums, but you’ll only learn in an art journal that the writers employ some other form of English.

        For a long time I thought I couldn’t understand the language in art journals because I didn’t have that advanced degree and hadn’t learned enough, but one day I spoke with someone who had earned all the documents I lacked. She confirmed – art journals are full of bunk. They sound scholarly because they’re full of pretentious words and convoluted sentences written by people trying to outdo each other, trying to sound original and knowledgeable, but no one really knows what the articles mean. A great topic for someone to explore for a masters in critical review: why do people write (and speak) bunk instead of sense and meaning?

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  7. I tend to think that experience counts for a lot. I remember when doing undergraduate I was a mature age student with lots of experience behind me in nursing (I was doing psychology at that time) and the majority of the class were young. Their lack of experience was so evident and yet they thought they knew it all. I’d prefer experience over formal qualifications any day. Your art career is impressive. I’d love to see some of your swimming costume designs. I’m glad you said that about the artist description and thoughts behind a piece of art work. So many of them I have read have left me cold and unbelieving, some have made me laugh out loud at the silliness of them due to the words they use. My supervisor has been asking me to come back and do a pHD but I’m not going to. I might however say to her that I have come up with my next research project “Scholarly language: To pull the wool over the eyes or necessary for meaning?

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    • Oops – I should have been more clear – the patterns were the images that were printed on shirts and shorts, etc. Just imagine classic Hawaiian hibiscus, orchids, surfboards – everything we did was ordered by someone else and it was all derivative of the original artwork from the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s when Hawaii was being discovered as a somewhat exotic tourist destination and the Hawaiian shirt was a premium product. We designed the images on the fabric which had been ordered by the companies making the shirts, etc.

      The young are awfully cute, aren’t they? Somewhat assuming, but cute.

      Your next research project – now that’s a great idea! I’d love to see your supervisor’s face at that announcement.

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      • When I met Roger he was a Hawaiian shirt man. I’ll let you know when I tell her.

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      • My husband never wore a Hawaiian shirt till decades after I’d left that job. Funny how people pick up habits and affections along the way, isn’t it?

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      • Roger started to slow down his wearing of brightly coloured Hawaiian style shirts when I was in paying at the service station for the petrol and the cashier said – “Are you with the man wearing the shirt that looks like someone has vomited.?”

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      • Oh my goodness, that was spoken without a filter, wasn’t it? So sorry that cashier made Roger feel self-conscious. Around here, it’s a go-to fashion statement when a man has no idea what else is appropriate.

        My husband nearly died in Hawaii about 13 years ago. He’d gone to work there at a convention, and having never visited before, I told him to go a day early and see the island of Oahu. I thought he’d rent a pink striped jeep, the classic tourist vehicle when I’d lived there as a kid. He rented a motor scooter, no helmet, got forced off the road and ended up flipping over the scooter with his face smashed against a lamp post. He kept his injury hidden from me for 4 days, told me he had a cold and that’s why his voice sounded funny on the phone, then refused to let me go to Hawaii and help him.

        He came home 4 days later after a major three hour surgery to repair some of the broken bones in his face – every bone from his eye sockets down to his jaw was broken, and his jaw had been broken in 3 places, his nose smashed so badly he couldn’t breathe. I nearly passed out when I saw him a the airport. He needed another 3 hour surgery here in California to repair the mess the Hawaiian docs made of him. Anyway, we’ve never returned, though we’d like to one day, and see the island from a jeep. But he came back to California with a love of Hawaiian shirts. All that head terrible injury, and he decided he loved Hawaiian shirts. Please tell Roger to wear his with pride.

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      • LOL. I’ll remember that although I never get to choose what Roger should wear.
        What a dreadful experience for your husband and to hide it from you so you wouldn’t worry. If you do get back stick to the jeep. Maybe head injuries are the way to go to gain the courage to wear one or perhaps he found people stared at the shirt rather than his face. Glad he is okay after all those ops.

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      • Thank you for all the kind support. I don’t get to choose Bob’s wardrobe either but I do occasionally make suggestions – put it in the laundry, needs a button, fit better last year – he ignores most. LOL

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      • LOL We both seem to have little influence in this department.

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      • Why is it that their fashion sense gets more independent the older they get? LOL

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      • There is no answer to that one apart from perhaps failing eyesight…..

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      • Maybe!
        And failing hearing:
        “No one told me this shirt looks like it lost its way to the luau.”
        “You didn’t hear it.”
        “Whadja say?”
        LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

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