Monthly Archives: January 2011

Where’s The Book on Getting Old?

Growing old is a little like childbirth; everybody talks about it but no one prepares you for what it really means.

There is no book.  There is no one who can tell you what it will be like to watch the stars in your universe go out, one by one.  There is no one who can tell you what it’s like to survive mother, father, brother, sister.

You think about your own health and worry that this ache or that pain won’t get so bad you can’t handle it.You muse on death — yours mostly. What will it be like?  Will I be gracious?  Scared?  Bitchy?  But you don’t think about who will die and how you will live through it.

Chronology says it will be your grandparents first then your parents.   Intellectually, that can dull the prospect of their loss but still, it does not prepare you for their actual deaths.  Pain, sorrow and regret travel with you through the days of their illness, death and “final disposition.”  But, as the saying goes, they were old; it was expected.

What happens when chronology fails you?  When the unthinkable happens?  When one brother dies, slowly  and another one, suddenly?

A loss too big to contemplate and then it is a reality — debilitating — knocking me off my slats.  Both had brain tumors.  Mike died in two months; Bob died in 2 weeks.  I died a little with each one and losing them causes me pain every day.

How do you manage it when a loved one’s light flickers then goes out?  Drinking doesn’t help.  Overeating is not something that appeals to me and frankly, shopping has never been a way for me to deflect reality.  Reading helps and so do movies but the reality of losing both of my brothers, facing the loss of my sister and possibly surviving my husband, daughter, grandchildren sits dead center on my chest every minute of every hour of every day.  I want to shake it but don’t know how.

That’s the book that still needs writing.  Death and Dying for Dummies – any takers?

Happier days, before they left for darkling plains
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One Writer’s Mistakes – Buying But Not Reading

Writing has been in my blood for decades.  Words dance in my head from the moment I wake up to the moment my head drops onto the pillow.  Successful as a writer for magazines, professional groups and web sites, I still long for success as a writer of the Great American Novel — a wonderful goal that, at my current rate, I will never reach.

Why?  Because I persist in making all the mistakes that novice writers make starting with a common one — buying books — not reading or writing them.  I consider this…

Mistake #1

I am surrounded by books — on my desk, in the bookcase, on my nightstand, even in my car!   Pick a day or an hour and you will find me with two or three books “in progress.”  But somehow, with all that information filling every space in my rooms and in my head, this reader and writer has managed to ignore some of the best advice in the world.  I buy books on writing…but I don’t read them.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s book Steering The Craft languishes on my shelf beside Artful Sentences, Writing Dialogue and Modus Operandi.  I could start a lending library with all the books I own.  But instead of reading them, I dust them , look fondly at the titles and think about cracking one open until life intercedes and the books go back to gathering dust and fading in the sunlight.

Well, they did until last week when I idly picked up James Cross Giblin‘s Guide to Writing Children’s Books.  Giblin  has authored twenty-five books of his own and in his years at Clarion Books helped grow its titles to 400 books in print.  The man knows the children’s book market and he shares ideas, resources and just plain common sense advice in his guide.

I wrote my whole YA novel with that book sitting about six feet from my elbow.  Three hundred pages, three rewrites and my novel is still in the “shopping” stage.  Now, only two words dance in my head…if only.

So while I wrestle with the fact that I had insight and wisdom sitting on my shelf and chose to ignore it, here’s hoping that other, aspiring authors can learn from my mistake.  Don’t just buy books – read them!  Even the bad ones have something to offer.

There are many more writer’s mistakes to explore.  In the coming weeks, a few more mistakes that can derail your writing and a few more ways to avoid them.

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