When You Only Have So Many Words and None of Them are Adequate

The Green Study is taking a break until November 15, 2017. Last year, I went to a lecture where journalist and novelist Anna Quindlen spoke about her writing practices and career. One of the things she said was that while she was working on a project, she limited how much time she spent answering emails and engaging others. “I only have so many words.” I’ve thought a lot about that phrase, wondering if there really is a limit to my creative reservoir. I’ve made a habit over the last five years of posting… Read More

Dirty Bombs and Distractions

I haven’t written much about politics lately, because inevitably any post ends in a stream of invectives. So, so blue. It’s become quite clear that horrible people get more attention than decent people. Liars get more press than truth-tellers. Diatribes and conspiracy-laden memes get more likes than reasoned arguments. It’s clear that short blurts and bumper sticker sentiments resonate more with people than logical and balanced discussions. And I’m no better. I can’t read the news without feeling the hostility rising. I’ve found myself streaming too much television for escape from the… Read More

Lex Talionis Unleashed: The Art of the Escalation

Lately, as the airwaves and data bytes have been poisoned with yet another presidential online freak out, I’ve been reading the comments from various sources. People say things like if you get hit, you hit back harder and he’s just fighting fire with fire. It’s emblematic of any toxic relationship I’ve ever had – from a friend or family member or romantic partner. It’s that person who overreacts to any slight, who doesn’t speak to you for days or even years after you disagree with them. It’s the one you laugh nervously… Read More

Committing to the Mistake and Writing in the Age of That Guy

The hunger divide between writing meaningful stories and writing what I am capable of feels like a gaping maw now. A novel draft I wrote in 2012 seems limp and unedifying. Great novels come out of periods of strife and war and social upheaval. My little domestic drama on paper seems out of step. I lay in bed last night rewriting my entire novel. It had power and endurance and spoke to the demographics and polarity in our nation – the great canyon between urban and rural, educated and uneducated. It could… Read More

Motley Thoughts on a Rainy Day

After wrecking my knee once again, this time by gardening misadventure and not running, rain has provided a welcome reprieve and excuse. I’m chugging through desperate re-writes to get my novel out to a lovely group of beta readers and a couple of agents by the first week of June. Since I’ve established a hard deadline for myself, I have been busy cleaning windows, rearranging closets, volunteering a few extra hours, sewing on loose buttons, reading obscure texts, and listening to writing advice podcasts while sharpening garden tools. All in all, this… Read More

Running with the Bull

There are the lies we tell others and there are the lies we tell ourselves. My lies to others tend to be the carefully curated lie-but-not-a-lie that tries not to hurt feelings or unjustifiably cause pain. I don’t lie about myself, although online I tend to be airbrushed. Catch me when I expected to have some solitude or ride my bumper in your oversized vehicle and the sharp edges emerge. The toughest lies to untangle are the lies we tell ourselves about who we are and what will make us happy. If… Read More

My Irrational Love of Running

I love to run. I wasn’t built for it – short, muscly, a little knock-kneed and uncoordinated. I started to run in high school track. I was slow, but I could finish the race. I got put on the 3000 meter run, because regardless of placing, you’d get points for the team at a meet if you finished. During the track award dinner my senior year, the coach said “Michelle gets an A+ for effort”. At the time I thought it was damning and faint praise. Now I think it sounds like… Read More

The Things We Carry (and Must Learn to Leave Behind)

In 1993, I dropped out of grad school after one miserable year. I was a failure, barely surviving academically, juggling three jobs, in over my head in so many ways. I make jokes about it, but when I pitched a nonfiction proposal to an agent last week, she asked about my education. I was truthful and while she was interested in my proposal, I could tell that I did not have a good “platform”. For nonfiction proposals, agents and publishers want someone with a platform. A platform is the writer’s expertise, background,… Read More

Leaning into the Fraudian Complex

I’m a writer. I speak several languages. I am fit and active. I love my family. I believe love is the right choice. But, but, but… What about the fact that I’m none of these things consistently or expertly? What about the fact that I don’t spend each and every day honing my writer’s craft? And that despite working on a novel, 80% of my reading is nonfiction? What about the fact that if you ask me any question in the languages I know well on paper, I’ll have a blank look… Read More

A State of Readiness

I’m waiting at my daughter’s orchestra practice and one of the groups is playing the national anthem. Without fail, it brings tears to my eyes. Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…It’s an odd patriotic twitch, much like praying to a god I don’t believe in when I’m scared. It’s reflexive indoctrination which serves religion and country well, keeping the machinery of industry and institution well-oiled. My practice of critical thinking, looking at as many perspectives as possible and making sure that I am cognizant of my own irrational… Read More