Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Neil Simon: writing coach?

In her book, THE CREATIVE HABIT, choreographer Twyla Tharp talks about "reading fat." I've always read fat; I just didn't have a term to describe it. Reading fat is what happens when a book or an author intrigues you enough that you begin to dig deeper in search of -- well, in search of more. More information. More insight. More stories. More connections. More everything. It's a version of Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon but played with books instead.

That's how I ended up with Neil Simon as my writing coach. To be honest I'm not even a big Neil Simon fan. With the exception of THE ODD COUPLE and THE GOODBYE GIRL his work leaves me cold. Yes, I recognize his talent. Yes, I applaud his success. But there's always been an urban chill to his work, a certain Updike/Cheever middle-class bitterness that didn't set well with me.

One of the first books I purchased to read on my Kindle was Marsha Mason's autobiography. It was a little New Age-y, a little gossipy, very sincere, and very entertaining. I'd known some of her history and I guess I was feeling nosy and wanted to learn more. She was Neil Simon's second wife. He married her just a handful of months after his first wife Joan died of cancer. Marsha Mason stepped into an apartment decorated by the first wife, slept in the bed where the first wife slept with their (now shared) husband, used the first wife's plates and cups and glasses and silverware. You get the picture, right? It was doomed to failure and fail it did.

So I wanted to read about it from Mason's perspective. Then I wanted to read about it from Neal Simon's perspective which led me to his memoirs (REWRITES and THE PLAY GOES ON) which didn't so much enlighten me about what in the name of God he'd been thinking when he married so quickly after losing the love of his life but about his writing process.

It's all about focus. He's one of those lucky writers who can turn off the world around him and sink into his subconscious at the drop of a pencil. He finds comfort in writing. Writing soothes his soul. Writing answers his questions. Writing is like food and drink to him. And the ideas never stop. Not even when his wife was dying. Not even right after she died. The ideas, the plots, the plays were always there waiting for him.

It's about rewriting. He never gets it right the first time. He doesn't expect to. The first time is about capturing the story, the characters. The tenth time is about getting it right.

It's about being fearless. He's not afraid to fail. He's not afraid to succeed.

Mostly because, first and foremost, it's about the writing.

Some examples tomorrow.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I'll Never Understand

I've been writing for a living for a very long time now (over twenty-five years) and I still don't understand how it works.

It's 5:11 in the morning and the ideas are flowing. Why didn't those ideas flow at nine in the morning or one in the afternoon or even ten o'clock at night? Why did they wait until I crawled into bed around two-thirty and start yammering in my ear?

I got up, staggered downstairs, and turned on the computer. Both Luke and Bridget were talking to me non-stop, so quickly my hands could barely keep up.

Trust me it's been a long time since that happened.

I'm tired. I'm hungry. I'm wired. I'm writing.

Outside the birds are beginning to sing.

Inside I'm wondering why I didn't keep that job at McDonald's.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


So far, so good with this laptop. We passed our eighth month anniversary and I've encountered the Blue Screen from Hell only three times. I consider myself lucky. Vista and I had a terrible time getting acquainted but we made our peace around December and now I'm amazed to sayI wouldn't go back.

This is usually the time of year where all of my electronic equipment rolls over and plays dead. Last year I believe I lost three laptops in a six week period. (A new high for me.) The year before I took out an answering machine, telephone, television, and two laptops and I swear to you that all I did was press the start buttons.

I had a scare with my Kindle (Amazon's book reader) last week but a reset put it back where it should be.

Mostly this time of year I tread very lightly around anything that uses electricity.

I had to put my knitting aside for awhile this year (it was either write the book or knit; the book won) but now the urge to cast on something wonderful is overwhelming. I'm tempted by an Elizabeth Zimmerman blanket (good way to use up all of my Sirdar Highlander), some spiral socks (a can't-go-wrong gift idea), or maybe the Log Cabin blanket that's been calling to me for over a year. What can I say? I like to knit rectangles and squares, big high-impact items that don't require a whole lot of brain power when I'm working on a book. Hits of color and texture are just what you need when you're adrift in a sea of words.

Labels: , ,

Home | Letter From Barbara | Sneak Peek | What's Cooking | Love Letters
Blog | Scrapbook | Free Stuff | Contest
Bio | Book List | The Secret | Just For Fun | Free Reads
Newsletter | Writers Daily Quote | He Said She Said | Sitemap
Hosted by