The Beauty & Magic of Timelines

To me, following a timeline is like being connected to a steady drip of calm and order. Creating the timeline isn’t always fun, however, but while I’m putting everything into place I try to remind myself of the rewards to come. Right now, for instance, I’m tweaking—well, I’m rewriting it if I’m going to be completely honest—the original timeline of my novel. My agent would probably rather hear that it’s done, but let’s keep that to ourselves, shall we? In any case, it is coming along rather nicely.

What’s nice—and key actually—about investing in a timeline is that it keeps everything flowing. Or not. You can move scenes around. You can see more clearly the omission of a scene or the curious absence of a character that has no business being AWOL. Quite simply, a timeline is more than just a list of what happens in a story. It lets you know if you’re on the right track. It gives your story some order.

But as I mentioned earlier it’s not always a cake walk. Indeed, it is sometimes the very last thing I want to do. I once told someone that having a good copy editor is like getting your manuscript flossed. In a similar way, working off a good timeline is like writing on a path that is cleared of chaos and debris.

Busted

It’s deflating to say the least when your high school aged child takes time out of his busy Sunday evening, watching the last bit of “Top Gear” he can stand or doing whatever, and offers his mother—the one who makes her living, in part, by advising others how to build their platforms—this advice: “Mom, if you’re not going to blog, you shouldn’t have one . . . ” At first, I thought that he thought I didn’t get it, mostly because I looked at him, dumbfounded not because of his wise insight but because he had raised the issue at all. “Thank you,” I said. “You’re right. I’ll post something tomorrow.”

So here’s my excuse: I blog for allbusiness.com, work on a couple of PR accounts, worry every single day about what I’m going to serve for dinner, try to get a run in, occasionally break up a fight between our cat and our dog, and generally, like most people I know, have too much to do. But when one of my children points out a flaw, well, all that other stuff seems to take on less significance.

That said, will I report to my son later in the day that his comment motivated me to bring this blog up to date? Absolutely not. Will he discover this himself? Perhaps.

More important, however, is this: will he begin to be my conscience when it comes to participating in social media? Will he finally friend me on Facebook or, even less likely, become a follower on Twitter?

Who knows? The point here is that sometimes we get our impetus to do things we know we should but would rather not from some fairly unlikely sources.

Like Your Legs

Easy for me to say! I actually don’t like my legs. Well, not true. I don’t mind what’s going on below my knees, but if only the same measurements applied to the thighs. I used to worry more about my derriere, but lately it’s more about my legs. Let me explain: a few years ago when I was speaking at Rancho LaPuerta (which is coming up next weekend!!!) for my Rancho Reads & Writes program I met a wonderful woman who, because I’m going to comment on her legs, will remain anonymous. She would complain about her legs (she, too, pined for long, stick-like legs) and I would bemoan the state of my hips. She said nice things to me, including the option of visiting a plastic surgeon, which I quickly set way aside and silently offered my forgiveness for her remark, and I said nice things about her legs. I would’ve been quite satisfied to trade.

During the course of one of our leg discussions she revealed that she’d run at least one marathon. That was all I needed to hear. I said something like, “Well, you should be very happy with your legs; they led you to completing the marathon. That’s amazing.”

So the other day, as I was on one of my runs, I smiled broadly (toward the end, which may have contributed some to my joy) when I realized that it was my legs that help me think things through. Currently, I’m reworking my novel. Much of the revision is first occurring in my head and mostly when I run. I carry nothing but the key to my house. No cell phone, no pad of paper with a tiny pen (I’ve thought about it), and no water bottle (which would come in handy sometimes). Recognizing the role my legs play in the writing process offered a new perspective and appreciation for two limbs that could win a cellulite competition but mostly help me get around and make those new scenes possible.

Having My Cake

I haven’t been posting here for a while, but when someone names a cake after you and one of your books, well, it’s clearly time to blog. And speaking of cake, I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately. I love having fresh cookies around, so what I do is make the dough, form it into as many little balls as I can and then I freeze those. I’m a hero around here when I pop some in the oven and voila, you’ve got fresh, homemade cookies. I also bake when I’m stressed and who isn’t. Why bake? Because I wield immense control in the kitchen. I am boss in the kitchen and I am boss of the ingredients. What do I mean? I mean that when the recipe calls for white flour I substitute whole wheat. When it calls for semi-sweet chips I add those and M&Ms, too. The point is this: baking is cathartic for me and no one ever says, “No thank you.” And have I mentioned that my cookies have no calories . . . ?

Other People’s Words

Like many parents across the country I recently dropped a child off at college for the first time. As a writer, I’ve composed some of the mixed emotions I’ve experienced into paragraphs that might have made an interesting essay, but that would’ve taken time away from some of the other work I’m trying to complete. But that didn’t prevent me from feeling the gratitude I experienced yesterday after reading not just one but two pieces by fathers who are missing their freshman kids as well. Indeed, reading the letter from a dad who recently deposited his son at the University of Illinois in Champagne was a tremendous relief. First, I realized, of course, that I am not alone in these strange and raw emotions. Oh, I’m sharing a lot of this with my husband, too, believe me. But reading about it from a distance has its comforts, too. What struck me most about what this particular parent wrote was his surprise by the sudden realization, once he returned to a differently-inhabited home, that life really was going to be different. In the same way, the other writer, an editor of our local weekly paper, exposed my naivete that this brown-out I’m undergoing (sometimes I don’t make sense presumably because I’m trying to imagine the life of my daughter in a new place far away) is rather commonplace. This is when I am particularly grateful for other people’s words, especially when the language of their lives seems to so easily intersect with my own.

One of the buildings at my alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan University

One of the buildings at my alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan University

Welcome to My Blog

I started a blog about two or three years ago and didn’t post much, because I didn’t have a lot of time. I still don’t have much of that, but something’s pulling me along to get back to it, so here I am. Perhaps it is the promise from my trusty web designer, Lee, that I’ll be able to post pictures. I am headed to Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico in a few weeks to teach and it’s one of the prettiest places I’ve been, so hopefully I’ll be able to post a few photographs from my trip. If I’m lucky, I might even be able to give you a preview. It’ll be my fifth trip to Tecate, Mexico and like the four times before I am really excited to be going. Hey, I think I just added a photo after all. I’ll be back again soon. Thanks for stopping by.

A view of the mountains from Rancho La Puerta

A view of the mountains from Rancho La Puerta