Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I spent much of yesterday checking the live updates on The New York Times website, as well as Facebook, trying to keep up with friends and relatives in the city.  Two of the families I know there have small children and at first they were mainly just trying to keep everyone entertained.  Yesterday an evacuation took place, from Stuyvesant Town (a huge post-war Manhattan housing project), which had lost power, to somewhere in Long Island where they still had power.  Still wondering about a lot of places...Staten Island, Breezy Point (where some of my husband's relatives had a summer house.)

I'm really not here to go into mourning, or to offer doom and gloom, though.  I mean, look at the New Yorkers on tv, listen to them.  Three of the subway tunnels are already pumped out.  People are walking to work.  There will probably be partial subway service tomorrow.  I remember one year, when I was at NYU when it was suddenly discovered that the Williamsburg Bridge was in imminent danger of collapse, something everyone seemed to take in stride.  The bridge was closed for a year and subway service was rerouted.  For weeks after 9/11 there was no subway service to lower Manhattan.  Somehow lines were rerouted, bus service filled in.  At my first job in Mahattan one of the other employees reminisced one day about the great transit strike in the 1970s, and how everyone walked over the Brooklyn Bridge.  "You got the feeling," he said, "that if you could survive that, you could survive anything."

It's very fashionable, particularly in dystopian scenarios, to see huge cites as vulnerable.  No doubt, because of quirks of geography and history, they are.  But huge cities are also very flexible.  They have the will, the ability (and the financial incentives) to get things done, quickly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The localest of my local libraries, the Henderson branches, which already were closed on Sundays, are now closed Mondays as well, due to budget constraints.  This makes me feel sort of like Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend, when he needs money for booze but he can't hock his typewriter because it's a Jewish holiday and all the pawnshops are closed and you see him dragging himself desperate, slowly, up Second Avenue in the gray light of dawn.  There's a measure on the ballot this year to support Henderson's libraries, offset by a tiny increase in property taxes ($7/year.)  I voted for it, but unfortunately there's another measure on the ballot to support schools, which asks for a much larger property tax increase, and I'm afraid people will just vote no on both.  My voter's guide, which came in the mail, included a "for" and "against" on the library issue, followed by a rebuttal and a rebuttal to the rebuttal.  The rebuttal to the rebuttal, I have to say, was a little ranty and broke out a couple of times into capital letters, including the phrase WHERE WILL IT END?  (Books, they want money for!  Books!)
I think anyone voting on this issue should first go to the Paseo Verde library on a Saturday morning.  The conference rooms are booked up, the computers are occupied, there are kids everywhere, teens in the teen section.  It's a place for study but it's also a public space.
I am ashamed, as a writer, that I take for granted my use of the library.  Of course they have the book.  Of course they'll get the book.  Of course I can get anything I want, right at my fingertips, never thinking where it comes from, never thinking who pays for it.
So I'll say it now:  my greatest thanks, to the Henderson and Las Vegas-Clark County libraries, and by extension to the voters and taxpayers who fund them.  We're all in this together.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Writer's Block, or not

I don't really like the term.  I often say I have Writer's Panic instead -- which is what I call the feeling that you're swamped and drowning and never going to get anywhere with your project.  And in fact, over the past few months, I have written some 20,000 words of a brand new project and made some huge but very freeing changes on my WIP, which has caused that to take off in a new direction.  So it's not that I don't have ideas.  The ideas are there, while I'm driving or sweeping or working.  The problem is putting the ideas down on paper.  The fear when I sat down to write was so strong, that even when I made myself do it, after a little while I would think, "well, maybe I better stop now, while things are still good.  After all [insert here anecdote about famous writer who only wrote two pages a day.]" 

This fear was something new.  I'd never really felt it before, writing.  And the odd thing was it kept coming back.  I could have a really good day writing and the next day, sitting down, the same old procrastination and hesitation.  In other words, success had no effect on the fear, which seemed to be contrary to the conventional wisdom that doing something you fear makes the fear go away.  I thought it was maybe more like stage fright.  I'd heard stories -- we all have -- of well-known actors who suffered from stage fright every night, at least until the curtain came up.  I looked for books on stage fright, but everything I found was aimed at children.  So I looked for more general books on fear.  These were, of course, self-help books.  Oy. Brain chemistry for dummies.  Vignettes about high-powered executives at Fortune 500 companies who were freed to follow their dreams of entrepreneurship.  (There are no creative types in self-help books; I believe the authors think that creative people float around with little wings on their backs, drawing rainbows and hearts in the air.)  However, I did learn some useful stuff from these books, in the end.  I had an insight, reading one in particular -- this was not something that actually appeared in the book, but a thought that came to me while reading it:
You will always feel anxiety when you are doing something important.
You will always feel it in proportion to what you are trying to do.

I don't know why, but this was comforting.  I suppose the self-help books would say I gave myself permission to have anxiety.  I'm working, I'm working hard, I will have anxiety, I'll be OK. 
I also began to set daily goals for writing, which is something I never felt the need to do before.  Not word count goals, but lists of scenes I need to work on.  I look at the goals, say, this is what I'm going to do today, and I focus on that. 

The upshot of this is that stuff gets done.  Do I still have the fear?  Yes.  This post?  Total procrastination. All I can say is that the fight goes on.