Archive | March, 2011

When Good Enough Is

I’ve never been one to settle. When it comes to my writing, good enough never is. Every word is chosen with great intention. But you know where good enough really is? When you’re doing chores.

I cleaned the house this morning in half the time it usually takes me by lowering my standards significantly. And guess what. The house looks great. No one will ever notice all the little corners I cut because it really doesn’t make a lick of difference. Lesson learned.

Now I’m going to stop blogging and make use of these few hours I just earned myself. Tah.

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Six Weeks To Go

One of my new years resolutions was to finish my novel this year. Not just this draft, but the whole enchilada.

Following the advice of Sage Cohen, author of The Productive Writer, who did me the honor of writing a guest post for me in January, I’ve broken my larger goal down in to smaller goals, and the first is to finish the second draft by my birthday.

I’ve got six weeks left.

I was making some good progress on the draft in February, but then the freelance work came my way, and I got busy working on the rewrite of my non-fiction proposal, and the novel got pushed to the side.

So damn, just six weeks. I guess the first thing to do is to assess how to spend them. I’m reluctant to pass the time polishing the language, because I expect that I may get some larger notes about the story when I do send it out for feedback. And why is that? There must be something I know is structurally not right if I’m assuming that’s the feedback I’ll get.

Whenever I find myself in this position I tend to fall back on rereading the whole thing, with an attempt at objectivity. It’s time consuming, but if I don’t make this draft as good as I can I’m just wasting the time of anyone kind enough to read it and give me feedback. I hate it when I read someone’s work and their response to my feedback is “yeah, I kind of knew that.” If you kind of know it’s not right, then fix it.

I guess I have to follow my own advice first and do the tough stuff.

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Positive Feedback

One of the hardest things about being a writer is the fact that we work in a vacuum.

Yes, we do occasionally get the heroin-like rush of someone saying they want to publish our work, but really, most days, we sit and type away at our little key boards all by ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually love sitting and writing all day, and I have pretty much hated every “real” job I’ve ever had, but there is something about having someone tell you “hey, good work today” that has a nice ring to it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been doing some freelance work as of late, writing website content and editing survey responses before they are published widely. It’s interesting work and I really like the company I’m writing for, but (and I’m embarrassed to admit it) the highlight of my whole day was getting this email:

“Nicely done April.”

That’s it. The whole email. I am doubly embarrassed to think that my boss might actually read my blog, and think I’m a complete geek, but the fact is, it feels good to be told you’ve done something right. As writers, we so often work for months, if not years, before putting our work out there for feedback, and even then positive feedback is hardly guaranteed.

Anyhow, just thought I’d share. Today I did something nicely.

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I Love Writing

This may seem like a redundant post, but I just love writing so much. I tell ya, if weren’t already married….

What prompts these admissions of adoration?

I’ve been swamped with freelance work this week and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Yes, it means the novel is on the back burner, which always makes for a little anxiety, but there’s something very satisfying about writing for other people. Maybe it’s all the human interaction I get, you know, conversations that aren’t about diapers or milk, or maybe it’s that I learn all kinds of interesting things when I do this mercenary writing for hire, or maybe it’s the satisfaction of actually finishing something. Whatever it is, I dig it.

So, being as busy as I am today, I’m keeping the blog post short.


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One Shot

Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-
One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

These are the opening lyrics to the song “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. It’s all about trying to make something of yourself. If you saw the movie “8 Mile,” it’s the song that plays over the credits. Here’s the chorus:

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

Why am I quoting you Eminem?

I caught the end of “8 Mile” the other day while I was nursing. I’d forgotten how much that song spoke to me when the movie first came out. I was in my 20’s wanting to make something of myself as a creative professional, and feeling kind of desperate. I had this idea that if I worked hard enough, there would some day be one defining moment where all my preparation would pay off and I’d be launched into stardom.

You know what I noticed this time I watched it, as a thirty-something mother of two? Well, after Rabbit (Eminem) wins the rap contest, out-spittin’ his rival and earning the respect of his whole community, you know what he does? He goes back to work.

Whaaa? Where’s the Cristal? The celebratory blunt? The hoes? I never thought about the fact that he just plain old goes back to work.

This time, I got it. These days that “one moment,” that “one shot,” means something totally different to me. This morning, when I sat down to write, I was seizing today’s one moment, one shot. Tomorrow I’ll do it again. In some ways this is liberating, because if you miss one day, there’s always the next, but the flip side is that every damn day you have to muster the energy to treat it like your last and never let it slip by.


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Nonsanto Update

Back in September my agent began sending out the proposal I wrote for a non-fiction book about Monsanto. It was titled “Nonsanto” and it was all about my attempts to avoid Monsanto products for a whole month last March.

After waiting a few weeks, we received the nicest rejections. Seriously, I had prepared myself for a beating, given everything that I’ve heard about how harsh the publishing world can be, but these publishers were really quite nice. Here are a few excerpts:

“I’m attracted to this idea and to April Davila, who has such a nice presence on the page….”

“The author has a great voice and I really enjoyed reading through it…”

and my personal favorite:

“Davila obviously has a very bright future ahead of her, and I have no doubt her experience as a scientist will give her a unique perspective to take on this subject from all angles….”

But then, the ellipses were shortly followed by the reason they couldn’t take on the book. Some had similar projects on their slates already, and some where weary of the “Month/year of” type book. It seems to be the general consensus of the publishing industry that “Eat, Pray, Love,” was the pinnacle of the “Month/year of” books and that they’re on the down swing from here on out.

So my agent and I went back to the drawing board and re-conceived the idea for the book. On Monday I sent her the revised version of the proposal now titled “Monsanto: How a company you’ve never heard of controls what you eat, drink and wear.”

Though loosely based on my experiences last year, it’s a much more in depth look at the evolution of the company, and how it has come to dominate our food supply.

Anyhow, my agent is reading the version over and I am waiting to hear her thoughts. In the meantime, this is a perfect time to sneak in a few hours with my fiction.

Fingers crossed for the little guy to take a long nap today.

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Dishin’ The Real

Some bloggers are very formal, sticking to a specific topic and keeping it very professional. Some have made a profession out of being very personable, of sharing positively every damn little ting that pops into their heads.

Because I know there is no such things as privacy on the internet, I’ve always kept things on the professional side. When I do rant, I tend to make names and places anonymous. The thing is, I’ve come to realize lately that the blogs I enjoy reading are the ones that occasionally dip into over sharing, the ones that actually let lose and tell it like it is.

Well here goes nothing.

In my last post I talked about how I was feeling so stressed that I broke down crying at my writer’s group. Well, truth be told, that was completely non-writing-related stress. My three month old baby boy has been having some health problems, and the doctors were having trouble determining what was causing them. This after a rough pregnancy (I was on bed rest for three months), laboring for 20 hours with a faulty epidural, and then having to go home without my baby (who spent two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit). Things have pretty fucking challenging around here since, oh, about August of last year.

To top it all off, my daughter seems particularly prone to accidents. Two weekends ago she rode a sled into a tree at full speed and landed herself in an ambulance to the ER in South Lake Tahoe.

I’m downright frazzled. And through this all I’ve been doing my damnedest to keep putting my fingers on the keyboard, to keep writing no matter what.

I think the reason I couldn’t bring myself to share all of this difficult stuff while it was happening was that it was just too scary. My writer brain has a field day with the what if’s, always jumping to the worst case scenarios.

Thankfully, as of Tuesday of last week my daughter’s double black eyes were beginning to heal. By Thursday we got the news that our little guy will recover fully and that his blood tests are in fact already showing signs of improvement. It’s looking like everything is going to be okay. But what if they weren’t? How on earth could I find the strength to blog about it? And furthermore, does the health status of my kids have any place on a blog about writing?

Insofar as it effects my writing, I suppose it does. So I’m adding a resolution to my list for 2011: practice bringing a bit of balance to my blog by sharing a more about my personal life.

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Putting My Mask On First

I tend to try to do too much. It’s not that I’m an overachiever, it’s just that I really truly feel like life is too short for all the things I want to do before I die. I want to SCUBA dive in Maldives, hike the John Muir trail, take a surfing vacation with my sister, get back on my mountain bike for some wicked single track yo. I want to see the sun rise on the Inca Trail and meditate with the monks in Tibet. I want to drink wine with my friends pretty much every night. There are so many things I want to do, but the thing that trumps most is my writing.

So whenever I have free time I’m inclined of be in front of my computer typing away. The thing is, with the new baby and the three year old and the husband I still love spending time with after ten years, there just isn’t much free time and I often end up feeling stressed out.

I like to think I hide it well, but at my writing group the other night I wasn’t fooling anyone. It was probably the crying that tipped them off. They insisted that I make some time for me this week. One of the ladies in my group suggested I check out a place called Heart and Sole in Pasadena. They do a full body, hour long massage, clothes on, in the leather recliners that manicurists use, for just $25. I was skeptical, but was too stressed out to argue.

I got a babysitter and went for it.

I’m pretty sure the babysitter thinks I’m having an affair. I left stressed and frazzled, and came back relaxed, with my hair all a mess (from the scalp massage). It was just what I needed. It changed my whole outlook.

Sometimes it’s hard to put yourself first. In fact, I think as moms we tend to err on the side of putting ourselves last, but it’s like when you’re on an airplane and they tell you to put your own mask on first, then help the kids you’re traveling with. There’s a reason they say that.

So this one goes out to the ladies in my writing group. You were right. Thank you.

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