Poetry

Izzy’s Happy the Book is Done — and so am I!

You may have wondered what happened to Izzy and me.  You may not.  Well, whether you have or haven’t, I’m going to tell you.  I was finishing my novel.  Now it’s done, and I am edging back toward normal.  Or  at least what can be called normal for writer types like me.  Once I hit the last key and sent the novel on to my hopefully-new-agent, the crud hit me, reminding me that I AM a human being even though I often forget that part.  After a visit to urgent care and doctor’s orders to stay home for a week (bronchitis, verging on pneumonia), I’m back to tinkering on the keyboard.  Izzy has been a fine nurse for the past week, but I’m getting cabin fever, and as much as he likes me being home, I think he’s ready to have his naps whenever and wherever he wants them rather than following me around the house.

It’s funny, but this forced relaxation has made me ponder my writing.  I think of the novel-writing process as having physical stages.  There’s the Walking Stage.  In the very beginning of cooking up a novel, I take Izzy for long walks to let my brain work out the basic premise of the story where I don’t have to be bothered by techno-interruptions.  He loves that part.

Then there’s the Hopping Stage.  This is the part where I’m getting the outline down on the page.  There’s a lot of hopping up to get tea, then settling back in for a while, growling a lot, then hopping back up to get more tea . . . or if it’s past noon somewhere, wine.  Lots of wine.  Izzy gets patted a lot during this stage.

The next stage is the Scrunching Stage.  I’m at the table or on the couch or in the bed scrunched over the laptop or a pad of paper.  Unfortunately, my butt gets wider during this stage, Izzy is walked less, and I tend to eat a lot of brownies or chocolate chip cookies or pizza.  Definitely not a healthy stage.  But Izzy loves pizza crust!

The third stage is the longest, but the fourth stage–the Yoga Stage–is the best one.  Because my back and shoulders are so sore from the Scrunching Stage, I have to do lots of yoga to work out the kinks when I’m in the process of editing and proofreading.  Izzy’s really good at Down Dog, but he sucks at headstands.

Finally, the last stage.  The Staring into Space and Thinking Stage.  Not much physical movement other than with the eyes.  Often I’m rolling them at some stupid paragraph or closing them to imagine where I was going with a scene or rubbing them because I’m just so damn tired.  During this stage, my laptop is somewhere near at all times.  Izzy’s sick of the novel by this stage and pushes his way into my lap, no matter what kind of tasty treats I throw to the floor to keep him busy.  He protests that it’s time for him again, and he’s right.

Unfortunately, it seems that after the novel is done, I have a final-final stage when my body and mind are exhausted and need some rejuvenation.  It’s during this stage that Izzy earns his keep, because then he becomes Nurse Izzy, and though he often sleeps on the job, he’s the best Nurse in the world.

Now if I could just talk him into buying a publishing company . . . .

Sleepy Nurse

Sleepy Nurse

Izzy’s no help during NaNoWriMo

It’s November and that means it’s NaNoWriMo.  National Novel Writing Month.  For those of you not insane enough to write, it’s the month that we writers stick our butts in our chairs and don’t move until we’ve churned out 50,000 words.  If you listen closely right before midnight on November 30th, you’ll hear a sound much like that one when you rip a bandage off a skinned knee.  That’s our butts as we collectively remove ourselves from our chairs and go back to a normal life.  Or at least what could be considered normal for someone who stares at a computer screen talking to invisible people most of the time.

Dogs don’t understand that, and that’s one of the reasons Izzy’s no help during NaNoWriMo.

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When I talk to the screen, he thinks I’m telling him we need to go outside or play with the ball or eat dinner or — the most exciting–go get a treat.  He comes to my side, sits his little self down on the floor, cocks his head and barks once.  If I don’t quite get it and don’t move immediately, his tush comes off the floor and he goes into a puppy bow.  Heaven forbid I continue talking to that invisible person on screen, because then it’s a full-blown insistence for my attention — and an immediate walk.  Do not pause, mama, do not talk to that person in the screen, do not tell me to wait ten minutes.  Now.  Walk.  Pee.  Poop.

Fifty thousand words in one month.  1667 per day.  5.5 pages a day.  Or maybe 3000 words on a weekend day.  7-10 pages on a Sunday.  2-3 every other day during the week.  And if you write by hand, a cramped fist.  If working on a computer, stiff shoulders and a crick in your neck.

One good thing about NaNoWriMo when you have a dog is that you are forced to get up before the sun rises to take the little bugger for a walk.  Izzy forces me up before the sun stripes the sky with fuschia, pumpkin and robin’s egg blue.  Bleary-eyed with my brain still out of gear, I negotiate the dark streets with him running before me, determined to examine every telephone pole and pee on every bush.  While he explores, I kick the novel-writing mind into gear and think about the next scene I will write, consider what the character will do and how those actions will affect other characters, what the actions will impact further into the novel, and whether I should wait that scene for a time that’s more apropos of the story.  As Izzy paces back and forth dozens of times looking for the perfect place to poop, I’m considering whether to flesh out the description of a scene I wrote the previous day and whether to take time from creating the requisite 50K words to mine back over the pages already developed to see whether they should be shifted around or rewritten.  But the point is to move forward like the boats that split icebergs.  Constantly forward.  Nothing to do but to forge ahead.

Dogs never move straight ahead.  Their traffic patterns run in swirls and squiggles and include squeezing out pee drops so they can let others know they’ve been there.  A NaNoWriMo for dogs would start on November 1 and end in July (the previous July).

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What Izzy DOES understand about NaNoWriMo is that occasionally I get stuck.  When that happens, he does his job quite well.  He moves into my lap, lifting my hand with his nose so that I know my job is now to pat his head or rub his stomach.  Taking a break is most important in NaNoWriMo for it is in those moments that the creativity creeps in and the mind is refreshed.

I guess Izzy knows more about writing novels than I give him credit for.

A Dog’s Vacation is Never Done

The past two weeks have been inhumanly difficult.  Not a dog’s life. Impossible, really.  And Izzy has known it.  Every night, he crawls up on my lap and lays his head on my hand.  If I try to work at night, he insists of being beside me, paw pulling my hand away from my laptop.  He stares at me with his dark, round eyes as if begging me to pay attention to him.  He knows that I don’t normally stay in anxiety mode when I get home.  I know yoga.  I know how to breathe.  I know how to relax.  But this past two weeks have required working non-stop and anxiety is my middle name.

It’s the perfect time for a stay-cation.

And Izzy knows that, too.

This morning, he crawled up on my lap while I was still in bed (doing my checkbook — yup, I know.  Enough with the nonstop work.) and insisted I pay attention to him.  You’ve been in another place for weeks, his gaze seemed to say.  You owe me.

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Last night, his eyes drooped as I stayed up until 1 AM reading.  This morning, he pulled me determinedly as we walked up Main Street, and he understood when we had to make a u-turn because I heard the old guy’s cane tapping as he walked his pittie mix a block ahead of us.  I didn’t want to deal with the dog’s growling and barking and pulling at the leash to get at Izzy.  I think Izzy understands when we have to make detours.  He knows who his friends are and who aren’t.  The black pug and the girlie boxer and the raggedy Shihtzu and the little Maltese are his friends.  He understands their names when I speak them, and he loves being able to say hello to them when we’re on walks, but he doesn’t mind at all when we don’t say hello to the pittie mix that hates us. Izzy’s smart that way.  He realizes that not everyone has to be your friend.  I need to learn that lesson.

This morning, Izzy kept close until I finished eating a late breakfast and took out the laptop again.  Then he looked at me, gave a little nod and moved into the other room to wait for the mail delivery.  This is our weekend routine, even though it’s not the weekend.  He knows our weekend pattern:  breakfast in bed, catching up on TV, some reading, then I go out for a while:  visit my grandson, see friends, come back every four hours or so to check up on Izzy, more relaxed, not stressed like during the week.

By the end of this little stay-cation we’re about to start, I will have let loose of the anxiety. I will write and read.  I will see friends and family.  Izzy and I will have walked long walks at least twice a day.  He will have visited the groomer and will have shed at least five pounds of fur.  He will have cuddled with me on the couch for hours.  He will have greeted some of my friends who will visit.  He will have taught me the meaning of vacationing.  He will have simply enjoyed being with me.  Living.

Other People’s Blogs: Planet of the Blind

Because I’ve been a writer for more than 9/10 of my life (I could probably say 100%, but there was that one or two weeks when I couldn’t speak or write a sentence . . . ), I have a lot of friends who are also writers.  I support them as much as I possibly can by buying their books, talking about their work to other friends who read, and having coffee (wine) with them to talk about the business.  We share joys and triumphs and we try to ignore those moments when all seems unusually dark.  We are writers.  We are used to rejection and suspicious of those moments that feel off-the-charts happy.  No matter what the emotions, we’ll write about them.

Today, I spent the day working on a schedule for a friend’s poetry readings at my College.  While I was putting together the pieces, another friend was writing about her one-eyed dog’s death on Facebook.  That heartbreaking news (the dog was truly a super hero) reminded me that my poet friend wrote an occasional blog for a blog called “Planet of the Blind.”  The writer who hosts that blog, Stephen Kuusisto, has a remarkable connection to the one-eyed dog.  You see, Stephen is blind, and his best friend is his dog.  He writes about that dog, a gorgeous yellow retriever who acts as his seeing-eye dog, his partner in life.  And his latest blog is particularly beautiful.

So, here, in honor of Andrea Scarpino, the poet who has written ‘Once, Then’ and will be at my College on April 15 and 16, and for Sarah Louise’s Mia, is the beautiful “Planet of the Blind.”

http://www.stephenkuusisto.com/blog