Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Art of Staying the Course by Leona Beasley

Graffiti on St. Paul's Ct & Park Ave, Bklyn
When I struck out to write a novel I had no idea it would take me over seven years. I say seven years because I can’t bear to tell you an exact number plus its nobody’s business so I’ll leave it at that.*

Three times over these seven plus years I thought I’d completed the manuscript only to discover it needed more work. The last year I completely overhauled it, slashing and burning at least one hundred and fifty pages, which I then systematically rewrote with one lead character in mind not three.

I was able to do this rather efficiently because I worked with a very special person I call my writing doula. She calls herself a writing coach. Throughout the course of the year she offered up being a sounding board, a hand holder, a swift kick in the butt artist, and a reality check maven.

Here are the facts—writing is hard, grueling work. The act itself is not pretty. It messes with your mind, threatens your sanity and in general lessens your social skills. That is unless you consider drinking alone in the back of a dusty bar on a Wednesday afternoon a social skill. The thing that has to be done is to stay with the work so you can finish the work.

This may sound a little like psycho mumbo jumbo—a silly platitude—stay with the work. Don’t give up! It may be corny but I assure you it’s true.

Years ago I read Anne Lamott, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” It changed my understanding about what it means to be a writer. In it Ms. Lamott talks about the shitty first draft, and the importance of telling the unvarnished truth. She goes on say the actual act of writing turns out to be the best part.

Presently, my novel is in the hands of an agent, and with a two others reading an excerpted chapter. It’s has been a month and everyday I check my email several times a day, hoping I’ll win the writer’s version of the lotto—hearing back from an agent or publisher.

I’ve written a shitty first draft of my second novel, but I haven’t been able to concentrate on editing it. I have to get cracking. I really don’t think it will take me seven plus years. Its important for me to remember being mired in the muck of the work is the best part. Anne Lamott said so and I believe her.

(* You only tell the real number of years after there is success. As in, folks are buying your novel and NPR calls.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

On a walk in my new Brooklyn neighborhood I spotted this sight.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Views of the Hudson River from my front window March 2011

The skies have



for me,


I humbly


their artistry.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Creativity of the Non-Resolution by Leona Beasley

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, therefore I don’t make them.

I do however like to set and reach goals. Perhaps my words are semantics in action.

New Years’ resolutions seemed attached to guilt and fear. Somewhere between: Oh my Gawd I haven’ How in the world do I learn to…

You’ve failed all year to do that thing you’ve most wanted to accomplish. Perhaps you’re wanted it for many years, even a decade.

And at the end of, or beginning of the New Year—now—Now is the time to make it stick. NOT!

So I make unpressured goals. Something fun. Something that even if I only sprinkle a few drops throughout my day, weeks, months and years, I’ll experience movement, and change—I’ll get something new.

My goal is to actively play with creativity, to make it my friend and go on dates with it. To spend unbridled and designated time where I go out in the world and experiences things I love (like movies, museums and poetry and fiction readings).

Or try things I’ve only thought about in passing, like take a cooking class, a wine tasting and pairing class, or bird watch with nature geeks.

I want to creatively try things I can’t imagine presently. In this understanding I plan to be open to new experiences, be game to see and feel the un-imaginable; To boldly go where no man (no woman) has ever gone.

Okay took that line from Star Trek’s opening credits; still it drives home the image of trying something new.

Living creatively is the goal I want to accompany me this year and to infinity and beyond.

I love Buzz Light Year.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Creativity of Options by Leona Beasley

Foolish but innocently I went with my wife to pick out a dog. Though we’d looked at a number of dogs several times before. I knew in my heart we’d come back with Jackson.

The problem at hand is I had no idea how difficult, challenges, how much work it takes to care for a dog. Nor did I know just how much of a concrete decision I was making.

In grad school I studied with a wonderfully talented writer, and a generous spirit, Abigail Thomas. Her memoir “A Three Dog Life” is a lovely account of life, hope, transformation and love after her husband’s tragic accident.

In class Abby read passages from all types of books: scientific, fiction, poetry, memoir. After the reading Abby gave an assignment linked to the readings.

One assignment might be, “Now write a story where you encounter some one from your past.” Another, “Write a story that includes an orange, a back door and someone with a tattoo.” You get the picture.

I loved having these contained options. Maybe they helped build perimeters of safety around my then budding writing skills. With these added options I unexpectedly got a richness added to my writing. I always came up with stories I liked, some I even loved.

There is an axiom that says Creativity is the Elimination of Options.

I don’t know if this was Abby’s intent, but creativity blossomed in the class each week when person after person read their work out loud. It had a bit of magic.

The option to add Jackson to our family is both scary and expensive as well as time consuming. The alternative option my wife like wouldn’t like. Send him back.

The best option in this life story is to allow the story to play out, and to include a dog name Jackson, a wife who travels and a writer who creates. And see what happens.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Writer’s Life: No Time to Kill by Leona Beasley

I guess I never really lack things to write about—only the time to get them done.

Now time is a funny bugger. Even fickle I’d say. It sometimes likes me and other times now so much. Still I court it like a girl on a mission, a lesbian girl on a mission. Gay girls who read this page know exactly what I mean.

We, in this case—I throw a wide net to snare my pray. The pray being time to write, get myself focused and put pen to paper. I did this when I was looking for a girlfriend. Now days I’m married. I’ve passed on this skill to my writer’s life.

In math classes I liked long division even some geometry. Southern teachers, like southern folks loved to preach about the merits of the subjects they taught or the things they experienced. “The Pythagorean Theorem will come in handy,” Coach Brandon insisted with a southern twang.

In the case of writing time management long division have proven important to know. Dividing up my time between, tweaking my novel, writing art columns, searching for work, revising the second novel, reading works in progress in public, practicing reading, doing a workshop here and there, and simply thinking about putting words together.

And though it doesn’t directly correspond I like knowing that The Pythagorean Theorem is a2 +b2 = c2. Perhaps knowledge of this theorem helps create equal balance as I carve up my time.

And I don’t like to think there isn’t enough time. That thought is too morbid for me. What I will admit is that time is as nebulous as water,
fluid, ever flowing, doing its own thing without regard to what any of my wants, desires or needs. How liberating its must be to be time itself. Never having to be conscientious of the other. Always moving in the forward motion, never looking back.

If I were Time I’d be lousy at its job, too concerned about outcome, way to anxious and un-cool.

The best I can do is to make peace with time. To honor its process, not fight it at every turn, to take it day-by-day. Knowing somehow I’ll get it all done sooner or later.

Today I have twenty-four hours to divide up at will. And now that I completed my thoughts on time I’m off to write something else.