Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil

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The Big Wherever

Rene Magritte, "Le Beau Monde"

Rene Magritte, “Le Beau Monde”

We are put on this earth to create something. It is our duty to bring a bit of heaven down below and fortify others to do the same. Never stop. Never compare. I do this all too much and have realized lately that it’s a futile gesture. Comparing and doubting provides the negative juju. It implants unnecessary fear and stops that lovely flow that draws itself from The Big Wherever. The Big Wherever. That’s what I love to call it.  It’s something you can’t describe because it’s not our business to describe it. It’s somewhere in the ether or the heavens. You can call it God or Jesus. You can call it a portal to a fertile source. But we are here to create something wonderful. That could be a child, a building, a car, a dress, a yoga class and baseball game an article in a magazine – anything. Multiply it until you’ve filled the world with a line of new thoughts, visions, clothes, words, books, ideas. We need to bring it down from The Big Wherever because that’s our purpose in life. Don’t stop the flow. Just be. It will come.


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Write Today….Be Happy Tomorrow

do something

A little end of week inspiration. This is an excerpt from my rambling journal on 750words.com – a website that helps you write everyday. I treat it like my morning pages. This came out. Hope it helps the writer in you. Please disregard any redundant words. This was a free flow.

If you write at least 500 words a day for a year, you actually have a nice novel brewing. Don’t lose the fight.  I realized in mid-life I had let so many days go by without doing a damn thing. If I had written 300 – 500 words or even 1000 words a day starting 20 years ago, I’d have 10 novels published by now — perhaps self published a whole library of books. I may have attracted a literary agent and publisher by now.

Don’t let your days go wasted if you feel the burning desire to write. Pick up the pencil, pen, computer keyboard and write anything. Write “I don’t know what to write” twenty times until your brain starts to open up. Then let it flow. Don’t hold back. There is always editing. Think of writing as plopping up a glob of wonderful clay – it’s the raw material of minerals and compounds – these are like sentences and paragraphs of thoughts, stories, melding scenes that pronounce scenes and illustrate the human condition. When you’re done with the blob of thought and story – then comes the editing – you take your knife and start carving it out, honing it, getting rid of a passage you love but doesn’t fit (Keep a Text dump file where you plop your scissored out passage – the ones you really like but don’t fit. That way you can  have it set aside for something else someday. It can be a morsel to the beginning of another story.) The more you carve and clip and paste and rearrange and prod, the more you’ll see your story become a concise, firm, pearl of an essay or short story or novel. This even applies to non-fiction writing which is something I did more of in the past few decades.

Write! Write like the wind! Don’t wait for a muse or an open door in your brain. You invite that all in when you sit down and begin.

Happy Friday!

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Cosmic Anesthesia

As a writer, I’m rather proud of the way I was able to express this story. So I’m reblogging hoping more people read it. I’d like to hear what others think.

Order of the Good Write

Screenshot 2015-01-25 11.11.03When I was a very young child, I used to walk out of the house and wander around the neighborhood alone.  I was so young I wasn’t even in school yet.  It was somewhere in the 1960’s, the decade where kids ate paint, breathed asbestos and played with plastic dry cleaning bags before the printed warnings became mandatory. I hardly understood the 60’s. They were my Landing-on-Earth years. Like an astronaut who just touched down, I was getting my wobbly legs used to gravity and time. I don’t know where I came from. All I know is I left a warm, comfortable limbo and slowly woke up to the bright, loud reality of this planet.

My mom said I hardly cried as a child. I didn’t talk much. It’s probably because I was taking it all in. Each moment held dreamy images and curious exploration. In hindsight, being a toddler…

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Just Write

three shot female authorThis is a disjointed post today. Writing is so weird. You come up with ideas, and then you articulate them into words and sentences to form thoughts and images, to extract meaning and crystallize human emotions with a witty phrase or retort.  You know what’s also weird? When other writers have to create a role for themselves. Examples: She’s the crazy goth girl who writes poetry about cutting and bleeding. He’s the damaged emotional emo nerd who uses comic book semantics while fighting off robots from outer space; She’s the fucked up girl with daddy issues whose anger alienates everyone, including her readers, so she pontificates about how society sucks.

Oh reader and fellow writer, there’s a little bit of that in all of us.  Especially if we’re young or mid-aged precious little snowflakes stuck in the snowstorm of life. Try plowing that snowdrift.

Tapping once again into Hannah Horvath, our flawed millennial heroine – through her, we see how artists and writers can paint ourselves into a persona. Hannah’s Iowa world is filled with writers who are self critical beings projecting their insecurities upon others to sustain their own frail confidence.  It’s a microcosmic version of what most writers face every day – not only in classes or workshops – but in the comment section of Gawker, Jezebel or any website where thoughts and reactions unleash a spillage of nitpicky, unnecessary, snarky, hard edged commentary written by someone hiding behind an anonymous screen name.  Today’s writing is not only a creative process explaining the world around us and  existential conundrums. Today’s writing can sometimes be a meeting of trolls with a platform to crap upon anyone who makes a typo. You have to have skin as thick as a brick to let these blogger foes get to you.

This is why I’m conflicted over Hannah’s drunken speech to her fellow workshop cohorts on last Sunday’s “Girls”. I loved it – because we all want to say it. Yet, in calling out everyone around her for being fake and pretentious, she herself has carved a little persona for herself – self righteous brat who thinks she’s being correct by being brutally honest and alienated herself in the process. Gotta give her credit – she’s trolling her workshop mates face to face and not behind a pseudonym or online handle. And in turn, Hannah said plenty of things one wishes to say to the snarks on Facebook or on Amazon or on Jezebel, but the point is – why bother? In doing it, you fall onto the same level as those you’re verbally pummeling. I get detached irony (I’m guilty of it), but when does it become too insulting – too….bullying?  I love Lena Dunham for making Hannah this way. We don’t have to adore our protagonist. People are flawed. Writers young and old can be tetchy.  It’s a growing process, and we’re all growing no matter what age.

Writers, dear fellow writers. Let’s just all be ourselves. Let the words flow. When inspiration hits, just go with it. Don’t block it out. If it doesn’t come, don’t beat yourself up.

There’s something unexplainable about the force of creativity. It seems to come from nowhere. Everyone from The Beatles to Bob Dylan to The Decemberists, Wilco, Sia, JayZ – they all create something that provides meaning for the universe. But they cannot explain the process. The process and the source doesn’t really belong to them.  So, there’s no reason to let the haters or the lovers get to us. Keep it even keel. Enjoy the creative source and write the good write. Tell the good tale. Express the bad if you can. Don’t question it. And unless you’re vying to become a public figure with a PR campaign to bring you over the edge to the conscious of a public audience – don’t get lost in a persona. Bob Dylan did that, and he had to explain to journalists and stalkers for the last fifty years that he is not what he seems. He’s just a human being who’s a conduit to a rich source.

And if you have to tell someone they are a pretentious dope, don’t say it to their face. Take that energy and write a story about it where your antagonist is a big asshole. That can be a very enjoyable read.  I wish Hannah would have done that instead of eating brownie mix, watching TV, chatting with Eliah, getting drunk and handing a verbal moral mirror to the faces of her fellow writers. Maybe she wouldn’t have her bike stolen all the time.

Peace and love, winter snow birds!

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Inspiration in the Bleak Mid-Winter, Day 5 (Blizzard Edition)


(Nothing deep. I just love this song about an emotional Christmas day in the snow. Besides, it’s Sufjan Stevens and it’s pretty, wintery, melancholic snow day music.)

Going outside
Shoveling snow in the driveway, driveway
Taking our shoes
Riding a sled down the hillside, hillside
Can you say what you want?
Can you say what you want to be?
Can you be what you want?
Can you be what you want?

Our father yells
Throwing the gifts in the wood stove, wood stove
My sister runs away
Taking her books to the schoolyard, schoolyard
In time the snow will rise
In time the snow will rise…

“That Was The Worst Christmas Ever”

Words & Music by Sufjan Stevens from Songs for Christmas (p)2006 Asthmatic Kitty Records


Cosmic Anesthesia

Screenshot 2015-01-25 11.11.03When I was a very young child, I used to walk out of the house and wander around the neighborhood alone.  I was so young I wasn’t even in school yet.  It was somewhere in the 1960’s, the decade where kids ate paint, breathed asbestos and played with plastic dry cleaning bags before the printed warnings became mandatory. I hardly understood the 60’s. They were my Landing-on-Earth years. Like an astronaut who just touched down, I was getting my wobbly legs used to gravity and time. I don’t know where I came from. All I know is I left a warm, comfortable limbo and slowly woke up to the bright, loud reality of this planet.

My mom said I hardly cried as a child. I didn’t talk much. It’s probably because I was taking it all in. Each moment held dreamy images and curious exploration. In hindsight, being a toddler turning into a young tike was like waking up from deep sleep – or coming out of cosmic anesthesia. Flashes of ceiling and light beamed over my crib.  I remember nothing but images, tastes and sounds. Songs on the radio, “Close to You, “Happy Together”, “Mrs. Robinson” filled the audible space. The first nauseating taste of morning eggs in my mouth. Blossoms from the Japanese Cherry tree in our backyard danced outside my nursery window. There’s an out of body memory in my head of me clinging to my mother’s hip. Since I was born in the wake of JFK’s assassination, vague faces of the Kennedy clan floated by, black and white and grainy, likely from the TV news in the background.

As I was saying, I used to open the door to our house when my mother wasn’t looking. I’d stroll down the street, and enter backyards. This young wanderlust is likely inside all children; yet, mothers of today would be sent to jail for neglect if a little girl under the age of five is found wandering the neighborhood, splashing in the Bilquin’s pond, or playing with ornamental ceramic garden ducks. My vague memories are mostly scenes where I walk through gardens and feel a deep, innate, ancient sense of peace and zen. Perhaps young children are still fresh with the spirit of heaven. We tend to loose that feeling through the years, reaching for meditation, yoga and self help books on inner tranquility.  My mother did the best she could despite my periodic escapes. Neighbors and their older kids would find me, take me by the hand, and bring me back to my house. My mother would be thankful, and try to keep her eye on me, but I’d always get out.

One memory is of a spring day. I opened the door, walked up our path to the street and wandered beyond an empty lot at the end of Wilmoth Avenue through a small thicket of woods to the Wilson’s backyard. The family had an acre or two of land that seemed like an open field.

On this day, my attention was struck by a single red deflating balloon that appeared out of nowhere.  It had a long white string tied to the loosening knot with a post card dangling at the end. The wind pushed it forward over the grass, bouncing away from me, dragging the string as I chased this ethereal little rubber fellow around like we were in a ballet. It was a living dream, as if I was following a note from God with a message someone could read to me, like a story my dad told me before bedtime. Maybe it would reveal that everything was going to be okay in this life. Or perhaps it was a game?

I finally grabbed the string and held this precious sagging sphere, my reward for winning the chase.  I took the postcard and looked at its’ hand written content, a scribble with loopy flourishes laced on one side. The feeling of success and elation turned to confusion.  I was a least three or four years old. I didn’t know how to read.  I brought the balloon and the note back home with me, and hid it somewhere in our house. I was suddenly nervous to have anyone read the postcard out loud. I felt the message and the balloon didn’t really belong to me, and I’d be in trouble for having chased it down in a place I shouldn’t have been in the first place. Who knows? I was so very young.

I never found the note inside my old house again. It was likely lost in accumulated clutter, gained after years of growing up.

This story struck me as an interesting tale to write for children. It swirled in my mind – the balloon, the mysterious message. It all felt like the game ‘Myst’, where I was alone in a silent surreal world known as early childhood, dancing with a balloon that held a message. Then, I realized, in today’s world of “Political Correctness”, there would be cries of “How could your mother let you wander off alone?”  or  “Oh My God, you could have been abducted!” or “Poor parenting.”  Believe me, my half older brother has born it into me how embarrassing it was to have a mother who had moments of irresponsibility. But I don’t care. It was a different time. I was safe and watched by kind neighbors who only shook their heads knowing my mom held a touch of the flake. I cherish those moments of heaven, a child trying to find a little of the mystical world she left behind.

Last year, I was on Facebook and came across a school alumni forum for my old high school. Someone from my hometown who graduated about 15 years before I did posted the following. (I changed the name, and I’m paraphrasing, but the message was indeed this…)

Jenna MacDougal: Hi Guys!  Class of 68 here!  Remember when we did that project where we let go of all those balloons with postcards praising peace and love? How cool was that!?

After all these years, I finally have it confirmed. It was a note from God after all, sent through the hand of a teenager who wanted to spread the word.


Writers Workshop Fatigue

Girls iowa workshopThere’s been plenty of discussion regarding last Sunday night’s episode of “Girls” when Hannah participated in her first Iowa writer’s workshop. Ah, it brought me back. All those writing courses and the interactive feedback sessions. The papers read aloud, the commentary you must be open to in order to improve as a writer. The whole, “getting out of your head” concept, and allowing in the critique of readers who’ve read your work, or have listened to it read loud in class. Ugh. Just plain…ugh.

When Hannah’s workshop scene uncomfortably revealed itself onscreen, I cringed with familiarity at the hyper critical snark of her classmates.  After many classes at the New School in New York and undergraduate work at my college, there was something useful, yet self defeating about hearing the reactions of my fellow classmates. On one hand, they provided productive suggestions, allowing me to hear a reader’s perception of my work. On the other hand, the critiques were given with a hint of ill intent and taken with bad feelings, especially if one’s skin wasn’t thick enough.

Now, this isn’t the case with everyone. Writing workshops can be fun, inclusive and educational. Most of the time they are required for college credit, but in non-academia life, a writer will volunteer to participate in the self flagellation and come out like a dented can. Yet, there are good parts to the process. You can meet like minded people, create connections and even find a life long collaborator who will send you both into fame and success!  But sometimes it’s the opposite, and I’ve run into contrarian fellow writers who want to rain on your writers workshop parade.

One time, I had an article read aloud in class. Honestly, I cannot remember what it was about, but I do remember writing on how much I loved New York City. In one passage, I referred to New York City (or Manhattan) as being a “town”. It was a colloquial commentary, just to color the description of the topic at hand.

One person raised their hand and said. “New York City isn’t a town. It’s a city.”

The entire class sat silent.  I remember the silence felt like a ten minute pause. What do you mean, New York isn’t a “town”? Of course it’s referred to as a “town” in a jaunty little tip of the hat kind of way.

The quiet pause ended when my teacher, and various other students started singing “New York, New York, a hell of a TOWN”.

I looked at the guy.  “See?” I telekenetically said to him in my head, “A hell of a town. From the musical and film  “On The TOWN” containing a title referring to New York as a TOWN?”

I like good, constructive criticism and most of the time, I enjoyed it in this class. But, I’m not down with deliberate call outs that don’t hold up.

Sometimes, the critiques are personal. One time, I was in a non-fiction writing course where we each had to write a short memoir on our parents in the guise of our younger selves. In my essay, I mentioned an incident with my mother (who dealt with mental illness) and how it embarrassed me.  It didn’t embarrass me that evening, and it doesn’t embarrass me today, but in writing like a child, it embarrassed me when I was that child. The paper was read aloud by our professor.

One student remarked, “How could you be embarrassed by your mother over her illness?”

“I was writing about me as a child and how I was embarrassed by what she did,” I defensively said. And defensive I was. This was my story as a child. My mother. My feelings were on display within each sentence of this manuscript, as were all of our stories that day.

“I just don’t get why you are embarrassed by your mother,” she continued.

“That’s getting really personal,” I said. “This is my story about this moment as a child.” I continued, “Writing reveals icky things. If this article didn’t show proof on why I was embarrassed, then I didn’t do my job as a writer. This isn’t a family discussion, this is workshop. Don’t judge me. Judge the writing.”

When it comes to doling out comments that are more of a judgement of YOU than of the writing – it can really damage a writer. She shrugged at my response, but I still felt really crappy about the moment. It set me back on writing honestly about things that can be a tad brutal. Feedback like that can plant the seed of self doubt. It sucks. But it’s your responsibility, as it is mine, to not react that way. Brush it off. Seriously. Just. Brush. That. Off.

Part of the process of writing and the interaction of other writers is knowing the balance of good commentary and bad. You have to let the bad comments go, and let the useful ones stay – and I’m not talking about compliments. Even the ones that hurt can be jewels, but not if they are given out of ill will spawned from competitiveness or just for the sake of being a naysayer.

Sometimes writer’s workshops are terrific resources to get you writing. Other times, they make you believe you’re doing something about your writing, when in fact,you’re not doing much at all in the long run. Take a class, get what you can out of it, but don’t do what I did. Don’t take too many. Want your work read? Bring in friends, beta readers and editors. Those useful reviews aid you in getting something OUT THERE in print or online. In class, everyone is looking out for themselves. Everyone wants something published or read on NPR. They’re aren’t interested in your own positive outcome. Critiquing your work is allowing them to learn about their own writing – not yours. Slowly but surely, self doubt seeps into your head. This doubt leads to stunting the writing process. So I say…let it go. Don’t take it personally. Just let the words flow and have a goal.

I’m still chuckling at the self righteous snobs in Hannah’s class. How does anyone get any writing done with that self guessing, negative noise?  Go Hannah (and every writer out there). Take what you can, but don’t let them get to you.

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Inspiration in the Bleak Mid-Winter, Day 3

“…MLKI have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3

~~Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Inspiration in the Bleak Mid-Winter, Day Two

john keating 2

Robin Williams as John Keating, “Dead Poets Society”, 1989.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.’ The Latin term for that sentiment is Carpe Diem. Now who knows what that means?…Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Why does the writer use these lines?…Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day gonna stop breathing, turn cold, and die.

Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You’ve walked past them many times. I don’t think you’ve really looked at them. They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. Do you hear it? (whispering in a gruff voice) Carpe. Hear it? (whispering) Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

~~ As spoken by John Keating, ‘Dead Poets Society’. Screenplay by Tom Schulman.