Order of the Good Write

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


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“Swim Til You Can’t See Land”

swim til you can't see land

Artwork by Rebecca Rebouche

David Bowie once said that the best place for a creative person to be is in the in-between. Floating between safety and peril, that lovely bouncing sense of nothing where your heart is in your throat, but your eyes are firmly set on the horizon. When you walk out in to the water’s edge until your feet barely touch the  ground. That’s the perfect place to be.

Sometimes being creative means to be brave. Being creative can mean producing word, art and performance. But it can also mean delving into a new depth of life. It can be about not letting fear get in your way. Bravery is breaking through convention and routine to build a scary road toward a life where you’re honoring your gift.

The best place to be is in the scary. Writing is scary. Creating a life you want rather the one you settle for conjures fear.

Isn’t it nice to know you can embrace fear?

Just embrace it. Let your failures be proof that you tried. Then get up and do it again.

And if you look around at your chaotic life where everything seems to be going wrong, don’t dwell on why. Understand how it happened. How the choices you made brought you here. Don’t dwell. Hash out the plans to get you out of it.

Remember, “The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not. You have to move on.”

Much like the glorious work of Rebecca Rebouche, whose delicate, surreal artwork (whose work you can find here), lends so much toward writing inspiration. Her work allows you to move away from the river’s edge until you feel the scary in-between.

 

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Writing Beyond Convention

writing

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Was it as soon as you learned how to read and write? Or perhaps it was during elementary school when you put together your first story or book review for class?

Perhaps you were a book worm and adored every texture and nuance of storytelling. You devoured pages of fantasy and story line. You believed you could do this too. You wanted to tell stories about people real or make believe. You wanted to dazzle strangers with beautiful books the same way beautiful books dazzled you.

For me, the love of writing took time. When I was a teenager I adored drawing cartoon characters of my teachers and wrote funny, dorky dialogue in squiggled bubbles above their inked heads. I’d pass them along to a friend who would add to the cartoon or the dialogue – and before you knew it, we created little vignettes of school satire that produced suppressed giggles.

Being a writer wasn’t on my mind. I think Jimmy Oxley the cute senior who was the captain of the football team fascinated me more. Then Robbie, then David, the Glenn, then Marc….

Perhaps I was a bit boy crazy, and not the brightest bulb on the marquis as a kid, but I wrote well. However, my understanding of grammar and defining adverbs and adjectives, split participles and run on sentences was lacking. Grammar and its strict rules bored me.  Everything did.

As a child, I used to daydream while gazing out the window.

I’d take California comprehension exams – you know, the one you had to take with a number two pencil, multiple choice,  fill in the dots and you’re done?

I used to glean over the questions and fill in any dot. Or I’d create a pattern with the dots. Perhaps a square or a circle. Sometimes I’d legitimately answer the questions and fill in the dots and then connect them with drawn lines. But most of the time, I’d just fill in random dots just so I could go home.

I had to take summer school between first and second grade because my first grade teacher terrified me and I didn’t understand what she was trying to scream into me. And also – because I filled in random dots on my comprehension exams.

Thanks to my love of dots and going home early on exam day, throughout elementary school I’d be taken out of class to see the school psychologist to talk about my life.

I’d have to take tests to see if I  knew how to put round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes. I’d have to circle photos of things that were the same, determining the difference between two images.

Sometimes they’d take me into the nurses office to conduct hearing tests, to see if my lack of understanding was due to bad hearing.

This was the 60’s and 70’s. They didn’t know about ADD. They only knew that I wasn’t learning the same way the other kids were.

I was able to bring my test scores up, and found myself to be an average student, kept from the more rigorous classes like AP Chemistry or Mr Clancy’s tough English class where students were required to read big, ominous thick books – Dickens, Steinbeck, James Joyce…within days of each other.

Despite all that, I somehow got into AP/College English when I was a senior in high school. I applied for the program because I knew I was so much better than my school thought I was.

Yes, I got in and thrived. But when I entered college, I had to take Basic English because I couldn’t define the fundamentals of sentence structure and grammar.  I could use them appropriately, but I couldn’t technically define them on a test.

I used grammar the best I could. I’d create a well drawn thesis, funny, well crafted and perfectly backed up with thought provoking samples. I had teachers applaud my good work. One even took me aside and thought I was a professional writer.

But I couldn’t tell you what a split infinitive is.

It took me a long time to learn that just because you don’t get the answers right, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

I mean…look at this creative answer.

creative test answers

The student may never know what an ovary or adrenal gland is, but he/she created the “Kung Fu gland”, which feels right in so many ways.

It took a written communication class in my freshman year at college for everything to click. Professor Elsa Nunez busted my butt into teaching me good writing – both creative and analytically. After stumbling with errors and falling on my wordy little butt, it suddenly all clicked.

Writing was my thing. And as I endeavored into the drudgery of the nine to five world,  I pushed it aside like a hobby.

Big mistake.

Yes, I have my bad writing days. No, not everything written and posted is amazing. But the drive to create something, to bring it out in the world – to “finishing the hat”, was the true nugget of desire that stirred in that class and many classes thereafter.

Some writers always knew they wanted to write. Others discovered it through a teacher, a good paper or winning essay. But with so many brains and perspectives, there is no one definite way to be a writer.

And if you stumble over imperfections and poor grammar, pick up Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style”. Don’t stifle your imagination due to the rules of English.  Hire a great editor and learn from her.

Remember why you wanted to write, even when you are stuck. Even when you feel your writing seems to suck.

No one can write your story but you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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World Series of Weekends

IloveNYCChelseaart

A few weeks ago, my uncle Charles – brother of my dad – called to say he was making the entire month of October his birthday celebration month. October 29th, 2015 would be his 83rd birthday. So, he spent the entire month traveling around New England and parts of Canada, finally landing in Brooklyn where he stayed with his friend Eleanor Kupencow in her glorious DUMBO apartment, and then off to spend another four or five days in Greenwich Village in another friend’s apartment (while they were off in Majorca building their dream home) where he and my aunt Cathryn would stay and apartment/dog sit.

I can’t remember if I invited myself or if they invited me. But there was a sofa with my name on it, and I grabbed the chance to get to NYC without having to pay for a hotel.

It turned out, the weekend of October 30th through November 1st was a perfect storm of New York City happenings. It was my uncle’s birthday. It was Halloween. It was the NYC Marathon. It was the end of Daylight Savings time. And then…my NY Mets were in the World Series and they were hosting the Royals at home.

Add the fact I have to see every off Broadway show I can in three days, and I had myself a jammed pack weekend of World Series proportions.

I can pontificate through literary prose how my weekend went, but I will list everything discovered and done:

Fell in LOVE with Maison Kayser on Bleecker and Christopher Street. It’s the Bakery from the fluffiest, wondrous part of heaven where the Brahma of baked goods smiles upon you. Croissants that are dense and gooey. Chocolate tarts are stacked with incredible chocolate surprises and a regular menu where you can eat breakfast lunch and dinner. We were only there for dessert, so please – go there – eat a meal and tell me what you had. I won’t be back until December.

Went to Morgan Library and viewed the Hemingway and Matisse exhibition.

ceiling at morgan library

Ceiling at Morgan Library, Matisse and Hemingway exhibits. NYC.

Went to matinee of an adorable musical off-broadway at the small but big hearted Davenport Theater. “Daddy Long Legs”. So sweet, heartbreaking and the music is lovely and also available on iTunes.

Went to Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. Couldn’t see much, but what I saw was really cool. Crazy giant skeletons and a big old white spider hanging from the Six Avenue church. Wanted to see drag and basic lunacy, but really only saw suburban people dressed up like Heath Ledger’s joker.

gvhalloween

West 11th Street Halloween Association.

Went to Below 54 where I saw a Halloween Sondheim cabaret featuring the music of “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods”. Lush. Spectacular. Food was yum, and they had this incredible Halloween drink that was tangy and had enough zoomph to make me forget the bitchy couple who sat next to me and gave me the stink eye because I had to share the high top bar with them. “Swing your razor high, Sweeney…” Oh, boo to you two.

Stopped by Circle in the Square on my way to 1 Train on 50th to bask in the happiness of the “Fun Home” marquis. Hello Bruce! Hello Alison! They keep welcoming me to their house on Maple Avenue and I can’t resist. They put the “Fun” in Dys-“fun”-ctional. See you again on my birthday in December.

Early Sunday. Can’t live without my spin class. 8:30am in the fucking morning, but wow it feels good to get it done early. Chelsea Flywheel on 17th. Took Zach’s class again! Had him over at Flatiron location in September. (Okay, that read like a girly diary entry.)

Tired of my iPhone5 battery dying every three hours, so I bit the bullet and bought a new iPhone6.

Matinee of my friend Diana’s show “Songbird: A Tennessee Story“. Great music! Story is based on Chekov’s “The Seagull”. The show is at 59E59 Theater

Walked through Marathon people covered in Marathon blankets before heading to the above.

kingkitty

King Kitty, the royal cat of Greenwich Village. Adorable, regal and somewhat creepy on the side table where I slept.

Went to Citifield for game 5 of the World Series. Finishing off a championship weekend with my boys in the big show. The friend who offered them to me hates me because I accepted and then backed out because I didn’t want to spent $400 to watch the Mets possibly lose. Changed my mind again and went to the game. Walked around marathon people on Madison Avenue to get to Grand Central. Yes, I went to the game. Yes, I spent the $400 bucks. Yes, we lost the game. But I went home content – sad – but content. The Mets had a great season.

world series me

I’ve walked through the closet door to Narnia. World Series. Mets Versus Royals. Game 5. The Royals won. My hat off to them. Worthy opponents. Mets 2016!

Early morning flight back to LAX, quivery at all the money I’m losing and trying to get the motivation and strength to start working for myself to earn self gratification in a job I love and is of my doing – plus make more money so I can finally move back to New York.

Throughout all of this, I saw my wonderful, crazy uncle and my aunt Cathryn. I spent time with my beautiful cousin Michele. And I am thoroughly exhausted. Plus, I spent lots of time falling in love with this lovely creature…

sasha

Sasha, the abominable dog. White as snow. Black button eyes. Heart of gold. Gentle pup.

Time to get ready for another trip. Oh New York. I miss you so. Can I flip the table of the Joni Mitchell song “California”? New York…I’m coming home. Will you take me as I am?

As a true New Yorker (shut up Time Out. I’m a New Yorker)…I say….you fuckin’ better!


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Inspiration in the Bleak Mid-Winter, Day 6 (“Look, I Made A Hat” Edition)

Excerpt from "Sunday on the Island la Grande Jatte."

Excerpt from “Sunday on the Island la Grande Jatte.”

“There’s a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat…
Starting on a hat…
Finishing a hat…
Look I made a hat…
Where there never was a hat”

~Words and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim from “Sunday in the Park with George”