Category Archives: writer’s block

It’s the End of RimaRama As We Know It

It’s difficult to write a blog post after you’ve been truant for going on two months. I don’t have a particularly good reason for my absence, only that life got busy and I became preoccupied with other pursuits. I started this blog five years ago when I was home alone with two very small children most of the day. It was a way to exercise one of my favorite muscles (the writing muscle) and to document the life of my young family with all of its joys, humor and frustrations.

You know where this is going, right?

My children are older, sentient beings now, and it doesn’t feel right to write about them with wild abandon like I used to. (And that leaves me with only the P-Dawg for potential writing fodder.) Meanwhile, my interests and those things that I always thought defined me have changed. For as long as I can remember, I thought the only thing I was ever good at, that I ever really wanted to do, was to write. This blog – and all of your kind words of encouragement – gave me self-confidence in that regard. Showing up here every week opened doors for me and eventually led me to do something I never thought I had it in me to do: to write a book.

I wrote a humorous, RimaRama style memoir (that’s “mem-wah”) about my experience growing up American, but mired deeply in the culture of my immigrant family. I wrote it with the intention of kindofsortofmaybe trying to get it published, as all good bloggers-turned-memoirists do. I wrote and edited and re-wrote and re-edited for upwards of a year. I asked a few trusted people to read it and give me feedback, and when I felt that I couldn’t make my book any better, I started querying literary agents, hoping with my entire heart and fearing with my entire soul that someone would ask to have a look.

And someone did. A few agents asked for the first few chapters, and then for the entire manuscript. For several weeks I waited with bated breath, cautiously optimistic that someone might bite. As the weeks turned to months, I re-negotiated my feelings on the whole endeavor and thought that even if no one offered me representation, I’d at least get constructive feedback on the manuscript.

That was back in September. I haven’t heard back from any of the agents who have my full, from which I’ve drawn the natural conclusion that my book was such a disappointment to those few brave souls who agreed to have a look, that they are too disgusted even to respond with a friendly “no thanks.”

But Dear Readers, I am not bitter. Really, I’m not. See, the cheesy beauty of it all (a realization at which I’ll admit it took me awhile to arrive) is that writing that book was worth it because through it, I wrote myself. It seems simplistic to say that writing the story of one’s life illuminates and solidifies one’s true self, but there it is. And here’s the other thing: maybe not every Tom, Dick and Harry or book club in America needs to read it.

While clinging to the dream of life as a published writer like a cat in an inspirational poster, I discovered that I really like art. Not just looking at it, but making it myself. And the urgent need I used to feel to sit in front of a computer daily and bleed words was replaced, bit by bit, with an all-consuming desire to create visual beauty rather than written truth.

That’s where I am now. Forgive me for being so long-winded about it all, but what I want to tell you, since many of you have been reading my words for several years now, it not that I want to stop writing altogether, but that I want to allow myself the freedom to write differently, and about different things. I’d like to turn this space into a place to document my creative projects and pursuits. And I’d like the freedom of a blog where sometimes, I just “call it in.

That’s not to say I won’t post the occasional story or anecdote, but I’d also like, on occasion, to simply upload a photograph or two and be done with it. It won’t be the RimaRama you’re used to. (But it probably won’t totally suck.)

Still, I feel that I owe you, my faithful readers, a warning that I’m about to change direction.

I’m going to follow my bliss, and I’d love it if you stayed, but I’ll understand if you go.

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Guilty as a Hedgehog

The hedgehog is an animal that looks really cute in pictures, but from which I would probably run screaming in real life. When the Twin Brothers and I were little, our mother used to read to us from Lithuanian picture books, and hedgehogs always featured prominently. There was one story in particular, about a pair of hedgehogs who accidentally burn down their forest, which the Twin Brothers simply could not get enough of.

It was an early indicator of their future as pyromaniacs. I thought it was the most petrifying story I’d ever heard in my life and couldn’t stand to hear it. It was an early indicator of my intense fear of fire and likely the reason why I did not know how to strike a match when it was my turn to light the Advent wreath during freshman year religion class.

Lately I’ve been drawing hedgehogs as a way to work through my issues with fire.

Ha, that’s not really true. I just like drawing hedgehogs and making rubber stamps.

Doesn’t he just look guilty? Like he recently started a forest fire?

Actually, the squirrel looks like he’s up to something, too. Or maybe he’s afraid of the hedgehog.

Does anyone remember the name of the hedgehog forest fire story and if so, where I could get a copy? I have a feeling my son would love it.

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The Plot Thickens and Congeals. Pretty Soon You Can’t Even Stir It With a Spoon. Then a Bigger Plot Comes Along and Kicks It.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: writing a novel is hard.

Three days into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I have discovered that aiming for 1,667 words a day produces about 1,000 words of total crap. And that is very difficult for a self editing perfectionist like me to bear. There’s no time to research, reflect, or craft sparkling prose. You just slap words down on the page and resolve to deal with them later.

Adding insult to injury, my plot is mocking me. The characters that were so vibrant and lovable while still in my head are acting like a pack of cardboard cutouts, and dumb ones at that. Also, just between you and me, I’m not sure how to fill up the pages of space between the time our heroine arrives at the plantation with her monkeys and when she’s finally taken back up into the spaceship. (Note: This is not my real plot line, but a foil to keep plagiarists from stealing my work. I’m writing the spaceship/monkey/plantation novel using a secret alphabet, which, when transposed, will reveal the true, Pulitzer Prize worthy piece of badass fiction. Could this be why the going is so slow?)

To make matters worse, when I announced that I would be doing NaNoWriMo, my husband up and decided he would also go ahead and write that novel that’s been burning him up for years. On the first evening of NaNoWriMoRama, I was in the family room, pecking away at my laptop. I had been working for two hours and had a walloping 600 words when the P-Dawg came in and sat down on the couch opposite me. He stretched, cracked his knuckles, rolled up his sleeves and started typing.

The P-Dawg typed loudly and without ceasing for forty-five minutes straight. It was enough to drive a person with no ideas and a sporadic typing speed of ten words per minute using a secret alphabet certifiably insane.  At the end of those forty-five minutes, my husband set his laptop down and announced that he had written ONE THOUSAND WORDS.

“Did you write one thousand different words?” I wanted to know.

With much coaxing and wheedling, and after promising him a sneak peek at my own efforts in exchange, the P-Dawg agreed to let me read what he had so far.

It wasn’t half bad. He hadn’t bothered to swap his own name out for that of the protagonist (a brilliant Cleveland-based physician), but his main character was quite likable and the plot moved along quickly, unlike mine which was having a smoke out back.

“You think this is good? Just wait ’till they turn it into a movie,” my amazing husband said.

My only solace is the fact that the P-Dawg counted his plot summary and character descriptions toward his 1,000 words and is in dire need of a spell checker. But he is so confident in his progress that yesterday he decided to take a few days off from novel writing and pick up where he left off next week. Right now he’s eating popcorn and playing poker online.

At least once he’s churned out a couple of bestsellers, I can afford to hire a ghostwriter to write my novel for me. Or maybe I’ll just ask the P-Dawg.

Note: Despite my hemming and hawing, I am really glad I signed up for this. Because though masochistic, writing a novel is also exhilirating and I know there is no way I would have attempted one if not for this.  Also, I can’t give up because I already broadcast my intentions to my family, Facebook friends, and the Internet at large.

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