Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Weathering the Creative Storm

Last week I was a light skiff, slicing through the sparkling blue sea, the wind at my back, unstoppable – producing pages, projects, proposals, moving gracefully toward my destination. This week I'm a stone sinking to the muddy bottom. Or I’m the rusty anchor keeping the boat docked – or I am the docked boat itself, as the storm rises, being tossed and heaved about, but going nowhere.

How can life turn on a dime like that?

Okay, I woke-up with a cold yesterday, and I’ve been through a half-box of Kleenex in 24 hours. But it’s more than that. It’s Resistance – that ever-present enemy of Creativity – or the enemy of ‘any activity whose aim is to tighter abdominals’ as Steven Pressman puts it in The War of Art.

This book has seen me through many dark creative voids, reminding me that ‘Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us.’

When you’re working on a book, it’s everywhere. Even writing this blog entry this morning (instead of facing Chapter 6 and the messy turning point in my story) is Resistance. Dang, I thought I was doing something productive.

Resistance lurks underneath my dining room table, where I write, masquerading as Confusion and Self-Doubt – convincing me I have no idea where I’m going with my story, I’ve lost control of my characters, my prose is forced, and... maybe it’s time to take a break, shift gears, work on something else. I'll go clean the grime from around the edges of the stove with a toothpick - that will be a better use of my time.

Talk about Resistance! It mutates like bacteria, so it can maintain its potency - and this new strain is quite insidious. Here's what it's got me telling myself now:

“Oh, I’ve got a better story to write – I’ll just put this one on the back burner and return to it when I am RE-inspired, and the other one, which I put on the back burner in 1998(!) is finished. Ha!”

I take a big breath and face the storm head-on, diving back into Chapter 6, fingers on my keyboard, finding my place, beginning again, and ah, here's a surprise…

"The acacias are in bloom. Each day a new tree explodes with fat yellow flowers that are the size of my hand. But from a distance, they are puffy yellow clouds that hang over the lagoa and rain their trumpet-like blooms onto the pavement – shrouding the ground in pools of gold. I poke my camera through one of the clay honeycomb bricks that line the hallway outside our apartment door. My skinny point-and-shoot lens, when fully zoomed and angled just so, has an unobstructed view, catching images with yellow bleeding off the edges of my frame – a few church steeples and tall exotic palms climbing the hill in the distance. I snap away, in my boxers and bare feet, quickly, stealthily, before one of the neighbors pops out and catches me lurking around half-clothed. They are already suspect of what goes on in 1012 – this new Americana entering the scene and speaking – or yelling – in a language they can’t possibly understand through the walls.”

Now, time for a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dreams for Sale

It's so hard to know. What dream to buy? Which path to take? Sometimes you have to just go, jump, take the leap. Does anyone ever know? If they do, they're probably faking it. So why not just go and pretend you know too.

Maybe you'll end up on the right road - or maybe you'll get lost and have to start over - or maybe you'll take a left turn and end up where you're supposed to be.

No matter what, in the end, you'll be dead.

Might as well make the journey at least interesting.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Grandma Lena's schooms were a hit at Rob and Maria’s Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night, though there were 10 other dishes (we counted) to compete with – not to mention an array of pies for dessert.

Yes, it’s always too much food – but Thanksgiving is about abundance – the panoply of flavors and textures playing off each other like a symphony. I realize in the midst of a recession it may not seem the most savory topic - but abundance can exist without wealth - and even in spite of it.

My memories of Thanksgivings at Grandma Lena's on King's Highway, in a working class Brooklyn neighborhood of Jews and Italians, are of such abundance. It was five long courses, served over 7 hours – with napping and walk-breaks in between – or when we were really little, games of Miss Mary Mack and Chinese jump rope played with my cousins in the apartment hallway - city games with which my sister and I (suburban girls that we were) were simply enamored.

The order of courses at Lena’s Italian-American Thanksgiving was as follows…

First, the antipasto, the cured meats and cheeses and homemade marinated goodies, my personal favorite, including eggplant strings and sweet red peppers, pickles and olives. Then came the pasta, big steaming bowls of ricotta cheese stuffed ravioli drenched in a red gravy that had cooked on the stove for the preceding few days, searing in the flavors of the homemade meatballs and Italian sweet and hot sausages, and the bragioles, another fav, rolled carpets of thin beef and pork stuffed with garlic and herbs.

Next came the main meat course (and by then, if you hadn’t heeded Grandma's advice and paced yourself, you were in real trouble), wherein the baby lamb, the turkey, sometimes a ham, were laid out on the table, along with all the sides, roasted potatoes and yams and stuffed artichokes and mushrooms (this is where the schrooms came into play) – and always an iceburg lettuce salad, a seeming afterthought, even a bit of embarrassment compared to the rest of the colorful dishes on the table, prompting Grandma's now-infamous ‘just put it’ remark.

Then there was always a long pause as the brown coffee was brewed, and the silverware and dishes were gathered and washed, and the plastic table covering mopped down of it's splats of red sauce - thus revealing the pristine while lace underneath. And then the desserts were finally served – the cannolis and pies and, because it was always someone’s birthday, a couple cakes as well.

At this point it was belt-loosening time – and an even longer pause was required to digest, during which most of the uncles would have dozed off in front of the football game and Grandma or Aunt Jenny would rouse them with shouts from the kitchen about the black coffee. The espresso smells wafted through the air; and I suspect that’s what awakened them for the final course – the nuts, cracked open in bloated silence, and the fruits, pears and apples, which Vinnie peeled in one long strand, with the deftness of a barber, passing slices around the table off his paring knife. And dark thick espresso, brought out in a shapely silver pot, was poured into doll-sized china cups and served with little shots of Sambuca to help the digestion - and make the grownups smile.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Just Put It

“My blog. I want to revive my blog. Why not? What’s stopping me? ‘PlanetBrazil’ – it’s not a place, it’s a state of mind. Yes, I’m back in the USA, but the feeling, and the stories and ideas, live-on. It’s about exploration, discovery, transformation. Do this today - post an entry. Then go get a manicure/pedicure.” (December 22, 2008)

I wanted to do it last year, and I didn’t. There’s the evidence, straight from my journal. I can’t believe a whole year has gone by, a hole year, and here I am, contemplating this idea all over again. The difference this year is: I’m doing it.

So why? What’s changed?

I just decided, I committed. Commitment: taking action, moving forward, despite the risks, regardless of outcome.

But what if no one reads it? There’s so much crap out there on the Net – who needs another blog? So what IF no one reads it? It’s about me, really, about seeing it, writing it, and putting it out there, right?

Just like Grandma Lena used to say (god rest her soul)…as we all gathered in her Brooklyn dining room for the Thanksgiving meal, the table laden with Italian delights, first the antipasto, platters of meats and cheeses and marinated things, then the raviolis and meatballs and stuffed mushrooms and artichokes, and then came the lamb and the ham and the rolls of stuffed bragioles…and was there room for one more dish? Would they eat it?

‘Just put it!’ Grandma would bark out from the kitchen, thrusting her wooden spoon into the air, her life philosophy summed up in those three simple words.

Lena died just this past July, a month shy of her 101st birthday. So here’s to you, Grandma, on Thanksgiving Day 2009. I won’t be sharing the meal with you today – but I’m sharing a part of myself, Anneseye. I'm ready - I’m just gonna put it.

And now I'm going to get to making those stuffed mushrooms and braised Brussel sprouts with bacon for Thanksgiving dinner with friends.