Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Short-lived Euphoria

Samba dancers in brightly colored costumes, big smiles on their faces as they swirl to the music; a large float bearing two red and yellow papagayo  figures and curvaceous dancers scantily clad in sequined attire; the entire center of the stadium  arena filled with people dancing in flashes of sweeping colored lights. Soon the Olympic athletes join the performers in one big happy, mad party. My husband is somewhere in that crowd. Later he tells me he made a new acquaintance there, Mustafa, a tall Sudanese man, dressed in traditional garments.

The gaiety and euphoria of the closing event of the Olympic Games in Rio are contagious. In front of my television I smile at the antics of the athletes and sway to the rhythm. Swelling euphoria fills me at the sight of thousands of people of many races and nationalities joined together in brotherhood. This is an example of what humanity is capable of.
            But then I recall the photo of the five-year-old Syrian boy, Omran, covered in blood and I know that men are also capable of terrible violence, hate and destruction. That young boy and the scenes of destruction in Aleppo and the massive crowded refugee camps trigger compassion. Then I feel anger – anger at the leaders (you know who you are) who allow this to happen, not only allow, but order the bombings and the killing, who believe only they are in the right, who are blinded by intolerance for those who are different.
            I want to put my arms around Omron, comfort him and clean his face of blood. But, of course, I can’t. But I can write, pointing out not only the violence and tragedy, which we see live and direct on television newscasts, but also the alternatives.
Hey, World, look at the Olympics. Look at what is possible with perseverance, will power and a vision.
 Feel the joy. The possibilities. The hope.
Then take the next step. Act.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Wanted: Twenty Thousand Words

“How many words does your manuscript have?” asks the editor.
“About forty thousand,” I answer.
“Well, you’re short twenty thousand words,” she says.
I slump in my chair. We’re talking about a manuscript I submitted for my second book. Twenty thousand more words? And not just any words. No fluff. No verbal garbage. No verbiage. But words that add something.
I spend a few days in a writer’s funk. Ideas do not come running towards me like a friendly dog with its tongue hanging out. I must not look for them. Pretend I’m not interested. Then when I’m taking out the garbage, an idea raises its hand.
Today I think: why start from zero? Go to my previous blogs. Maybe there are some that can be expanded or further developed. So I read through this year’s blogs and make a list. I feel better already. Having a list is a start. Isn’t it? If I develop some blog pieces, I figure they will give me another four thousand words. Only sixteen thousand to go.
Of course, the best source of inspiration is life itself. My life is not exactly action packed. I look over my day: cycling at the gym, doctor appointment and more Donald Trump on CNN…. I certainly don’t want to go there. I have an appointment with Andrés to get my hair trimmed. Can I write about haircuts? Hmmm. Maybe something will spark an idea while I’m on the metro. This is beginning to sound like fluff….
The trip on the metro and the visit to the hairdresser provide no inspiration but, as I walk along, I’m reminded that I mustn’t try so hard. The trouble is that it’s not just ideas that play hard to get. Words avoid me. My word retrieval problem grows with the passing years. Those elusive words on the tip of my tongue get lost in the labyrinths of my cerebral cortex. With my peers we laugh and joke about those lost words. But the experience is really quite frightening. What will I be like at eighty or ninety?
Rereading pieces I’ve written sometimes offers consolation. Did I really write that?! It’s not so bad. And look at the sparkling words I magically pulled out of my hat!

 Those sixty thousand words will come, one word at a time, or as writer Annie Lamott says “bird by bird.”