Mountain Day: How about a few “mountain moments”?


Perhaps, like me, your email and facebook lit up this morning with the exciting news: it is Mountain Day at Mt. Holyoke! Do you remember the bells ringing, the happy buzz in the hallways of your dorm that yes, indeed, classes were cancelled? I had a message follow soon after the announcement from an MHC alum to two of us asking, “Why does this seem to mean more to me now than it did then?” And, I had to agree. When I was a student, the excitement was about no classes, hanging out and I hadn’t yet achieved the maturity to understand that unplanned time, particularly spent in nature or at some “useless” activity would be refreshing for body and spirit.

“Summit achieved by at least 100 students in first wave. Pres. Pasquerella greets climbers.” (From Alumnae Assoc. page on Facebook)

So, if you are living in the United States and possibly suffering from the drive to do, do, do constantly, can you carve a few Mountain Day minutes for yourself? If you don’t have time for a walk — or if the demands of work and children make that impossible — can you take a few minutes and reflect? Maybe write a paragraph about a Mountain Day memory, or if you could do a Mountain Day over again, what would you do differently? Sometimes, it is in moments of relaxation that we creative types receive insights — a solution to a block, a new idea, a change of direction for a character, etc.

May you breathe deeply and be good to yourself today. I think Mary Lyon would approve. Let us all know if you have success with giving yourself a mini-Mountain Day. 🙂

Creativity Bloodsuckers – “Die Vampire, Die!”


It’s a white Halloween here in Westhampton, MA where I’m visiting my family….not that far from the Mt. Holyoke campus. Fifteen inches of snow fell overnight on Saturday – power’s out all around us, but somehow, we got lucky up here on my sister’s side of the mountain. Here’s the view, so if it’s warm and snow-free where you are, go ahead, enjoy the schadenfreude.

For many of us in the U.S. though, Halloween doesn’t usually bring to mind snow — we think of pumpkins, cider, doughnuts, candy, and of course, costumes. The scary ghouls and goblins fill the streets (not sure how that’s working tonight out here with no power in much of the area, but hey, we’ll figure it out) and for me, I’ve been thinking about vampires. Not your traditional Dracula, or Anne Rice version, or any of those Twilight deals — no, no, there are far more dangerous vampires to a creative soul’s existence.

In September, I attended title of show at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. A terrific show with a terrific cast, featuring a terrific kid I’ve known since he was around twelve and shared the stage often with one of my sons. There’s a number in that show called “Die Vampire, Die,” which talks about the bloodsuckers that can kill creative impulses, if we let them. First, a clip from a different production of the show. Be advised, the language in the clip will not be appealing to all. Below the clip, I’ll paste in some of the lyrics that are helpful to remember – to banish those vampires that swarm and swirl and suck the life out of our ability to create, but again, only IF WE LET THEM.

There are so many vampires, inside, outside, and nationwide,
it helps to recognize them with this vampire hunting guide!
Listen closely,
a vampire is any person or thought or feeling
that stands between you and your creative self expression,
but they can assume many seductive forms.
Here’s a few of them!
…..First up are your pigmy vampires.
They’ll swarm around you head like gnats and say things like:
Your teeth need whitening
You went to state school?
You sound weird
Shakespeare, Sondheim, Sedaris
Did it before you and better than you,……

Brothers and sisters, next up is the air freshener vampire,
she might look like your mama, or your old fat-ass, fat aunt Fanny.
She smells something unpleasant in what you’re creating…..

The air freshener vampire doesn’t want you to write about
bad language, blood, or blow jobs
She wants you to clean it up and clean it out.
Which will leave your work toothless, gutless, and crotchless
but, you’ll be left with two tight paragraphs,
All kittens that your grandma would be so proud of…..

The last vampire is the mother of all vampires and that is the vampire of despair.
It’ll wake you up at 4am to say things like:
Who do you think you’re kidding?
You look like a fool.
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough

from Title of Show, music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen

Happy #writing all. What are the vampires you have to banish to keep the work going???

What’s the hardest thing for you about writing or the writing life?


The hardest thing…

Sandi’s great post regarding National Novel Writing Month got me thinking about how my experience with NANOWRIMO in 2008 helped jumpstart my writing after my cancer experience. Lately, I’ve been struggling with many of the valuable things I had gained from NANOWRIMO, the biggest for me being dedicated daily writing where I shut off the internal editor and simply cranked words for first drafts. Recently, I’ve slowed down again, agonizing over every word…. for me, that’s fine in revising, but torture and unproductive in first drafts.

The hardest thing…

Two years ago, I attended two creative writing classes at Marquette University, taught by Larry Watson, author of Montana, 1948 (a lovely, lovely book now taught in many classrooms). I was in the audience recently for the launch of his latest book, American Boy, and was very struck by his answer to the question: What’s hardest for you about writing?  “Sentences. Getting it right.”

For me, at this moment in my life, that’s not the hardest thing about writing. For me, the hardest thing is shutting off the fretting I do about multiple family members’ issues — the fretting creates a static in my head that makes it truly difficult for me to focus on my writing — and, for some reason, I seem able to write non-fiction, but the static creates difficulty for me with my fiction writing. And, that leads to my greatest fear:

Let’s hear from you, MHCers. What’s the the hardest thing for you about writing and/or the writing life?