Writing, Rambling, and a Cat

Today I managed what I consider a great feat: I got my printer to work again! Ever since my computer updated, I have not been able to print anything. And for the most part, that has been okay. But I have been writing for much of the summer, working on a novel that I have attacked in fits and starts for years now. I really wanted to make some headway this summer and see if it still has life to it. And I have. You see, since I have worked on and off for years on this and in different places, the bits and pieces have been all over the place. I wrote much of the story longhand at first in a couple of different notebooks. I have take much of that and revised and typed this summer to get a good idea of what I have, putting different chapters or sections in different files. Getting the printer going has allowed me to print it all out and read through it together–as one would a novel. Now I can get an idea of what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing as I figure out if the parts make a whole.

So I am very happy with myself.

Then, I start reading.

Immediately, I realize that the whole beginning needs editing. I mean, of course it does; I am not shocked, but still. The beginning? The first line? It can be a little disheartening. But I get to it. I make some changes. It’s good, but there’s a question I am not sure about regarding the positions of mortician and coroner. Hmmm…(Did I mention that much of the novel takes place in a funeral home?) I’d better do some more research. Luckily, I have a friend who just finished her mortuary science degree, and I have been able to call on her for some detail verification, but today, I went to the Internet where I found some fascinating reading on the history of coroners and mortuary science as well as the incredibly varied systems around the country regarding the business of death. But, I digress. Time to click that tab shut, close the laptop, and return to the printout.  Which I do. And I find a way out of the dilemma that sent me to those articles in the first place. Another win!

Then, my assistant shows up:


He has another opinion about writing.


His opinion is that writing keeps me from petting him, and therefore all implements thereof must be destroyed. Luckily, he has not been successful in his attempts, but I do think a petting and feeding break is in order!

Wish me luck as I continue on my quest, especially as it seems there is one file missing. I may have to go back to the notebooks yet again to continue the revision and typing before I can attack the ending–as of yet unwritten in any form, but floating around my head looking for an anchor.



Sacred Irreverence

Author Leah Hager Cohen asserts that “‘[c]reativity,’ ‘play,’ ‘imagining,’ and ‘irreverence’ could all be next to each other in a thesaurus” (qtd in Schlack). I would easily have put the first three together, but the fourth is the genius. 

When we first try a new skill, the focus is on the technique. I know this is true for me. I recently wanted to try a new crochet stitch, the Tunisian Afghan stitch. I still have to have the pattern directions and Encyclopedia of Crochet near me while I work. And work is the right term. I love to crochet and am excited about learning this new stitch, but my focus is different as I work the yarn than when I am crocheting a scarf or a baby blanket using a pattern I’ve followed many times before. I need to focus on the steps for this stitch. I still feel the creative juices flowing; I still feel the play; I can imagine the finished product as it comes to life little by little in my hands. Yet, I cannot yet be irreverent with this pattern, with this stitch. I still need to follow the pattern step by step. However, with the baby blanket pattern, for example, I can go off book a bit. I can start the project even if I am not sure if I have enough yarn to follow it exactly; I know I can figure a way to change colors or size if I need to. 

When my students complain about the grammar rules or the corrections on their papers, or when they notice the peculiarities of particular authors and how these authors break the rules, I tell them that they must know the rules before they can break them. To make the break meaningful, you have to know why you’re breaking the rule. 

So, the lesson I gather from Cohen is to remember to color outside the lines. Learning the technique is important. Whether one is crocheting, baking, painting, writing, or whatever creative passion one follows, the technique will always be important–it is the base, the foundation. We need to learn the rules, but then we need to break them meaningfully so that the creative product truly comes from each of us, so that the creative product is a sacred manifestation of its creator. From time to time, we need sacred irreverence. 


Schlack, Julie Wittes. “The Writing Life.” Holy Cross Magazine. Summer 2014. 19-23.