Monday, June 02, 2008

Rushing through life writing, cooking, and blogging

I read a quote from Anna Quindlen on another blog today. Of parenting, she wrote, "I did not live in the moment enough . . . .I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less." I think she referred to meals and baths and school visits and all those chores of parenting. Now that my children are long grown, I feel that pang of having rushed through their childhood. I used to say when I died, they'll say, "I remember her. She used to say, 'Go on now, I'm busy.'" And I was--busy at my computer. They don't seem to carry bad memories with them, though, for we're a close family. My oldest son has said he'd like to go to Scotland with me, and a couple of others are thinking of joining us. More would if they could afford it. And they're planning that big b'day party for my 70th, so I guess maybe they didn't notice I was rushing, always rushing.
I found one thing I don't rush through tonight--and I thought I did. It's writing. The Fort Worth newspaper sponsors a series of "Evenings with . . . " where the former book editor interviews various authors, always in a large public venue. Tonight's guest was mystery novelist Robert Parker. He was witty, quick, funny, and completely honest--and he flew in the face of everything I've ever heard or thought or learned about writing. He doesn't plan ahead, he claims he writes with his fingers and there's little connection to his brain, he writes ten pages a day--or that's his goal--and never looks at it again. When he comes to the end of the book, he sends it to his editor. At that rate, he writes three books a year--many authors can't manage one, and some take years and years to writ eone book. His books, which I really like reading, reflect that--they're surface, smart dialog, quick patter--and of course some action, but mostly dialog. Talking of westerns--he's just published his second and has a third written--he said he never does any research, saying that we all know all about the West from movies and TV. (I can hear the howls of protest from Western Writers of America, who take authenticity and historical accuracy very seriously--as I always did when I was writing historical fiction set in the West). Parker's western, the one I've read, is full of the stereotype and not the reality of the American western experience (another howl of protect from historian Patricia Limerick who pioneered the New Western History, which looked closely at the experience of minorities and women and debunked the myth of the great adventure for white males.) I like the Spenser novels and the Jesse Stone ones much better. But for all that I'm aghast at Parker's writing methods, it was fun to hear him talk, and you've got to admit his track record of novels, movies, etc. is impressive. He kept saying, "I can provide for my family"--in high style I'd say. I'm still a fan.
One of my neighbors left me a Wall Street Journal article about cooking blogs--the latest craze is bloggers who take one cookbook and cook their way through it, taking copious pictures and reporting in detail as they do so. I read Julie & Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen, the pioneer of such blogs which grew into a book and now a forthcoming movie with Meryl Streep. I liked it and even laughed at Julie's kind of in-your-face attitude (and admired her persistence), but I wished she wasn't quite so free with the F-word. The whole thing though makes me wonder if, in this new world of blogging, mine doesn't lack focus. Would I lose readers if I stopped musing about my life? Would a big publisher notice me if I had a really focused unusual blog? Maybe that's a fantasy like having a really unusual hook for a mystery. I'm torn between trying to develop something new, a mystery with that "hook" or sticking with what several readers have told me they enjoyed. So in a way, it's the same dilemma--stick with the blog, which is easy for me to do rapidly, or invent something new that might be so difficult I couldn't rush through it.
Too late at night for such decisions!

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