The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Tag: on writing

14/30 NaBloPoMo09 Back from Vacation


Hi. It seems like more than four days since I’ve written.  I am trying like hell to start a new novel.  I did start one in January, and I might continue it.  I’m not sure.  The fact that my father in law is in critical condition in the icu seems to be taking a front seat in my thoughts.

I don’t know how it’s possible that I am so sore, so tired, and so disoriented.  I always think that summer break is going to be relaxing.  Ha.  Ha ha.  This year is different than last year, in that we had an odd vacation – up north with my Mom rather than going somewhere touristy, and we cut the vacation short to come home.  We have been at the hospital every day, hoping that my fatherinlaw pulls through his illness.

All of this takes my focus from writing, and in fact, gives me a darn good excuse not to write.  I would use that excuse, too, if it weren’t for the fact that writing is calling to me.  It’s pulling me. Even as I know I am writing with half a heart, I must write.  It’s summer.  I have a month.  I need to get a good chunk of American Girl – Lyrics to Living Life as a Modern Mythical Creature under my belt.  I need to get these characters walking around, living, breathing, talking…mostly talking, considering my other writings…

So, guess I’ll go do that.  And if you have time, please send good thoughts and wishes to my father in law.  Thanks.  Sheila

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6/30 – NaBloPoMo09


Everything is an advertisement lately. I was reading some advice about blogging, and the article mentioned advertising on blogs. I have never even thought about trying to advertise anything. Sometimes I talk about my novel, *still seeking representation* but I don’t consider that to be advertisement.

The author was saying that if you had enough viewers every day, say 1000, that you could get a company to place a banner on your page and they would pay you $200 a month. Weird. Perhaps I can be accused of not knowing what I’m talking about, since I have a daily average of about 5 readers – and that is a vast improvement over a couple of months ago… (thanks, you 5) but even if I had a large readership, or perhaps especially if I did, I would think that letting some corporation try to influence you to buy some crap you don’t need – or even crap that you do need – would be a let down. I would be disappointed in myself.

I hope that if you are another blogger, you will agree with me that advertising on your blog is not the way to go. I actively seek out pages that are by people who are writing for the joy of writing or because they are committed to the topic – not because they are mildly clever at embedding a bunch of key words that advertisers want you to click on.

Not everything needs to be a goddamned advertisement. That said, someday Jay will get his t-shirt printing endeavor together, and maybe I will offer his atheist themed shirts. But then it would be a cottage industry, not a corporate interest. And I would be sure to only offer shirts which would be entertaining to read in an ad… then it’s an even trade, right?

2/30 – NaBloPoMo09


What is it about writing that is so gratifying and so frightening at the same time?  I have been keeping a journal – off and on – since I was about 20.  Alot of my early independent writing was done when I was in high school, in the form of notes that I never passed on to my friends.  I still have a pile of them, and they clearly reveal that I was a teenager in the 1980’s. ‘Like, gag me with a spoon.’ (shudder.)

When I was 20, maybe it was on my birthday, I went to CityCenter with a guy friend who later was my boyfriend for two days before we realized that we were not really interested in each other.  We are still friends, though, through chance meet ups around town and the occasional facebook note.  Cyber friends, I guess.  The journal I bought was bright yellow and blue with repeating prints of an Andy Warhol rendition of cows.  I especially loved that it was unlined.  I filled that journal up completely.

Since then, I have probably started 10 or 12 other journals, and brought them to varying degrees of completion.  I find it interesting how much I have changed in the time since the first journal.  Of course it has been 18 years, but it’s a lot of change, to my way of thinking.

I used to be mortified if anyone read any of my work.  Now I’ve written a (n unpublished…) novel, I have a little website, I make comments on Facebook, and I blog for all the world to see, should they care to take a gander.

I’m not sure that Mortified has the capacity to convey just how shy, trembly, sick I felt if I knew someone’s eyes were scanning my very own words.  I hated it, but of course like any good passion, there was an equally strong flip side.  I desired intensely for people to have read what I had written and to receive the praise I would demurely say that I didn’t deserve.

Hence, despite wanting to crawl into the nearest hole while ‘being read’, I have shared my writing.  I wrote a few little poems for an improv show I was in during high school – I am forever thankful to my improv troupe for their reactions.  Let me set the scene for you:  We knew that we wanted to do a sketch about people in authority taking advantage of their positions – even the smallest amount of authority seems to go to some people’s heads.  I was up late one night writing, and I decided to try writing something for that sketch.  I wrote a series of short poems from different points of view – a judge, a crossing guard, scout leader….I don’t remember the details, really.

What I do remember is bringing in my poems and telling the other cast members that I had written something, but I didn’t want to read it.  They said I must.  Since I didn’t want everyone to hear, we went into the girls dressing room, they kicked out some non cast member who was in there, and they all encouraged me to read the poems aloud.  I did.  I remember that I felt my voice was not even audible, but they heard me, and then they used the poems in the show.

I think that’s when I started to realize that not only did I like writing, but that writing has a power.  There is something about the written word.  There are other forms of communication – speaking, music, video, plays and so on, but the written word, besides being essential to many other forms of communication, stands alone.

Even while everyone decries the internet and advancements in technology, it seems to me that what a lot of the internet consists of is people reading and writing.  Different forms – not a printed book, but reading and writing none the less.  I mean, here I am blogging my little heart out, and here you are reading it, so what does that tell you?

I think the fear of writing comes from an essential fear of being oneself and being rejected.  And once words are down on a page and released into the world, you really can’t take them back.  You can apoligize, you can claim that something was a typo, but it’s still out there.  And in writing.  A solid piece of evidence about how you felt or thought at a particular moment in time.

For most situations, there should really be no fear – how you felt about this or that is probably inconsequential.  But once in a while it’s important, and you have to have the sense to know when that is.  There is only one sentence I have ever written and sent out to someone that I truly regret.

It was when I was in Mexico, thoretically studying Spanish.  I received a call from a friend of mine, and she was insensed because of something my ex-boyfriend had said.  I do not have any memory of what made her upset, but at the time it made me upset, too.  I was so angry about whatever his offense had been, that I wrote him a post card.  All I said on it was, “You are such a f****** pessimist.”  And I sent it.

I’m blushing right now at the memory of that.  How very wrong.  What a rotten thing to get in the mail.  And he really was a nice person – he didn’t deserve that.  But it also illustrates the power of words.  I think it’s just that power that makes writing both gratifying and frightening.  I, for one, am going to keep on writing, even if it scares the hell out of me.

Thanks for reading.  Peace out.  Sheila

Thoughts on The Brothers Karamazov


Good morning.

I’m reading The Brothers Karamazov because one of my students is reading it.  I have made a couple of half-hearted stabs at it before, probably to the tune of one or two pages.  It didn’t seem like the kind of book that I could get in to.  Nor did it seem that anyone I know has read it; I’ve read the chapter that refers to Plato’s (?) Allegory of the Cave in a few different English classes, but I’ve never been assigned further reading than that.  I am finding it inspiring.  No, not just inspiring, awe-inspiring.

I think it’s at just the right time in my life, too.  As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, I’ve been an atheist since I was about 17.  I’m 36 now, and the eldest of 3 siblings.  Obviously we are not 3 brothers.  But close enough.  The novel deals with the fact that the siblings have very different beliefs, as far apart as being atheist to being a monk!  And it’s a very humorous book, at least so far. I’m really not that far, probably page 60 out of 800, but I have been chuckling a lot as I’ve read.

It’s the right time of my life because I feel that a few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to take characters like the Elder of the Church seriously.  Maybe I would have been able to, I don’t know since I never gave it a chance before.

I really shouldn’t be so surprised that I love TBK , since Crime and Punishment was my favorite book for a long time.  Now I think my favorite book is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.  At least until I finish reading TBK…maybe.

Gee.  Now I feel like I should take that whole paragraph back.  How can people even have favorite books?  I only thought of the Wind-Up Bird because it’s sitting right there in plain sight and I really did love it as I read, but I love a lot of other books, too.  They’re just out of sight, out of mind.  Oh, and not to mention Jay’s books, which are destined to be my favorites once they are done.

So maybe I should just say that I don’t have any favorite books.  I am very impressionable, and I am enjoying reading the brothers karamazov, and when I am done with that I will undoubtedly move on to another book that I love equally as well.  It doesn’t hurt anyone to be promiscuous in my literary tastes, does it?  It’s just sort of embarassing when I’ve read a book and then forget, and the next time I pick that book up it totally notices when I suddenly recognize that I’ve read it before…but that’s my problem.  🙂

Well, I think that’s all I have this morning.  I apologize if you were acrually looking for any insight into the brothers beyond the fact that I find it inspiring.  Maybe if you leave a comment with your thoughts, I’ll write more about it.  Until then, I probably won’t.  Have a warm and comfortable day.  Sheila

Freewrite 1/17/08


I am in class right now, and I am having my students do a ‘freewrite’.  The idea behind this is that they write for a sustained amount of time.  They are not accountable to me for what they write, unless I see it – so they can write whatever and then throw it away.  I don’t know why this is hard for some people, but I believe that it is.  I try to give them chances to just feel comfortable with writing, but it’s not something that people want to jump up and do if they ‘hate writing.’  It’s too bad, really, because the only way that people get better at writing is to write.  I truly believe that.  I would like to be a better skiier, and the only way that I’m going to get better at it is by strapping those damn sticks onto my feet and getting out in the snow.  Sure I’ll fall on my butt, probably a lot, but I’ll be getting better at skiing.  Or I could just sit and watch the winter olympics on tv and sigh about how I’ll never be as good as them, so why even try?

It’s the same deal with writing.  I can look around and lament the fact that my prose is clunky, that I rarely, if ever, get what I’m truly thinking or feeling down on paper, and even if I do, who wants to read it anyway?  If I get stuck in that thinking, I’ll never get better at writing.  So, class, when I ask you to write, I hope that you do, because as you write more and more you’ll get better and better at it – it’s that simple.

Memories of writing


Good morning.  I’m thinking that I’m going to try to do a daily blog just to warm myself up in the morning, get in the habit of writing every day, and see where the wind takes me.

 I have been having a lot of dreams that resemble movies lately.  These are atypical dreams for me.  Last night, I was in what seemed to be a next installment of Charlie’s Angels, but without the humor that you would expect.  I seemed to be the Cameron Diaz character.  The dream went on for a very long time, and of course I don’t remember all of the details, but it was at a football game and I was seen from an overhead shot, just like the movies. 

I don’t really like those kind of dreams, because it seems that it really has nothing to do with me.  I’d rather have something to think about and wonder whether it symbolized this that or the other thing in my life.  Movie-dreams just make me feel like I watch too much t.v.

Jay and I did go for about 9 months without cable a couple of years ago.  It felt great.  We still had a small tv with a built in vcr, so we watched that once in a while, but there was really no mindless consumption of television, since there was literally no way to watch it.

Not like these days.  I have been watching tv a lot more than I care to admit.  I end up taking naps in front of the darn thing, thinking that I will be able to rest.  I find, though, that I can’t really rest, and I end up feeling worse than when I laid down.

I have a lot of fond memories of staying at my friend Erikka’s house in college, she had a tv, but it was in a back room that I never went into.  She was in a small bungalow in St. Paul, the walls were white, well, maybe cream colored, and there was dark woodwork; there was a gold Chinese screen over the cuoch, and a large mirror with a dark frame over the fireplace.  The mantle had a few framed pictures of family and friends.   Everything was very tidy and economical, and it was a wonderful place to write.  I was in a poetry class at the time,  and I remember sitting at her dining room table writing.  Now when I get writer’s block, I try to conjure up the image of that room so I can feel free to write.

Maybe that’s what I should look for when Jay and I go to sell this house and buy a new place – a writing sanctuary first and a living space as a secondary consideration.  I think that would be practical since we are both writers.

I just had to smile, buecase thinking about Erikka’s old place made me pause to look at the environment in which I am writing at the moment.   I am in our “computer room” in our ranch house in the burbs of Mpls, it’s dark, I’m at a computer desk which has random unnecessary clutter all about it, and my dog is barking his head off. 

Maybe I’ll work on the unnecessary clutter for a bit, and then if I think of anything fascinating to write about, I’ll be back.  Thanks for reading! 🙂 Sheila

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