I'm convinced that solitude and silence are the first two ingredients in art. They're essential for getting into and staying in The Zone, that elusive flow where the words spill out and time spins away. So I asked 20 writers how they get there and how they return. Here's the secret sauce from five of them:
I get in that zone by having an empty day, free from obligations, or at least a few empty hours. It starts with coffee and reading the New York Times, but only a little...headlines, maybe two articles that make me feel my passion, so I curate what I read...and some carefully selected emotional music after that to open my heart if you will...usually '70s soul, like "Me and Mrs. Jones", something like that. Then I open up a story or two and go to work.
If I fall out of zone, a walk is always good...nature...sometimes a swim. The sauna afterwards will also get me inspired...something about the heat...then back to the desk, a few emo songs, and off I go.
Regarding your first question, I wish I knew - I'm in between projects right now and current events are proving quite distracting.
Re: the second, when I am actively writing, I usually find that rereading the results of my last session or two is enough Read More
The Chinese doctor who first identified the coronavirus was arrested for speaking out, eventually dying of the disease. And just in case you're still not a huge champion of a free press in America, here's an incredible example of what happened when the U.S. dabbled in its own version of 'just print good news': it contributed to the death of 50 million people in what was called The Spanish Flu.
Though the Spanish Flu started in Haskell, Kansas on an Army base, it was named after Spain because Spanish journalists "had more freedom and more courage to report the truth, and they were neutral during World War I." They were the first to report on the rapidly rising death rate, according to Jennifer Wright, in her breezy but graphic book on global pandemics, Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. "A morale law had been passed in 1917 after the United States entered World War I. It stated you could receive 20 years in jail if you chose to 'utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the government of the United States.' This law seems unconstitutional, Read More
History books often described women as being "relegated" to spinning or embroidery, and one thinks of a woman in a fussy dress wasting time with an embroidery hoop. Elizabeth Wayland Barber in her book Women's Work: the First 20,000 Years, however, describes in great detail a world where the work of women – and trading skills of women -- ran the world economy, producing the world's most coveted, sold, and plundered product.
Cloth Drove the Global Economy
You have to remember that until recently, with the invention of plastic and the availability of metals, everything was made of either fabric or wood. Objects were wrapped in cloth, carried in a sack, and even wooden boxes were frequently lined with fabric. Read More
The phrase "well-behaved women never make history" was actually coined (as 'seldom make history') by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and can now be seen on T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons all over the world. Here are some of the gems on unwed mothers, fighting women, unsung authors of the 1600s and other women you'll want to know from her book Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History (Alfred Knopf, 2007).
Unwed Mothers and Women in Court
"Although a quarter of English brides were pregnant at marriage, very few babies – roughly 2 – 3% – were born to unwed mothers. In most cases, a combination of social pressure and the threat of legal action forced people to marry. When they didn't, the law insisted Read More
I'm always very excited to find in history courses references to Christine de Pizan, a woman in the 1300s who was the world's first feminist and first professional writer. IMHO, she is under-heralded and too frequently overlooked. My novel A Slender Tether (Fireship Press, 2013), dramatizes her difficult early years that were filled with grief, poverty, and thwarted ambition.
I'm drawn to her because of her hunger to write (which I feel in my gut), her struggle with ambition (a love-hate relationship I know well) and her feeling that she is a "raptor among bluebirds", socially unacceptable for her ferocity (a more autobiographical idea than anything I've ever written before.)
While I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality as it wends its way through the libraries in San Francisco, I wanted to get down what I know and think about this topic before I read the book, then follow up with new findings.
While streaming The Great Courses Plus lecture series on "What Darwin Knew and Why it Still Matters" the lecturer suggested that Darwin's book on sexual selection had far more difficulties being taken seriously or adopted in any way because the Victorians were unwilling to acknowledge the extent of female agency (or the ability of women to make and carry out important decisions on their own). ("Wait, it's all the choice of a ...female?? Preposterous! Women are too fickle!") Read More
Your story, no matter how short or long, isn't a recounting of a series of events (even a love affair, or a war) but a commentary on the human condition. Your work becomes art when you have something to say* about life, about people.
Let's call it theme: to me, theme is the overall concept of the piece, which then turns a story into art. Here are some tips re: theme: Read More
Milestones in the 17th, 18th and 19th century of chocolate, taken from a fascinating book, The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, that is part history, part recipe book, part engaging stories.
Why Is It Called Devil's Food?
"By the end of the 17th century, chocolate houses had spread from France and England to the Netherlands. By coincidence, the group of Pilgrims that would later sail to Plymouth Rock took up residence next door to one of Amsterdam's biggest chocolate houses in 1690. The Pilgrims, who stoned people for adultery and basically repudiated anything that looked enjoyable, watched as the chocolate-house patrons cavorted next door. A few nights was all it took to convince the Pilgrims the chocolate was the devil's work. Read More
#chocolate #chocolatier #scharffenberger
The founders of Scharffenberger Chocolate have produced a fascinating book, The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate that is part history, part recipe book, part engaging stories of their lives and those of cacao growers around the world. The second in three blog posts give you the highlights of how chocolate came to Europe (slower than you'd think!).
The First Cacao in the Europe
"We know from recorded lists and paintings that cacao beans were among the first gifts that Christopher Columbus brought from the New World to the Spanish court in 1502. Columbus knew the beans had value Read More