Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cry Me a River


Cross Creek, the movie, is one of my favorite fairy tales. Based on autobiographical sketches by writer Marjorie Rawlings (The Yearling fame), it bears some similarities to Out Of Africa except Marjorie lives in the Florida bayou, and her crops don’t burn, and she doesn’t get syphilis.

Plus she’s not saddled with Robert Redford; Marjorie’s boyfriend is Peter Coyote, one of the most understanding gentlemen to ever walk any continent. Marjorie is downright crabby when she first lands in Florida, and crabby for a good while after that, but this gent loves her instantly and steadfastly. And he can fix cars.

But ok, good things happen to good people and bad people and crabby people. I assign this film fantasy status based on something else: Successful home improvement and typing speed.

When our heroine first sets eyes on her new abode, it’s a termite-ridden shack with a leaky tin roof. Within 30 movie minutes, the place is ready for Architectural Digest. And she did it all herself. “Well, Mr. Baskim, if my house needs painting, I’ll paint it.” “I don’t need your help Mr. Baskim, if the roof leaks, guess I’ll fix that too.” We never actually see Marjorie on a ladder with roofing nails in her mouth, but it rains a lot in the movie and no one seems damp inside. And, as the fireplace is in constant use, I suspect she’s pretty handy with masonry as well.

But painful, so much more painful for me … Marjorie writes 12 hours a day, and by that, I don’t mean holding her head in her hands or agonizing over a paragraph. No, she starts out the morning click, click clicking without pause, and after we dissolve to the evening, damned if she’s not still click clicking away. And if someone interrupts, she stops long enough for some repartee, and then without a moment’s hesitation, its back to the click clicking.

This I find a bitter pill to swallow.

I’ve never click click clicked in my life. I write three words and go out and trim the roses. Come back and erase the three words, write three new words and go for a drive. Erase those three words, and so on. I’m a person of few words only because they’re always disappearing.

Oh, enough complaining. How does the phrase go -- I wept when I had no shoes until I saw beggars weren't riding. Well, something like that. As I review the list of Marjorie’s accomplishments and blessings – award-winning novels, productive orchards, charming house, understanding boyfriend, lack of venereal disease -- I find we have one thing in common.

43 comments:

  1. Which one thing? ;-)

    You know, I've never seen Cross Creek, but I think Peter Coyote is dreamy.

    I always wondered about those click clickers, too. Even during my most prolific hell-phases of copywriting, my clicking was more often punctuated with long silences, hand wringing, copious amounts of coffee, computer solitaire, nerf over-the-closet-door basketball, online trivia, juggling balls, impromptu decisious to restain the cabinets... Hey, maybe that's what the Cross Creek lady did when she got stuck! SHe fixed the roof!

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  2. Oh, and how many times I wrote poetry or short stories when I had an article or manuscript due. NOthing like having to do one thing to make you want to write something else

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  3. You are so right in every single respect. (I can shoot a mean rubberband.)

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  4. Marjorie fixed the roof without climbing the ladder?

    Implausible!

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  5. GREAT punch line...keen comparison to Dinesen loved the movie & thought RR was a drip (was he meant to be?)
    I bet you have one more thing NOT in common. She didn't make so many people laugh.
    From what I hear, you are right about the writing fantasy. All I remember is that a paper took me minimum an hour per page - and this wasn't even CREATIVE stuff. Then also, I got a lot of reading done (Gulag or study for Thermo, hmmm) before finals.

    Stop by PVDP when you have a chance...my plates need a little spicing up.
    "Trust me, babe." (now why didn't I think of that while I was writing the post.

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  6. PS - don't you just love these skies? High five on that shot.

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  7. Well, what do you know? I'm here instead of writing an article due an hour ago about the legal pressures on CFOs of financial institutions this year. 800 words of hell. Marjorie can stick that up her perfect little pooper.
    Surely she had carpal tunnel though, right?

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  8. *snort*

    That's great! You do have a way of winding things up that leave us all wanting more.

    *Clickety Clack*

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  9. This reminds me of a show I saw back in the mid-80s called the Steve Banks Show (later called Steve Banks Home Entertainment Center.) It was a day in the life of a guy who had a paper to turn in for work, and who spent the whole day being distracted by anything and everything. There are later versions of this on YouTube, but they aren't quite as captivating as the early version.

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  10. It's great to get a peek into your process, Karin. I would be really depressed if you revealed that you sat down, went click click and churned out such brilliant little essays.

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  11. I love The View you're sharing with us from Shanna.

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  12. KB, Mary Steenburgen had Alfre Woodard. She also had JO Sanders for a husband she didn't see any need for. I also remember wondering how she stayed so focused - I think it was definitely scripted. I mean, Eugene O'Neill had his wife to take care of his life and his son very considerately committed suicide so he wasn't in the way...

    My most memorable Rawlings story is the one about the boy in the mountains in North Carolina, the one she taught. That really tugged at my heart strings.

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  13. Don't hold nails in your mouth-wear a nail pouch. You can type faster.

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  14. Once again, I am awestruck at your narrative powers, and the last line had me doing a spit-take.

    People who don't write don't understand that 90 percent of your actual physical writing time is spent staring at the wall, wishing you were anywhere else. Nobody does that clickety-clicking except maybe Stephen King. I now want to see this movie.

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  15. If wishes were horses, the man would have legs. Hmm, still not right...

    GG

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  16. Ha! O, hilarity! Thank you.

    I wrote a page today. A page! Guess what'll happen to it tomorrow.

    By the way, the laundry is folded, the dog's been walked, the furniture's been rearranged and dinner is served.

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  17. I've been to Marjorie's house--a beautiful, charming place, even if it's no longer engulfed by untrammeled swamp.

    One of these days I'll read one of her books...

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  18. The three words you end up choosing are always funny, KB!

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  19. You actually had me counting off on my fingers what wasn't in common. Scared me for a bit -

    So are you saying if you didn't erase/backspace out the three words from your previous sitting - if you left those 3 words and added 3 more - that we'd be calling you Marjorie Hiker? And your house/spouse would be the envy of all readership?

    Hmmm. Your writing already leaves us laughing, thinking, talking, grumbling. Isn't that good enough?? Love it, Karin!

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  20. And the only reason I wrote this was because I've been asked to revise another essay of mine, and of course I got three words done on that one.

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  21. You are a HOOT! I need a yard person to trim my bushes...I have a computer you can click-click on. Sounds productive;) I had to come over and see "which one".

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  22. Laurie makes a good point "NOthing like having to do one thing to make you want to write something else"

    I consider myself a semi-clicker part time picker with roses that look like shit (two dead this year)...
    Maybe I'll head for Home-Depot. I hear the bare roots are in.

    PS (do they use that anymore?) I don't believe for a minute, given a choice between the two, you'd select Peter.

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  23. So, does that mean if someone tells you to revise and resubmit your blog entry, you'll avoid it and work on the (paying) essay?!

    And that our laudatory comments are only enabling you?

    R and S!

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  24. My mother once had an extended interlude where she fancied she might up and become Marjorie Rawlings.

    'Nuf said.

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  25. Not being a writer...I was focused on Marjorie's ability to transform her home from "termite-ridden shack" to the architectural digest within 30 minutes of movie time...it took me 4 years, 3 designers, a whole ....load of money to remodel my kitchen which my lovely hubby ( who doesn't quite resemble either Peter Coyote or Robert Redford) enjoys telling everybody about over dinner or at any social gathering!!!

    But it was worth it!!! (I think)

    wv: fastyr...my hubby thought our remodel process should have gone much fastyr!!!

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  26. Miss J Is going to visit her homestead in May. Perhaps while she's there, she'll magically pick up the ability to click,click,click away at the typewriter from dawn til dusk. As it now stands, there's a lot of flower trimming in her writing day, too.

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  27. Love your cloud shot AH!!! I was in the valley yesterday at sunset, cursing that I didn't have my camera with me for the magnificent cloud formations...

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  28. That reminds me. A few weeks ago I went to the Coffee Gallery to write. My writer friend Donnie was there clicking away non-stop. I think he completed a chapter.

    I completed a cup of coffee.

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  29. I know Donnie. He's some kind of exception. He wrote a whole novel at the Coffee Gallery in the span of about three months. He says he can concentrate when there's a lot of activity around.

    I wish I didn't like him.

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  30. When I'm commenting on someone's blog, I can write a mile a minute! It's other kinds of writing that's tough.

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  31. I'm going to do an experiment tomorrow and click click for two hours straight. Really.

    The collection of Marjorie's letters and her Cross Creek arrived today. It's an old book; I mean, the book itself is old, that's why I bought it.

    Here's a quote, after her friend, a saavy local, and she navigated unchartered and often dangerous swamps and rivers for weeks and made it back home:

    "But when the dry ground was under us, the world no longer fluid, I found a forgotten loveliness in all the things that have nothing to do with the lives of men ... Because I had known intimately a river, the earth pusled under me. The creek was home. Oleanders were sweet past bearing, and my own shabby fields, weed-tangled, were newly dear. I knew, for a moment, that the only nightmare is the masochistic human mind."

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  32. I don't have roses to trim, but there are soooo many bookmarked blogs and websites and such to be checked obsessively as I write and erase just like you do. Non-stop clickers are overrated.

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  33. It's funny, but I can click click for two hours now if I EVER get two hours to do it. Motherhood -- and deciding to be a stay at home Mom when Little Bit is small -- has completely given me ability to shove words onto a page whenever I can get to a page. Problem is, when I look back at what I clickclickclick, I might have been better served waxing the car...

    I have a friend who wrote a best selling novel in a couple of weeks. At a coffee house when her kid was at preschool. She's the one who told me motherhood was a sadistic muse. Too bad it also makes some of us so sleep deprived we lose our ability to conjugate verbs.

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  34. I'm expecting the movie today via netflix

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  35. I want to know if you clickclicked for two hours today.

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  36. I'm going to live on the wild side and speak before reading others:

    You do realize that your method or process or whatever is the one that practically EVERY significant writer claims as hers or his. Bully for Marjorie, but as you say, it's a fairy tale, and apparently every writer knows it.

    Great ending, AH.

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  37. And maybe you feel especially frustrated because your final products do SEEM effortless. I've been a student of all this for a while, but I still get fooled by writers who SEEM so natural.

    Might it be something like the terribly insecure student who seems arrogant, bored, withdrawn? They still fool me too.

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  38. Is it just me, or did Banjo just call me arrogant, bored, and withdrawn.

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  39. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  40. I'm at least 98% sure you're kidding. I hope it's 100%.

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  41. Cafe Observer: YOU are truly my guard dog! who barks at those who emulate my SKIES without ...uhmmm...due reference.

    But then, isn't that the greatest compliment???

    For this: I will paint a picture of garlic for you.

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  42. I answered you on my blog, Ms. Hiker. It is interesting that people are looking UP. I even get emails and phone calls about great SKIES.

    Funny how when my work was stricktly figurative, no one ever said that they had seen some great breasts and thought of me - or some great feet and thought of me! Smile. Smile.

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