Thursday, July 01, 2010

Where there's a will, there's a way!

So here I was, determined to write a blog entry today, trying to write a blog entry -- and Blogger wouldn't let me. I could read my blog, respond to comments, read other people's blogs, put a maple leaf on the sidebar -- but when I went to write a new post, I got a little icon going around and around and around in the centre of the page. I had no cursor. Hmmm. I called for help over at Facebook and Twitter. Poetikat sent me to a site called Blogdoctor, which looked interesting. I couldn't find help for my current predicament, but I saved the link for future reference.

Then it occurred to me to resort to the K.I.S.S. principle. I turned the computer off and restarted it, then went smugly to Blogger and hit "New Post", fully expecting that all would be well. No. Still the bloody icon swirled and swirled in front of my eyes.

In the end, obviously, I found a solution, and I shall reveal it here in case any of you have a similar experience (and in case it happens to me again and I can't remember what I did).  While the icon swirled, I hit "Save Now" and saved the page. Then I went to "Edit Posts", chose the new, blank post, and hit "Edit".  Presto. I had a new page and, joy of joys, a cursor.

Now all I have to do is remember what I wanted to say, way back when I started this marathon.

Oh, yes. First of all, Happy Canada Day! I have had the day off, and I have spent it in glorious laziness. I did take a cue from one of the many writers I follow at Twitter. (I wish I could remember whose idea it was, but I can't.) The idea was to copy - by hand - a passage from the writing of someone whose work you admire, in order to get a feel for the writing. (Later, there's the suggestion to write something in the style of   a writer you admire -- but first things first.) My first plan was to copy something of Barbara Kingsolver's, but it seems that all my Kingsolver is out in the motor home. I grabbed my copy of Ann Patchett's bel canto instead, and I copied the first paragraph. The experiment was more interesting than I expected it to be.

When I pulled out my notebook, a photo fell out. I bought this photo in England - from a little shop on the quay at Exeter. The shop had hundreds, if not thousands, of old photographs, and I would happily have brought home at least a hundred of them, funds and space permitting, but this one spoke to me. It is a postcard, unfortunately without a date, from a woman named Annie to her cousins. Annie must either have delivered the card by hand or enclosed it in a letter, as there is no address on it. Her inscription reads "Love & Best wishes to all. Yrs affec Cousin Annie."  It seems that Twitterspeak predates Twitter by quite a few years. I think Annie may join my family of characters, though I'm not sure yet where she'll fit on the family tree.

I set the photograph on the table beside me while I copied the first paragraph of bel canto. It seemed as if Annie were there beside me, reading the words, visualizing the scene. As I wrote, I realized that Patchett had used a technique that I would never have used -- at least not intentionally.  She had written

"Maybe he had been turning toward her just before it was completely dark, maybe he was lifting his hands." 

and then

"They did not see a kiss, that would have been impossible."

My pedantic little head nearly exploded when I saw that.  I stopped the exercise and rolled my eyes at Annie, who just stared back at me. Even now, hours later, I had to go back to make sure I hadn't seen commas when in fact there were periods or semicolons there -- but no. There are no periods. There are no semicolons. There are just commas.  Tsk, tsk. And yet -- what I find irresistible about this novel is its musical quality, its lyrical flow. I do remember now that when I first read that paragraph, I was taken aback by the sentence structure, but I decided to persevere, and I was glad that I had. Could it be that the very technique that shocked (and shocks) me is what makes bel canto flow? Well, yes, of course it could. So now, I will do some more copying, and then I will write a piece in the style of Ann Patchett, and I bet that if I try to write it with more conventional punctuation, it won't flow. So I'll loosen up.

I really, really wish I could remember whose idea this exercise was. Whoever you are -- thank you. It is most enlightening.

Canadian Flag image courtesy of Webweaver.


Mary said...

Happy Canada Day!
What a clever exercise. I think I'll try that one myself.
You sound like yourself today.
Glad you like the avatar.

Giggles and Guns

AngelMay said...

Nice to see you back and blogging.

John Hayes said...

Eberle is big on that type of comma usage--tho I (who never saw a dash I didn't love & rarely punctuate poems otherwise!) took a bit to get used to it, now I like it very much for the sense of flow. Glad you got the post editor up--what an odd problem--& one not cured by re-booting. I thought that cured everything!

Leeuna said...

What an intersting writing exercise. I'll have to try that sometime. Happy Canada Day.

Sandra Leigh said...

Mary, Angel May, I am feeling better every day. Thank you.

John, I'm a fan of the dash, too, as you may have noticed -- but I think the semicolon is highly underrated -- and underused, too. (Is underused a word?)

Leeuna, yes. I recommend the exercise. I worked on it a little longer last night, then started my "in the style of" exercise, and I think I'll be doing that a lot more often.

I hope you all had a Happy Canada Day.

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