Florida Cold Snap

Vladimir Beregovoy writes:

“My son came for spring break vacations. He told an interesting story about mass mortality among exotics in Florida. They had a prolonged period of unusually temperatures there as far to the south as Florida Key, about 40 Fahrenheit for a few weeks. As a result at least 90% of huge Southeast Asian pythons died. A lot of tropical illegally introduced fish species died. A lot of dead fish of different exotic to the area species were floating dead, stinking. Alligators and birds gorged, all you can eat available. This is an excellent ecological disaster phenomenon. Iguanas also became slow down, even dropped from trees, but the did not die, just lost their mobility for some time. One man gathered a lot of them in his car, thinking he was rescuing them. While he was driving, they all warmed up enough and revived!. He was surprised seeing all those huge reptiles moving all over his car and had to stop to unload them! Exotic birds did not die, but a lot of other introduced species seems either gone, or reduced in numbers by cold weather.”

Maybe it will spare us some of those tiresome animal “reality” shows. But will it breed us up future “super pythons” on the principle that those that survive will be more cold- tolerant?

Tips from the Guardian

The Guardian recently printed a series of ten tips on writing each from a multitude of well- known writers. There must be hundreds, ranging from useful to witty to odd, and you should read them all for amusement if nothing else. Lib typed out a few I found useful below.

Hilary Mantel
Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, who would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time the book’s ready.

Michael Moorcock
If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction.

Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development.

Resolve your themes, mysteries and so-on in the final third, the resolution.

Carrot and stick – have protagonists pursued (by an obsession or a villain) and pursuing (idea, object, person, mystery.)

Michael Morpurgo
Once the book is finished in its first draft, I read it aloud to myself. How it sounds is hugely important.

Annie Proulx
Proceed slowly and take care.

To ensure that you proceed slowly, write by hand.

Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you.

Develop craftsmanship through years of wide reading.

Diana Athill
You don’t always have to go so far as to murder your darlings – those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page – but go back and look at them with a very beady eye. Almost always it turns out that they’d be better dead. (Not every little twinge of satisfaction is suspect – it’s the ones which amount to a sort of smug glee you must watch out for.)

Margaret Atwood
Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

Roddy Doyle
Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph.

Helen Dunmore
Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue. [Hemingway said it first–SB]

A problem piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.

Geoff Dyer
Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project.

Esther Freud
Editing is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life.

Find your best time of day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.

Letter to a young writer

I recently wrote the letter below to an incredibly talented but unhappy young writer who was doubting his abilities. It occurred to me that it had some general applications so I am reproducing it here, slightly modified:

First of all, you are NOT a bad writer at all; you may be a brilliant one. What you are is first an original, which is never appreciated by any reading establishment. Second, you carry the normal writer’s self-consciousness to an alarming extent, perhaps because you are a perfectionist.

Believe me, there is not a writer on earth or at least any writer who is not a hack writing to formula in the market who has not felt like this, or doesn’t feel like this somewhere in the back of his mind every time he begins or continues a new work. There is not an emotion or feeling of self-criticism you have mentioned that has not been felt by every serious writer.

I have had something of a block the last year to six months caused by perhaps by a combination of lack of response from editors, depression, and the physical symptoms of my undiagnosed Parkinson’s, which makes it difficult to hold a pen or pencil (I usually compose my first drafts that way) and impossible to type without typos in every line.

In some way I realize that these are excuses for myself. The interesting writer Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire, the realistic best seller about Thermopylae, calls this phenomenon “resistance.”

Recently I have started writing again with physical difficulty but not mental. Pressfield has written a little book called The War of Art. It is more a collection of aphorisms than a self-help book which I would despise. I found the first half in particular a brilliant analysis of the roadblocks that we put in our own way as writers. It took my about an hour to read the entire book by the way, and I recommend it highly to any blocked or overly self-critical writer.

You’re a better writer than you think, and somewhere you know this. Keep writing. Think of Pressfield who wrote about four novels before he sold one in his forties; of Conrad, who started writing IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE in his forties; and Annie Proulx who published nothing until her fifties. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.