writing

May. 2nd, 2013 07:10 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
The main thing I wish I were doing more of at the moment is writing. I had a cram session over the weekend of working on a piece for a science writing competition, which I really stressed about and finally submitted two hours before the deadline. I want to set aside more time for that kind of thing, for the science blog, for writing here, but also for doing creative writing like stories and poetry.

But I wonder if maybe part of that is wanting to be have a creative partner or be part of a creative community. There's a bit of a blogging community here, though it seems ever-dwindling, but then for science writing it feels like none of the scientists I know care much about it. And I've tried building networks from my friends who also like to write fiction but it feels like they never go anywhere. I think I could do a better job of making my own habitual space for writing, but I also feel a strong desire to connect with others over it. I don't know what to do with that, other than keep looking.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
So I spent the weekend with a couple friends out west, in County Clare. Originally we were going to do an academic writing retreat, and then it morphed a bit so we did some writing, but also some cooking and also some hikes. I knew we'd be near the Burren, a starkly beautiful geological area, but didn't realize until we got out there just how close we were to the Cliffs of Moher as well. So writing was nice, the time with friends was really good, and also the hikes were amazing! Here, have some photos.

Read more... )

mullaghmore

porousness

Dec. 16th, 2012 09:18 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I have been feeling increasingly closed off recently, as if I were folding in on myself. There's really no better way to describe it, but the feeling has made me nostalgic for times in the past when I felt more able to be open. I like the feeling of openness, the simplicity of it but also the ease with which you are able to connect. I had been thinking about this and then came across a wonderful description of the feeling I had in mind, written by Zadie Smith in the New Yorker talking about something completely different:

This is the effect that listening to Joni Mitchell has on me these days: uncontrollable tears. An emotional overcoming, disconcertingly distant from happiness, more like joy—if joy is the recognition of an almost intolerable beauty. It's not a very civilized emotion. I can't listen to Joni Mitchell in a room with other people, or on an iPod, walking the streets. Too Risky. I can never guarantee that I'm going to be able to get through the song without being made transparent—to anybody and everything, to the whole world. A mortifying sense of porousness. Although it's comforting to learn that the feeling I have listening to these songs is the same feeling the artist had while creating them: "At that period of my life, I had no personal defense. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes."


I've never listened to Joni Mitchell, but feeling that way used to be a more regular feature of my life, and I'd like to cultivate that again.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
We took Winnie and Jim to the Chester Beatty Library, my favorite Dublin museum, yesterday. It was my third time there and I still love watching the videos about how to bind books and illuminate pages, and seeing all the beautiful art and lettering and everything!

But also, I saw the most beautiful unlined notebook in the gift shop, which actually was a perfect match for my favorite purse, and I bought it. I cannot put to-do lists in this thing, but I want to actually use it! I have been given a fair number of small journals over the years, and occasionally start using them for creative writing but that usually falls off pretty quickly. The journal I used the most was a Moleskine one I got for myself just before Ben and I left the US for the first time, which was my travel abroad journal until, well, we moved to Ireland. Plus internet access is easier when traveling now than it was 6 years ago, so I can just blog from anywhere for the most part.

Back to the point, I want to use this journal for something creative. But what? I am thinking maybe it should be a place to list ideas for various writing endeavors, something I always have with me... and maybe I could write some first drafts or outlines there as well, to get things started before I go to a computer for the bulk of the writing. I'm not sure though, does anyone have suggestions?
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
We took Winnie and Jim to the Chester Beatty Library, my favorite Dublin museum, yesterday. It was my third time there and I still love watching the videos about how to bind books and illuminate pages, and seeing all the beautiful art and lettering and everything!

But also, I saw the most beautiful unlined notebook in the gift shop, which actually was a perfect match for my favorite purse, and I bought it. I cannot put to-do lists in this thing, but I want to actually use it! I have been given a fair number of small journals over the years, and occasionally start using them for creative writing but that usually falls off pretty quickly. The journal I used the most was a Moleskine one I got for myself just before Ben and I left the US for the first time, which was my travel abroad journal until, well, we moved to Ireland. Plus internet access is easier when traveling now than it was 6 years ago, so I can just blog from anywhere for the most part.

Back to the point, I want to use this journal for something creative. But what? I am thinking maybe it should be a place to list ideas for various writing endeavors, something I always have with me... and maybe I could write some first drafts or outlines there as well, to get things started before I go to a computer for the bulk of the writing. I'm not sure though, does anyone have suggestions?
clevermynnie: (Default)
I went out to Dundee this past weekend to write things and generally hang out with [livejournal.com profile] erindubitably and [livejournal.com profile] marrog. It was really fun!

Writing-wise, I edited three science blog posts I'd been sitting on for awhile, and put together another from scratch. And I wrote a long essay I'd been doing in fits and starts, and put together a draft for something I'd been wanting to say about women in science and the pipeline. Plus, we did some funny writing prompts which led me to get a short piece off for the inconsistent fiction trade I have going with [livejournal.com profile] aphorisic. So, very productive, and I got to eat tasty food and hang out with friends!

Of course, I got sick on the way back and am now sitting at home with a cold. I did notice last week that the lymph glands in my throat were a little tender, and apparently my long run Friday was the last straw for my immune system. I think if I have to ramp down my running a bit this week that'll be okay; I was planning to do another high-mileage week but my race is in less than three weeks now, so I can just make it a longer taper. At least I didn't get sick before getting to Dundee!
clevermynnie: (Default)
I went out to Dundee this past weekend to write things and generally hang out with [livejournal.com profile] erindubitably and [livejournal.com profile] marrog. It was really fun!

Writing-wise, I edited three science blog posts I'd been sitting on for awhile, and put together another from scratch. And I wrote a long essay I'd been doing in fits and starts, and put together a draft for something I'd been wanting to say about women in science and the pipeline. Plus, we did some funny writing prompts which led me to get a short piece off for the inconsistent fiction trade I have going with [livejournal.com profile] aphorisic. So, very productive, and I got to eat tasty food and hang out with friends!

Of course, I got sick on the way back and am now sitting at home with a cold. I did notice last week that the lymph glands in my throat were a little tender, and apparently my long run Friday was the last straw for my immune system. I think if I have to ramp down my running a bit this week that'll be okay; I was planning to do another high-mileage week but my race is in less than three weeks now, so I can just make it a longer taper. At least I didn't get sick before getting to Dundee!

grammared

Feb. 16th, 2012 04:51 pm
clevermynnie: (and then?)
There are a lot of ways in which Ireland is not that foreign to me. For all the subtle changes and differences, it's a country where most people look like me, my name isn't considered overly strange, the food is recognizable, and they speak the language I grew up speaking. But actually, that last bit is kind of a trick, and not just in the vocabulary (our flat has a new rubbish bin!).

See, I consider myself to be a pretty good writer. I like writing, I do it regularly, it's been important to me for a long time. And I can spend quite a lot of time editing if I so choose, making tiny tweaks and adjustments to improve the clarity or the flow of words. It's less that I finish editing pieces and more that I give up on editing them any further. But it is so satisfying to read something where the structure and phrasing are finely tuned, allowing the content and the ideas therein to really shine. I love that feeling and I strive for it.

So imagine the trouble I am having as I realize that many of the grammatical rules I have internalized, that contribute to my sense of whether a string of words flows or not, are region-specific. This came up very soon after moving here, as I was writing that fellowship application I did, and it's come up again recently with the grant proposal I am helping my boss with. For example, when I see a singular noun with a plural verb it is like driving over a pothole, but if the singular noun represents a group it's apparently normal to use a plural verb here. 'The government are raising taxes', 'the team have discovered new physics'. It also seems uncommon here to use the Oxford comma, and comma usage over all is lower than feels right to me. But what's lacking in commas is made up for with convoluted phrasing! Of course, it only feels convoluted to me; to someone else I'm sure my phrasing is rude and blunt.

Even though I've read lots of Irish (and British) writing that read smoothly to me, I wonder how the best-polished versions of my writing read to others here. Do my words sound clear or is there too much weird American grammar going on? I hope it doesn't affect funding chances for the documents I've submitted, especially since I would have a hard time changing my writing style at this point in my life.

letters

Oct. 14th, 2011 05:56 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
I've started working on several interconnected essays about some science things that I think are interesting, to practice my science writing. It's more work than I imagined because I don't want to gloss over anything, but that means doing some basic explanation like what is an atom and what is electric charge. If being clearer expands the scope of the project, though, so be it.

Along those lines, Ben got me a great birthday present: The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing. It has excerpts from a lot of amazing scientists who have written well on various topics.

I also entered an essay contest, not a scientific one but something I heard about on a feminist blog. Essay contest is actually kind of a misnomer since there was a 150-word limit, but it was fun to put something together.

And now, a weekend in Edinburgh!

writing

Sep. 22nd, 2011 12:56 am
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I went to the Dublin Writers Museum today, which has a great audio guide, a lot of early editions, and does a good job of putting a lot of famous Irish writers into the context of their times and Irish history. Plus the museum was in this gorgeous Georgian house with lovely ceilings that had gold and sky blue painted moldings, and the cafe had scones, cream, and tea that was inexpensive but generously proportioned.

I have been feeling some writer's block since coming here. It could be lingering thesis burnout, lingering emotional burnout, some pressure that it's supposed to be so amazing here and I have to somehow express that... but I am also not the best at just sitting down and writing. I get distracted too easily. Since I have the time right now, I'd like to be writing more, so I'm going to try to set up my morning routine along those lines.

I have been reading, though. I just finished the most recent Isabel Allende book, Island Beneath the Sea, and I've been going through this massive art history book I brought with me. I really want to read the whole thing, though that means I am still reading about the art of ancient cultures. But it's a nice textbook with a lot of good prints, and there's both a lot of interesting thematic things I never noticed before, and a lot of history that I could stand a refresher on.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I'm standing on rough white plastic, looking down at the bright aqua of the pool. I have to watch my balance, because the starting block is sloped forward towards the water, and it's easy to get careless and fall off. I'm a little bit nervous; I'm at swimming practice, and we're doing sprints with racing starts. A start off the block isn't that hard, once you know how to do it, but it has been at least five years since I last did one. What if I've forgotten somehow? What if I fall in early or slap onto the surface of the water or dive in at too steep an angle? I know I'll be slow, and I'm okay with that, but I'm worried about screwing up the easy part.

"Swimmers, take your marks!"

I bend over, right foot forward, toes curled over the edge of the block, hands down, shoulders flexed and waiting. I stare down at the water.

"Go!"

My arms swing forward and my legs extend; I tuck my head under and slice through the surface of the water. And suddenly a part of me wakes up, hearing the sound of the water roaring in my ears, and inside something primal is shouting, surging. Countless memories of races at swim meets awake in my muscles, pushing, shouting GO! My skin tingles from the suddenness of the water and its force as it pushes around me, and I hear a voice with no words desperately urging me, GO! I don't even hear it so much as feel it, know it, GO! My muscles are loose and fluid and my hands break the streamline and pull, and I feel weightless, slick, smooth. The impact echoes in my ears and my mind shouts GO! and my body is gone.
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I've done it all before; the late flight in, the pitch black two-hour drive. This time, there was a full moon. That's new. The highway isn't under construction for once. The other drivers are sparse. We get into town and pass the bank, whose display flashes between 1:32 and 76 degrees. "Dad," I say, "did you know it rarely gets this hot in Berkeley in the middle of the day?"Read more... )

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