Written by Mary Rose Betten
Habits like rabbits multiply. I find it curious a nun chooses an order, takes a vow and wears a habit. “Make it a habit,” my father would yell (he never spoke but bellowed) “Return things to where you found them.” That might come naturally to salmon but I found it unoriginal.
When we buried him I wanted to shout, “Look we got it right.”
In the course of becoming an old lady I now care less about order and more about comfort. It’s difficult to release the foot rest on my recliner and get up to retrieve what I want. Never mind returning it. A sound repeats: “Forget about it.” Consider the sound of Hobbit and habit. Definition of Hobbit? Small with hairy feet. Nothing grows on my feet, though my size grows along with a mustache.
Growing up I had a habit of leaving the light on while I walked out of my bedroom to go across the hall to the bathroom. Down the hall with the speed of a freight train came my Father whooping: “You burn holes in the daylight.” Before I could explain: “I’m making a pit stop.” he’d be slapping at the switch like a mad drummer after mosquitoes.
As a child my mother taught us to make windows in shoe boxes, cover them with tissue, attach a string and fill the box with lightening bugs. Of course I was only five so I went by Daddy’s white wooden lawn chair and said: “Look Daddy, they turn on and off the light all the time.” As I say I was five not fifteen or I’d have gown up with the box implanted in my lip.
In our country church we had baptisms following a Sunday mass. During mass nobody noticed but a bird flew in, took a quick bath in the baptismal font and left.
The priest didn’t notice. My father was oblivious. But the bird could fly. There’s the answer: flight!
Before high school graduation I heard it cost more to turn off a light than to leave it burning a short time but I was too busy cleaning out my drawers, packing, determining how to pay my own electric bill.
Today AARP speaks advice to the elderly. They claim by developing new habits your brain will easily adjust. Take something you don’t do well. Like I am hopeless with numbers. My father tried to teach me Algebra and my answers caused him to break pencils and masticate his tongue.
I’m going to rush out and take a course in mathematics so my brain can rejoice while my body has a nervous break down. A full happy life to that AARP writer. Whenever I feel the need for studying mathematics I’ll pop some corn, sprinkle sea salt, climb in my recliner and let the good habits roll.
My good friend, and Rabbi, Zoe Klein’s novel is just out in Paperback! Drawing in the Dust. It’s a really intriguing tale about the power of love crossing cultural lines! A young anthropologist discovers the bones of the prophet Jeremiah intwined with the skeletal remains of a woman! The story takes place in Israel, and I would suggest that Israel becomes it’s own character, not just a backdrop. I recently hosted a book group with Rabbi Klein speaking about this novel and her upcoming novel and it was so wonderful! She talked about the her writing process, where the story came from, the work involved and of course the story! For us, the tlswriters the most motivating piece of Rabbi Klein’s story of how this book came to be is in the perseverance and passion she had for this story. It was a good ten years (or so) in the making! Keep on writing!
Do you think Book Group Discussions help us as writers? I was recently moderating a group of sixth grade girls with a gaggle of mother’s in tow. We had read Rebecca Stead’s Newberry Prize novel When You Reach Me. As we discussed the plot and questioned the author’s choices and her telling of this particular story I couldn’t help but thinking that one day I want to be the author absent from the room unable to defend myself being debated by a group of readers. I questioned if it helped from a writer’s standpoint to dissect a book to such a critical level, seeking answers to questions that I wonder if Rebecca Stead had even thought about as she wrote!!! Once I was moderating a discussion of Geraldine Brooks’ novel Year of Wonders and one of the readers had the audacity to comment that she certainly hoped Geraldine had done her research!!! Could you imagine questioning someone of Geraldine Brooks’ writing stature if she did her research??? Anyway, I offer this up for discussion — book groups fun for the reader, helpful for the writer?
I love what you wrote Erica, especially emphasizing "supportive and guilty." No matter how supportive our families, we can choose to feel guilty for not writing "enough." I use all sorts of tricks on the days that I have decided to write and some of them may work for you. I tell myself that I only need to write for ten minutes and that if I want to stop after ten minutes I can. Usually after ten minutes I love what I am doing and want to continue. But before I begin I am afraid that I won’t be able to write and this little trick can help me to get started, to dip my toe into the water. The fear of beginning is what stops me. I also make a list of things I can do as little breaks if I get blocked in my writing — take a walk, take a shower, make a cup of tea, some little ten-minute task, etc. I like to feel I can escape from writing if I need to. I don’t usually need to but I don’t want to feel trapped. The walk can be very helpful to help shake up my mind with a tough part of the story. All the days that I don’t write (other than in my journal) help me on the days that I do write. I need to be filled up by my life.