Posts Tagged ‘writing process humor’

How to Stay Trim

June 1, 2011

blue soapbox  A recent article in the New York Times, “Fidgeting Your Way to Fitness” (May 11, 2011), suggests that “incidental” physical activity, such as drumming your fingers against your desk top in frustration, can burn calories and help maintain or augment your physical fitness.

This is great news to those of us whose primary form of exercise is hunting and pecking, wrinkling our noses, rolling our eyes, and shaking our heads at how bad something looks on the page when it looked perfectly fine yesterday.  Writing is a lot of work, my friends, and it’s nice to have this officially recognized by sports and exercise researchers normally concerned only with silly matters like the cardiovascular benefits of cross-training for marathoners.

But—what if you can’t get to the gym, and you also can’t seem to get any writing done?  Are you simply out of luck, fitness-wise?

Suppose, just hypothetically, that your hip has finally given out.  You’re largely housebound, and you need to go in for a big surgery.  With your physical activity significantly curtailed, there’s nothing much you can do besides sitting around with your laptop—which would seem like the ideal opportunity to, say, start working on that other novel.  Yet you find yourself shockingly unproductive.

Not only can’t you go for a walk; you also can’t seem to manage the aerobics of hand-wringing as you confront a draft or, worse, a blank page.  How, oh how, are you to maintain your waistline?

This is where abject terror can be a lifesaver.

Turns out you don’t need to flutter your fingers as you try coming up with a nice metaphor for that one pesky paragraph.  You don’t need to mop your brow, rethinking that clunky sentence with the weak verb.  Instead, simply work yourself up into a frenzy of anxiety over impending events.  Tighten your stomach muscles into an obstinate tangle, and voila—abdominal fitness!

Also known as isometric exercise, this technique can be applied in many other parts of the body with equally silhouette-flattering results.  Sit in the wrong chair and get some lower back tension going.  Develop a case of temporo-mandibular joint disorder.  Clench your fists.  Clutch desperately at your chest.  Look, I’m not recommending rigor mortis, but rigor vitae happens to be great exercise.

Oh, and don’t forget about the lungs.  Say you’re headed for surgery kicking and screaming—but, having had to give up kicking lately, you’re increasingly reliant on the vocal component.  Isn’t it reassuring to know your physical fitness can be enhanced by a little, um, musical expression?

If you insist on considering the eardrums of others and still wish to exercise your lungs, hyperventilation is definitely worth a try.

“You’re nice and slim,” your surgeon tells you, explaining that this will make his job easier.

“I’m nice and slim while unconscious,” you correct him.  “When I’m awake, believe me, I’m a big fat pain in the neck.”

And you whip out your list of questions, and try not to be too obvious about pulsing in agitation.

Published in the Piedmont Post, June 1, 2011

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… Rotten Acceptances: A Writer’s Favorite Nightmare

January 7, 2010

blue soapbox  We’ve all chuckled over the “rotten rejections” writers have endured on the way to fame. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

Well, I seem to rack up “rotten acceptances.”  Maybe it’s the price I pay for choosing a controversial religious subject to write about.

First I should mention that I’m proud of my Jewish heritage, and that I’m actively affiliated with a local synagogue and several Jewish groups.  I do, however, wrestle with my tradition, and years ago, started writing articles questioning infant circumcision.  With its medical, spiritual, sexual, and ethnic complexities—and because I’d like to inspire thoughtful inquiry into a topic too often dominated by sophomoric jokes and inflammatory rhetoric—this issue has become a significant area of interest for me as a writer.

Soon after my first article appeared in a progressive Jewish magazine, I submitted another to a conservative Jewish intellectual journal.  The result was my first rotten acceptance.

“I find your arguments against [Jewish circumcision] utterly destructive,” begins the typo-filled missive, going on to describe one of my points as “sheer idiocy” that “takes the cake.”

It continues.  “However, it seems to me very penetrating;”—I still have no idea whether that was meant as a pun—“I look forward to printing it, sometime in the spring.  Most cordially…”

Last week, I got another rotten acceptance.  This time, I had sent a Jewish publication an essay about what I see as a hidden feminist issue within the circumcision controversy.

I’ve always found it odd that trailblazing Jewish feminists generally defend the circumcision tradition, focusing on girls’ baby-naming ceremonies in an attempt to counter the obvious gender inequity of this ritual.  The idea has apparently been to make things as equal as possible for girls from the get-go.

Meanwhile, grown Jewish women who are ethically opposed to their sons’ circumcisions are often dismissed or marginalized, either subtly or overtly, in Jewish life.  It’s as if, when it comes to this particular practice, women’s ethics and spirituality matter less than men’s.  Why, I ask, do Jewish feminists continue to accept such condescension?

“[Your article] ends with so, so many questions,” says the e-mailed response to my submission.  “The piece we’re looking for should reach conclusions, not invite women (and the reader) to ask all these questions.”

And I thought my job was to get people to think.

I had to read the letter through several times before realizing that at the end was an offer to print the piece—as written—in a special issue of the journal rather than in its weekly incarnation.

“Rottenness” aside, I feel deeply grateful that I can get my work published in Jewish periodicals even if it’s considered provocative, with no fear of reprisal any more serious than being verbally criticized.  How many religious groups can embrace their own iconoclasts to that degree?

Meanwhile, I’ve written a contemporary literary novel which I’m currently shopping to agents and small presses.  So far, only rejections.  Doesn’t fit our list… Original idea, but not for me…  It’s a difficult time in publishing…

I’m bracing myself for the acceptance.

Published in Piedmont Post January 6, 2010