Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Feeling bad about yourself today? Can't quite measure up to those inner voices scolding you for the dust under the bed? Then check out this passage by Anne Lamont, calling perfectionism the "enemy of the people." Read on, and loosen up!

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.

Besides perfectionism will ruin your writing., blocking inventiveness and playfullness and life force. Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground -- you can discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggestes that something is as good as it's going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move."

From Bird by bird, by Anne Lamont. (Pantheon Books, 1994) p. 28-29

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Not bad for a writer's desk, no? Well yes, actually. I spent a scrumptious Sunday morning on Jonathan's deck overlooking the San Francisco Bay, trying to write. But for serious writing I must turn off all the external stimuli and write in a closet.

I've been stuck with my writing, and my one month break has turned into two. I seem to have lost my focus. I need to keep things simple, but they keep getting complicated. I need to fight the temptation to say everything, especially about the topics I'm not expert in. In addition, I'm torn about the publisher issue -- both hope for a contract to make the project concrete, and dread the it since I feel so unprepared.

I had an epiphany yesterday, while swimming. (Swimming is great for the creative process, as are wine and driving). I need to reorganize the manuscript, with emphasis on examples, sample forms, glossary and references. That is, to make it like a user manual. I'm working too hard.

Back to work. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 02, 2005


I picked up the current issue (September 2005) of the National Geographic this evening, a special issue on Africa. The cover caption says, "Whatever you thought, think again." Well, not quite true. I thought unspeakable misery before, and I think the same now. Nevertheless, the excellent journalism and photojournalism put a human face on corruption, poverty, HIV-AIDs, war, genocide, poaching, forest and wildlife conservation ... could there be anything else? Oh yes, cannabalism (article beginning p.82). The website offers more stories, behind the scenes comments from writers and photographers, and a bulletin board for posting and reading article-specific comments.

The magazine is worth a read, but if you can't get to it, here is a selection of the hot-lines:
  • Of 40 million people with HIV today, 26 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Of the 15 million children orphaned by AIDS, 12.3 million live in sub-Saharan Africa
  • A human rights worker says: "Cannibalism here (i.e. Congo) is both an ancient tribal practice and a modern instrument of terror." Author Paul Salopek comments after an interview with Movement of Liberation of the Congo rebel leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba: He wants to be president. And he has an image problem: his soldiers are known primarily for eating pygmies.
  • In Zambia, 60% of the population live on less than $1 per day. More than 50% of the adults are unemployed.
  • Wildlife populations have increased since the 80s, but so have their conflicts with people: In a valley in Zambia, for example, elephants destroy crops stored food, fences, and homes. On the other hand, illegal poaching continues.
Could there possible be hope in such a miasma? The answer is yes, but not a lot. Most essays are based on interviews, and wherever the human voice can make itself heard, there is hope. Even children with AIDs.