Back on the Writing Track

Am I the only writer around to unintentionally take time off?

No writer’s block.

So what was it?  Did I not know how to end the book? Maybe.

So how did I feel not working on my novel?  Like the life had been literally sucked out of me. Truly. Like I was a ship without a safe harbor. Clichés? Sometimes you have to say what you feel and just let it out.

It began with a few trips that put my writing life on a roller coaster.

Sunrise in Australia
Sunrise in Australia

You can always take your laptop with you on trips. But I’m weak. I always find other things to do.  But this much I know. I don’t like it when I’m not writing. I don’t feel whole. I’m serious. (Oh, Darla,  you’re just trying to have something to say to get this blog up.)  No, it’s the truth. I am miserable. I mean utterly miserable. I am not myself.

My first book is currently with an excellent editor.  So I have released that one. But my second book is weirding me  out. It’s moving in a direction that has surprised me. And I like it. It borders on the best writing I’ve ever done. (And remember whose opinion that is…) But I am feeling terrific today and wrote from 5 -11:30 a.m. and had a glorious reunion with myself. And how did I get back on track?

I got up, put the coffee on, kept all the windows shuttered and began reading and editing the last forty pages.  Editing words, making corrections and amazing myself at what I had previously written.

Funny thing is I got to page 240 and anxiously scrolled down awaiting the next page only to discover blank pages. It seems I had stopped there. No, no and no!!!! What happens next?It was good and it was bad.

It was good because I realized that it was exciting enough that I was in turmoil because I didn’t know what happened. Yet, I was in a funk until tomorrow the same time when I work out the dilemma I left them in. Will I kill off a character? I think I have to. Will it hurt? Probably. Will they feel it?   Hey this is fiction.

Thoughts anyone?

D-d-d-d-doubt.

“All of us, whether we are in this business or not, have little voices that tell us we’re not good enough.” Ellen DeGeneres 

Thanks Google!
Thanks Google!

Ellen is once again hosting the Academy Awards this year.  If Ellen can speak of  those scary voices,  surely that alone will bring unbridled relief to the rest of us!

We may all have those moments when we are at the top of a precipice and can either slide down the back way or go for the gold. Largely, and apparently, it’s up to us! We stick or we slip.

Some even believe that self doubt can work for you.

Dani Shapiro Thanks Google!
Dani Shapiro
Thanks Google!

Dani Shapiro, author of  “Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life,”

“…I’m not sure self-doubt is an obstacle. It might even be a writer’s best ally. It seems to me that every really good writer I know is plagued by it. Confidence is highly overrated when it comes to creating literature. A writer who is overly confident will not engage in the struggle to get it exactly right on the page — but rather, will assume that she’s getting it right without the struggle. People often confuse confidence with courage. I think it takes tremendous courage to write well — because a writer has to move past the epic fear we all face, and do it anyway.”

And, no matter the current books written by Anne Lamott, I always return to her “Bird by Bird.” Surely a standard for writers everywhere.

Anne Lamott Thanks Google!
Anne Lamott
Thanks Google!

“You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. You need to trust yourself, especially on a first draft, where amid the anxiety and self-doubt, there should be a real sense of your imagination and your memories walking and woolgathering, tramping the hills, romping all over the place. Trust them. Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

I love those words. And isn’t that what we are here to do?

Would love to hear how your dancing is going.

Leave a comment.

Sundance’s Magical Moments

As I walked through the lobby of the Yarrow Hotel at the 30th Sundance Film Festival, a young woman wearing shiny red boots, a heavy winter coat and a red star enhanced with gold in her dark hair stopped me in my tracks.

“Are you Wonder Woman?” I asked. Then Sara Fischel flashed me the full package.

Sara, a videographer and actor, turned her camera on me and asked why I was interested in Wonder Woman. WW was the only female — other than Lois Lane — who ever looked like she was having an adventure. A strong female hero for young women. And still the film industry does not do her justice. I could have talked all night.

Periodically through the festival I saw Sara dancing in the street and wandering around videotaping and being photographed. A delightful personality who’s focused on her career.

Sara Fischel
Sara Fischel stopped for photo with Darla Bartos at Sundance Film Festival 2014.

Other surprising moments bordered from wacky to serendipitous and flat astounding.

Read on.

Meaghan Rath, a Canadian film and television actor, who portrays Sally Malik on the series Being Human, walked by my son Philip and I in a narrow hallway while we were in line waiting to see her in a Slamdance movie Three Night Stand. My son is a big fan and acted quickly.  “Meaghan, could I have a picture with you?”

She whirled around flashing a celebrity smile. I grabbed his iPhone and snapped it.  “We can go home now!” he laughed.

Meeting Meaghan Rath! Meaghan and Phil Bartos
Meeting Meaghan Rath!
Meaghan and Phil Bartos

 

Whimsical moments occurred that were astounding. And here’s another one.

Phil and I were lucky enough to have passes, which meant priority seating. For our first movie,  we sat in the middle surrounded by rows of empty seats. A young woman walked over and asked if she could sit down in the seat next to me.

“What do you do?” I asked.

“I”m an actor.” The conversation sped up.  When Loren Fenton explained that she  worked mostly in the New York area, Philip leaned in and asked if she knew Nisi Sturgis, a lifelong friend of his sister, and my daughter, Benjie Ruth Bartos. Loren shot her head back and looked at us as if we were pranking her. Her eyes grew wide.

“Yes, I’ve worked with Nisi on several projects!”

I whipped out my phone, asked a stranger to shoot us, which I then texted to Nisi, who minutes later sent back a text of delightful surprise that we’d met! It was uncanny that Loren just happened to select the empty seat next to me with an ocean of empty seats available.  Coincidence?

Actor Loren Fenton, Darla Bartos and Phil Bartps, my son, at Sundance 2014.
Actor Loren Fenton, Darla Bartos and Phil Bartos, my son, at Sundance 2014.

In another theater,  Philip and I  watched as a mass of attendees searched for seats. A woman asked if the seat next to me was taken. I said no and when she was settled, I asked, “And what do you do?”

“I’m a filmmaker.” And when Frances Bodomo, originally from Ghana, said she had directed Afronauts, Philip nearly leapt out of his chair across me. “That’s all my Mom has talked about for days.  Really, you can’t imagine how much she is dying to see it.” And it was true.

Having lived in Africa, I was intrigued when I first heard of Afronauts because the story was so provocative.  http://powderroomfilms.com/film/afronauts/  Bodomo, also a writer, works for a film company. It was a grand moment when the image from her short film eased across the big Sundance Screen.

get-attachment-1

Of course, I could say a good time was had by all. But that would not convey the experience of having being among so many creative people.

At the end of each movie, the director, producer and sometimes the stars, appeared on stage to answer questions. One young man — I don’t remember which film — made the most memorable comment.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

A courageous comment and a moment of inspiration for us all.