words and images by mk swanson
Wax On, Wax Off

Wax On, Wax Off


My friends on ProzactoPrana and Slippers have been talking about it, and I promised to do it this month. 50,000 words in 30 days during NaNoWriMo may not produce a finished novel, but it is certainly good practice. Where am I? Embarrassingly far behind.

To save face, I’ll say that I haven’t been trying. Losing my best feline friend on the first day of the month beat the stuffing out of me. But the whole truth is less sympathetic: I am finding every single word of this novel to be bloody, boring, painful, unrewarding work. And I’m not the best when it comes to that. (Honestly.)

Mary K Swanson

Today, I worked on my bottle tree. I cut and twisted heavy wire and embedded hooks to set up the old fence on which I’ll hang the bottles. Then, I tried to drill a bottle. I drilled too fast and it shattered. I asked for instruction, and David showed me that it takes ten minutes to drill one small hole into one bottle. “Steady pressure. You have to feel for it. It’s more of a meditative practice.”

I swear. That’s what he said.

Wax on.


  1. Dear Wench–

    To start with, my word veri is "lierayst." That's about the closest that word veri can come to "literary," I'm thinking. I, for one, being of Slippery mind, imagine this as encouragment for you.

    But if that's not enough encouragement, let me add this way too long story to your brain:

    Once, a musical theater singer I knew told me that she had been cast in a production that she really loved.

    She was good at what she did, and people praised her work pretty consistently. But one night, she was ON. You know, the moment when all the creative forces are really flowing, and you're not making much effort but you know the connection is just ON FIRE!

    It was one of those nights.

    She expected that her audience would give her the big standing "o" and keep her coming back for more than the usual single encore thing.

    But they didn't. In fact, no one acted like her plugged-in performance was anything other than her usual, workman-like quality.

    A couple of weeks later, she was OFF. You know, the moment when you just can NOT kindle the energy you need to do a decent job.

    She slogged through that show, not making mistakes, but not feeling anywhere near in even her normal groove.

    That night, she got the most amazing response from her audience, a fresh, delighted review from a tough local critic, and a couple of extra encore demands.

    She told me that the lesson she learned from this pair of experiences was that as creators, we can't judge the quality of our work by our "feelings" about it.

    You won't know the quality of that story, me thinks, until you finish your draft. Revise the sucker as best as you can. Get it out in the world for an agent. Get a deal. Get it published. And let your readers tell you what's what.

    Wax on. Wax off.

    Literary hugs,

  2. Wow, Good advice (as usual) from Jamie. I love that you are making a bottle tree (?). It sounds like a creative salute to recycling. I also love that David sees it as meditative. When you meditate on something other than those 50,000 words, they will start bubbling up.

    Write on.

  3. Mary Kay,

    Will you still be adding to the bottle tree in January ? I'd love to give you a few colored bottles, holes included ! And, I can't wait to see it. And what's going on with the hound? Just curious.

  4. Susan,
    The bottle tree is short about 20 bottles, so I think it will welcome some bottle friends!
    If you mean Charlie, the hound who loves squeaky toys, he went to a foster home in Venice, I believe.

  5. I realized you meant Hot Houndette, Susan, after I turned out the light! The comic book is going slowly. Joseph is a wonderful illustrator, but like all of us, very involved in work and life. I still plan to get the story illustrated, but my initial estimate is out the window.

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