Friday, March 13, 2009


from Jacqueline

I had already prepared a post for today, but as these things go, while not sleeping in this hotel room last night (the woes of travel – intermittent insomnia) I thought I would write about something different. Rhythm.

Last Sunday I returned home for a few days. The first long segment of my book tour was behind me, and there were only a few more events still to go. I felt as if I had returned from Mars. And I’ve felt the same way before, after a book tour. It was as if I had just walked into a dance class where everyone knew the moves and I just couldn’t hear the beat. I was out of my rhythm.

I like rhythm to my days, indeed to my months and years. I tend to rise at the same time, pull my robe around me (the black fleecy one),then I go to the kitchen where I put my teabag in a mug (preferably the LA Times Book Festival mug from last year, or the big red mug that my friend, Kas, gave me). I turn on the computer while the kettle’s coming to the boil, and I may even throw a chicken-apple sausage in the pan (due to a recently discovered allergy to just about every grain on the face of the earth, I no longer throw some bread in the toaster). Then with tea and breakfast made, I go through the morning’s emails, write my to-do list and then think about taking the dog for a walk – for my thinking time.

The rhythm of my day has started. The train is on the tracks, and I’m on my journey down through the hours.

I was raised in the country, where every day had its rhythm, and you lived in close alignment with the seasons. At this time of year I would be waiting for the first primroses to appear, so I could run to the woods on Mothering Sunday morning to pick a posy for my Mum (Mothering Sunday – usually the third Sunday in March goes back some eight centuries and is the equivalent of Mother’s Day – sadly, it’s now more often known by that more modern name). If I was lucky I would find some wild violets to add a splash of purple next to the yellow. It’s the time of year when the first lambs would start to appear on wobbly black legs, a time of year when you listened for the cuckoo, just in case it really was spring. People seemed wiser in the country, and I always thought it had something to do with being closer to that rhythm, with a deeply ingrained sense that for everything there is a season; a time to be born and a time to die. With that knowledge came a certain calm way of being in the world.

Now I’m back on the road until Sunday, when I'll fly home like a migrating bird ready to land and find that old nest I left behind (though I will be off to England in about ten days!). As soon as I get back, I’ll be searching for that rhythm – riding the horses, feeding the horses; rush home, have a quick cup of tea, then to my writing, writing, writing; have lunch; more writing, reading, reading; dinner, maybe a movie, maybe more reading. And I will be trying, more than anything, to bring rhythm to my words, to my sentences, to everything I set on the page, because without rhythm the work can sound jarring to the ear when you read it back to yourself. And how do you know when you’ve found the rhythm? I wish I had a prescription for that one, I only know that it’s something you feel, as if it were the change in the air that warns of a storm. Sometimes you only need to alter one word, sometimes you need to cut out a sentence (the sentence that acts like a speed bump in the road and is like a nail across a chalkboard as you read it). I know that reading aloud can help, and I know that cross-training is good for that sense of rhythm (play with poetry - even this Limey can produce a Limerick). I also know that everyone’s different, everyone has a different rhythm. I wrote one of my books almost entirely in hotel rooms on a really, really long book tour – I had no choice. But though I could never do it again, I found that the writing every day grounded me at a time when I felt like a whirling dervish. In setting myself down to write while ignorning the fact that the desk was different, the room was different, gave me the rhythm to my days that I yearned for, and when I came home, I didn’t feel so alien, so out-of-sync.

All that said, I now have to get to my day. I’ll start with some breakfast and a cup of tea, then by the time I’ve spent a few hours writing it’ll be time to rush on over to my event this afternoon. I hope to get a walk in before then ....

How about you – what are you doing today?

Have a lovely weekend.


  1. Lyrical post, Our J. I find it difficult to write in hotel rooms. They are usually too dark and gloomy, with a less than lovely view of the parking lot. Can't believe you wrote a book in that environment.

    As for today, my sock drawer is empty so I guess I'll do laundry.

    Happy travels! Can't wait to read some of your Limericks.

  2. from Jacqueline

    Laundry is as good a thing to do as any (and even that washing machine has rhythm!). My view is over sundry backs of buildings, not particularly edifying, however, the sun is casting deep shafts of morning light across the room, so it's not at all bad.

  3. I'm half awake as I was up all night with a new book. Not because it was good--indeed, I was puzzled, trying to find the rhythm and magic the author had in earlier editions of the series. It has to be on the next page...

    Thanks for adding your usual dose of lyrical, rhytmic beauty to my day, Jackie!

  4. ...and no, of course it wasn't Among the Mad. :)

  5. Jeff, when I began reading your comment, I thought, "Uh-oh, here we go, another customer complaint ..." So glad you wrote that second comment.

    Have a great weekend, Jeff

  6. Helluva travel schedule. Hard not to catch a cold with so many flights, different time zones, different climates.

    If you're going to be at this year's L.A. Times Book Fest, Smiley, Levine & Winspear should have a drink....or form an accounting firm.

  7. Sweet, comfortable rhythm. Crickets have it, Ray Charles, the USC marching band but and now I can say you do too, Jackie.

    I love rhythm in my life and expect I'll achieve it soon. Kids are the biggest impediment to it. Maybe work too, but thats part of my rhythm.


  8. Smiley, Levine, and Winspear, the three Musekateers. Sounds lyrical, rhythmic. Wish the rest of our Naked Truth Community could be at LATFOB, too.

  9. An accounting firm? Do you think we can steal clients from White, Lipped & Trembling? In any case, I'm hoping to be at the LA Festival - so let's raise a glass or two there!

  10. Oh, and Jim, you're right - crickets and Ray Charles have rhythm, though not familiar with that marching band (but even to be in a marching band, you've got to have a rhythmic gene or two).

    Just the thought of crickets and Ray Charles makes me think about sitting on the porch on a balmy summer night, listening to music with a chilled something nice to drink. Ahhhhh.

  11. hold that thought, jackie!
    i`ll bring the crushed ice...