Abra Goes

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Are there elephants in your room?

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The elephant-headed diety, Ganesh, is the Hindu god of success.

The white elephant symbolizes patience and wisdom in Buddhism.

To many Chinese, the elephant embodies energy, strength and power.

And for dramatists, the elephant in the room can be a device for comedy or tension: Auto-subtext, the thing on everyone’s mind, but nobody’s lips. It works on stage because we learn as much from what characters don’t say as from what they do, often more.

Comedy lessons often situate a small class in a circle – each student in character with a given relationship to another character. Instructed to improvise dialogue, students go right into easy banter, mostly absurd. But put an elephant in the room and a narrative emerges.

It’s taken me too long to realize that when querying magazines it does not behoove me to be subtle. To have sub-text. My new routine involves clearing the elephants out of the room.

Switching gears from playwrighting to nonfiction on a daily basis is more than switching hats, it’s turning them inside out – removing the seams and helicopter twirls- and reconstructing the material into something more respectable. Like a kerchief?

But with both non-fiction and playwrighting, the revision process is the same (at least for me). Cutting through and eliminating every word that is not necessary. Asking:

What am I (or the character) saying? Not saying?

What is this about? Or Why is important now?

Is it about the same thing at the beginning as it is at the end or I am writing off of a cliff?

These questions, asked relentlessly, make writing better. Numerous books on writing suggest there may possibly be another question or two that writers can ask themselves when revising.

Care to share yours?


Written by abragoes

April 24, 2008 at 7:55 pm

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Conflicting Vices

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If you’re like me, you justify those vices you indulge in by patting yourself on the back for those you don’t: I drink coffee, but it’s not like I smoke. I drink whiskey and wine but, remember, I don’t smoke.

Maybe I give myself too much credit for not smoking? But aren’t we all entitled to a vice or two? Even the word ‘vice’ sounds so much better plural: Vices

While I have no intention of parting with my morning, noon and night coffee OR my red wine OR my New Zealand Cabernet OR my increasingly rare glass of Whiskey, I am noticing my body’s confused response to the combination of consuming the above, maintaining my writing schedule, and running 12-15 miles/ week.

I truly did read that black coffee is good for runners. It was in an article posted at my gym. Granted, the article was faded and possibly several years old, but it does feel good to down a cup or two before a run. The article said that it boosts your metabolism and gets your energy up. I’ve never had the problem of crashing after drinking coffee, but I imagine that those who do would find that the natural adrenaline from running kicks in in time to keep one foot in front of another.

An element of red wine, according to a recent Barbara Walters special on living to 150 (featuring mostly pharmaceutical scientists), when concentrated at 1000 Xs the natural dosage, expands life expectancy for 20-30 years by turning on the cells that go after damaged tissue. (I’m not a gambling gal, but I would bet all that the pharma companies are scouting vineyards as we speak, planning to grow bio-engineered grapes that will make us live to be a thousand, turning us into human-pharma crops without a natural organ or skin cell left.)

Unfortunately wine also makes me sleepy. Coffee runs through my veins more often than blood so its affects are minimal (I just love it). And I’m pretty sure that more than a glass of Whiskey is in no way good for anyone…

So this leaves me looking to expand my vices to include a few healthier options that feel as comforting and luxurious as they do spirited with attitude, ala F* it.

Running Update for April: 6 / 42 miles

I’ll certainly share should I find any.



Written by abragoes

April 2, 2008 at 6:02 pm

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Writing with or without the ZONE

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37.76 miles ran so far for March – 4.24 left to my goal

Though an outdoor course kicked my bum this weekend, thanks to the beautiful weather, I am making progress, getting better at running. My favorite moment is when your body kicks in and there’s no room to think. You’re just running.

This place exists in writing, too – when you’re in it and too busy building the content to step back and doubt or judge. I haven’t gotten there in a while as my writing time comes in small chunks of 1-3 hours instead of the 5-7 hour stretches I once had the luxury to work in.

I’m learning to work with time constraints as far as organizing my research, imposing deadlines, and outlining as much as possible. But I have yet to locate the express line for getting beyond the words on the page…to thinking faster than I can write.

Running is not getting any easier, but I’m enjoying it more with practice.

Writing is a craft, but it’s also a job and if I want it to be my livelihood I’ll have to make do without the zone. Still, I’m not taking down that picture of my future writing room with a small wooden desk, and a big window where I will one day sit for hours and hours writing, disconnected from the internet and an IV of coffee plugged into my arm.


Written by abragoes

March 25, 2008 at 5:59 pm

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Why do you want to write?

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The Backspace Writers’ site has this excerpt up from David Morrell’s THE SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST: A LIFETIME OF LESSONS ABOUT WRITING & PUBLISHING.


His point reiterates what each of my dramatic writing teachers at Tisch said: Write what scares you. Morrell goes in depth, clarifying what this takes from a writer and why it is necessary if you ever want to go the distance.


There’s inherent energy in your work when you go to that place, even if you don’t understand it. If you write because you have to, which Morrell says should be the writer’s only reason to write (and I agree), then you have something to say. It’s your job as a writer to tap into where your urge to write comes from.


This May marks ten years for me of seriously studying the writing craft. I moved to NYC a pretentious NYU student ready to become a writer, as though there was a certification or badge that would soon stamp me ‘there’ or ‘one of them’.

What scares me more = writing about what scares me. My ego is obstructing this path. I like to think the worlds of my imagination are far superior than my past. Perhaps part of maturing is not trying so hard to separate the two.

Written by abragoes

March 11, 2008 at 3:06 pm

is this my notebook or a pillow?

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My mind and body are not working in sync. I don’t have a formal education on physiology, but there’s a definite parallel between my physical health and the quantity of joy I get from my livelihood.

I want the livelihood to be my writing so this two weak streak of physical grossness motivates me to spend more hours a day at my desk writing. The only time I ever got sick when I was freelance full time was upon returning from trade shows, where I was a hand-shaking, client hugging germ fest. Now there’s always something wrong.

Common sense hopefully reminds us that quality of life is not synonymous with steady pay check. Pay checks are essential, too. But in the beginning of our careers, writers, we have to put everything into our writing. That’s what I believe will get us all to where we want to be.

Still, it’s nice to know that when common sense doesn’t pipe up loud enough, there are: migraines, coughing, sneezing, insomnia, sore throat, fevers, tooth aches and so much more to keep us within reach of a hot drink and our work.

I take my health for granted – when I have it.

Written by abragoes

March 8, 2008 at 1:37 am

adjective lovin

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She bought the book for its lubricious cover, and then hid it in her bag beneath the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a word of the day I love because it looks and sounds like what it means:

lubricious \loo-BRISH-us\, adjective:

1. Lustful; lewd.
2. Stimulating or appealing to sexual desire or imagination.
3. Having a slippery or smooth quality.

Now say it five times out loud, and put it in a sentence…

Written by abragoes

February 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Controlling the clock

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Eli Manning

Photo Credit: Elsa, Getty Images on AOL Sports



A lesson learned from watching the Giants last night:

In addition to sacking Tom Brady 5 Xs and throwing the ball to David Tyree whenever I find myself in a Super Bowl game (the most beautiful catch I’ve ever seen), I learned a ripe lesson last night that I’ll feed right to my career…Controlling the Clock.


As Eli Manning said, the Giants were ‘Where you want to be [last night]’. With 2:52 minutes and possession of the ball, they were in a great position.


Eli Manning is fun to watch because his face is deceptively transparent. Right after the Patriots took the score to 14 – 10 in their favor, Eli seemed to totally loose focus for a few plays. And then you could see his concentration coagulate. The entire team was 100% mentally and physically present on the field, particularly for their final touchdown.


Imagine having a world Championship within reach, just beyond the fiercest competition in existence, with a thousand and one possible ways to try to get there. The Giants played decisively, and despite fumbles, they were steady and insistent. Not only did they control the clock for the first half, they controlled their tempo and weren’t thrown off balance when the Patriots pushed back.


This morning I squish the magic of last night’s incredible upset into my own tiny messy corner of the universe.


With a thousand ideas to pitch, and countless publications that I would love to write for, the temptation to drop one idea as soon as another ‘better’ one comes along, a bookshelf full of writers I both admire and humbly resent for doing what they do so well, and a home in NYC where you trip over opportunities feeling the pound of the pavement repeatedly without ever realizing another opportunity just sped by because for every opportunity there are hundreds of better writers on every corner snatching them up…

I put down my pen too often and fall off course. However loopy and pink with naiveté my course may be, if I don’t stay in the game regardless of rejection letters and the anxiety I feel every time a friend of mine gets a YES (I know I’m not alone here) I’ll never even have a chance at winning the Super Bowl or getting my byline in the same publication as Ms. Didion…

I need to get to where I need to be mentally and physically in order to do what I need to do. And then I need to sack those hundreds of better writers… I mean friends.

RUNNING UPDATE for Feb – 5.9 / 42

Total Miles 2008 = 47.9 / 500

Written by abragoes

February 4, 2008 at 4:37 pm