For The Mind Readers Amongst Us

Within our group of Dear Readers there are many sub-sets, such as the Band of Bodhisattvas of the Great Pacific Great Northwest, the Self-Sacrificing Servants of the Small Cat, and the 5 o’clock Angels (whose motto is: Wine. Because I’m Worth It.) And then there is the Cluster of Clairvoyants, to whom I dedicate this blog post. They already know why . . . and so will you in about ten paragraphs.

For those of you (none of you, actually) who have been dying to see (living just fine, thank you, without seeing) How I Write, I give you the following series of photographs, carefully staged and bursting with symbolism, of my typical writing day. Hour One:


Hour Two:


Right before the end of Hour Three, when I thought I saw a really big spider or maybe just a weird shadow up on the ceiling and I had to go running and screaming out of the room to find that big stick thing with the thing on the end that will reach up there to the thing but then I thought a fresh cup of tea (or something) would be better to calm my nerves and then I looked at the thing again and decided it was just a weird shadow and I had to go back to thinking of something to write again, which basically has absolutely no chance of being heart-poundingly exciting even if it were a big spider:


Hour Four, and I have been testing my ability to maintain a pulse for oh, about an hour:


Hour Five, awash in regret for every life choice that has led me to this computer screen:


Last week, Dear Reader Melissa left a Comment about the Piece of Toast post kindly advising me to not be such a Scrooge to my Bob Cratchit self about whether or not the tree is a pom-pom or a mushroom. Good point. But to me, the shape of that tree was the whole reason why I wanted to paint that bit of garden in the first place, and if I did’t get that right then the whole picture is fake fake fake and has nothing to do with what I wanted to present. The fact that a painting with a pom-pom tree instead of a mushroom tree still might please others is not my goal as an illustrator…and I’m the same skin-flinting do-over maniac as a writer. I know that, out there in the universe, is the sentence that my soul pines to write, and I will not write a sentence that is almost like the one I want to write.

Hour Six, when I find the word that is not kind of like the one I wanted, but IS the EXACT word I wanted:


It takes but a tapping of seven keystrokes to type The Word (which, for the record, was purling, which you can find in the Key West chapter of the Damn Garden Book, and yes, it’s a dreaded adjective, so sue me):





P.S.  I actually took a break to go look through the manuscript of the Damn Garden Book to find that exact word that I remember as being so satisfying when I finally came up with it because, well, I’m a stickler for accuracy. Whilst perusing the Key West chapter I discovered a typo that made it past three proof reads (for the record, it’s imporatation) and another in the New Orleans chapter that I might be able to get away with. Professional typo-catching is boring challenging, so you can imagine how excruciatingly boring challenging it is when I’m writing for free, as in this blog.  I don’t mind at all being corrected for incorrect word choice, since, you know, words are the tools of my trade (did I really just type that??) but typos, I’m sorry to say, are the price you pay for stopping by my blog, which I write on my time off.

And now

we get to

Top Cat’s Pick

for the winner of

a topiarily-correct Piece of Toast!


And the winner (the suspense is killing me) . . .


The winner is:


Forty-Nine! (That’s Quarante-neuf for the Quebecois Dear Readers amongst us!)

Surprisingly, a whopping three Dear Readers chose the number Forty-Nine (equal to the number of Dear Readers who chose Thirty-Seven, which in my opinion is one of the more comely prime numbers), including a New and Shy Dear Reader Cathy O. For all of those clairvoyants who were on a Forty-Nine vibe, I salute you for figuring out how Top Cat’s mind works.

Two of the very Dearest of Readers, Megan and Deb Mattin, also chose Forty-Nine, and it pains me to have to break the tie by time stamp, but I must, so…

Congratulations, Deb Mattin! You are the winer of a topiarily-correct Piece of Toast! (We’ll be in touch later today.)

Top Cat just stopped in to offer his congratulations to Deb also, and he asked me “What’s up with the owl on your desk?”

“Symbolism,” I said.

“Athena?” he asked. I gave him my Yes, I Married You For Better or Worse look of love and I snorted, “Of course not.”

Don’t kill yourselves trying to figure out what’s up with the owl. His name is Archimedes. For obvious reasons. But I forget what’s up with the Abbey Road poster, except it had something to do with the walrus being Paul. Right?

Have a great weekend, my Dears.

20 Comments, RSS

  1. Marg-o

    Love the hair do. I get it: Vivienne/Merlin/Archimedes. Yes, everything I know about zing Arthur’s Court comes from Walt Disney. (For all of you Dear Co-Readers who call the ’60s the olden days, oct upon a time there was The Sword in the Stone.)

  2. Mary

    Vivian; You are gorgeous. Even in your leisure attire.
    THAT’S how you do your hair ! Usually we see you with the great cut and wave, now that you’re off the long hair “do” you had for years.
    You do have a way with words. I didn’t get the Archimedes Owl thing, but I trust you know that stuff.
    Writing is hard. You have just proven it.
    Thanks again for enjoying your work.

  3. Casey

    Congratulations, Deb. Good work on the mind meld. Is it pathetic that I had to ask someone why the walrus was Paul? I’m in my late 30s but I should know my Beatles history better. And you are right. If the tree is a mushroom, then it shouldn’t be painted as a pom pom. And when it *is* painted as a pom pom, all the better. I love your rescues.

    If I could see one of your writing rescues, I know I’d love that too. How about it?

    Purling. Good word.

  4. Patricia

    Nuts! I was one of the three #37’ers. Nice to know I wasn’t alone.
    You completely omitted my usual stages of not writing… tidying up my underwear drawer, alphabetizing the canned goods and cleaning out the lint trap. All, apparently, I’d rather do than write.

  5. Megan

    Congratulations Deb. Oh well I put it down to procrastination, I left it till the next morning to comment… I must not procrastinate! Now I was so focused on you and your inspiring look, it was photo three I spied the owl which with my eyesight I thought at first was a cat… I went back and sure enough large as life he was in each photograph! Very entertaining blog post, looks like me trying to learn watercolour.

  6. Michele

    I’m with Top Cat here, I was wondering how you got the owl to sit still for all those hours whilst you were contemplating?

  7. Patricia

    I do have one trick I use when trying to write the PERFECT first line, the all important opening sentence. I write the rest of the paragraph, page or article, saving the first line for last.

    Once I’ve written the damn thing, I’ve often decided I don’t need a first line. The second one is working just dandy.

  8. WHOOPEEEE !! YIPPEEEE !!!! It’s Toast for me !!! SO happy for me – and of course, saddened by everyone else’s loss (right!). I read this while in Austin visiting (and hopefully helping out) with a new grandson – everyone came running to find out what I was yelling about.

    So glad your hour of maintaining a pulse was successful. I do think the owl would scare the words right out of you – maybe not the ones you are searching for, but at least some colorful ones.

    Thank you again for the toast. (Doing my happy dance).

  9. Joan

    Oh darn, I didn’t win the piece of toast, but congrats to the winner.

    Purling in the tiny world I live in is a verb: To Purl, the knit stitch in reverse.
    I checked the dictionary and found another meaning, or to finish with loops or looped edging.

    Verb: (used without object)
    To flow with curling or rippling motion, as a shallow stream does over stones.
    2) to flow with a murmuring sound.

    Interesting to find various meanings for the same word.

    I can deal with any typos you might make in your blog written in your “free” time. I’m grateful for any word from you, misspelled or not.

    Love the owl perched at your side when you are in writer mode. I don’t get the whale association with Paul. I’m probably too old, I was a teen in the 1950’s, yes, that was the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    Speaking of the Beatles, today is the anniversary of the release of A Hard Days Night. Even tho’ I’m ancient I do love the Beatles, have their song as a ring tone on my iPhone and love many of the contemporary music artists.

    Thanks a million, Vivian, for all the time you give us with this blog. Love your humor, wit, sarcasm, story telling genius. All a pleasure to read for this loyal follower.

  10. Dawn

    I just looked up PURLING in my Webster’s Dictionary ( circa 1997) and it goes from Purity to Purple.
    What does it mean, or must I wait for the DGB to find out? I already have my order at B&N for 3 books.
    Tell us next blog , maybe?
    Really? PURLING?
    I want that owl.

  11. janet b.

    you had me at the fantastic grateful dead lightning skull shirt. and the grey goose. a woman of obvious good taste.

  12. I must not be awake yet. I saw the owl but I could have sworn it was Taffy-cat or some other new member of your menagerie and thought “What an odd looking cat. It sort of looks like an owl.”

    I think I’ve lost all my brains on vacation. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

  13. Felicia

    Thank you, thank you for giving us a look at what writing Vivian Swift style looks like. As I suspected I learned a lot.

    For instance the sitting part. Wow there’s a lot of that. I sit for two seconds before, like Patricia, I hear my wardrobe calling. Mine calls from the basemenet laundry, begging to be swished and sudsed.

    Then there’s the lesson about having your drink ready and also having enough on hand to give yourself a choice….brilliant! This is what seperates published authors from us wannabes, brilliance and self-discipline. I stand at the cupboard for long moments deciding between between ginger or licorice tea before I head straight to the liquor cabinet for a shot of bourbon, neat. See all the time I’m wasting not sitting in front of the computer or empty note pad but standing at the tea and liquor cabinets?! Do I have flashes of insight or brilliance at those moments? Yes, but of course I can’t recall them by the time I stumble back to the empty page. Not our Vivian, she’s prepared, never leaving her chair.

    And finally, well I could go on, but this post is getting rather longish, the stuffed owl muse. I on the other hand have a live and noisy husband who is always wondering when I’ll fix breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes I’ve thought of stuffing him a time or two and not with a meal! But on the other hand, when he’s not being annoying, his rather charming and it took me forever and a day to find a charming version.

    Sit, drink, muse. I’ve got my drink in hand and now I’m going to go sit for awhile and see if I can conjure up some Swiftian brilliance. Thank you for so delightfully entertaining us with your writing lesson! And congratulations to the toast winner.

  14. Melissa

    Wow, honored to have an entire blog post directed at me! My remarks were purely to let you off the hook you had been placed upon by your strict self, but if you want to stay on it, more power to you! You GO, mushroom-tree-painter! (As a person who has been known to poll 10 people for the perfect word for X if I can’t find it in the thesaurus, I DO understand.)

  15. Dawn

    I hope I’m not too late for last weeks’ post.

    Page 178. Now he reigns on your shelf as you work.
    You were talking about Winter in Pelham.
    And there he was!
    No explanation why I was browsing thru your first book. I am moving, and I just knew I’d find something to read for a few minutes.
    That’s the beauty of WWCTR. Read for a few, put it down, come back later. Always something new to see.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *