About Cheri Portman

As long as I can remember, I've wanted to write - and done so in bits and pieces, in paragraphs, in rambling journal entries... I've even written hundreds and hundreds of pages in a forever-to-be unfinished novel (be thankful....). But I'm growing up (Maybe? What does that mean?), and It's time to move past unformed bits and pieces. It's time to learn to write for an audience. To be consistent, to write with purpose. And, of course, to share what I'm sure is my entirely unique view of the world with everyone else. And so pencilhugger is born. Because I love pencils, and the lines that come from them. Okay, and I love computers, and the internet. And all that, too.

Crazy Button ≠ Easy Button

Have you ever wished that there was a Crazy Button? Or, I suppose, a “CrazyOff” button? Even a switch? I would give a third of the gray hairs on my head to have a CrazyOffButton that I could target with a tasty karate chop.

(Do not discount the significance of 1/3 of my gray hairs. They are numerous, and would be sorely missed if given away.)

Yes, this is how I’ve been feeling this week. Yearning for an off switch. Searching for the CrazyOff Button.

Alas, both my CrazyOff Button and my perfectly executed karate chop appear to be mythical.

So today’s post is simply this: it’s flippin’ hard to find time to work, spend ample quality time with the Mr, do yard work, train the dog, read, sleep, AND write.

And it’s making me crazy.


The Doing and the What

And so I’ve identified the problem: I’m having trouble writing.

Correction: I’m having trouble writing something more structured than Psychobabble Blah-Blah-Blah. Yes, this is a technical term.

See, I’m excellent at this kind of bottom-drawer writing. This is the kind of writing that feels good in that a) I’m doing something that involves pencil lead, b) I’m filling up expensive Moleskin journals in a most impressive manner, and c) it makes me look dedicated when my husband is looking.

Additional Correction: I can write. I’m flailing as a storyteller.

So if I’ve identified the problem, then the trick is to find a solution. Yes?

Ah. That’s the not-so-easy part. But I’ve got a plan!*

1. Pencilhugger! I’m doing this blog. Okay, so so far I’m not as consistent as I’d like. And it’s got a long way to go before it could hum along with my favorite blogs. But whatever. It’s mine.

Two posts a week – should be doable, yes? My ideal? One post to be more thought out (like this one) and another reserved for whatever the hell I want to put up. It’s like homework and dessert.

Have I mentioned that I was one of those kids who kinda liked homework?

Anyway…. Dessert Posts are for whatever I want. A link, a picture, who knows. My current obsession. A loving concession to the idea of Being Me.

Once I’ve got it going on I’ll actually let people know that I’ve burped up this blog. Not yet, though.

Except hey: who were you, 8 views on May 4? Where did you come from? This is supposed to be something of a secret still! Not sure what glitch in the universe made you appear out of thin WebAir, but welcome. Hope you liked Eyeore. And his pencil.

Goal here: work on developing a voice. I’d love to have the presence of this guy, but I’ll settle for what’s me.

But really. Check this blog out. I have a crush on this blog. My heart is going pitter-patter right now, just thinking about it.

2. Regular Writing. Unique tactic, yes? I need to park my tush in the chair. Which is sometimes the last thing I want to do after putting in nine hours of AssInChair time at work. But there’s no way to get around the need to write regularly if I want to actually produce anything. It’s a simple equation, really:

Time in Chair Writing = More Writing Done.

It’s like the other equation that’s so simple to say but agonizingly hard to execute:

Less Calories = Less Pounds.

But let’s not talk about that one; I’m depressing myself. Let’s say that this (okay, both) are still In Development. If only I didn’t have a day job. And was skinny. And was good at executing deceptively simple equations.

3. Thinking. Don’t laugh. Somehow I got the idea that if I sat at my computer and let my mind wander over the keyboard a great novel would just ooze out of my fingertips.

What crap.

So now I’m actively working on DEVELOPING a story before I assume I can write it.


Does anyone else HATE the term “brainstorming?” Damn, it’s awful.

4. Reading. A ton. Nothing new with this; the more I read, the heavier my “to read” shelf gets. But I’m being more deliberate, reading more than fiction.

Sorry, Fiction. I will always love you and never abandon you, but I need more than you, alone, can give. So I’m seeing other genres. No hard feelings, eh?

Blogs. I’m reading blogs. Holy Crap. When did blogs become such a great source of writing? Did I mention I have a crush on a blog? Maybe I should let you know that I have a crush on more than one. Feelin’ a little slutty. Don’t hate me.

Right now I’m also dating Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. It’s targeted at screenplays, but his book is tons-of-helpful. It spells out story structure in a way that I am aware of as a reader but apparently stupid about once I put the keys in the ignition and pump the gas (I think I just dated myself).

But it’s about creating stories. Of becoming a storyteller.

Which is what I wanna be.

*I reserve the right to adjust this plan without warning or explanation.


No big thoughtful entry today, just a link to a blog that I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from. NK Jemisin is now on my “wish list.” I’ll be reading her stuff soon.

How she came to an inventive novel through the smallest fragment of an idea was some of the most helpful writer’s process insight I’ve found so far.

And I’ve been doing a ton of reading.

Oh, and check out Scalzi’s blog. It’s a winner.

He’s been on my wish list, for awhile.

So much to read. I need to quit my day job if I ever hope to make a serious dent in my “to read” list.

The Challenge of Plot

Plot is killing me. Or, rather, the lack of plot is killing me.

I suppose I can partly blame the great books I’ve read. I read Mieville and then look at my paper and wonder how I could possibly come up with something as deliciously weird as The City and the City, or as novel as Embassytown. Nevermind Murakami. It just doesn’t occur to me to mix talking cats, Johnny Walker, and the Colonel.

I wish it did.

My mind wants to twist that way. It willingly traipses along with writers who imaginate the stories that I love. But ask my mind to come up with a qool story on its own? It balks. Takes a nap. Starts thinking about dandelions.

And then my creative spirit  has to wash her hair. “Not tonight,” she told me last night. “I’m rather tired, and my big toe hurts.”

I am tired of this attitude. I don’t even think her big toe does hurt.

Here’s the rub: I KNOW I have it in me. Underneath this obsession for clean hair and mental naps lurks a dazzling writing warrior woman. She’s smart, and intellectually sexy. She’s clever. And she never, ever washes her hair.

Well…. except on Tuesdays.

Coming up next: So what am I doing about it?

The Obligatory “First Post” Post

Well, here it is. The obligatory “first post” post, which, I admit, is obligatory only because I imagine it must be. I haven’t read many first posts, and am, in fact, imitating what I imagine first posts must certainly be like.

Like this. Yes?

So hello, world. Nice to meet you. Or see you. Or, I suppose, to be truthful – nice to be seen.

Or not…. am I getting anywhere here?

The point is, no one is going to see this post for a long time. Out of the millions of blogs out there (millions, right?), I imagine it takes time and grit to get a good subscribership. But it would be nice if someday I had a few readers. Because that’s the point of The Blog.

Or this blog, at least.

The point: to be read.

You see, I want to write. And I do write, a lot. A lot of nothing, a lot of stream of consciousness psycho-journal-babble-blah. What I want to write, however, is something worth reading… which means I need someone to read it. And audience makes everything more…visceral. Yes?

And that is where you, currently imaginary and hopefully soon-to-be-realized reader, come in. Check me out. Maybe it’s already Someday and you’re reading this, and the other posts I’ll write (or have written… getting confusing….), and maybe when I retire I’ll have a nice little side business as a writer, so that I can still afford health insurance.

And a dog.

I’d like to have both.

And in honor of my snazzy new Blog Name, I’m going to attempt to include an image. I have, indeed, hugged this pencil.

I love the Ticonderoga. It's a quality squeeze.