Monthly Archives: June 2013

Window in the Annex

Well, I’ve made it seven days into my commitment to write 500 words a day. One week down, countless to go!

So far, it’s forced me into the habit of thinking about my writing each day. It is, of course, difficult to write when my mind feels blank or when I don’t feel no motivation to write. During such times, finding words to type is like pulling a heavy weight out of a sea of honey (or molasses – something sticky and viscous) using a rope. The closer I think I get to the right thing, the stickier it all feels. Self doubt, the inner critic, whatever you want to call it… that’s when it really comes out to play. Nothing feels right. But I suppose the point is to learn that even when it doesn’t feel right – you can fix it later. As long as you’re putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll get from point A to point B.

One thing I keep on my desk to help motivate me is a postcard. On the post card is a window. It looks like an attic window, more specifically, because of the old, unfinished wood that forms its pane. Through the window you can see the top of a very tall tree and just a bit of bright sky that shines through the beautiful spring leaves and flowers that adorn the tree.

That is it. A tree seen through an attic window.

This image inspires me, though, perhaps not because of what it is… but more where it is. This window is the only window not blacked out or covered in the make-shift living space above the old Opekta building in Amsterdam. That is to say, it is the only view of the outside world that Anne Frank and her family had for two years.

If you were to climb up the ladder that leads to this window in the Secret Annex, you might see a glimpse of the nearby church or some other attic windows belonging to nearby buildings; but for the most part, it is this tree. In the warm months, green; in the winter months, bare limbs reaching for the sky. That is it.

When you visit the museum, you learn a lot about the war and how it came to The Netherlands, to Amsterdam. You learn about Otto Frank and the company that he started, the people who worked there. You are slowly submerged in the setting, the time, the mood. Then you ascend the infamous stairs behind the bookcase to the Secret Annex. The rooms are all bare – the way the Nazis left them after their raid – as per the request of Otto Frank himself. It is a solemn, single-file line of people who shuffle from room to room. I’m not sure what I had expected when I first went in, but I was struck by how small all the rooms were. The lights were all quite dim, as well. It felt like night, despite it being about lunch time.

Just before you leave the Annex, you pass through a store-room with a tall ladder that leads to a small attic above. At the top of the ladder, the window.

The afternoon when we passed through was overcast – gray and rainy, with a chill in the air – and the tree was bare. The scene was just dark brown, almost black, wet tree limbs against a cloudy sky… but at the time, it seemed as though it must be the most beautiful scene in the world. You’re not allowed to take pictures in the museum but I did not want to forget the feeling I had when I saw that window. Fortunately, I must not be the only one to find significance in the window and I was able to purchase the postcard.

Now it sits upon my desk and serves as my reminder. It is so easy to take the world around us for granted. We easily forget just how beautiful the simplest things can be. And even with all of this here around us, we still suffer times when we claim to be ‘uninspired’. It is also a reminder that some people are not given the chance to live their dreams and that I should not squander the time I do have buckling under the weight of my fears instead of pursuing my own dreams. I write.

And sometimes I write because Anne Frank, and many other people for many different reasons, cannot.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

My First First Edition

Happy birthday to me!

Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Well, not quite yet… but my birthday present to myself arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon and I am super excited! It is my very first First Edition: Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’.

My dad has a collection of First Editions, namely works of John le Carré and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and I know several other books-enthusiasts and authors who do, but I never quite understood the intrigue. When I discovered the Sherlock Holmes novels resting on my father’s shelf, I asked him if I might borrow a couple to read. I was met with a stern, No and please don’t touch them. He then explained that they were First Editions, more for collecting than for reading. Why own a book you don’t intend to read? I wondered.

I got older, I read more.

The feeling didn’t change.

In a previous post I discussed how Amanda Palmer’s review of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ provided some interesting insight on how artists draw inspiration from life and incorporate it in their work. What I did not mention is that her review of the book made me want to purchase it. Right. That. Second.

As a fan of both Palmer and Gaiman (and their union), I could not wait to get my eyes on the words that were a result of their lives both getting plopped into the blender. (Read Palmer’s review or my earlier post if you don’t understand or think this sounds morbid.) Even more so, I was excited to read something of which I had the rare pleasure of having peeked behind the curtain. I was privy to even the smallest amount of the true story that had gone into the fiction, knew some of the parts that had gone into the blender.

Immediately, I clicked the link to make my purchase. What I hadn’t realized when I’d read the review was that the book had literally come out that day. I get very many of my books second-hand or from the library, so it produced an unexpected thrill to know that I’d be the first person to peruse the pages of this purchase. Then something else unexpected happened.

You could get a First Edition.

The words entered my brain as if some little devil sitting on my shoulder had whispered them into my ear. I only say ‘devil’ because the idea seemed somewhat taboo in my mind. I am not a collector of First Editions. This was a hobby reserved for established authors and true literature enthusiasts. I just wanted a book to read. But before I knew it, I was making the purchase of my first-ever First Edition.

It felt like some sort of milestone – how I imagine the purchase of your first home or making the final payment on a stack of exorbitant school loans to feel. Rather than some sort of achievement of independence, I had made a small step toward the life I expected those I aim to emulate to have. A First Edition. And not just of any book… but a book written by an author I greatly admire and whose advice I tend to find quite sound; a book written for a musician I greatly admire and whose strength and art have helped me through some of the toughest times of my life; a book that, even if I can’t see it, even if the blender is set too high for anyone but Neil and Amanda to recognize the original ingredients, tells a story based on the intimacy and frustrations between them. It is a story of significance. I don’t know why this already touches me so much. It almost feels like a privilege to be able to read it – as if they trusted us (the readers) with one of the most intimate pieces of themselves.

Is that a characteristic of all art? I wonder.

It wasn’t until I received the book in the mail – carefully packaged in three protective layers – that I remembered something: First Editions, more for collecting than reading.

And still I thought, How silly.

But this time, my mind formed a different question – perhaps indicative of surpassing this milestone in my goals. Why publish a book if you don’t want someone to read it?

So taboo or not…

I have my book and I’m reading it, too.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Creative Something #1

Ara looked out the window at a world that was now only a faded perversion of the land she had known in her youth. The trees still stood, leafless trunks with bony fingers that scratched the gray lifeless sky. The grass, once a shimmering sea of gold that bore waves of sunlight, now looked dead and bled of all color. The entire scene looked like one of those old movies that had been stored on celluloid: you could swear it looks black and white, except for a little hint of green or pink here and there. A dry wind rustled the brittle grass, hhssssssshhhhhhhh…. 

How could this happen? Ara felt a pang of guilt. In her teenage years, she had all but convinced herself that this place had never existed. The window and everything she’d seen through it had been just a figment of her imagination. Now, seeing it again for the first time in years and no longer able to deny its reality, she knew that her leaving in some way contributed to the creation of the wasteland that lay before her.

Without thought, her fingers found the small brass latch that held the pane snug inside its frame. It too was browned with the passing of the years. The chipping paint that once covered its wood now only had enough flakes remaining to indicate that it had once been white. The glass, however, was still clean and clear.

Everything was second nature now – she pushed in, lifted up, and slowly let the window swing inward toward her. She couldn’t even remember how she’d discovered the trick to getting it open – she’d just always known; even before she discovered the window. A foul and arid wind blew in her face, so dry that it threatened to draw the very moisture from her skin. hhsssssshhhhhh….. the grass warned.

Placing the heel of her palms on the cracked and chipping sill, Ara leaned through the opening. Her eyes and skin stung a little in the breeze. Everything was warm to the touch, but only in the sense that it wasn’t exactly cold like the world behind her. She got the impression that it had been a long time since the sun had made an appearance here. Looking down, she saw the frame of what had once been a chair. Scraps of fabric and leather hung limp from the arms and former seat. Everything that had once made it a comfortable place to rest was long gone. The only thing left of Burnaby’s tent was a stake hole or two in the ground; no tent, no string, no Burnaby. There was no anything. As she peered down at the former post of her missing friend, Ara realized how many other things were missing from this scenario. hhhhsssssssshhhhhhh…. Where were the birds? The flutterbies? Where were the mole holes and the tracks leading up to them that Burnaby had always tamped down?

There was nothing. Everything was dead or gone.

hhhhssssssssshhhhh…..

In that moment, the whisper of the wind through the grass was like the last rattling breath of a dying friend. Ara quickly drew herself inside, shut the window, turned the little brass lock and slumped against the wall, facing away from the window. The house was heavy with silence. It was so quiet she could faintly hear the bedside clock in the next room, steadily ticking away the minutes.

toc… toc… toc… toc…

I have to go back, she thought.

1 Comment

Filed under Creative Somethings

Morning, Goals Ramble

Gooood Morning!

I’m quite excited about writing today. This morning I awoke to discover that yesterday’s collection of 500 words garnered five “likes” on WordPress. They even gave me a little trophy for it. Achievement unlocked! And boy do I love achievements… but that is another post for another day. Out of curiosity, though – are there any other gamer/writers out there? Huge BioWare fanboy, here.

Anyway! I’ve had my morning coffee and finished catching up with the world, so now it’s time to write. I’ve been debating a bit with myself about what I want to do here, with this 500 words a day project. Will every day consist of these almost stream of consciousness ramblings? Probably not, I think; but it’s a good way to get started. There’s also the question of what happens if I miss a day? I don’t think it should go without consequence. Ultimately, it would probably be a good idea to set some goals… but I’m fabulous at saying things like, “Tuesdays will be ‘Technique Tuesdays’! Each Tuesday I’ll x, y, and z!”, and failing to follow up. If I commit to something that narrows the scope, I feel like I set myself up for failure and set you up for disappointment. So let’s avoid goals like that then, shall we? (For any of you who have dabbled in business, this would be the ‘A’ in S.M.A.R.T. goals. Know your strengths and weaknesses.)

One goal I definitely have for this blog is to connect with other writers. Well, writers and readers. In this context, I’m referring to readers in a broader context. I want to connect with people who read lots of books. As someone who likes to write stories, I think it’s important to find out what other people enjoy reading and, more specifically, what they enjoy or don’t enjoy about certain books. Of course it would be lovely to build a relationship with Frippits readers! Isn’t that a goal for any blog writer?

Also, the obvious goal here is to improve my writing and my writing habits. That’s very generic, though. The ‘500 words a day’ goal helps to improve my writing habits by forcing me to write even when I’m not inspired, as many authors say you should. But what goal do I set to help me improve my writing overall? To challenge myself? Perhaps once a week I should write a creative something – a character description, a plot, a setting, or even just a section of story. It could then be in any genre and with such a variety of subjects to pull from, it shouldn’t be too narrow a scope. I’d like to start doing some research on authors, too, but I’m not sure I read enough to choose a new author each week. Maybe once each month? Hmm… I’m not sure about that one as a goal, just yet. I’m on board with creative somethings, though. I certainly don’t want this to become just a daily writing journal.

Hopefully this is the start of something awesome. DFTBA.

3 Comments

Filed under Writing

The Scene I Hear in Retrograde

It is almost 6pm and I have still not completed my 500 words a day.

It’s only day three! It’s not supposed to be this difficult, yet! I’ve come up with several topics to ramble on about all day, but they’ve only resulted in half-finished products. Sometimes I get bored, sometimes it’s just not enough; once it was an idea that I just wanted to remember. My mind is swimming in the top news stories of the day: DOMA and Prop 8 (LGBT community win!), George Zimmerman, Wendy whats-her-face that filibustered for an eternity in Texas, Paula Deen, ugh… my brain is foggy today! I don’t want to talk about news.

Ok. I’ve put on the song I’m hooked on right now that seems to get my creative juices flowing – ‘Retrograde‘ by James Blake. It’s helping a little… Do you have a particular song or album that you’re hooked on right now? Is there something you can normally turn to that will help you become more productive? Music is definitely that thing for me. It has to be the right music, though… and it can be a selection of songs or a 30 second clip from one individual song. Either way, when I’m hooked and I have an idea going it’s like I have to put that little earworm on repeat until the idea has been fleshed out to my satisfaction. I once made a 9-hour drive to my parents’ house while listening to the same 4-minute clip of ‘Point of No Return’, from Phantom of the Opera, over and over and over… I was able to get pretty far into an idea, though!

So now it’s Retrograde. It makes me think of two things that are desperately trying to come together but are caught in some sort of slow-motion chaos. I always imagine the chaos as rotational, as well. Imagine a giant cyclone with a bright object, like the Sun – but not hot, at its center. The two objects are illuminated by this object, they can see one another; but try as they might, the force of the wind keeps them apart. It’s a force that’s bigger, stronger than them and only the right set of circumstances and events will bring them together. And if that happens, if they are brought close enough to one another to grasp hold of each other, the moment is fleeting. They must both reach out, both make the attempt to pull one another in. And if that’s successful, then they’ve got to cling to one another for dear life. They have to wrap themselves around one another to become, to the wind, a singular object. Only their solidarity can carry them through the turmoil of the debris whipping about their heads; and the forces that threaten to tear them apart. As chaotic as this all is, it’s happening in that watery kind of slow-motion that you feel in dreams. You’re running as fast as you can but your legs are in molasses. The urgency is immediate but the progression is frustratingly slow. Except in that fleeting moment… the one where everything can go right or horribly wrong. That moment is faster than light; it’s loud and the full force of the chaos and adrenaline is felt. The noise and chaos never fade, but their attachment to one another returns them to that calm state of dream-like suspension – the slow motion. No longer do they whip, crash and tumble through the debris of the storm – they float; as if in a cushion of air that only they can see. The eye of the storm.

…sounds like an interesting analogy for love; or marriage.

Not bad for having a bit of writer’s block.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Grass, Gaiman, and Words for Thought

This morning I watched a video that discussed how the smell of freshly cut grass, which many people find very appealing, is actually a scent that’s released because the grass is in distress. That is its way of calling out because it’s being attacked. The video reminded me of the study done a few years ago in which scientists discerned that plants “scream”. At least, they have a synaptic firing response that’s akin to what happens when humans scream – they don’t actually produce sound. Either way, there are men outside my window cutting the grass as I type this. I can’t help but feel it’s a bit morbid now.

It’s simple things like this that give me ideas. I haven’t mastered yet discerning which ideas are worth saving, which will go somewhere, or if – and I suppose this is best answer – they’re all worth noting and saving; and I have no way of knowing what might develop into a full-form idea or just remain an interesting concept note. The idea of the grass crying out when it’s cut made me think of a child who might want to protect that grass. If you told a compassionate four year old that the smell of fresh-cut grass is actually its cry for help, do you think that child might try to stop mom or dad from mowing the lawn? Would s/he discuss this knowledge with a friendly neighbor or a stranger working in their garden? What would the child think of watering the lawn during a hot summer when it hasn’t rained in a while? About of walking on grass? Would they feel anything at all or accept it as just the harsh reality of nature? From there, one could probably explore the complexity of human compassion.

I wonder where other authors draw their inspiration. (Quick side note – I really wanted to end that sentence with “where other authors draw their inspiration from.” However, I know you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition and it doesn’t feel natural or sound proper to say “I wonder from where..” So… hope I made the right choice.)

I imagine most draw at least some ideas from their real life experiences and maybe from the stories and imaginings of others. In fact, I recently read a blog post by Amanda (Fucking) Palmer about her husband’s, Neil Gaiman, most recent book. In it, she discusses the creative differences between herself and her husband using a blender analogy. A blender comes with various settings. To keep it simple, we’ll just leave those settings as 1 (not very well blended) through 10 (unrecognizably pulverized). While her life and experiences go into her work and get blended on setting 1, producing an outcome in which you can pretty much see how life and art correlate, her husband’s go on a high-speed 10. Seeing the tangible life of Neil Gaiman in the soup that comes from his blender is nigh impossible. This makes sense as I never even had an inkling that Gaiman’s American Gods was in any way a product of the tangible existence he forges through day in, day out. This was interesting insight.

A few months back, I read another article about Harry Connick Jr’s frustration with the American Idol experience. He was brought in to coach the young starlets on one of their performances and was disappointed when none of them took his advice and the judges continued to praise empty exhibitions of vocal chords over “true” talent. His definition of talent, I believe, involves bringing the lyrics to life as if you were singing your own story – not just belting words. Aaannd… crap. I’ve officially lost where I was going with this point. Oh! Much of his advice, since these performers were not the people who actually wrote the songs, consisted of suggestions to research the lyricist and the origin of the song – particularly for the young woman performing ‘My Funny Valentine’.

Putting these two things together, I think an interesting project might be to research the authors of the books I’m reading. Particularly considering any events that might have taken place around the time they were writing these books. This certainly would have been helpful when I was reading George Sand’s Lelia. I powered through it, determined to see the end even though I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable. Once finished, I read a review of the work on GoodReads.com that told me a lot about the author, what she was going through at the time, and put the book into context compared with her other works. Had I researched this in advance, I think I would’ve read the book entirely differently… and certainly not made that my first George Sand novel.

And had I not sat down to write out these 500 words (now close to 800) today, I would not have thought of this little project.

Words for thought.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Getting Started

I’ve been using the excuse that I haven’t finished polishing up this blog as a reason to not yet post any content. This is a terrible excuse. So today I decided to stop procrastinating and begin my journey. Mondays, after all, are an excellent day to begin projects.

This project is really for me more than you. I am one of those classic procrastinators that says something to the effect of, “I really want to be a writer!”, then proceeds to write absolutely nothing. As an introvert, I thrive on ideas, concepts, imaginings… I live in my head. I have a lot of ideas that I think would make really great stories – that I think other people would really enjoy. I just have a hard time getting started. Sometimes it’s because I don’t feel like I have the words, other times it’s because I’m not “in the mood” to write, and sometimes I’m afraid that if I put the idea down it will pull the cork of the epic story bath I’ve been drawing and all ideas will be drained out – the inspiration baby thrown out with the bath water. Did that make sense? Probably not. Oh, well.

Enter: this blog.

This is a place where I will practice my writing. Some say that you need to learn the tools of the trade. You can’t be a plumber if you don’t have a wrench or know how to fix a leaky pipe – how could you be a writer without knowing… whatever it is writers know? What do writers know? Do they diagram sentences? Have they memorized all the categorizations of fallacies that I learned in my freshman year of English? Perhaps they know books. Stephen King says that if you want to write, you have to read. However, arming yourself with an entire library of other people’s works does not seem like a box of tools. More like a really extensive manual or something. Anyway, that’s what some writers say. Others – lots of my favorites – say you just need to do it; just write.

Write even when you don’t feel like it. Write when the weather is good, write when it’s bad. Write when you’ve had a fabulous day, a crappy day, or just a day of no particular consequence. Write on the same storyline or a hundred different ones – just do it. (Thanks, Nike.)

(…that was Nike, right? “Just do it.”?)

So here I am, writing. Practicing. I don’t know exactly what kind of posts will come out of this or if they’ll be any good. I don’t know if anyone will read them. Whatever the outcome, that’s just dandy. I just have to do it. And here, I commit to doing it every day.

…this might be a bit difficult.

Oh, P.S. – I thought that was going to be the end, there, but I just noticed the word counter at the bottom of this text box. I think it would probably be a good idea to commit to writing ‘500 words a day’ or more so I that I don’t get super lazy and cop-out with a post like, “Today I ate a sandwich.” That’s what twitter is for anyway, right? So yes, 500 words a day. Should there be punishments if I don’t complete my own challenge? I’m in the process of watching all of the VlogBrothers‘ videos (hoo! ha! Nerdfighter!!) on YouTube and thought the punishments were/are hilariously fantastic and a great motivation for holding to a commitment. If anyone reads this, let me know what you think!

(I’ve added this form in case any potential non-WordPress readers want to provide feedback. Also, I like playing around with WordPress features.)

1 Comment

Filed under Writing