Tag Archives: ramblings

Distraction; how do you deal with it?

My partner is a great supporter of my writing. At the same time, he can be a great obstacle to it.

I write most easily when I can completely escape into the words. Ideally, I wake up early (even though I’m anything but a morning person) and enjoy the solitude over a cup of coffee, perhaps using the time to catch up on my reading. Once fully awake, I write. With distractions at a minimum in the morning and my dear partner out of the house, my creative process thrives. I can make goofy faces as I go through the emotions of a character, I can mumble words to myself as I type, and I can sit and stare at a screen for hours while I puzzle out a scene before putting words to paper.

All of this becomes much more difficult in his presence.

If I put my palms against my eyes and sigh, he checks to make sure I’m okay. If he reads a particularly interesting something-er-other, he’s GOT to tell me about it. (He’s gotten better about allowing me to say “give me five minutes” while I finish a line, though.) Often, he lounges on the couch watching videos with the sound up and I have to put on headphones and music to drown it all out. It’s all incredibly sweet but, shortly put, he can be incredibly distracting!

Occasionally, I daydream of my own office – a place where I can go to write, free of distraction. However, I fear if that was ever realized I might never leave it…

I may have written about all this before. If so, I apologize for the repetition. It’s just that the past two weeks I’ve been acutely aware of this struggle because my dearest partner has been on holiday. It’s lovely to have him home, to watch him unwinding from the stress of everything. At the same time, I cannot wait for him to go back to work! Does anyone have any good tips for dealing with distractions?

In other news, tomorrow begins the challenge week in which I work on expanding my Writer’s Toolbox. I need to explore writing concepts and techniques, educate myself a bit more. With a belly full of food and a pillow calling my name, this all sounds like a great amount of work… but the back of my mind is itching with excitement! I know in the morning, I will probably overload myself with ideas to start working with. Fingers crossed!

Beyond all this, I must apologize, dear readers. I’ve clearly not kept up with my commitment to this challenge. The first thing to go out the window was catching up on your writing – which I don’t consider very fair. I’ll have to make it up to you in some way. Perhaps spend a day attempting to catch up on all my subscriptions? Reading the blogs of everyone who interacts with my work? We’ll have to see.

The last thing I’ll talk about here is the sadness I feel to know that Miyazaki is retiring. For those who don’t know, Hayao Miyazaki is a creative genius who co-founded Studio Ghibli and is responsible for such wonderful movies as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. He has a profound way of bringing the wonder of childhood to life before our very eyes. Recently, I’ve been reading the Howl’s Moving Castle series by Diana Wynne Jones – Miyazaki adapted the first book into a movie – which makes this news all the more relative for me. Both the books and the film are nothing short of wonderful. So, if you’ve not seen any of his works – I suggest you take a look into at least one. While I wish him the best, I am saddened to know that his next film will be the last and I can only hope that Studio Ghibli continues to do great things after he retires.

Until tomorrow, my friends!

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I don’t know what this is.

Look down.

Waves crash beneath your feet. You don’t know how you’re standing here. There’s a cliff behind you, but there isn’t actually anything beneath your feet. You stand on thin air, looking past your toes at a violent sea of bluish green. White caps froth as the water pushes and pulls against itself, unable to decide where it belongs. For a moment, you understand how it feels and you can feel your own frothy white caps of frustration forming inside. Life is sometimes difficult.

The wind is warm, but fierce. The salty air stings your skin and whips your clothes against your body. The excess fabric flaps behind you. Its sound reminds you of a flag snapping in the breeze. Why are you here?

Above, you see storm clouds rolling in. It’s a turbulent sky with dark clouds rolling atop one another, fighting for a glimpse of the ocean below. You can hear their grumbles as they push one another aside. The air feels electric and the little hairs on your arm even stand on end – or so it feels.

Crack! Boom!

You’re in bed, a soft bed. It’s dark in the room and very quiet… it should be a comforting place and you do feel tired, but this isn’t where you’re supposed to be. Feeling sleepy…

Crack! Boom!

There’s the ocean. You’re facing a new direction, looking along the coastline where those angry waves beat against the cliffs. The sea will only ever see the rock and soil its waves attack – but from your vantage point, you can see the grassy green tops; rolling fields stretch for miles across a picturesque landscape of rolling hills. You imagine somewhere in that distance there must be cows, lazily stomping about the soft earth or perhaps reclining in a patch of remaining sunlight.

With a deep breath you feel that if you lean forward, you’ll be able to direct some form of movement. Sure enough, the slight tilt of your body allows you to move securely forward. It’s not as though you’re going to fall – you actually feel quite sturdy in the middle of the air, and now you can explore.

Where do you go?

With this newfound ability, you suddenly feel free and in control. You know that you may go anywhere you wish. For a moment, this thought overwhelms you. A lush beautiful forest comes to mind, the pyramids, great towering mountains – it’s your discretion.

Except suddenly, you only yearn for home. Not just home… but childhood. It’s not the structure you want, but the comfort. Knowing that adults would protect you. This was a time when you were invincible, and so was everyone around you. No one could die, no one became incurably ill. Life was nothing but a gift.

From darkness, your mind snaps back. You’re at the sea again, staring at the turmoil beneath your soles. What is a soul, anyway? Do you have one? As if to answer your question, the desire wells up inside you to dive into the raging water below.

Without a moment’s hesitation, you plunge downward – into the sea salty water – into the unknown – into the raging waves – and you find… calm. Beneath all that struggle, there is peace. The water isn’t water anymore, yet you float suspended in it as if it were. It’s warm. It’s comforting. You’re enveloped in a familiar embrace.

You’ve found what you seek.

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Prep Work and a Call for Artistic Bloggers!

Tomorrow starts my four-week self-challenge. I thought I’d take today as an opportunity to gather my thoughts in text and lay out some ideas.

This week is character exploration. I’ll need to come up with five new, entirely unique people and/or creatures to write into existence. I didn’t realize when I wrote this qualifier that unique would be one of the more difficult pieces of the puzzle. Challenge accepted, though!

The idea isn’t to write up an entire story using these characters – though that might make a good challenge for Saturday! – but to really explore them, their personalities. What makes them tick? Who are they? My words should breathe life into them, if possible.

I’ve also begun scouting out some art blogs to get ideas. Then I got the idea that this might make an excellent collab project! Are you an artist? Do you have any sketches or paintings or mere smudges that you’d be willing to let me post here? Most certainly I’d link back to you/your blog and laud you for your artistry and generosity. Something to consider… perhaps I’ll contact some people. I’ve never done a collab before!

Anyway, the simplistic ideas I’ve come up with thus far are as follows:

Villain – your quintessential bad guy. I’ve got lots of heroes/heroines in my memory banks, but almost no villains. I need to start remedying this. My favorite idea at the moment is to craft this malcontent out of the little snot of a bully that has haunted the local playground for the last two years. He threw a rock at my window the other day and I revelled at the chance to finally reprimand him. Is it awful that I can have such disdain for a mere child? I have no hope for him growing into a well-adjusted adult – I truly expect him to simply become an adult version of the playground bully.

Sage – the wise old so-and-so. I love it when characters like this show up in books and movies. It’s usually someone who keeps to themselves and allows the world to carry on at its own pace – not necessarily satisfied with where it’s going, but content that it’s the natural course of things. They tend to step in when something or someone is about to really muck something up, though.

Imaginary Friend – this will be a non-human. I’ve long wanted to write a tale about imaginary friends, their world, and kind of what happens to them after we stop believing. Personally, I never really had an imaginary pal.. but I really wanted one! Did you have one? Who/what was yours?

Animated Soul – I just finished reading Diana Wynn Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle and absolutely loved the character Calcifer! Now I’ve a mind to take an ordinary household trinket and turn it into something with spirit. Like the Brave Little Toaster, perhaps. This will be a challenge to make the ordinary extraordinary!

Bookworm – here the idea would be just to write about someone very clever and bookish. Not all heroes and heroines have to have brawn, after all. I, myself, am not very analytical or strategic – but I do surround myself with quite a number of people who are. Am I able to mimic their minds enough to make it passable? We shall see. I at least have the advantage of setting up a situation that I know the outcome of, so I can make someone seem clever – right?

Fantastic/Magical Creature – try a unicorn or a demon perhaps! Per chance, the less-oft used hippogriff. Make it decidedly unpredictable in spirit, though – like Cortan, the curmudgeon of a Pixie or something.

Antihero(ine) – less excited by the thought of this one, but I have a few in mind. They’re characters I’ve had stored for a while but have developed very little, making them difficult to write. It would at least be a good topic to research as the reading I’ve done on TVtropes.com has listed a few examples I’m not sure I would have considered antiheroes. This might have the potential for Week 3’s Writing Toolbox if I don’t craft something here for week 1.

So that’s a good start for some ideas, I think. Tomorrow begins the real work.

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Have you ever had a recurring dream?

I’ve had a recurring dream, as of late. It’s not precisely the same thing each time it occurs, nor does it recur every night. But over the past few months, I’ve dreamed that I was looking out a window and saw tornadoes dancing along the horizon.

Once, I was in a high rise building that was entirely glass windows looking out over a dense cityscape. This last time, I was in the home of my childhood and just looking at a window that was created in my mind’s eye. Each time I see multiple funnel clouds wreaking havoc in the distance. Each time I think, “I should probably go to the basement… but they’re so far away. They probably won’t even come over all this way. Even if they do, I’ll see them coming in time to take cover.” Then inevitably, they do cut a course in my direction – all three or five of them, like they’re on a mission. And they’re coming fast. Sometimes I am alone, sometimes I’m among others that I may or may not know in real life, but I’m always trying to save someone or something. Most recently, it was cats – my cat, cats from my past, and cats I’ve never known – but most often I’m trying to make sure all the people I’m with are headed for the basement.

I feel the panic of not reaching the basement in time. My mind in my dream reels with the imaginings of what it will look and feel like when the cyclones tear the building to shreds and I’m caught up with it. I feel the worry of ensuring that everyone I love and care about, as well as all the complete strangers, have made it to our safe zone – that we didn’t leave anyone behind. My heart races.

But every time, I reach the basement. Every time, everyone (or everything) is safe and there with me.

Then the dream ends.

It’s such an odd dream to me because I’ve never experienced a tornado. Hurricanes, yes. Windstorms, yes. I’ve even been in the same storm in which a tornado formed, but it was not precisely near me. We always went to the basement if there was a warning, but the most damage I’ve seen done (first hand) is a few missing roof tiles.

When I realized this scenario had been dreamed more than once, I began to wonder if it means something. I don’t put much stock in those books that claim there is a set symbolic definition for everything that may be present in a dream. I more adhere to the idea that dreams are creative projections of our experiences and emotions from the day-to-day. So perhaps I should rephrase: I began to wonder if it represents something.

The interpretation I came up with, after much inner reflection and some googling, was that I have a tendency to procrastinate. I say, “I have so much time to do this!” and then dead lines come up on me faster than I’m prepared for – it’s very stressful. When that happens, I feel quite out of control… even though I began the scenario quite in control. This repeating dream says to me: you should really get your ass in gear and get organized. (Pardon the french.)

Have you ever had a recurring dream?

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Do you know this book?

Today I experienced a feeling that I should probably make note of, for any future quirky characters of mine. It began after RhombusGirl commented on a previous post about her affinity for Little Golden books. I was reminded of the little metal bookshelf my grandmother kept tucked in the corner of the den. It was mostly shiny black with a few white accents and had wheels, even though it had no place to go. On it were stored a box full of crayons, coloring books and a plethora of Little Golden books, as well as a handful of other small children’s books. My favorite was the one about the doctor.

The doctor was a tall, slender white man with white hair, rosy cheeks, a white lab coat and an old black doctor’s bag, if I recall the illustrations properly. He made house calls to a variety of different creatures who had all taken ill. The only one I remember with any certainty was a snowman who’d stayed out in the cold too long and gotten frost bite on his foot. The doctor instructed him to wrap the foot in peeled potato skins, keep it elevated, and rest by the fire. This stuck in my head not because it was a snowman that had frost bite (ha ha), but because I had always wondered at the curative power of the potato skins. (I still think of them – perhaps erroneously – as something good for irritated skin.) There may have been an elephant with measles or chickenpox, another random critter with a cold or the flu, and something most definitely had a nose bleed… I remember having a fascination for the illustrated blood. The doctor took care of them all with empathy and compassion, then was on his way to the next patient. The story ended when the doctor himself fell ill and all of the people he’d helped came to take care of him. (At least, I think that’s how it ended.) Armed with this happy memory, I took to the internet to see if I could find its title!

I figured I had enough information to go on, but I was most certainly mistaken. After two hours of searching, I had nothing. The illustrations were akin to those in Scuffy the Tugboat so I figured it would be from the same era – 1940s or 50s – and I was fairly certain it was a Little Golden book. The only doctor-related book I could find meeting that description was Doctor Dan the Bandage Man, which was most certainly not the book of my memory.

The longer I looked, the more hopeful I grew that I would find it again. I had to find it, I thought. It felt important. It became an obsession! At some point I found myself thinking that if I could just manage to find this book, I would purchase it on the spot so that I could keep it forever. What had started as a simple, treasured memory became a dire hunt for this childhood relic. I grew frustrated and irritable. Google became my enemy for not making proper sense of my search terms. Where was this book?!

It was an anticlimactic ending that can be summed up as follows: I didn’t find it. The search only came to a halt when I became sidetracked with another equally nostalgic something. It was only then that I realized how crazy I’d become over finding the mysterious doctor book. I had to laugh at myself.

If possible, I’d still like to find it (in case anyone out there finds my description familiar)! But the most intriguing thing to me was how quickly my mind went from casual curiosity to passionate frenzy. This seems like something that could happen to any hero or villain that gets caught up in a moment. Could it even be someone’s fall from grace? Just getting too caught up in something, then not being able to let go?

Sometimes I think it’s important to note our odd behaviors and feelings so that we can better bring out the humanity of our characters.

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What were your favorite childhood reads?

I am not very good at making those “top 5” or “top 10” lists and I’m even worse at choosing my absolute favorites – the items that trump all other enjoyable items within a certain category. However, I do – in retrospect – have favorites of things for different time periods throughout my life. Here are my favorite childhood reads:

As a really wee one, I loved the Berenstain Bears books. In fact, I loved them so much that even mentioning them to my parents still elicits exaggerated groans and tales of nightmares. At the time, you see, I was not yet reading myself. So every night when my parents offered to read me something before bed, I plagued them with the Berenstain Bear family. I don’t remember the stories intriguing me so much, except for the one about Sister Bear’s first day of school, as the illustrations. I loved the illustrations! Every once in a while, I’d even pull out my favorites to look at them, despite not being able to read them.

Alice Through the Looking Glass was another one of my favorites during this time and is the first book I remember my parents trying to get me to read myself. Once again, the illustrations played a crucial role in my interest… but the story was equally intriguing.

Then came Goosebumps. I think my mother would kiss R.L. Stine for writing books I actually had an interest in reading. This was the first time in my life I could actually read something, then discuss it with a friend at school. I had a fairly decent collection of them at one point! I remember doing some extra credit so I could get the newest book, The Barking Ghost, free from the old Scholastic school book order forms. The cover of that one sticks in my head even now.

Just before I hit middle school age, one of my babysitters introduced me to the Star Wars movies. She figured it was a good way to keep me quiet for a few hours – I’d found a life long obsession. The next favorites of my childhood were the Young Jedi Knights books. I have no idea if they were actually any good, but I loved them at the time.

In 8th grade, I found S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and it was a game changer. We were given a month to read it, I think, and I read it two or three times within that time frame. My friends were not nearly as enthusiastic about it, but for some reason it had me; hook, line, and sinker. I think it may also have been the first time I’d scoffed that the book was better than the movie. (Though, I did still enjoy the movie.)

That’s the last book I’d really consider a “childhood favorite”, though. Beyond that, the books I read or the age I read them at became more advanced than the term ‘childhood’ would merit. Each one of these listed holds a special place in my heart, though. I hadn’t thought about them in a while.

What were your favorites growing up?

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What makes a good love story?

My head hurts.

I’ve had a beer or two.

It’s late.

I had just sat down to eek out some words earlier when I got a message from a friend, asking if my partner and I were coming to a celebration tonight. Since we’d just sat down to dinner, the logical answer at the time was ‘no’. However, it was a celebration to see a friend who had hopped an ocean to come visit. We were upset that we hadn’t been notified sooner, but I wasn’t going to let that stop our fun. My partner was a little less agreeable. We still enjoyed ourselves immensely and got to spend time with some people we hadn’t seen in a long while – catch up, laugh, and enjoy some good beer and good company. The only trouble is that now I have to write.

What do I write about?

The idea flitting around my head right now is, “What makes a good love story?”

One of the blogs I’m following has been making several posts lately about “What do you look for in…” a number of different characters, environments, and scenarios. I really enjoy these posts because they really get me thinking. Often I get an idea and decide it sounds good to me, then just run with it. I don’t often stop to think about what elements really make a something good. This should be remedied.

Perhaps due to the mood of the evening or perhaps due to the point I’m at in my current story, the topic currently at the top of my mind is love stories. An oft over-used tale is the one of fate. Two star-crossed lovers who, love or hate one another upon first meeting, are destined to wind up together by the end. I’ve gone this direction in the past, but now I question the romance that actually goes into it. Isn’t it more special if, out of anyone in the world, you choose someone?

There are lots of tropes out there for romance – childhood friends that meet again as adults, some guy defeating the “friend-zone” by virtue of always being around.. particularly after being contrast with a complete jerk, etc. I’m sure you can think of a few. It’s really hard to come up with something that’s truly unique. However, even if your story houses a romance about a low-born governess who falls for her wealthy employer, there are ways to make your story stand out from the rest. I often think this comes from the depth of the characters (and the environment they’re in) themselves. If you write truly engaging and complex characters in an environment that hasn’t been done over a thousand times, your story will stand out – in my opinion. They devil’s in the details, is it not?

A convincing romance for me has a good hook, in which the writer actually reminds you of those blushing moments from your own experience. It also has a conflict that must be overcome, forcing the characters to grow as a couple, as well as individuals. Furthermore, both characters must be believably interested in one another. I don’t often buy into the stories where one character gives up all their vices, without looking back, because he or she has fallen for someone “pure”. I like characters who have vices.

What do you think makes a good love story?

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