Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Imagination is Not Always Your Friend

I’m a big believer in the amazing qualities of a hyperactive imagination, but I’ve recently had cause to see the darker side (quite literally) of the imagination.

I’ve mentioned before that I participate in a very lovely activity called open water swimming. It’s wonderful. Combine swimming, a quarry, and rarely having to turn around and you have the bliss that is open water swimming.

I find swimming to be an incredibly peaceful experience, even in a quarry. But I like my wetsuit because it: a) makes me float, b) is my safety net in case anything happens because I won’t sink down into the depths, and c) feels like a forcefield to protect me from the creatures lurking below. I intended (like last year) to swim in my wetsuit this entire summer, but something happened along the way. Some of you might have experienced it too... a heat wave. So, the heat came and warmed the quarry water, rendering my beloved wetsuit a “sauna suit.” It had to go, but I was scared to swim without it.

I rallied my courage, patted my dear wetsuit that rested on a bench, and approached the water. I could do this. Really. And I did. Into the water and swimming along. And then...

... my imagination hit.

I could imagine every movie where a woman is swimming, her vulnerable legs swishing in the water as a creature watched her from below. I shook that thought off, but others were lying in wait. See, with the heat, came a water temperature conducive to the exponential spread of algae... that I was swimming through.

Was it killer algae from outer space? Flesh eating algae? Or was there a portal deep below into another dimension where my future agent was waiting to be rescued?

Hey, could happen.

Moral of the story: imagination is a wonderful thing, but not while swimming through warm, algae-filled water, that is home to scores of unknown creatures. At those times, check your imagination at the water’s edge—it’s really for the best.

Quote for the Day from Angel, episode entitled “Underneath”

Wesley: Are you telling me the great Illyria, idol of millions, was limited to one small dimension?

Illyria: I travelled all of them as I pleased. I walked worlds of smoke, and half-truths, intangible. Worlds of torment and of unnameable beauty. Opaline towers as high as small moons. Glaciers that rippled with insensate lust. And one world with nothing but shrimp. I tired of that one quickly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It’s Not the B-Word, But You Can Get There From Here

I hate to think bad thoughts. Really. I'm all unicorn and rainbow thoughts every chance I get, but I’ve been dabbling in something, or maybe I just stepped in something and I’m tracking it everywhere I go. But it’s writing related, so here’s the place to march right in and deal with it.

As some of you know, I got focused on my writing April 1, 2008. I don’t take days off from writing (haven’t in more than two years), mostly because I love to write, even just a little bit every day. My daily writing is the proof that I am moving toward on my goals. And usually, my writing comes easily.

One thing that you should know about me to understand my issue is that I have a great memory. Not all the time. And not about everything. But mostly, I remember almost everything (unless I’m under stress... which explains why I can’t find the “safe place” where I put my external hard drive just before my vacation). I remember people I waited on when I worked at a restaurant during college (not everyone of course, but many... and where they sat and the stories they told). I remember strange little moments from years ago with sense memories so rich, the moments seem like they happened yesterday.

And the most prominent place I remember things is in words, written or spoken. I can quote (or closely paraphrase) conversations from years ago (and entire movies, songs... including It's the End of the World as We Know It by REM).

Memory is a blessing and a curse. I have many friends with less acute memories whom I envy a little for the cloud that protects them from being able to step back into wounds with just a thought. My memory makes getting over things harder, because there is no haze between me and hurtful words and events.

Now, back to my writing issue: feedback. Every word written about the story I am marketing plays through my mind, the good things and the things to work on, all graciously shared by stellar agents. I’m so grateful for their help and I want more, but I’m finding myself tripping over their comments as I write, doubting the words that flow from me for the first time. I can still write and we’re not talking about the B-word (You know... don’t make me say it. Okay, I’ll give you a hint: Writer’s B****.)

(For the sake of the rest of this post and to honor my belief in not saying the thing that shall not be named, we will call the B-word, Writer’s Elbow. There, problem solved.)

So, I don’t have writer’s elbow, but I can see how this new doubt in myself could become writer’s elbow. Maybe that’s how it starts for everyone. Other voices renting out space in our story-telling minds, and suddenly, we frighten away our connection to the source of all stories. Well, I need to nip this in the bud. I may have writer’s knuckle now, but I just can’t risk it getting worse.

I have a plan. It’s called Bringing The Fun Back In. And this is how it works. I write every day because it is my time in the sandbox, my playtime with crayons, and my time to ride a tire swing back and forth on a perfect day (with absolutely no mosquitos). Writing is recess, and that can’t happen with well meaning, but grown-up voices in my head. So, I’m on a mission to reconnect with the fun. To light my candles and write in the dark. To sing too loud (the dogs don’t mind my Faith Hill sing-a-longs). Anything and everything that makes me smile.

I’ve only been on this mission for a couple days, and I can already see the progress. Fiction is a gift again. Stories readily skipping from my mind to my fingers are blessings. And the force within that keeps me going, well that’s just priceless.

Rejections; feedback; hey, even offers of representation and book deals will come, but what matters in the end is the simple connection that allows a story to first be told. I can only imagine that once agents and book deals are in place, it is even easier to allow other voices into the writing process. So, I guess learning how to protect the sacred is best accomplished now, when it really is just me and my story.

Quote for the Day from Winnie the Pooh

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ode to Character Devotion

I’ve got a new book to read, stories to write, and dogs to walk, but the lion’s share of my home time has been devoted (of late) to house cleaning/organizing. Early next month, I am hosting an event at my house (something I will blog about later because it is absolutely amazing) and I need to get ready. Hosting anything is really outside my happy, comfort bubble, but the inducement was too tempting to refuse.

Cleaning, as everyone should know, is facilitated by NCIS. No really, almost every night, old episodes of NCIS air and they provide the entertainment to fuel the cleaning urges. I’ve cleaned the kitchen, gone through years-old boxes of paperwork, and done heaps of laundry. I’m a cleaning rock star. What does this have to do with character devotion... well, that’s easy.

Things to admit:
  • I hate procedural shows (which include almost all crime dramas in which a crime/dead body is found and the characters then solve the crimes).
Note: I realize I am in the minority here, evidenced by the fact that my favorite shows (Buffy, Angel, Battlestar Galactica, etc., are no longer on the air) and CSI (all varieties), Law and Order (many, many varieties), NCIS (both), Bones, and many other procedurals are the staples of current television programming.
  • I hate any shows that involve bodies decomposing, cut open for an autopsy, stuffed in a trunk in Vegas so long they turn into gelatinous muck (yeah, I watched that episode of CSI).
  • I hate shows where man’s inhumanity to man is the profound and hopeless theme (evidenced by all the ways people kill each other and all the selfish reasons why lives are lost... see above, all crime dramas).
NCIS fits into all of the above categories, and yet I love it. Why?

The characters.
  • Abby. I love her. I want to be best friends with her. I want to be as smart as she is. And I wish I could wear her funny shoes to work without getting fired.
  • Ziva. I love her, too, flaws and all. I wish I were as tough as she is and could protect myself with such fervor.
  • McGee. I love him, too. I wish I were as smart and sweet as he is.
  • DiNozzo. I like him (though he would be fired from anywhere I’ve ever worked for being a pig). Even with his inappropriateness in the workplace, he’s incredibly loyal and I respect that.
  • Ducky. Yeah, love him. Who wouldn’t?
  • And last, but not least, Gibbs. My adoration knows no bounds. He’s amazing and hot. What could be better?
Character devotion means that I watch a show that contains all the elements I hate in a television show, simply because I love the characters.

In my own writing, I work to create characters that might one day have that kind of pull for the reader. I hope I get there, because I’m not sure there is anything better than for others to love my characters as much or more than I do.

Quote for the Day from NCIS

"I will kill you 18 different ways with THIS paperclip!"

Ziva David/Dead Man Walking/ Season 4

Friday, July 9, 2010

Believing Smaller

While I’ve been deciding what to write next, I’ve been taking a little walk through some of the stories I’ve written in the past couple years. This has been a fun exercise, mostly. One thing that has been a bit challenging is what I will call my Former Writer Self Time Travel Moments. What does that mean? Well, as I’ve been reading the words my former writer self wrote, I remember with perfect clarity exactly what I was thinking while I was writing. How I thought this writing journey would go. I’m sure I’m not alone in believing that I would be an instant success, lauded by the masses, the most successful writer ever to walk (though I would levitate regularly) the earth. I think we all need to believe that success will come easily in order to have the confidence to get out of the gate. Of course, I now know all about rejection and how hard it is to keep believing, but had I known all of that then, I might never have dared to send out that first query.

I pride myself on my ability to “just keep swimming” (my little ode to the fabulous Dory from Finding Nemo) no matter how close I get and how far it feels like I have to go. I literally use this mantra during my open-water swimming outings. And I will keep on going, no matter how hard it gets, but I have to say that my little time traveling moments have been rougher than I would have thought. This journey is all about believing, but I think I have a better sense about the size of my belief now. And to be honest, I’m believing smaller these days. No shiny tiaras. No brunches with Stephenie Meyer, C.S. Lewis (who was only too happy to come back from the dead for brunch with me), Han Suyin, and J.R.R. Tolkien (also back for a limited engagement). Just a lot of work, a dose of faith, and maybe one day, the chance to share my stories with more than my circle of friends and family.

Quote for the Day from C.S. Lewis

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

So, This Really Was My First Rodeo

I’ve been a little absent from my trusty blog. I really didn’t mean to be gone as long as I was, but life does get a little busy sometimes and we just have to roll with the punches. In the past month or so, I’ve been dedicated to a few different projects, some fictional, some historical, and some vacational (yes, I made a word... but since I’ve decided to go pro in the field of vacationing, I feel I have the necessary street cred).

In fiction, I've been working on my difficult story child, which feels like an entirely unfair mantra for my story. The truth is that I stopped the story midway to work on another project and haven’t found my way back into the heart of things. After more deliberation than was probably healthy, I’ve decided to set the story aside and work on something else. This is the first time I’ve done that. It feels strange, but if I don’t have the passion for the story, how can I possibly think anyone else will. My mind is all aflutter deciding what to work on next. And since I love first drafts best, I’m looking forward to falling into a new world and taking a brand new ride to wherever I end up.

In history, I spent much of the past month and a half preparing a video for my best friend’s surprise birthday party (which is now past, so I can discuss). Gathering the pictures and going through them was like a therapy session entitled “This is Sorta Your Life.” When you’ve been friends with someone for twenty-seven years, their journey in some ways is your journey, up until certain turns and off ramps. Looking at her life forced me to look at my own, but with a strange detachment because she provided the filter. I was at different times nostalgic, sad, giggly, and filled with love. I really do love my best friend. She’s one of the best people I will ever know and I feel blessed that our friendship has survived.

As much as I am not a surprise party (or surprises in general) person, it was fun standing in her living room, having flown 2,000 miles to get there and leaving the next morning for my actual vacation, when she walked in. Seeing the look of shock/wonder on her face was something I will never forget and I was so glad to be there. She loved the video I created and it was worth the many hours it took to put it together and to get the music just right. And it is wonderful to know that we share such a past and a future, too.

And let’s talk about vacations. I attended my very first full rodeo... in Santa Fe... in an outdoor stadium... under the gorgeous (sometimes stormy) New Mexico skies... and I’m a changed woman. Seriously. I’ve admitted before that I have a Professional Bull Riding addiction (watching not participating). And let that be a lesson to you: One fluke event can change your life. Beware what you do. I’m currently suffering withdrawal from the PBR, as they are on a summer break (to heal, mostly). But the rodeo and the excitement leading up to the rodeo helped me to survive. It was amazing, and I can’t imagine a more beautiful setting for a first-time rodeo attender.

(Also, I need for you to know about one other thing, in case you ever encounter it: ribbon fries. They are decadent. Obtain some, devour, and repeat. You won’t be sorry.)

I think that catches you up with my current events and prepares for me to start posting again with more frequency. I’m working on being on a schedule. Tuesdays and either Thursdays or Fridays. We’ll see how I do. I look forward to catching up with all the blogs I follow, and I hope you all are having a lovely summer.

Quote for the Day from “Rodeo” by Garth Brooks

“It's boots and chaps
It's cowboy hats
It's spurs and latigo
It's the ropes and the reins
And the joy and the pain
And they call the thing rodeo”