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The Work

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment

“What happened to doing the work?”

It was an angry question flung from one character on television to another, but the barb landed in my chest. Yesterday, I wrote a blog entry describing the house my words will build for me and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Since I’ve been thinking about it so hard, those thoughts lead me back to what I’ve actually done to get there lately. I’m not happy with the answer.

What have I done? More than nothing, but not the kind of work that someone who wants so much should be putting in. Law of Conservation of Energy. Can’t get out of it what you don’t invest to begin with. Right now, I have a WIP waiting for my attention, but I’ve been a delinquent parent. The thing is, this child won’t jump up and down, scream and cry until it gets my attention and the effort it needs to grow into more. Instead, this child of mine will patiently languish in my inattention without uttering a peep. When my focus returns to this lonely little piece, it will be too late. The story that has been written will be there, but the root that’s still inside of me will have died and withered away, and the wellspring dried up. The story will wait, but will never thrive, if it survives at all.

This is something I need to correct. I don’t do resolutions because it is acceptable and expected that they will fall flat before the first month of the new year draws to a close, but I need to find some way of initiating a change, of articulating what I need to do to prevent this from happening. I am seeking the words to translate what I know I need to do into some kind of goal I can set in front of me and strive to achieve. Stay tuned to see how it comes out…

Ahh, the life of the perfectionist is never a dull place. 😉

The House Words Will Build

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an exercise in visualization. They, of the almighty and anonymous wisdom of the universe, say to get what you want, you have to really be able to see it manifest in your life. They say that you have to believe with every ounce everything that makes you who you are that it is not only possible, but that it will happen. So let us attempt to bring forth a miracle of sheer will, shall we?

This is not my first vacation at the beach wherein I spend a week languishing on the coast and doing little more than cooking, reading, writing and shutterbugging, but with each year I do it, the more the desire pulls at me to make it a lifestyle and not just a vacation. I am at peace at the seaside. It seems like such a small phrase for the feeling that being here evokes in me. Here, I am in a state of zen-like calm, of meditative stillness, something like the way that some people are at peace climbing mountains or painting or…oh, I don’t know….hang gliding. In my normal day to day, my world is surrounded by sound. Music plays constantly because I love to swim in it the way a child will play in a pool. If not music, then the tv chattering in the background for the comfort of the sound, but here…this past week and those that have come before in years past, the only sound dominating my world is the sigh of the waves as they overtake the shore. It is music. It is what keeps me company in the silences, and it is enough. With the waves in the background, music becomes an intrusion, a disruption. The tv becomes just distracting noise. I have tried to bring this feeling back home with me, and I have tried to exist in the quiet like I do here, but I generally lose the feeling within the first day or so. There is no place in my current home where I can sit and look idly out the window and just watch a ripple of water approach, grow a white frothy cap and fling itself upon the sand. In my current home, the sound of the water is distant, and only digitally reproduced. That’s not enough.

I want to be able to feel this peace and serenity all the time, or at least whenever I choose to tap into it. I want to live here, where my soul becomes quiet and calm, and things feel…right. This is where I belong. This is where I have always belonged; I’m just finally in a place to understand it.

The only way I can think of to make this happen is to build this beach house with words. I don’t mean a fictional place where I’ll retreat when life gets too real, though it may be just that for the time being. A “happy” place, if you will. A place of mental respite and by spending time there, strengthening the vision. But no, what I mean is this place will become a reality through my writing. Funded by words.

I am not naive enough to believe that I’m going to be one of those billionaire writers who can publish their to-do list and have it land on the New York Times bestseller list. I don’t have any expectation of wealth other than to make a little here or there and hopefully, make a comfortable living writing. But one of the things I’m going to strive for is this house.

I want a house on the beach. Not “beach accessible” but on the beach where I can sit in my kitchen, on my back porch or in my living room and watch the tide make its passionate entrance, or quiet retreat. I want nothing but a few weathered stairs to separate me from the sand where I can walk, meander, run, dig my toes in and let the surf beckon me to the the lip of the water then chase me away with playful tongues of foam. I want to be able to step outside my second-floor bedroom onto my balcony and look over the waves under a glittering canopy of stars while the wind blows through my hair and tugs at my clothes. I want to be able to sit at my computer in my office with the window open and listen to the chorus of seabirds and waves and let those sounds drive me deep into creative space.

My home will have a kitchen that I can move in, but won’t necessarily be large. I just need it to be a space where I can create magic and a dining room table in front of windows looking out on the surf. I want to be able to sit, drink my morning coffee and eat my meals while looking out over the whitecaps, and to be able to entertain the occasional guest and revel in the sounds of something so far beyond human scale that the awe we feel lets conversation die before it happens.

I want to be able to have a life where I spend my days reading, writing, cooking, playing on the beach, spending time with my thoughts and letting them develop into words, then sentences, then paragraphs, and fall in strings to form stories and novels, and I want them to stack up all around me, building this house around me. The house my words will build. I want to be somewhere on the east coast, and I’d love to stay in North Carolina, but I’m not all that picky. I just want my home perched on the sand, overlooking the sea. I want to go, to stay, to be finally HOME. That is the house that my words will build and I will live there happily ever after.

Damn Spam!

December 28, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s nothing like being away from your blog for a few days (or more…heh) and seeing that you have comments. Comments excite me to giddiness, even when they’re relegated to my spam queue. I know that even the real ones get shuffled there from time to time.

What’s disappointing is reading something that seems so edifying and genuine….until you see the website they’re promoting. Excitement: crushed.

What’s even worse is the embarrassment of falling for it, and believing they’re real, which I’ve done. I thought I had a genuine follower (other than those I’ve invited to stalk me, that is). I was blissfully ignorant that my cherished comment was spam…until I got the exact same post a few days later. From the same “person.”

*sigh*

Damn spam…

Living the Dream

December 28, 2010 Leave a comment

…in a manner of speaking, at least.

I know, I’ve been somewhat slack about posting recently. I blame it on the pre-holiday, pre-vacation activity binge. Everything has to be done RFN and it sends me scrambling for days at a time. My writing time was laid upon the altar of the WIP (Work In Progress) and all other writing fell by the wayside.

I am on vacation at the moment, in Kitty Hawk, NC. We are in a beautiful house called “Fragile Magic” and I can say (as I often do when spending a week in a house on the beach) that THIS is the life I want to live. To give you a visual, I’m sitting on the couch in the living room, listening to the waves behind me, the fireplace just in front of me, a cup of coffee steaming beside me and potatoes on the boil for some gnocchi later on. I’ve done little other than read, write and cook for the past two days, and even though it snowed, the impact it had on my mood lasted only as long as it took to clear off the steps and get down to the car.

THIS is what my life should look like.

(It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s good enough. Perfect would require a few modifications, but all things in time.)

I have just finished Anna Karenina. It’s not the first time I read it, but I forgot how it drags after the spectacular climax. The last part was almost excruciating to get through, because I wasn’t engaged in Levin’s soliloquies on faith.

I’m not foolish enough to think I’ll get through Android Karenina in the next couple of days, but my intent is to put a good dent in it, and get a feel for how it measures up against the original before the new year is out. I’ve already met my goal of getting it started as the last book of 2010, so anything I get done with it now is gravy. 😉

Anyway, kids, I’m going to bank a little time writing and then take off to the lighthouses. I’m sure you’ll see more of me before the year is out….

Something Like a Review – The Passage by Justin Cronin

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

T’was a few weeks before Christmas and all through the store,
I looked for new horror that wasn’t a snore.
What to my wondering eyes should appear,
….but a new post-apocalyptic story with vampires!

Yes, I broke the rhyme, but I didn’t really care. With a new scary story in hand, my little heart squee’d and jumped with delight and I dug in with gusto.

In a manner of speaking.

I got this one from Audible.com, so “digging in” was more like clicking here, clicking there, syncing my device and hooking headphones onto my ears so the story could unwind somewhere between my ears and my brain. But more on that later.

The Passage is a long and winding story spanning over a century covering the discovery of a virus, the evolution of an apocalyptic crisis that decimates the population of the United States to the very abrupt ending of the book. Justin Cronin uses historical references a journal being written by one of the travelers in the course of the story to allude to the fact that yes, the world does go on, but in a very different way after the story ends.

I liked the story. I liked the concept of the tale and the twist Cronin puts on the image of a traditional monster. The vampires are familiar, yet an entirely new breed. The complexities of the story kept me wondering what was coming next, or at least wondering if my hunches were correct. The new world is fully realized and Cronin does a great job of bringing a nightmare-haunted world to life through his descriptions of the relics of the past, and through the circumstances the characters are living through.

The depictions of the world Cronin creates are a vivid sensory experience and the cast of characters diverse and, for the most part, well-developed. I did have somewhat of an issue with two of the prominent female characters feeling artificial, but I will qualify that with the fact that I don’t think I liked who he created in at least one of the characters. Alicia, the character I neither liked nor really believed, seemed to have little to no female sentiment at all. I’m not one for archetypal characters, but I expected a little more tempering in her over-the-top, almost militantly masculine behavior. Early on in the story, allusions to her upbringing hint at a militaristic existence suggest this is entirely appropriate for her and later revelations support it. It is possible that I just didn’t like the character Cronin intended to create in her, but something about her rang false in my head and as a result, I found myself rolling my eyes when her character took center stage. Another character, Mausami, felt too…well, wishy-washy. She was the woman torn between two men – the one she loved, and the one she married in an attempt to force the man she loved into action. In the circumstances of her life in the context of her world, she is forced into a protective custody and while she struggles against it, she evokes a sense of passivity that doesn’t seem like it fits her other actions. Again, I expected more tempering here, but this time, in the opposite way. She was a guardian of her colony and in that respect, I expected her to fight harder to live her life in a way that was meaningful to her.

One of my primary disappointments in this story was the involvement of a military force later in the story. My caveat to this disappointment is this: I’m a fan of the underdog. I want to see the average Joe pull through and accomplish astonishing things, even if the only astonishing thing is the fact that they survive in this dark wreckage of an Eden. I want to see people pull off the unthinkable and live to tell the tale. That being said, the presence of the military force long after they’re assumed to be a relic of a long-dead world seems like a cheap device. It’s too easy. It’s too expected.

A couple of other little things irked me the longer I listened. In this new world plagued by “virals,” new slang arises. The world “fliers” becomes an expression of anger, frustration, annoyance, and often seems to be dropped in where most people would swear. At first, it peppers the text to remind you that this is a different world, lived in under different circumstances – and that the “fliers” are the bad guys, and a negative thing. Then, it just gets abused and over-used. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it as much if I wasn’t listening to the text – but with the significant repetition, it became irritating. Another significant insignificant thing – this story takes place in the United States…and all these characters are using the metric system. As strange as that sounds, more than once, it snapped me out of the story haze. The US is relatively stubborn when it comes to adhering to English metrics, and I can’t imagine that even an apocalyptic event would prompt the conversion to a system that is resisted in times of peace and serenity.

The Passage is worth reading, though I would recommend turning off your internal nitpicker or critic because there are places where Cronin falls in love with his own words and you can hear the writing breaking through the crust of the story to wave at you to remind you there’s a scribbler at work behind the images. While the story starts of quite tight with respect to pace and style, it seems to fall slack and, frankly, lazy as the story goes along giving the impression, at times, like it’s dragging. My personal belief is there are scenes that could have been trimmed down or even eliminated to make the story more powerful. All in all, this was a good story with a new perspective on an old monster. I probably won’t invest the time in listening to it again (the audio was roughly 36 hours), but I enjoyed the tale and would recommend borrowing this one from a library or friend.

Lost in Transcription

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

In my head there are wonderful images. Sublime images. I can see a woman standing in the middle of a snow-covered field, her arms raised over her head, a bundle laying at her feet while snow falls all around her. I can see a brilliant red light trailing across the sky towards her, and hear her singing in a throaty,off-key warbling Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer only to be drowned out by a shrill, piercing whistle.

But all the stuff between where I last stopped on this piece and that image is just not coming forth. I’ve pulled together my pathway of how I want this to go. I know where the stepping-stones are, yet the words seem…hesitant to appear on the paper. I’ve been sitting here for almost two hours, and I have 0 words on paper.

Zero.

Less  than one.

Somewhere between where I started this and where I am today, I lost the path of the story and I’m not sure where. There are no guideposts to look back at. The story makes sense, but not in the way it needs to so I can proceed forward. I’m frustrated and tempted to scrap what I’m working on and start over. Scrapping what I have done worries me because it feels like some vital (mood/tone/words) will be lost if I do that and it will only lead to giving up on the story altogether. That won’t benefit what I’m doing, but I know I can’t just sit here and glower at it, either.

This is one of those moments where I really hate writing.

Categories: Writing, Writing Career

Writing in Public

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s common to walk into a Starbucks, indy cafe, Barnes and Nobles/Border’s cafe and see a handful of people with open laptops typing away, scowling at their screens or sipping from a paper cup and staring off into space. Some people are kept company by a stack of text books. Others, are just there with their laptops, drink and their thoughts.

The people scouring text books between bursts of machine-gun typing get a pass. They’re obviously students escaping busy dorm rooms, or a family who would otherwise clamor for their attention. Their pursuits are admirable, and some might consider them enviable.  The rest of us, though, who have “rented” space at a table for the cost of a hot coffee or a light dinner without obvious purpose for our digital dabblings, we are the ones who get noticed. We are the curiosity in the window that draws the imagination of the world passing by. I admit to being one of them…

I can only speak for myself, but I want to part the veil for the curious and give a little explanation why hunkering down in a public place is more effective than being at home.

Now, we know that there are pretentious “artistes” who are exactly as pictured in the clip above. There are people who find the image of writing the most appealing part of the whole process from having the newest, sleekest tech gizmo they can both use and display to the persona of the tortured soul persona they portray. They sit, faces contorted in artful angst laboring as they pour out their pain while they strive to create something so beautiful it will bring the world to its knees and praise the creator like some kind of benevolent god for gifting humanity with a glimpse into their mind.

Yeah. Ok. Then, there are the rest of us.

Simply stated, for me, writing in public is a thousand times less distracting than writing at home. That statement won’t make sense to many people because writing in public means being adrift in the middle of the sea of humanity where people come and go, conversations spring up around you and the hum of activity doesn’t cease. There are some people who would find that distracting in and of itself, but for some, that’s exactly what we need to focus the inner eye towards the work and get to business.

When I sit down at my computer at home, there are a myriad of distractions that immediately bombard me. The mail on my desk that I have yet to deal with, the updates my computer reminds me about, the socks I kicked off under my desk and forgot to throw in the hamper, the coffee cup I abandoned earlier in the day or the dinner plate I just finished with that really must be rinsed off right now before the remnants of dinner get so stuck on they have to be chiseled off, the sound of my SO watching TV from the other side of the desk or interrupting me with a story/comment/question, the urge to update and reorganize my music files, my to-do list sticky, the sound of the washer and/or dryer beeping and prompting me to get up and reboot them or start the dishwasher since the laundry is finally done, the sudden need to fold the laundry that just finished in the dryer, the phone ringing, the urgent need to check and make sure I sent in my car insurance payment, the random thought to go in and check on my fantasy football team….

It’s exhausting to think about, never mind to experience and if I’m even the slightest bit resistant to the idea of writing when my butt hits that chair, each one of these distractions becomes a temptation of epic proportions. I’m amazed I’m ever able to get anything done at my desk.

I’m not a neatnik, and keeping a completely clean desk is never going to happen for me. Most of the time, I’m good about cleaning it off before I sit down to work and again once I’ve finished, but there are times I miss one or the other and the vicious cycle begins. I can usually ignore the phone, but eventually, my curiosity will win out and I’ll get up just to see who it was that called, even if I don’t return the call. Then, there’s the human factor. I cannot kick my SO out of a shared office or the house, and the TV is too shiny a distraction to easily ignore, even with the ability to drown it out with music.

Not being at home, not being anywhere near anyone who knows me and can intrude on my time, not being tempted by mundane domestic distractions, I am able to focus and get to the business of writing. I am able to redirect wayward thoughts because there’s no way I can act on them anyway except to jot down a note to deal with it later. There’s a freedom to not being responsible for your environment, and that freedom allows me to drift into creative space.

The pressures of getting to a difficult patch also ease somewhat. Instead of reminding myself that I need to sit still, ignore each temptation to get up and do something else and power through whatever has tripped me up, I’m able to draw inspiration from the environment around me. Sometimes watching the interaction of personalities at other tables, or the way their expressions and body language tell me more than the words I’m able to hear from where I’m sitting will help me get through whatever has stalled my fingers on the keyboard.

For people like me, writing in public is not about being seen, or having my personal vision of myself recognized by others, but about giving myself the space to work. Getting out of the house translates into freedom to create without reality’s responsibilities tethering your feet to the floor…which needs to be vacuumed, by the way. By sitting down in a cafe with my netbook or my iPad, I’m giving myself permission to give in and dive into the creative pool and spend as much time there as I need to in pursuit of the sunken treasure.

Imagine that the next time you see us out there. The ones who are doing their jobs for the love of it, for the passion of creation are the ones who are studying your behaviors, your movements, listening to the rhythms of your speech, or maybe just staring off into space with dreamy expressions. We’re not there to be seen, but to create enough distance between ourselves and reality so we can create a new one. We don’t care if you notice us writing, and probably won’t realize if you do….

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