Monthly Archives: August 2009

Lather, rinse, write, repeat

I get my best ideas in the shower.

I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s the repetitive routine of my morning suds-session that frees up my left brain. Could be that the shower is one of the few places I can’t wear my glasses, and I’m not distracted by the world around me. Or maybe the soothing lavender smell of my new body wash leads my mind to far-off places.

Whatever it is, I wish I could bottle it and use it whenever I needed it.

Some people get their inspiration being active. One friend of mine gets magnificent ideas whenever she goes for a run. Honestly, when I’m running or walking, I’m concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I wish it were not so—I’d love to be brilliant whilst burning calories.

I’ve heard of writers who free their minds through cooking or baking. For me, that’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t have the skill necessary to whip up a killer guacamole and a surprising plot twist at the same time. Can you say ka-blooie?

I suppose I could try meditation. I could get into the deep breathing, the soft Enya-inspired music, and a scented candle or two…ha! Give me 60 seconds of that and I’m off to dreamland. Meditation may not be the best path to inspiration for the perpetually sleep-deprived.

So my solution is to hop in the shower. Making a slippery trail from bathroom to desk, I race to record those fleeting moments when I come up with something precious.

Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Make mine a loofah.

What about my fellow Restless Writers? How do you find inspiration?

Maria

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Telling time by the light of the sun

So, what ever happened to sundials? And I am not talking about those made-in-china polyresin replicas you see on the shelves at HomeSense. 

Every culture on this planet has looked toward the heavens to help organize events on Earth. As I attempt to recount and plan for the remaining summer days ahead, I am reminded that every moment of each day is more valuable than say, fine jewels. Yes, that means diamonds, ladies.

This summer, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the sun set from the extremities of the berry fields, to the corn field, to the pumpkin patch. My sundial is my front porch. I can tell time by the light of the sun. The moon. And the stars. There is something magical in the brief moments when the sun sinks below the horizon, the moments where the progression of time is purely visible amazement. The sun, on its way back in time; back to harvest—the same way I am back to bed. I digress; the looming pleasure is sleep.

Yes, I am on vacation right now. Hence, the lovely reference to sleep and the time for blogging—albeit short.

A charming quote to end this post; and particularly relevant as summer dwindles: “We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.” (Jeremy Irons)

Hope your summer has been filled with the magic of both memory & dream.

And that you too, have had moments of telling time by the light of the sun—and not your alarm clock.

B Jas

P.S. A good summer read: “Memory and Dream” (Newford Series) by Charles de Lint.

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On rain, reading and rabbits

Nothing like a rainy Saturday to curl up with a great book. Next on my reading list is The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. I, unfortunately, have not had the opportunity to enjoy it yet.

Here’s how the day has gone so far:

5:00 a.m. Woken up by the sound of our newest cat, Mary Piper, knocking over her water dish. Found and used the paper towels, sighed, and made some coffee. Read the Saturday Star.

6:00 a.m. Went for a long walk. Tried a bit of jogging to counteract the evil-but-delicious hunk of cake I had during a farewell party for a work colleague. Gave up and counted rabbits instead. Still felt virtuous. Early in the morning, watching the sun rise and breathing in the scent of grass and wild chives, it felt like anything could happen.

7:00 a.m. Walked to grocery store for more milk. Remembered to bring reusable bags for once. Had breakfast (fresh apple lattice tarts).

8:00 a.m. Showered. Watched infomercials while brushing my teeth.

9:00 a.m. Worked on my current indexing project for about an hour. Avoided getting distracted by laundry.

10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Continued to work on indexing. I now know a lot about glaciers and glacial landforms. Next chapter—soil erosion.

11:00 a.m. Jeremy wants an early lunch; I am persuaded. We have hot beef sandwiches on rye with gravy, potato salad and pickles. Nap is inevitable.

12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. Yes, I napped. For a whole hour. Sue me.

1:00 p.m. Once again woken up by feline fumblings. This time it was Two-Wee, asking nicely but incessantly for food. I served my furry master and yawned my way downstairs for more coffee.

2:00 p.m. Drove out to my sister’s place for a quick visit with her and my new niece. Visit turned into a Doogal marathon (my other niece’s favourite movie). Finally said my farewells and headed back home. Rain started. While driving down Highway 6, I thought about stopping by at Beckie’s. I debated with myself: I can’t just show up without calling. Sure you can! Anyway, her phone number is in your cell. I left my cell at home. No, it’s right there, in your purse. I’m sure she’s visiting with her family—or even sleeping in. You’ll never know unless you call. But I have to go work on my index. Oh, you have all night. Live a little. Go, have a nice visit! Okay, I will. But it was too late—I’d already reached Brant Street. (Sorry Beckie! I’ll see you next week.)

Present time: I’m back at the computer, 400 pages of geomorphology waiting for my attention, and I decide to catalogue my day. I didn’t get to my novel, but there are still hours to go before I sleep. I actually feel productive.

Maybe I’ll have time to crack that new book after all.

What have my fellow Restless Writers been up to today?

Maria

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Taking off the training wheels

training_wheels

training_wheels

The Restless Writers had their first official meeting last Wednesday night. We started with some tapas and wine, chatting easily about what we were writing and why. Before long, it was time to lay the goodies aside and get into the critique.

We each tried to stick to what is generally referred to as the “shit sandwich”—that is, frame your negative comments with some positive ones so the person getting the critique doesn’t feel like giving up, heading home and drowning her sorrows in a pint of Clorox.

One member shared her completed YA novel, which I have had the pleasure of reading before, along with the query letter she was using to send it out to agents. Another member titillated us with the first chapter of her chick-lit novel.

I chose to share a short story that I had started several years ago but recently resuscitated. My reasons for choosing this particular piece were mostly due to vanity. I wanted to show off my lyrical, whimsical side; and I thought my concept was inventive and a little kooky.

The Restless Writers gave me some valuable feedback. There were sections where the story’s timeline and setting were not clear. They wanted to hear more about what caused a certain key element in the story. And how exactly did the characters get from point A to point B?

But the most unexpected feedback I heard was: “This should totally be a novel.” The other writers were so adamant about it that I started wondering why I hadn’t thought to make it a novel from the start. I laughed it off, saying I was just lazy.

“You say it’s laziness, but it’s really fear.” This comment from a fellow Restless Writer must have struck a nerve, because I have thought of little else for the past few days.

I read in Monday’s Toronto Star that procrastination is being studied as a reaction against the fear of failure. Perhaps my genre of choice—the short story—is my own mechanism for dealing with the fear of failing at writing a novel.

What am I afraid of? In short, I’m afraid of screwing up.

With a short story, you have only so much room to go wrong. If one story doesn’t go as planned, you can just pick up and start again. Easy come, easy go—that was my attitude. The short story was my way of practicing writing before I started anything really serious.

Since I re-embarked on writing, I have told myself that I have to start small. I have to re-train writing muscles that have atrophied from lack of use. I have to practice writing in a safe, small and insignificant forum. I told myself that it was just like riding a bike. I just needed to practice. Take a couple of loops around the cul-de-sac before heading out on a real bike ride.

But you know what? I want to create something really spectacular. I want to invest myself in my writing, put the best of my creativity into a great book that resonates with readers. I want to write something that I would love to read. And although I enjoy reading short stories, when I want to lose myself in a work of fiction, the novel wins every time.

So, that whole fear of failing thing? I’m going to forge right past it. After all, no one wants to read a story that still has training wheels attached.

I offer my thanks to the Restless Writers for telling me to get my head out of my butt and write my novel already! I’m planning to share my outline in time for our next meeting.

Maria

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