Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cleaning House and Setting Up Shop

Don't mind me. I'm just rearranging the furniture and airing out the attic. You'd be amazed at what I'm finding up here! Cobwebs aside, there's all sorts of wondrous knick-knacks that need dusting and repairing; not so much to clean them up to make them presentable but so that I can tell what they are. So I can share them with you.

Stories and Odd Things.

I'll be making brief appearances here and there during the next week or so. All this dusting and tweaking takes time. Not to mention I start back to school next week after a delightful two week break.

Bear with me, dear souls, as you have so patiently this past year. One of the things I love about blogging is the flexibility the medium allows for creative expression. The other thing (and this is most important) that I love about the blog-sphere is how accommodating and understanding the readers and creators are! I've watched many new blog friends change their sites, their focus, their creative endeavors. Some have changed designs, others have changed direction. And I love it! I love seeing people grow and evolve. That's what we're here for after all. To discover who we really are and what our calling is on this earth.

I owe a lot to blogging in this respect. It has allowed me the physical expression of all these ideas and evolutions. I'm able to actually see what's going on inside my brain and agree (or disagree) with the shifts and changes.

So, here's to change and risk taking.

And going forth and being fabulous.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inspiration = Perspiration = Success

What inspires you? Me, all it takes is a good thunderstorm or a gloomy, rainy day that sends most people running for the door, grumbling about mud on their shoes and frizzy hair. Sadly, most summers in the south are dry and hot. Until I can conjure up a rain storm whenever and wherever I like, the next best thing to get the creative juices flowing is a simple walk down the street.

I'm fortunate enough to live two blocks from a city park with an exercise circuit. I walk to the park, do a few upper body exercises, walk home sore making mental note that if I did this every day I wouldn't be so sore, now would I? By the time I get home, the blood is flowing and I'm overflowing with inspiration and motivation.

Without pausing to sit and rest those darn sore muscles, I start working. Usually it's getting the wrinkled laundry out of the dryer or turning the dish washer on so we can actually eat out of plates instead of off paper towels (again). Then, and only then, do I sit down. But it isn't to relax. Nope, I'm in front of the computer, either doing school work, research, or writing.

Others have said that physical activity helps to get them motivate, inspires them to plunge ahead into the writing realm. Why is this? A simple matter of inertia, that strange principle that if you don't feel like running a mile but go outside anyway and just jog a bit, you'll end up running that mile and feeling better for it.

How many times have you told yourself "Nah, not today. I don't feel like running that mile/writing that book report/editing that novel"? We want too. Truly. We know running will keep us healthy, the book report is due tomorrow and once the novel is edited we can throw ourselves a party and start researching agents.

In her book, "Book in a Month", Victoria Lynn Schmidt explains that everyone has issues that prevent us from fulfilling our goals, whatever our goals may be. "Any big undertaking," she writes, "will bring those issues to the surface in the form of resistance. Resistance is the way your subconscious tries to protect you from taking risks."

That laziness you feel every time you look at the disheveled papers on your desk, perhaps it's not laziness at all but your inner "guardian" trying to prevent you from taking a risk. Risk equates sacrifice and usually comes with a healthy dose of not knowing. We as a species hate this. But, catch-22, we'll never know if we don't try.

Feeling that inspiration yet? Then get up and go do whatever it is that inspires you. If yes, then start working on that project. Don't let a little fear keep you from achieving your writing goals. Nothing worth doing was ever accomplished without a little fear and perspiration :).

Go forth and be fabulous!
Jen

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Power of Memory


How could I resist a writing book with a nod to Lewis Carroll on the cover?

Dinty W. Moore has written a fabulous book called "Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction". Granted, I've only just begun reading it, but the exercises I've completed so far really get the juices flowing.

Moore talks about how we're conditioned (thanks to well meaning school teachers) to think that essays are to be dry and indigestible. His book is a refreshing debunk of this theory. He really gets to the meat and potatoes of writing personal reflections. And what, if anything, is a blog but a collection of personal reflections?

If you, like I, have ever wondered how to make your writing more YOU, you might like what Moore has to say. Like I said, I've only just started reading it, but so far, I've written three essays that I actually feel good about and I'm eager to learn more!!

Happy Monday! Now, go do something fabulous!!!
~Jen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

You Can Do It!

Sounds like a motivational speech title, doesn't it. Well, maybe it is. Sometimes, I need to hear someone tell me I can do it, whatever it is. My final exam in my religion class is today. It has been nice hearing my husband tell me, "I know you can do it!" throughout this school journey. Considering my next class is speech (bleck!) I'll really need to hear it some more!

When I sit down to write, there's usually no one around to cheer me on. Sure, there are all of you fabulous bloggers who are toiling right alongside me. There are books and newsletters. But no physical presence to shout "Go, Fight, WIN!" when I start pounding out the vision. And I'd wager that there's not too many of us writers who have our own personal cheering section occupying half of our living room.

So here's to you, tenacious writers who get up day after day and clatter about the keys, putting face to vision. Here's to your dreams and goals and ideas. Here's to those 100+ words you'll type out this hour. Here's to the 15 you struggle through that make you cry with frustration. Hey, it's 15 more words than you had last night. Here's to those who will type the coveted "The End" this afternoon, and to those who will sit down with a pristine file opened and type "Once upon a time", beginning, perhaps, for the first time.

Here's to YOU! You can do it!! Whatever it is you have to do today, no matter what, you can!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

O Happy Day

Don't you just love surprises? It seems I've got me an award and it was a lovely surprise when I logged on this afternoon!! Laura over at Daily Dodo passed along this award:



From what I've read, this award has to do with friendship and having less than 200 followers. SO. If you are reading this and have less than 200 followers (as I do) please consider this award yours :). I know, cheap way to pass it along, but there's just so many great blogs out there who aren't being followed and if I were to list them all here, well, you'd get tired of scrolling through them all! That, and I'm studying for a final exam and have precious little time to do so. Please don't think badly of me!

In other news, my mom came down this morning and taught me how to make jelly. We have this huge grapevine that grows over the brick wall of our courtyard and no one does anything with the HUGE bunches of grapes that grow on it. I casually mentioned I'd like to learn how to make jelly, so down comes my mom and we make jelly. What do you think?



Forgive the lack of posts. Been a bit busy with school work! BUT, I have two weeks off starting Thursday so I hope to be a bit more of a presence around here, at least until my next class starts!!

Happy Tuesday!
Jen

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Weather Report

It's so hot here I can barely stand it. We've had some thunder storms the past few afternoons but it's done very little to quell the heat. Georgia in August...I always know it will be miserable. It does, however, make me crave fall even more than I already do and when the first crisp morning hits, it's as if I've been reborn. I pine for those days.

You hear that when writing, you should keep weather to a minimum. Then again, a good weather description can become a supporting cast member, giving the scene just the right flavor to help capture the imagination. Being from the balmy south, I find myself writing a lot about fall and winter. I crave those times because the majority of the year finds me under a blanket of humidity to think you have to practically swim to get around! Then again, writing what I know, I have written a few shorts that deal with the characteristically hot, dry, dusty deep south I know and (dare I admit it) love so well.

Do you find yourself gravitating to a particular season in your writing? Or does your plot dictate what time of year it is? Perhaps it just happens, you find your MC in a violent thunderstorm and it sets the mood for the next act.

An odd post, I know, but I'm just curious. Dare you give weather a role in your story or leave the forecasting to The Weather Channel?

Ciao!
Jen

Monday, August 8, 2011

Creativity and the Everyday


(from my own back yard)

There are seemingly countless ways to find inspiration for our work. A sunrise; birds perched on our window sill; the stillness just as the house settles down for the night.

Normal. Average. Everyday.

I've fallen victim to feeling as if there was nothing in my everyday that could inspire. I kept looking to far off lands, places I've visited or lived in the past, instead of what was right in front of me.

Last week, I went for my morning walk and suddenly it hit me. Right here, right now was the inspiration I was seeking for the setting for my story. Not a city I once lived in. The city I now lived in. It's not perfect, and I'll have to do a bit of tweaking to make it the coastal town of my character's everyday existence, but it was right there. All I had to do was open my eyes and see it

What about you? What can you take from your everyday and put into your stories, your art? Have you been looking further and further away from home for inspiration? There's nothing wrong with that. However, whether writing fantasy or murder mysteries, sometimes the best place to start is your own back yard.

Happy Monday to you all.
~Jen

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Research or Are We Having Fun Yet?



Good morning!

I hope this post finds you well. I just got in from my morning stroll and it's already hot and humid...and it's only 9am! Ah...balmy summers in the South. Is it October yet?

Been doing a bit of research. Ok, so a lot more than just a bit. That's why I've been AWOL the past two days. Got an idea that requires some world building. World building of the real world kind. Which is not as much fun as, say, Narnia or Middle Earth, but enjoyable. Thing is, on the surface, you'd think real world building would be easier. I use the term "real world building" to mean a place invented and yet fully set here and now, in the real world. No alternate dimensions, no corresponding realities. I'll admit, this is a jump for me, but one I'm enjoying with abandon.

The thing is, real world building is harder than fantasy world building. Why? Because if you base a story around a real destination, or a destination that could exist, it has to be perfect. Meaning: if I base a tale in Savannah, GA and I say that Tybee Island is 5 miles off I-95, every reader from the state of Georgia would be writing to tell me I'm a blooming idiot. (Incidentally, you'll find Tybee Island down US-80 East, which is locally known as Butler Avenue as soon as you hit that charming little curve in the road and you get your first real glimpse of the mighty Atlantic.)

The world I'm building is based on the coastal towns of Georgia. It's invented, so I have a bit more freedom, however, it has to be believable. In other words, I can't make it snow in September, capisce?

Anywho, are any of you guys doing any world building, real or otherwise? Which would you or do you prefer? Do you find it harder to write about real places or places based around actual locales? Or do those stories come to you easily, wrapping around you like humidity in August in Atlanta?

Just curious.
Ciao!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting Past Our Demons



Encouraging picture, yes? Greek Sphinx, legendary eater of men unable to answer her clever riddles. Guardians, usually of roads the hero desperately needed to traverse.

We are the heroes of our stories. No, we may not be in the stories we tell by name, but we're there. We push pens and get blisters typing. We stay up until the wee hours of dawn getting in just a few more words.

Sometimes, however, we arrive at an impasse. A road block. Writer's block, some call it. Or fear. Or our own, self-defeating subconscious.

Perhaps it's more than that, though. Perhaps it's our inner Guardian sent to purify the story that needs to be told.

There she is. Looming, sitting defiant in the middle of the road, licking one paw, razor sharp talons flexed and waiting. She knows we're coming, knows we have no choice but to approach her. When we get there, she'll ask us the riddle and we'll have no choice but to answer.

What if we get the answer wrong?

What if indeed.

So it's wrong. So she eats us alive. We're wounded beyond recognition and limp back to our starting point, back to "Once upon a time" when "Happily Ever After" was so close.

And we start again. Yes. It's that simple. Sometimes, what we write isn't right. Right as in not true to who we are, who we need to be. Sometimes we tell a tale simply because it's what is "hot" or "now" or "what best-selling-so-in-so" is writing. The Sphinx knows. We fail to answer her riddle and we must die to self. It can take a long time before we resurrect and find our voice, but rise me must.

Sometimes, we're on the right track, have the right story, but the words are coming out all wrong. We try to sound like "you-know-who" or "our-favorite-author". It's forced, contrived and the Sphinx knows. And she flings forth her riddle and we hem and haw and stutter and she slashes at us with those razor-wire claws and we scurry away to lick our wounds and whimper.

But we know she's right. We know what we said was all muddled and disjointed. It's not until we let our own blood splatter the blank page that we can write what it true. We cannot be afraid to die to what we "want" to say or what we "think" will impress an editor or agent. Nor can we fear exposing ourselves to the elements, opening up our veins and letter the truth pour out freely with not thought of our own health; only the health and life of the story matters.

Then we can approach the Guardian with confidence. Then can we step up to the plate, look her square in the eye and ask her a riddle. Why? Because now we know the story. Now we know the truth.

And now, she lets us pass.