Archive | June, 2010

Lemons and Things

25 Jun

So, uh, hey.

This is the part where I awkwardly tell you about my inadvertent, week-long blogging absence.  That’s what I get for breaking up my every-other-day-or-so routine last week.

Note to self: oops.

Rather than spelling out things you already know¹, I’ll just skip to the juicy parts.  Let’s pretend my life is a lemon (a before-I-made-lemonade-from-it version of lemon).

The juicy part?  My absence was inadvertent² for a reason: June has been more productive, in terms of novel revision, than both April and May combined.  This is rewarding and awesome (not to mention difficult and tiring).  I crawl into my cave³ and re-emerge hours later, only to realize time has, indeed, continued to pass.  And not at a snail’s pace, either.  Unless said snail is propelled with rocket-boosters.

The sugar in the lemonade, while not technically part of the lemon itself, would be the oh-so-fun distractions I’ve had in the past week!  Namely, I got to play the guitar and sing at church for all three services on Sunday.  This involved, like, an all-day commitment, plus a rehearsal.  It was a lot of fun, and it went well, but my poor hands are not used to that much guitar-playing.  I ended up with fingers full of blazing sore calluses-in-the-making.  (Needless to say, typing was a blast for the next few days.)

And now, for the seeds.

Obviously, the seeds represent the more annoying part of the week.  I’ll lump the pith in there, too, since bitter white nastiness isn’t anyone’s idea of tasty.  Right?  (I hope no one thinks pith and seeds are the epitome of yum.  That would just be sad.  And confusing.)

Moving on.  So, my week had its share of seeds and pith.  Like seeds in a lemon-raspberry tart which, otherwise, is the picture of perfection, some emotionally draining stuff keeps popping up where it’s least expected.  Responsibilities and commitments to think through, advice and support to give, random frustrations to deal with.  Nothing terribly terrible on its own, just a lot of it all at once.  Plus, I’m getting a cold.  In June.  Weird.

Rather than carry this lemony analogy full-circle (“My attitude has been…so…ZESTY!”) — mainly because I now have a wicked craving for lemon-raspberry tart — I’ll end it there.

In case you’re wondering where my Creativity Workshop end-o’-the-week-assessment is, it was eaten by snails.  Don’t worry, though, you didn’t miss much.  I took an inadvertent break from that, too, so there wasn’t much to report.

Also, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t post a new music video this week, in the tradition of the last two weeks (see here and here) — see my aforementioned blazing fingertips.  I may have also had some bad hair days in there, and did not want to frighten anyone.  (Give me some blue dye, I become Thing One and Thing Two.)  I’ll do a new video next week, provided my fingertips and hair do not go on strike.

Aaaaand, last but not least?  I get to hang out with THE Melissa Williams again tomorrow.  Hello H-Town, hello humidity.

Hello, awesome weekend.

Hope things are going as well as a seedless lemon-raspberry tart for all of you!

PS: Here’s the recipe for the lemon-raspberry tart — just in case you’re now craving it as much as I am!

¹Things like: time, these days, has a way of making a girl feel like she’s been sucked into a time warp and spit out six months in the future.  Or the past.  Or somewhere else entirely.

²It would appear that the opposite of inadvertent is not the word advertent.  This is inconvenient and somewhat illogical.  Just a thought.

³Also known as my living room, with no lights on.  Or, my favorite Starbucks.  Or, my new favorite library.  Who knew writing caves came complete with lattes and strange patrons?

Commitment v. Desire

18 Jun

COMMITMENT

[responsibility, obligation, duty, liability, task]

DESIRE

[wish, want, aspiration, fancy, inclination, impulse, yearning, longing, craving, eagerness, enthusiasm]

I don’t know about you, but to me?  One of these sounds way more appealing.  In an ideal world, the things you desire and the things to which you’re committed would be the same things.  Too bad the world isn’t always an ideal place.

There are tons of directions I could take this topic — relationships, work v. rest, budgets of all sorts, social responsibilities.  For now, because it’s a recurring theme I’ve seen at least three times this week, I’m pointing it in the direction of writer-sees-sparkly-new-project-and-wants-to-drop-everything-in-pursuit-of-said-sparkly-new-project.

As writers, we have more freedom than most to commit to the things we desire — if you’re writing a novel, a short story, even a blog post, it’s probably about a subject that appeals to you.  Right?  I hope so.

The hard part happens when new becomes old, dull replaces sheen, and our eye lands on a new desire.  There’s temptation to drop the current commitment and follow the sparkly thing, the pretty thing, the oh-this-would-be-SO-fun-RIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE! thing.

Usually, that temptation arises when the current commitment becomes difficult.

So, what are you to do?  Stick with the commitment, or follow the new desire?  Or, find a way to stick with the commitment and follow the new desire?  Well, I hate to disappoint you if you were looking for a hard and fast answer, but a) I don’t have one, and b) I don’t know if anyone does.  I have been thinking about this, though, so I’ll give you my thoughts.  Then, you should give me yours.

The way things are today, it’s become normal to do what we want, whenever we want to do it.  It feels unnatural to spend valuable time on a project we don’t always feel is valuable.  There’s the problem.  Feelings aren’t always reliable.  You have to go on truth, too.

Truth #1: Shiny new things will, inevitably, get dull and old.  Truth #2: Most worthwhile things take work.  Truth #3: Work is often hard.  Truth #4: If you’ve committed to it, you committed for a reason.  Truth #5: Nothing will ever get completed if you stop working on it when it gets hard.

However.

Misery isn’t exactly the goal, either.  I don’t think it’s wrong to want to enjoy life, or to want to enjoy the work you do.  So, when is it okay to drop a project in favor of a new one?  Here’s what I’m thinking.

[Click over to the actual post if you're on the main page & the bullet list is scrunched/impossible to decipher.]

It’s not okay to sacrifice Dull and pursue Sparkly when:

  • Someone else is counting on you.
  • You are legally obligated to follow through.
  • Your financial health depends on you upholding the commitment.
  • Your reputation or your integrity would be tainted because of it.
  • You’re acting purely on emotion, rather than truth + emotion.

It’s reasonable to ditch Dull and pursue Sparkly when:

  • No one else suffers negative repercussions from it.
  • The reason your current commitment is hard is because the idea is lame, will never work, and you’ve spent way too much time already trying to force it into something it’s not.  You had high hopes for it, and it is still hard to let go.
  • You are overcommitted, others end up having to pull your weight, and you are hurting more than you are helping.
  • You genuinely believe, after much thought, that the new project is a more valuable use of your time.
  • It’s a commitment for an undefined length of time, one which will never end unless you end it.
  • You don’t have a jumping-from-project-to-project-and-never-finishing-anything track record.

These lists are, most likely, not exhaustive.  Also, there are probably circumstances where exceptions happen.  And, like I said before, I don’t have answers — these are just thoughts, opinions based on (a slew of sometimes painful) experience.

To sum up: commitment is good, difficulty is not bad, misery is not preferable.  Emotions can blind, and are not reliable if unmixed with truth.  Overcommitment is a draining cancer.  Doing things you know are healthy — even if they’re not particularly enjoyable — can lead to wonderful, surprising results.  And, there are times when dropping commitments can be the best decision.  (Not a lot of times, but they do exist.)  Other times, you can keep current commitments, but still try to get a marginal amount of work done on the sparkly project in time not already devoted to anything.

Okay.  Enough of me.  What do you guys think?  How do you decide what to work on, when to work on it, and when to move on?

The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 6

16 Jun

Last week rocked.

Somewhere in between going to Houston, meeting Melissa, learning how to make sushi, making more and more and more sushi, playing a last minute set on guitar/voice with friends, going on a date with my husband, organizing my kitchen, and having a five-episode Lost marathon complete with — yes — even more sushi, it managed to be a good week for writing, too.

Note that I did not say consistent, but it was, nonetheless, good.

Sporadically throughout the week, I worked on editing my novel and made decent progress.  On Saturday, I planned, wrote, and completed my workshop story.  It’s short and sad, but it is complete.  It was challenging, and I neither hate it nor love it.  On Sunday morning, I awoke to 6:15AM inspiration and started working on the trilogy I told you guys about last week.

That’s the part I feel most excited about when I look back on Week 6.  Fresh off of reading one of Merrilee’s posts, which introduced me to Phase Outlining, I decided to try it out.

I LOVE IT.  So far.

If you haven’t checked out the link I attached to Phase Outlining, you should.  It’s an interesting way to think of drafting a novel, and quite convenient for this stage of my writing.  Though I’m heavy into WIP edits and Creativity Workshop projects, I still wanted to get my new ideas out on paper.  Working with Phase Outlining, I’m not worrying at all about whether it looks presentable or not.  Basically, it’s a tool to get story ideas on the page that can later be expanded into a full draft.

Sunday morning was dark and dreary, perfect for working on that project.  I ended up with a great start — 2700 words — and don’t feel weighed down by it.  It could easily make me feel heavy, I think, either with guilt for working on it too much, or with frustration that I’m not working enough on it.  This is good middle ground.  I’m generating fast ideas that will be waiting for me when it’s time to improve them.

Alright, that’s enough for now.  Besides, I broke unwritten rules and double-posted today — here’s a link to that post, since you probably missed it, which is all about my new video (“Blackbird”).

Sorry if this post feels rushed.  After yesterday’s crazy productive day, I’m anxious to just read and relax.  If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll go to the gym.  Or, I’ll chill poolside, if not (more likely).

Have a great day, and I hope you guys are making good progress with the workshop, or your writing, or whatever else you may be working on at the moment.  Thanks for always being encouraging and supportive, all of you.  You make this even more fun than it already is!

Blackbird

16 Jun

For fun, and because perhaps you’ll like it, I made another video.

This week’s cover is “Blackbird.”  I love to sing it.  I love to play it.  Singing and playing it at the same time, however?  More difficult than expected.  However — a few callused fingers later, I did it.  It’s not perfect, of course.

You can click right here to watch it, if you want to.  I posted the lower quality version again, in case you lucky people in possession of iPhones would rather use those than your computers. (PS: Click here for last week’s song, if you missed it.)

Also: I’m being a rebel today and doing two posts in a row, since I’m late on reviewing my Creativity Workshop week.  That will post this afternoon.

For now, that’s all.  Here are the lyrics, just for you.

“Blackbird”

by Lennon/McCartney

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird, fly

Blackbird, fly

Into the light of a dark black night

Lobster On My Head, Among Other Things

15 Jun

I feel like I have a lobster on my head.  Not due to humiliation, I’m glad to say (though I can’t say the same for Mr. Cat), but due, rather, from an insanely productive day today.

It’s left me with both a headache and a sublime sense of accomplishment.  (I wish the sublime sense of accomplishment would neutralize the whole head-pounding aspect of things.)

It’s been a while since I’ve had a writing day as exhausting as this one.  Seriously.  I woke up at 7am, put the coffee on, and set out to tackle a scene I’ve been sort of dreading.  This scene is a monster, and it takes up an entire chapter.  It’s the first big turning point in my novel, which involves action, mystery, and a whole slew of odd stuff that is difficult to communicate.  Creepy residents with ulterior motives, warriors who have a hunger that’s sort of tricky to express in words, all of whom live in a logic-bending world where the rules of nature as we know it don’t exactly apply?

Oy.

My old version was completely wooden, and read like index cards.  It needed a total overhaul.  Ever since I came up with my ideas for this part of the book, they’ve felt extremely intangible and intimidating.  Somewhere between the second draft and this one, though, I was blessed with the ability to see it, feel it, and — I think — communicate it.

It took all day to do it (interrupted only by lunch, an ice-cream-and-coffee-break, and a quick detour to the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale…) but 2700 words later?  Done.

Now my head is spinning and I am misspelling easy words like need (nead) and which (whic) and misspelling (mispelling).  Pathetic.

Oh, well.  Small price to pay for finishing — and feeling way satisfied with — this monster of a scene.  Tomorrow, I think I shall rest.  Expect my belated Creativity Workshop wrap-up for Week 6, and I’ll either post my cover of this week’s song (“Blackbird”) tomorrow or Thursday.

Now, to chill.

Sushi

9 Jun

Nobody warned me that this week was going to be learn-how-to-take-a-risk-and-trust-rather-than-try-to-control-everything week.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t get that warning.

Though I like to travel, like to try new food, like the idea of doing new things, I am a creature of habit and routine.  I was more of a risk-taker at age four (hello, first upside-down roller coaster!) than I am now (hello, very real possibility that one could get stuck on an intense incline, or perhaps thrown from the ride while in motion), and have developed a slight fear of flying (thank you, LOST) even though I lovelovelove vacations (hello, everywhere I’m not right now).

This week has a mind of its own.  It’s not settling for the usual coffee shop and writing routine, or anything at all involving the words usual or routine. I’m finding myself stretched in ways I’m not used to, ways that require me to trust that things will work out well (as opposed to me attempting to control them into working out well).

Not at all coincidentally, the need to trust came with my routine being broken up.

At 9pm on Sunday night, I planned a spontaneous trip to Houston to help out a friend, which meant driving there and flying home.  By 10pm on Sunday night, the novelty of this-is-gonna-be-AWESOME was temporarily overshadowed by what-if-what-if-what-if? My plans were liquid, oozy, last-minute ones, not at all the concrete kind that make me feel at ease.  Even though I was 95% sure things would be fine, that 5% of me worried.

Guess what?  Things were fine.  Better than fine, even.

Twenty-four hours after I decided to go, I had a) sung to an iPhone soundtrack¹ for five straight hours with my friend as we drove, b) eaten a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone instead of counting calories, c) witnessed an intense lightning storm without completely freaking out, d) hoped and trusted that Melissa would be able to arrange her plans so we could meet, even though we’d never spoken in person until I got into town, e) had a total blast with Melissa, who was indeed able to follow through (thank you Melissa’s boss and brother!), and f) hopped a plane home, despite my aforementioned LOST-induced plane crash fears.  Monday rocked.

Tuesday didn’t quite get the memo that the routine was back in session, though.

You may have noticed, I went out on a limb yesterday and showed you my face, my Texan accent, and the fact that I like to make music.  That was fun, but nonetheless a little unsettling.  I mean, really — like Linda brought up in the comments, this is the age of American Idol. Every year, we see loads of people who can sing, and loads who are…well…borderline delusional?

Well.  Yesterday, the adventures continued when a friend taught me how to make sushi, sashimi, and miso soup.

These things are not scary in and of themselves, except for the fact that I’m not the most seasoned raw fish eater.  I don’t mind the idea — I just get a little nervous, since I’ve spent more hours than I care to remember wearing gloves to arrange and serve Starbucks pastries.  (As if that pumpkin loaf could really contaminate the doughnuts, right?)

Anyway: raw salmon.  We made sashimi and Philadelphia rolls.  They were DELICIOUS.  I now have a fun new skill, and I practiced again today.  (I also bought some cute new sushi plates, which means I will have incentive to practice more and more in the future.)

So.  Since I’m still recovering from my week o’ spontaneity (which may not be over yet), this post isn’t completely relevant to writing.  I’m sure I could spin it that way, though mainly, I just wanted to show you my pretty sushi pictures.  Oh yeah, and to say that while routine is nice, it’s a good thing to go outside your comfort zone every once in a while.  To trust, when you’re not sure you can.  To try, when you’re not sure you want to.

¹Our road-trip set-list?  A secret.  Let’s just say that I might have been embarrassed to sing some of these songs (in public) even when they came out in the late Nineties.  That’s why it was so much fun. CORRECTION: Amber convinced me to divulge this top-secret info.  It’s in the comments.

Top of the World

8 Jun

Sunday was inspiring, Monday was a whirlwind, Tuesday is happening now.

I do believe I promised you a surprise, somewhere in there.

Before we get there, though, I have to tell you something fun.  The Monday Whirlwind saw fit to plop me down within driving distance from THE Melissa Williams.  As in, awesome blog-friend extraordinaire, known to the Twitterverse merely as @melissaiswrite.

We chatted for hours over a grande nonfat latte and an iced venti chai, and you know what?  She’s every bit as awesome in person.  Now I wish we lived closer.  Alas.  Maybe one day.  Hopefully.

So, the surprise!

In honor of Set #2 for the Creativity Workshop, in which I’m loosely basing my four short stories on songs about birds, I’ve decided to take YouTube by storm.  Hopefully, said storm will be a small one, more like dreary uninteresting drizzle, because I don’t quite care to get in trouble for using someone else’s material. (That said, Powers That Be: if you want me to take it down, no worries.  I’m a YouTube novice, and don’t care that much about having an account.  This is just for fun.  I can sing the song in the quiet of my own living room.) (Typed by my inner goody-goody.)

Powers That Be aside, you may have gathered: I covered a song.  It’s not perfect, I fumble over a couple of words, but hey.  It’s not touched up by auto-tune, which is saying something these days.  Plus, to perfect it would take away from my writing time, right?  Right.

So.  Click here to watch and listen to my cover of Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World.” I posted a version that works on iPhones as well as computers, so hopefully you guys can see it.

This is the song that’s inspiring my story this week.  Here are the lyrics, in case you want to read along.  Hope you enjoy it, even though it’s a terribly sad song.  I can never say enough about how incredible Patty Griffin’s songwriting is.

Top of the World

by Patty Griffin

I wish I was smarter / I wish I was stronger

I wish I’d loved Jesus / The way my wife does

I wish it had been easier / Instead of any longer

I wish I could have stood / where you would have been proud

That won’t happen now / That won’t happen now

There’s a whole lot of singing that’s never gonna be heard

Disappearing every day without so much as a word, somehow

Think I broke the wings off that little songbird

She’s never gonna fly to the top of the world, now

To the top of the world

I don’t have to answer / any of these questions

Don’t have no one to / teach me no lessons

I’d come home in the evenings / Sit in my chair

One night they called me for supper / But I never got up

I sat right there / in my chair

(chorus)

I wish I’d have known you / I wish I’d have shown you

All of the things I / held on the inside

I’d pretend to be sleeping / when you’d come in in the morning

To whisper goodbye and go to work in the rain and

I don’t know why / don’t know why

Everyone’s singing, we just want to be heard

Disappearing every day without so much as a word, somehow

Wanna grab ahold of that little songbird

Take her for a ride to the top of the world, right now

To the top of the world


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