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The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 3

24 May

As you might imagine, on the morning after the Lost series finale, my head feels like popcorn popping in a microwave.  (I won’t spoil anything, promise.)  Ben Linus.  Smoke Monster.  Time.  Death.  Life.  Jack, Kate, Sawyer.  Locke.  Flocke.  Lemon-raspberry tart, jungle plates, apple crisp.  Guacamole, cabernet.  Vacuum.  Dishes.  Seating arrangement for nine in a tiny apartment living room.

Now that all the planning is over, the processing of what just happened? has begun.  Thus, I’ve already succumbed to the distractions of message boards, EW.com, and a let’s-discuss-this! phone call with my mom.  Finally, I tore myself away for productivity’s sake.  For now.

You might have guessed it already, but I, um, didn’t quite meet my Creativity Workshop goals this week.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I blasted off with a full tank of fuel back on Tuesday, when I posted about the flamin’ ladybug story — trouble was, much as I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted (and still want) to spend time on it, it was an altogether strange week.  Admittedly, the most I did on my story this week was to plan it and get way excited about it.

Though party-planning and general I’m-so-excited-yet-sorta-sad-that-I-get-to-find-out-how-Lost-ends bubbly feelings dominated the weekend, that’s not the only reason I was unproductive.  A few of the weekdays were just plain difficult, in terms of some personal stuff going on, and my willpower lacked its usual oomph.  On the days where the oomph was alive and kicking, I made some great progress on my novel edits and at the gym.  I was thisclose to completing a section of the novel, so when it came time to work, I gravitated toward that.

The good thing?

I’m not discouraged.  Still excited, actually, and encouraged that I made progress with the novel and the gym.  It’s really tempting to write the ladybug story this week instead of doing the third story in the set, but: no.  That would put a bad habit into motion, I think.  As excited as I am about it, I shall shelf it for now, knowing I have a great idea to come back to in the future.  Instead, it’s time to press on.

It’s especially tempting to write the ladybugs when I look ahead to this week’s project: Little Bo Peep and severed tails.  What in sideways world am I going to do with that?

No.  Clue.

(Yet.)

Okay, dudes.  I’m feeling that good old oomph right now, so I should strike while it’s hot.  The first goal of the rest of this week: get writing stuff done before I allow myself any more Lost message-board perusal.  Then, I’ll tackle the rest of the week.

PS: That picture of Benjamin Linus and his #8 bunny is a limited edition screenprint made by Todd Slater.  I want this.

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Shadows, Sun, Stillness

21 Apr

Peace.  Today seems like it just might be full of it.

Unlike yesterday.

Yesterday, I learned that for some people, nothing goes better with 8:30am sun and breeze than a good, loud dose of rap music.  Bonus points if said music echoes through the entire courtyard when others are trying to concentrate.

I also learned that my idea of proper laundry room etiquette doesn’t exactly line up with everyone else’s.  Seriously, just because I got up early to use the four washing machines, it doesn’t mean I might want to dry my clothes right after that, you know?  It’s perfectly fine with me if you disregard the usual order of who-got-there-first and dump your own wet laundry in the dryer right when I’m about to use it.  Perfectly.  Fine.¹

But, whatever.  It was a sunny day, albeit a loud and laundry-filled day, and I did my best to be patient.  The music stopped, eventually, and my clothes are dry and folded.²  Even though my DVR somehow managed to not record Glee, it was still Tuesday: Lost-day.  Plus, my friend brought me a free non-fat latte and some Shiner for our midnight Lost-viewing refreshments.  (Public Service Announcement: there’s a reason Starbucks doesn’t make Grande Non-Fat Beer Lattes.)

Today, though: aaaaaahhhhhhh.

I can smell peace, and it smells like green grass and potted plants.  It sounds like breeze in the leaves, and the on-going conversation between the two little red birds who sit in those leaves.  It’s sun and shadows, and the fact that they’re shifting slowly.  It’s stillness.  This day will not escape me like yesterday did.

I’m fully aware that inner peace and circumstantial peace are two separate things.  Sometimes, though, circumstantial cacophony has its way of drowning out inner peace’s calm voice.  Today, the two peaces are having a nice little conversation.  I hope it’s a long one.

Better take advantage of this morning, so I’m off to start reading the last few chapters of Linda’s novel!  (PS: Go read Linda’s latest post, and not just because she says nice things about yours truly.  It’s full of honest perspective on rejection and the often discouraging querying process.)

I wish you all a peaceful day of sun, breeze, and birds.  (Singing birds, as opposed to creepy Alfred Hitchcock birds.  Also as opposed to the visually challenged kinds of birds who nosedive into windows, or birds who mistake big hair for their nests/toilets.)

¹I guess I should add, in her defense, that she cleaned her clothes in her own washer and they happened to need drying at the same time as mine.  Being dryer-less, what else was she to do?  Wait?  Though I understand where she’s coming from, it had a frustrating effect on me nonetheless, due to the way I had scheduled my day.  (Got up early to do laundry, only to have it take way longer than expected due to Dryer Girl.)  Add rap music to the mix, and the frustration was turned all the way up to eleven.  (This Is Spinal Tap, anyone?)

²As for dry, folded, and put away?  Not so much.

My Good Intentions? Totally Smoke-Monstered.

5 Mar

So.

You could say my life has been like Season Six of LOST lately, that I am stuck in a strange sideways world where things are mostly good but a little off, a little unusual.

You could also say my life has been like this week’s episode of LOST, where [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT AHEAD] [NO, SERIOUSLY, LIKE IF YOU EVER WANT TO WATCH LOST AND HAVEN’T, YOU TOTALLY DON’T WANT ME TO SPOIL THIS FOR YOU] [RACHEL, IF YOU’RE STILL READING, YOU’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE THESE SHOUTY ALERTS ARE MAINLY FOR YOUR BENEFIT] the Smoke Monster wreaks havoc on the Temple-dwellers, carrying them kicking and screaming to their own demise.

Okay, so it’s not totally like that.  Kind of, though.  I do feel like I’ve been swept up into a Bizarro World, and that my time has been Smoke-Monstered (and in this analogy, all of my good intentions = the doomed Temple-dwellers).  Usually, I’m the super-organized Queen of Self-Discipline, which makes it all the more annoying that I can’t put my finger on exactly where the time went.  Also usually, whenever I can’t put my finger on exactly where the time went, it’s safe to say I was perusing blogs or reading helpful articles about writing, but alas, I’m far behind on all of that stuff, too.

Fortunately, today is gorgeous and I have a large chunk of hours awaiting me.  I’ve planted myself (along with a too-thick stack o’ stuff) at Starbucks, and I’m going to WORK.  

And, oh, how much more productive I’d be if only I could get that episode-closing creepy-chilling rendition of  “Catch A Falling Star” out of my head.

Revision Update, Phase Two | Time has been ambushed by the Smoke Monster, and my good intentions are trapped in a pit à la Crazed Claire.  No progress has been made (gasp!) since last update, but luckily?  No progress also means no backward progress.  Time for a step forward.

Yellow Rainboots

8 Feb

Do you ever have those weeks that, when you get to the other end of them, feel like the past seven days were actually only one day?  That’s what I feel like right now.  It’s like I blinked, and BOOM: one day I was writing about my excitement over the LOST premiere, and then the next day (or, um, almost a week later) here I am wondering how I managed to take an unintentional week-long hiatus from blogging.

So.  I’m back, and I missed everyone!  I spent some of this morning catching up on posts I hadn’t read yet (for example, check out Merrilee’s latest on dealing with criticism: it’s greatness!).  The rest of the morning, I wore my yellow rainboots (both literal and figurative) since our parking lot is a river in this weather, and also since I’m still muddling through Phase One of Project: Edit.

Though I didn’t finish reading by Friday like I hoped I would, I don’t have too much more to do to finish out Phase One.  The Plan (detailed in this post) is going well.  My colored pens have not yet dried out, my spiral notebook isn’t in such pristine shape anymore, and I have thoughts of all sorts on how to make this thing better.  The pacing is more even than I thought it was, my plots and sub-plots are woven pretty well, and I haven’t seen too many loose ends just yet.  As suspected, the scenes are getting better as I read – they aren’t as skeletal as they were toward the beginning of the draft.  There are definitely areas that need work, but by and large it’s a huge improvement over the first draft.  

Anyway!  Time to get back to work if I want to put a bigger dent in today’s to-do list.  Better slip back into my cute yellow rainboots and grab my adorable new umbrella.

(FYI, the umbrella is a floral print of hot pink and yellow, with a navy blue backgrount: matches gray skies and yellow rainboots perfectly!)

Revision Update, Phase One | 245 pages down, 91 to go | 72.9% finished!

Happy LOST Day!

2 Feb

At the risk of sounding like an obsessed freak¹ — after eight months of waiting (impatiently), it’s LOST Season Premiere day!  It’s only ten in the morning, but I’ve already learned a few things today.  (Be warned: I haven’t had many lattes lately, and I’m having one now.  That, combined with my excitement?  Put on your seatbelts, because I’m feeling some energy today.)

First?  Today might as well be a holiday.  Examples include the email I got from my music-teaching mother:

“Happy LOST Day!  I moved around my piano lessons so I can watch — if Obama can rearrange his State of  the Union address, I can rearrange my lessons!”

and the text messages with friends, á la Christmas Eve, yesterday:

“It’s LOST Eve!  One more day!”

and the greetings from not one, but two, of my barista friends at Starbucks (granted, we watch the show together every week, rotating from house-to-house, Bible-study style, with desserts and coffee):

“Happy LOST Day!” (shouted in chorus when I walked in)

Examples abound.  You get the picture.

Second thing I learned this morning?  I’ve been (*sob*) spelling the word premiere without the final e for days and days.  I felt like a schmuckety schmuck when I figured it out and promptly rushed to add the elusive e to my latest Tweet and the invitation to our viewing party this evening.  Crisis somewhat averted.

Third lesson isn’t so much a lesson; it’s more like confirmation that yes, in case there was any doubt, I am excited about the season premiere.  While it is completely abnormal to, say, dream that you are a cast member of the show (who may or may not be Evangeline Lilly) and that you are trying to get back to the Island via military plane leaving from Alaska-slash-Miami (apparently my dream-world has not seen the script for the finale)(or an episode, for that matter)(or a map) — it is completely understandable that this dream would poke its way into my head on LOST Eve.  Especially after watching the brain-melting minute-long teaser-trailer a couple times in slow motion² to catch all the sneak-peaks into what’s to come.  

Lest you think I’m merely jumping up and down as if I’ve just been surprised with a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas³, I should mention that while I have zero focus right now, I am nonetheless completely inspired to work on my novel.  In sort of the same way I’ve been inspired by J.K. Rowling, I feel inspired by the writers of LOST.  

Seriously.  To write a show where, six seasons in, loads of people still care about your characters?  Your mysteries?  Where people feel simultaneous hatred and compassion for your villain(s), simultaneous empathy and frustration with your heroes?  Where people can read a zillion things into what you’ve written because you’ve managed to share just enough to raise questions about religion, literature, and mythology?  Where you write on two levels — one for the casual (though necessarily consistent) viewer, who just wants a story; and one for the engaged viewer who loves to unscramble anagrams, look for symbolism, pick out hidden easter egg clues, read into the very purposeful placement of details?  Where people dare to get this worked up over a season premiere, in full confidence that you’ll deliver because you deliver every single time?

Can you imagine writing, and executing, a story like this?  Can you imagine ideas coming from your brain and resulting with people who wish each other “Happy LOST Day!” in Starbucks, people who rearrange piano lessons, a  President who agreed to not conflict with what you’ve created?  

I can’t really imagine what that must feel like, to be honest.  

I’m consistently amazed by the process of creation, especially when that creation is executed in such a compelling way.  This is at the heart of why I love to write: to watch things form, to hope that the details will fall in such a way that inspire any inkling of resemblance to this sort of thought-provoking stuff.

Now, to try and get some work done before descending into the inevitable pit of party preparation: that’s my challenge for today.

Revision Update, Phase One | 134 pages down, 201 to go | 40.0% finished!

¹We obsessed freaks, by the way, prefer to be called devoted, completely intrigued fans.

²What?  It had new footage.  Very weird new footage.  Plus, it played in the middle of The Bachelor, which I have zero interest in whatsoever (except for the fact that Mr. Jake Pavelka Bachelor himself grew up, literally, about two minutes from where I currently live.  His parents live next door to my friend.) so I was easily distracted.  And it was about one in the morning.

³Which actually happened, by the way — my husband’s work surprised us with an all-expense-paid Disney Cruise that we get to take later this year.  Hello, bathing suits, beaches, sun, and ocean (and the gym!)!

Stay Sane in November!

30 Oct

The cats are frolicking (with a vengeance, but frolicking nonetheless).  I just scored three super-cute skirts for $3 each at Ann Taylor Loft.  Thanks to Frugal October, we found ourselves victorious in the Us v. Our Finances battle this month, with more to spare than expected.  My favorite chef, Jennifer, eluded the dreaded elimination for the second week in a row on Top Chef (as she should, because she rocks).  And, it’s been another awesome week of writing.

Must be the calm before the storm.

Like many of you, and unlike many of you, I’m jumping in backs-of-my-thighs-first to the madness of November.  Here’s hoping I don’t end up bruised and black-purple, like my poor sister did, years ago, after an unfortunate leap from a bluff into the river¹.  I’ll be sure to post updates, though I’m going to try not to be exclusively NaNo-focused, since many of you aren’t participating.  Here’s a little something fun for all of us:

Owl and Sparrow’s Seven Tips for Staying Sane In November!  

(Hopefully, you’ll enjoy them whether or not you’re participating in NaNo – I think they apply to the rest of the year, too.)  Here goes:

#1: Priorities: Know Them & Remember Them.  Just because it’s November, doesn’t mean I can slap a pair of 1,667-Words-Per-Day glasses on my face and look at the world through them.  I’m still a wife, I still want to be a healthy person (meaning eat well, exercise, and sleep well), and commitments don’t just disappear for 1/12th of the year.  So I must remember that, first and foremost.  And I hope you do, too.

#2: Stress = Mess!  Stressing out, in my experience, only bears one fruit: more stress.  Doesn’t make you feel better to worry, doesn’t get more words written, it only gets in the way of a clear head.  How are ideas expected to flow through a messy, stressy brain?  So, I plan to stay calm, which leads me to…

#3: Kiss the Critic.  Goodbye, that is.  Everything written can get fixed later, but it won’t have a chance to get fixed if hours are spent agonizing over its inevitable lameness.  Lame just might be the precursor to awesome.  

#4: Squaliteed.  What do you get when you mix speed and quality?  Probably something better than squaliteed, but hey, it was the first thing I came up with.  In a challenge like NaNo, it’s inevitable that quality sometimes gets sacrificed for the sake of mere speed.  In the other eleven months of the year, speed gets sacrificed for quality.  Now’s the chance to smash them together.

#5: The Future is Now!  Especially if you were a passenger on Oceanic 815 and are stuck in the 1970’s with a little Benjamin Linus².  Oh, wait, we’re talking about writing, not the best TV show (ever) on the air?  My bad.  Here’s what I meant to say: write without worrying about the what-other-people-might-think-in-the-future stuff, and rather, write the what’s-the-best-it-can-be-right-now? stuff.  

#6: Chase the Cats, along with other stuff that has nothing at all to do with writing.  I’m pretty sure I’d even get sick of Lost if I watched it all day, every day, for all of November.  Same with writing.  Gotta keep it fresh so you’ll want to return to the story; make some biscotti or some mushroom soup, then come back to the project refreshed (and/or satiated with deliciousness).

#7: Unserious Seriousness.  Last but not least, it is a commitment – and commitments, self-imposed or otherwise, require follow-through.  That doesn’t mean it has to be a drag, though³.  How amazing is it that we have ideas, language, and tools to communicate them?  Food to eat, family to visit, cats to referee?  Other authors at our fingertips to bond with – whether they’re cramming their novels into one month, or spreading them out in a more timely fashion?  Life is amazing, you guys.  Make the commitment, but don’t miss the beauty of it all in the process.

¹In case you’ve ever wondered what small-town Texans do for fun when they’re in high school, it goes a little something like this.  When it’s daylight, go in droves to the river, jump off something high, get bruised if you land with your legs out, do it all over again.  When it’s dark, meet at the gas station and drive up and down the same road all night.  I wasn’t in the in-crowd in high school, so I didn’t get to participate in these exhilarating activities.  In case you can’t tell, I’m sooooooo bummed I missed out.

²Random Lost shout-out!  January, come soon, please…

³Feel free to remind me of this when November 29th rolls around, after the eight-hour drive home from seeing our Kansas relatives, and I’ve spent several days probably not writing.

Hello, Sandy Beaches!

4 Aug

Have I mentioned yet that I’m so ready for this vacation?  

I mean, a month of very diligent writing and editing has been great, but the beach is sounding pretty good right about now.  Especially since I’m beginning to act on things that annoy me; actually leaving sticky notes that say “Dear Idiot, Driving a BMW does not make it okay for you to wrongfully park in a handicapped spot.  Hope you get a ticket…” is not something that I do unless I’m in a real funk.  (Yesterday.  Barnes & Noble parking lot.  I think I’d be a much happier person if I never had to deal with parking lots.)

Anyway – we leave in an hour for Puerto Rico, and it looks like it’s actually gonna happen this time.  A while back I wrote a little post about how I think this trip is jinxed, but so far so good.  Right now, it looks like a little 30% chance of rain is the only threat to our vacation.  We’ll see.

This will (probably) be my only post until we get back, so I thought I’d leave you with some random stuff to do while I’m gone.  

  • For all you Lost lovers: these websites can keep you busy for hours, weeks, days…maybe even until the final season returns in January!
  • Or, you can do some Sudoku and pretend you’re going on vacation, too (we get a tiny bit addicted whenever we take plane trips…)
  • You can make this delicious Lemon-Raspberry Tart
  • I’m taking Julie & Julia (Julie Powell) with me, along with Bright Lights, Big Ass (Jen Lancaster).  You may not be at the beach, but beachy books can take you on a mini-vacation, too!
  • Check out Sandra McCracken’s amazing new album, Live Under Lights And Wires.  It’s incredibly good.
  • If you’ll actually miss little ol’ me, you can peruse the archives for stuff you haven’t read before.
  • Last, but not least, you could order these fantastic post-it notes.  They are perfect for a wide variety of things – everything from researching your novel to leaving snarky notes on illegally parked BMWs.

Alright!  I’d hate to be all “Look at me, I’m going on vacation!” and leave you high and dry, far from the beach, with nothing fun to do.  Hence the list.

Hope you all have a wonderful week!  I’ll see you when we get back…