Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winter Hibernation

When it's cold outside all I want to do is hibernate. Good book, cup of something warm and sweet, and endless time in which to reflect, to be still, to heal.

There's a desire to wander into that snow-filled glade in Narnia, watch the dryads dance and drift into ambivalence regarding...well, most things that stress.

To everyone: I hope you find at least a few precious hours in which to wrap up, reflect on what's important to you, what you value, and take care of yourself physically and mentally.

To everyone in the Northern United States: Take care, stay safe, warm, and well hydrated with hot chocolate and tea.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Gate Keeper

It is only through your conscious mind that you can reach the subconscious. 
Your conscious mind is the porter at the door, the watchman at the gate. 
It is to the conscious mind that the subconscious looks for all its impressions
~ Robert Collier

My off days aren't really off days. I don't believe I know a writer who is ever "off". There are too many stories buzzing around the air, darting in and out of the imagination. The past weekend I labored long on putting an array of writing projects in some semblance of order. 

It worked.

No file cabinets, no nice, organized office space, just a binder of notebook paper and two days worth of deliberating, wheedling down plots and twists and discovering what story needs to be told and why and how.

It feels good to get things together. It also feels good to keep them together. For me, that's the challenge: once the schedule is in place, once the outline is constructed, there is a step that must be taken to WALK the schedule and BEGIN the tale. This is where, countless times over, I fail.

Our mind is a garden, a secret garden if you will, filled with all manner of plants and paths, benches and birdbaths. Some of us have well manicured formal gardens, you know the ones, well groomed topiaries in the shapes of birds and stegosauruses and flowers that ramble not over the golf-course grass and smooth pavers that lead through the box hedges.

There are others who till row after row of vegetables and fruits, labeling everything, nurturing every last plant-ling. Some have kitchen gardens: necessity only, while some cultivate rare species of auriculas, finding the time to cross pollinate and seed swap with other fanatics.

My mind tends toward a cottage garden, deliberately pouring over boundaries and mingling flower and herb and veg. A lovely vision, with rambling roses and ivy that climb clear to the top of the chimney of the thatched roof house. There's a charming gate with the figure of a cat cut out of the wood inviting passers by to take a peek but never, ever enter unless invited. There is a danger to this. Cottage Garden Minds tend to shun the weeding in order to enjoy the bees buzzing and harvesting the lavender in a late afternoon shower. While some weeds create happy accidents (unexpected violets or snatches of conversation that can be used for a future short story), they also choke out the plants that should be cultivated.

We are, believe it or not, in control of what we let into our minds. We are also in control of what we pluck loose and toss into the burn pile. We must train our conscious minds to do the unsavory task of pruning and weeding, gathering fallen branches and, yes, raking the fallen leaves. A little chaos is blissful - especially if you write speculative fiction - but when the self deprecation, the "who's going to care if I write at all", the "I suck" and the "why bother" tend to take root and spread like kudzu. Those thoughts choke and bind and will, if left unchallenged, kill the roses, the chocolate mint and the pomegranate your grandmother gave you six years ago.

Train your gatekeeper, writers. Train him to guard against negative thoughts and those rambling vines that lead nowhere but end over end over end. Learn to weed before they take root and learn, as painful as it can be, to prune those large, dripping vines (the thick ones, the ones that have dropped from tree and wedged deep into the fertile earth). 

Keep them out of the compost (those lovely thoughts you want to use at a later date, for a future story); burn them. Host a Bonfire of the Mind and invite all your artist friends. After the deadwood is gone, remember to tell your gatekeeper that he is to be ruthless to all who enter. Don't back down and don't shy away. Let him wield his flaming sword. Your mind is a gift worth protecting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Foothills of Dreams

The weekend was whirlwind. Family appeared from out of town, a joyous cacophony. Two young second cousins and their mother, a neice and her grandmother, my mother, all from 300+ miles away to see, touch, and taste this new world we call home.

It was lovely chaos. We feasted and met across town; they came to the cottage for the "grand tour": a simple process of standing in a particular spot and veiwing the entire living space. Two of the children put on impromptu dance recitals while Jon gave my cousin a crash course in photography. The cat even wandered out to see what the fuss was about. He quickly retreated back into the bedroom, unimpressed by children dancing like mad hatters across the tiny living room floor.

Then -poof, swish- they were gone, back to metro Atlanta, back to their normal. And here I sit, my normal the hum of space heaters, the notes of classical piano wrapping around me with comfort and a tinge of sadness.

It is lonely sometimes in the foothills of your dreams.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tales from a Ragged Writer on a Tuesday in the Deep South!!!

First off, thank you to everyone who visited on IWSG day. I have fallen terribly behind. Last week, I saved a kitten from the jaws of a rabid hippopotamus and in the process wrenched my left shoulder muscle and pinched some crazy nerve that sends shooting pain across my chest every time I breathe.


Or I turned around and it my arm decided not to work and hurt.

We'll go with the first explanation. It sounds way more excusable (and way less lame). Regardless of how it happened, I have done nothing except come home from work and sit by the space heater. Sad but accurate account of lady's past week. It's better not but any amount of typing that requires more than a couple of fingers is painful.

Please accept my lame apology for not reading posts this month. Ugh...

In other news, I've been a planning machine! I got story ideas solidifying left and right. It's been such a long time since I've seen the larger picture with any of my stories. Daylight is beginning to glimmer with at least three of them. Now I get to narrow them down and choose one.

Again, ugh.

This post didn't turn out to be much more than me boring you to tears with excuses and ambiguous story work. Whoops! But I do so enjoy being here...and my New Years goal is to blog three days a week. So far, so good! Whiny posts be darned!!

Got any whining to do today? Lame excuses to confess? Did anybody else's husband meet Alton Brown? Wait - what?! Yep. True story. So jealous...

Have a wonderful Tuesday dear readers!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IWSG February 2015

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a once a month meeting of the most beautiful souls you will ever meet. Click HERE for more information.

There is a silence found in discovery. The uncovering of purpose opens a door to peace, one the sound longs to walk through at birth.

Don't put off writing what you know you should write. Very often, it's the very thing we fear most. If something resonates with you, shakes your very foundations, you should probably spend more time with it. If an idea keeps you awake at night, makes you avoid subjects and places and the corners of imagination, you should fling open those cobweb encrusted blinds. Let in the light of discovery. Write what scares you. It's the only way to slay the Minotaur.

Go forth and be fabulous!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Responsibility of the writer to the Tale

"Inspiration does not always precede the act of writing; it often follows it. I go to my typewriter with reluctance; I check the ribbon; I check my black felt pens; I polish my collection of spectacles; finally  I start to put words, almost any words, down on paper. Usually, then, the words themselves will start to flow; they push me, rather than vice versa." - Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet, p. 162.

These words echo yesterday's IWSG Facebook post. Motivational Monday rings out with the scathing question: Do you wait until you feel like it before you write? The embarrassing truth is that I usually complain that I don't much feel like writing today, thank you very much, so I won't.

Saturday afternoon I looked outside my back door. The few potted plants I brought from Atlanta rattled in the breeze, only three of which are still alive. I've needed to clean out the old, dead foliage for months. But I don't feel like it. It's cold. It's dark when I get home from work. I pulled a muscle in my neck and chest and it's too painful to move (ok, that one is legitimate). My courtyard is cluttered with matted dead plants and crumpled leaves. All because I don't feel like cleaning up.

Is this an analogy of my writing mind? Perhaps, yes. Perhaps with the continual shoving away of the WORK of writing, slowly I let in the mold and decay. The same debris that slowly suffocates my still living plants symbolically chokes my stories. Just as the plants didn't ask me to plant them, I didn't ask for these ideas to come to me.

No matter. The responsibility is the same. Be you gardener or writer or some amalgam of both responsibility of caretaker is heavy. You water the herbs whether you feel like it or not. You weed the parsnips whether you feel like it or not. You sit at your computer and type - like it or not. Why? To keep things alive.

Stories are living things. They require constant trimming, pruning, fertilization to thrive. Just like my plants.