After much discussion with my writing circle over on Google+, I’ve come to the decision to start including more on this site about me. You’ll still get your regular doses of fiction and opinion, but there’s also going to be some healthy portions of “me” on here.
The Cat Lady
Despite the fact that I’m allergic to them, I have always maintained at least one cat in my household. I love cats; I love my cats in particular. My current pair of cats are a calico-mutt and a siamese-mutt named Priss and Kiri, respectively. Now, I call them “mutt” cats because they aren’t pure-bred by any means and the progeny of your average stray. Both were adopted from local shelters.
Priss tends to be very high-strung and nervy, but has some pretty bad abandonment issues. She was found on the side of the road with her brother next to the body of their dead mother. We pretty much allow her to socialize with us at her own leisure, never forcing her to interact with us and she seems happy with that. She’s a cat that never lets us forget that bed-time is 11pm sharp, though. If I’m working on the computer, she’ll come over and stand near the edge of my desk and meow at me or hop up on the desk and head-butt me until I pay attention to her. She will then migrate to the bed, as if to remind me that it is, indeed, bed-time. That’s really the only time she gets super-lovey; there’s just something about us lying down in bed that makes it “safe” to her. She’ll climb all over us, lay on top of us, head-butt us for lovin’s and seem like a completely normal, attention-starved cat.
Kiri, on the other hand, is the princess of the castle and spoiled completely rotten by my husband, Jon. Every morning after my husband’s shower, Kiri demands to be brushed. If she doesn’t get her brushin’s, then she will complain very long and very loudly to my husband until he either leaves for work or accedes to her wishes. When she feels it’s time to pay attention to her, she will get between you and whatever it is that is distracting you. If you’re watching TV, she’ll climb on top of you and get in your face. If you’re working at the computer, she’ll sit between you and the keyboard. If you’re reading a book, she’ll paw at the cover or climb on top of the book. (Or sleep on them to prevent all reading, as depicted at right…)
Regardless of how rotten or bratty they are, I love our girls like they were our own children. I think people oftentimes underestimate the value of a beloved pet, especially those who aren’t “animal people”. Our pets love us unconditionally and can sense when things are wrong, oftentimes better than the actual people in our lives. They stay with us when we’re sick, come and love on us when we’re unhappy, and are generally just little bundles of love waiting to gush all over us. So, that’s why I have my cats, in spite of being allergic, in spite of growing up with dogs my whole life — I love them and couldn’t imagine my life without them.
Take any song and re-write it to suit your character.
(To “Blue Moon” by The Marcels)
Oh, I’m a scholar alone
Chipping stone all apart
With my nose in a tome
With an Aged Scrap of Text
I don’t know what I’ll find next
Sometimes leaving me vexed
And then there suddenly was in my mailbox
All the runes and scraps I could ever want
My vault was completely overstocked
And when I crafted, I could never stop!
I’m a scholar at home
Engraving names into stone
With knowledge all my own
Describe your character from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know them.
She sat at a table, close enough to seem part of the goings-on, but just far enough away as to seem aloof. Was it aloof or simply shy? From the somewhat longing gaze in those green eyes above that smattering of adorable freckles, I’d have to say it was shy. Her fingers drum on the table in time to the music…wait, no. Not in time, in melody, as if she were silently playing the same music on an imaginary instrument of her own.
From her clothing, she seemed very conservative: the cloth was basic woolens, simple in design and cut. Nothing fancy that screamed of nobility, but nothing dirty and careworn that belied a state of poverty. A member of the enigmatic middle-class then. A musician of some sort, obviously, or perhaps the dream of being a musician. It was hard to say. She didn’t have an instrument with her, but from the movements of her hands, she was no stranger to one. And the
wistful smile that crosses her mouth bespeaks of someone who longs to join in and make merry. So why doesn’t she?
Again, we return to the idea that she must be shy. She’s no raving beauty, by any means: just a raven-haired girl with milk-pale skin and a smattering of cinnamon-colored freckles; guileless green eyes that take the world for what it is. Innocent, really. Naive, perhaps.
Or maybe I am too much of a cynic. Maybe I can no longer find hope in the bright eyes of youth or the faint smile of a young girl.
As writers, there are things that uplift us and give us creative energy, but as with all things, there is always a balance: where there are things that lift us up, there are also things that drag us down. Finding and eliminating these poisonous leeches of our creativity can be both liberating and painful. Sometimes it is a favorite activity (other than writing), sometimes it is a person (or even people), and still other times it is something within ourselves.
Take myself, for example, I am a die-hard role-player and have been for some 20+ years. I enjoy my RPG’s and MMO’s, they are my escape from reality, granting me the ability to be someone else entirely, for a few hours at a time. These games consume hours of precious time that might be better spent writing, not to mention the sheer amount of creative energy that goes into maintaining a completely fictional persona.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I put too much into these games, creatively-speaking. In an effort to regain some of my creative momentum, I’ve limited myself to one or two characters from one game that I write for, instead of the previous, five or six characters spanning two games. That saves me a lot of time spent researching game lore and energy ensuring the “accuracy” of my writing.
I’ve also started removing a lot of rancid people from my Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking platforms. If you don’t have anything positive to say, want to argue politics, want to use your social network as a platform by which to slander or belittle others — that’s your prerogative. Personally, I don’t need that kind of negative energy invading my space.
Lastly, I’ve taken on myself. This is probably the hardest hurdle to overcome; I am the epitome of a writer/artist being her worst critic. Nothing I do is ever good enough for my internal editor/critic; no matter how perfect or praised, I will always find fault somewhere. Some might say I border on being a self-defeatist; I ruin myself before anyone else has a chance to.
To some extent, perhaps that’s true. I can admit that. There is nothing anyone can say to me that is worse than what’s going on in my own head. Once upon a time, I believed I was great, I believed I was destined for bookshelves everywhere. I got a dose of reality that brought me to my knees for years. Since then, I have been my own worst enemy.
I’ve gotten better, in recent years, I can actually pause and say I did something good or that I’m proud of something these days. I’m better about not letting my inner editor/critic get so much in the way. They’re both still there, still present whenever I take on a creative project, but they are not so detrimental to my creative process that everything comes to a halt.
Take stock of not just yourself, but the people around you and the activities you engage in. If you feel any are inhibiting your creative process, try cutting back or cutting them out completely. We are each the shapers of our individual writer (or artistic) destinies; it’s time we held ourselves accountable to that and did something proactive to help ourselves.
Don’t hesitate. Do it today.
Sometimes I feel like I’m a hobby hobbyist. I love to write, but only sporadically on “serious” projects. I love to draw, but only on the rare occasion I feel really inspired. I love photography, but it’s not like my camera is attached to my hip. I’m never really “serious” about anything, but if asked, those three would be listed as my passions. How can it be a “passion” though, if I only do them half-heartedly? Most of it, I think, has to do with some pretty deep-seated self-esteem issues, creatively-speaking.
Everything I love, from writing, to drawing, to photography… there’s always going to be someone better than me out there. Let’s face it, there are people out there who are just flat-out BRILLIANT. What does some amateur country-bumpkin like me have to offer that would be of any interest to anybody?
There’s a voice in my head that sounds suspiciously like my mother that says, “Well, if that’s all you think of yourself, that’s all you’re ever going to BE.” And more or less, it’s right. All-too-often, as a writer, an artist, or a photographer, I’m looking beyond myself for some kind of validation that what I do is a good thing, that it matters to somebody, when I should do the things I do because I love to do them.
I heard it said somewhere once: “More people will hate what you do and be more vocal about it, than you will ever find those who love what you do enough to drop you a word of praise.” Validation of self-worth, in any arena, has to start at home. It has to start with me. I’ve said that time and again, even several times on this very blog. Yet, I still find myself trying to find that extraneous acceptance.
How does one tamp down the inner demons of doubt? How do we validate to ourselves alone that we don’t need the accolades of the outside world, that the simple DOING of what we do is enough.
I suppose like everything else. We take ownership of the problem, and then we take steps to correct it. So, here we are.
This is my first step.
A long time ago, back when I was on Livejournal, I posted a little digest post that updated people on how I was doing, whatever life-changes were being wrought, and just life in general. I think I’ll adapt that format for my writing blog.
Camp Nanowrimo Project: “Muse”
At present, I’m stalled out on my planned Camp Nanowrimo novel, but I haven’t quit writing. Instead, I’m fleshing out the ideas that came to me mid-stream for another novel that is more in line with my “sword and sorcery” style. It doesn’t have a name yet, but I’ve found the premise pretty interesting.
This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on “Muse”, the idea has merit and can be a wonderful story, but at my heart I have ever been an epic/high fantasy kind of girl. That’s my strength. It’s not that I don’t like writing outside of my comfort zone, but more that the ideas don’t flow quite as readily when it’s something more “real” and less “fantasy”.
I find myself worrying more about the details and less about the story. I find myself doing more research on whether Item A or Location B are right for the time period or accurate to the setting. I do more researching than I do writing. While this isn’t a bad thing, it does tend to inhibit my writing process.
Novel Progress: “The Journey of Excalibur”
My beloved JOE is still in progress. I add a few words every day, although sometimes not as much as I’d like. I’ve skipped over the dreaded Book Four and have moved on to Book Five, so hopefully that will get me past the stall point I’ve been hung up on for well over a year.
I also keep revisiting the idea that JOE would be much better off as a series of novels, but from my research online, it’s been stated often that publishers don’t often like to pick up “serials” from new authors because they’re afraid we won’t commit to the long haul. I find that completely understandable, considering the sheer amount of time and commitment it would take to write a complete seven-book series.
There are just many, many places in JOE that I feel deserve more attention, each “Book” as I’ve come to call them is a step in the journey. (They were originally chapters in my rough draft, but at almost 10,000 words per “chapter”, I think they’re a bit meatier than that. *lol*) Some Books seem really strong (Yay, Book 3) and others need some beefing up (Rawr, Book 2) and others I just want to add more depth to so I can really do them justice (*bows to Book 1*).
JOE is my baby and always will be. I care more about getting the story “right” and doing it justice than I care about being published. That’s where this new idea I’ve been working on comes in.
Novel Planning: “Untitled Knight Novel”
As of yet, I haven’t come up with a title for it yet. I have a ton of notes that I’ve jotted down for it though. I even wrote a two paragraph intro, which I posted up on Google+ and got some really fantastic feedback from fellow writer, Mike Kalmbach. It really makes me wish I’d had him on more than Twitter before now! *lol*
If there’s one thing I enjoy when I write, it’s constructive feedback. I’m a firm believer that a writer never gets better off of empty platitudes (or even heart-felt compliments); it makes us feel good for the moment and lets us know we’re on the right track, but we’ll never be better writers for it. We really need someone in our lives who isn’t afraid to tell us, “Hey, um… this kind of needs some work.” That’s what Mike gave me.
It was a solid, honest critique (on a mere two paragraphs, no less) that pointed out my strengths and my flaws. He asked genuine questions from the angle of someone interested in reading more. It’s all feedback that I’ve absorbed and taken into consideration.
Fan Fiction / Role-playing
As always, this is around in some form or fashion. Sometimes I wonder if the writing I do here detracts from my actual novelling pursuits. Is it wasted creative energy? Some days I think so, some days I don’t. Fan Fiction and RP writing seems to largely be an unappreciated genre of fiction. There’s no such thing as feedback or constructive criticism here. There’s no real interest in becoming better writers or improving the story.
The reality of it is that fan fiction and role-playing fiction is really just self-absorbed writing where we write whatever we want to write in a world that isn’t ours. I write things in fan/RP fiction that I would never dream of writing in my own novels.
Perhaps, then, it is some kind of catharsis, allowing me to bleed off overpowered Mary Sues into worlds that not only allow them, but encourage them. Worlds where everyone is the hero and no one ever dies. Perhaps it serves as a perpetual reminder of what NOT to do in my actual writing.
Perhaps I become a better writer, after all.
I need to do more “real” writing. I know that and I will try to do better. Fan fiction and RP are great and all, but ultimately the effort is not worth what little reward there is. I will continue to work on JOE and I’m looking forward to further fleshing out my Knight project. So we’ll see how all that goes.
Until next time, write-fans…
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