Mondays, Perseverance and Clean Starts

Every year I think, “This time, this time I’m going to do it better.”

Maybe its the clean calendar, full of open days that have no obligations or memories attached to them yet. It makes a new year feel like a new notebook. Pages fresh and clean, no blot outs, no torn pages…everything has the potential to be new.

But those new notebooks come with a lot of pressure. You are taking a thing that is beautifully pure, unvarnished with your mistakes and you pour yourself into it, ink drop by pencil scratch.

New Years are like that.

2015 brought a lot of changes into my life. We bought a house. We got a Roommate. My location for my Wage Labor job changed. My husband made it through another semester of college. We got Star Wars. My roller derby team disbanded. My parents moved. My sister brought a new man into our family. I’ve gained pets with my roommate. I’ve had to throw away old things, relocate the things I have, and then turn around to get new things to replace the things that no longer fit.

Writing is like that for me. Always changing. Always moving. Most of the time, forward, as new ideas and new stories come to me. Sometimes backwards as life gets in the way of the thing I really Want to do.

Yesterday, after returning home from the holidays, I began to re-organize my kitchen. My kitchen is the hearth in my home. We all have to eat after all, and if you’re going to eat, you’re going to need a tidy place to make the food.

I also reorganized my current work in progress. My process for both is similar.

For my kitchen I took out everything that I had in each cabinet, looked at it, matched Like with Like and returned it, stacking it neatly so that I could find what I needed. For my novella, I pulled up Scrivener, and then copied and pasted in my project, scene by scene, labeling each card with the character’s POV and folding them together so as to make better sense of where the heck these two crazy kids are going.

Every year is the year we’re going to do it better. And it starts with doing better every day.

It’s so much easier to take it a day. A page. A cabinet at a time. And that is my goal for 2016.

One word.
One step.
One day at a time.

Ha Ha! It’s Thursday

I had my days completely mixed up yesterday. I was convinced that Wednesday was Thursday.

Our topic today is metaphors.

One, because a good metaphor is like a brilliant photograph and two, because I have been listening to Amy Poehler’s brilliant Yes, Please and while going through her book I had an amazing experience with how she describes self-loathing and self doubt.

In her chapter about confidence and growing up, she talks about how she feels insecurity and self doubt are really a demon that has moved in with you. That demon shows up at your house when you’re a small child and starting to find your place in the world and settles itself down so that it can remind you of all the things you don’t like about yourself. In her metaphor, Amy breaks down the power our own brains have at sabotaging us.

That’s the beauty of this wonderful literary device. Taking one unrelated thing and comparing it to another thing so that an audience can picture the emotional issue you are trying to portray.

I use metaphor and similes all the time. In every day speech, in my writing, and in poetry.

“That patient talked longer than a hungry preacher”

“She was slower than Christmas”

“That lawyer was like a pornstar; she found all the holes in that argument.”

Metaphor is also a key element in humor and comedy writing because you take two unexpected elements and connect them, usually in a way that is, hopefully, hilarious.

What are your favorite and funniest metaphors?

Poetry V. Prose

Saturday, at my writer’s group, one of our member read a fantastic poem that dealt with the metaphor of child abuse and catching mice. The images were striking, poignant and brought chills to my arms. After we went over her work though, she stated with frustration that she ‘didn’t want to be a poet’ because she was actually working on her novel right now.

Well, to her and to all I say, there is no reason you can’t be both.

The form of Poetry is usually pretty different from prose, yet without the beautiful language that we develop IN poetry, how are we going to give our prose those moments of emotional engagement that they need to survive? Kristine Katheryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith both are fond of pointing out that readers are going to like what they like and the only thing us writers can do is to make what we’re putting out available to them. Yet I find that I want when I am looking for a new book IS that emotional connection, that moment of self-identification in another character. When I read a book, I want to be the one who feels what they are feeling. To write that out, we must communicate the images. What better way to achieve that than to boil it all down in a few sentences and produce the essence of the emotion.

When you cook, you have to add flavoring, or your food will not taste bland. Whether you marinade the food before you cook it or season as you go, there should be some flavor element to the dish or you’ll forget it. The most delicious steak I had this weekend had been seasoned well and cooked to a tender perfection. My favorite chocolate experience was a cake that had been properly iced. I had a potato casserole that was infused with cheesy goodness and without that, the dish would be lacking.

Poetry is how we develop our flavor palettes in writing. It’s how we find our seasonings and how we make those scenes memorable. Don’t be afraid of the poetry and don’t be afraid to use it to make your prose even stronger.

Trains of thought and how easily they derail

I can’t remember when I first heard the idiom, “Train of Thought” but it always makes me smile.

There, in my head, is this web of railroad track and on it are little carts with all of my subconscious feelings and musings rattling along, working their way through the nerves and zapping out my ideas, words and actions. This makes me think of my brain as a factory. Each thing I intake, whether it be a sight, a noise, someone’s body odor, a feel of velvet on my skit or the way the rain makes my hair frizz, it’s all there, waiting to be processed into my work.

The work is everything. Working can be the 10 minute writing exercises I do in the mornings, it’s the chapters I put into whatever Work-In-Progress in on the front burner and the plotting of stories that will be later projects, it doesn’t matter. There is my little idea train, absorbing the stimulus of the world, delivering it to the brain factory and loading up what I need for creation.

But then. There are Mondays.

I feel like Mondays were put on earth to give me a giant kick in the butt. They are the period of the weekend and the unwelcome beam of burning sunlight that scorches my poor eyes and chases away the happy sleep cobwebs that the fun-spiders of Saturdays and Sundays put into place. Mondays are the day that we all fit ourselves back into the corset of responsibility and go about life earning that precious income.

Mondays derail me. I wake up early, get into outside-appropriate garments and meet the public to do my job. Since I’m a word processor writer, I need Electricity. Electricity requires a place to access it so I need a house. I need water to wash myself so I don’t scare my computer. (Be nice to the computer. She is the all powerful holder of words). Then of course because I have fur and scale-babies, I need to be able to feed my snake and cat. Then after feeding the snake in cat I should probably be fed. Then clothes. And so-on.

Mondays are the switch on my brain-tracks that move the idea production in my head from the lovely warmth of plot, characterization and setting and switch it out with the heavy, dense and dry boards of Insurance, Payments and Claim work. It’s not even the location or the output that I am frustrated with. It’s the sad loss of the thing that I love, for those brief but exhausting hours every day.

In the end, I survive the Mondays, painful and agonizing beasts that they are. The train survives the track change and keeps on chugging, new ideas cooking in the brain factory to be found, once again, after work and on the weekends.