Tag Archives: creative work

…and Summer is On Her Way Out the Door


Autumn on the land

Autumn is just beginning to creep into my kingdom. A few trees are already showing signs of less sunlight and cooler nights. I don’t know if the hurricanes far to the south are pulling moisture out of the air where I live, but the early morning dew on the grass sparkles until about a half hour after sunrise, and then it is G-O-N-E.

Now, whether or not i got anything done at all is a good question, but I can look back on what I’ve done all summer and say, yes, I did quite a bit, but I neglected my very own blog in favor of posting articles on a good friend’s spot, with his permission, of course.  At the same time, i paid attention to my stories, getting print copies done for editing, digging up old starts to others, and somehow organizing a mess to be less disorganized.

You do get scattered sometimes, without realizing it. And all those resolutions you may have made on New Year’s Day – well, they kind of went south, too, because they weren’t printed out and stuck to the fridge door with a magnet.

Life gets in the way, as do hurricanes and tornadoes, but somehow, we just pull ourselves up and move on.  No, I did not get hit by either of those. We had high volume rain that resulted in massive flooding, but I live on a hilltop and always stock my pantry and freezer and keep bottled water on hand, just in case. The whole year has been like that for some of us. As I do live on a hilltop, the water all ran away from me, but roads around my area were blocked for a couple of weeks while the flooding drained away into overburdened creeks and sluggish rivers, and finally, out to the main river that runs into the Mississippi further to the south. Then the village I live in went to the trouble of putting in larger drains and sewers to act as a flood preventive measure, against the next deluge.

And life went on.

My sunflowers grew to the size of small trees, originally planted from sunflower seeds in spilled birdfood. I found myself to be hosting two mated pairs of goldfinches who have made themselves fat on the seeds of those plants. It will soon be over. The males will change to drab traveling colors and the sunflower jungle will come down. The nights turned cooler, the rains still come and there are three hurricanes (Irma and Jose in the Atlantic, and Katia over by Yucatan in the Gulf of Mexico) now threatening the southeastern US.

I never make any “resolutions” because they just lie forgotten six weeks later. I made a list of things I wanted to get done: pay off bills, keep the larder stocked with good stuff, take more walks, focus on writing and do NOT whine about what I can’t do. Focus on what I CAN do.

That’;s what’s ahead: what I CAN do.

What I want to do is more research for science fiction, to make it parallel current findings in astrophysics and astronomy, although these findings keep changing sometimes daily. We keep finding that we know a lot less than we thought we did. Somehow, 16th century astronomy seems simpler, doesn’t it?

If sci-fi is your venue, You can find an almost daily article on the most recent stuff at Centauri Dreams.

You can also get a weekly e-mail update from Sky and Telescope, another magazine online.  There are so many discoveries being made, thanks to those small probes orbiting other planets and their satellites in our solar system that what they report now will be useful in the future.

If, on the other hand, you’re interested in romance novels, you might want to check all those hundreds of blogs that offer recipes of every possible kind, just to give your heroine a chance to fix a ridiculously romantic dinner for someone special.

You might also look up Renfests and Renaissance Faires if there are any near you, and if you want to spend some time hobnobbing with members of a royal court or the Court of the Fey.

In other words, just because fall is coming and the geese are nearing the end of their training flight programs, and fattening up for the flights south, it does not mean you have to give up anything at all. Birding hikes are a terrific way to learn about the natural world around you. It’s amazing what we learn on a simple weekend hike from an informed guide. No, you do not have to live in the country to do this. A lot of cities do the same thing, and there is safety in groups, too.

I strongly recommend that you take a camera of some kind, partly to record what you see, and partly to support your efforts to make your stories more real to your readers. Pay attention to the world around you, to the sun’s rays coming in through your kitchen window, and the noises from outside your living space.

I’m eagerly waiting for the first frost this year.

 

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Summer Is A-comin’ In…


Right out of a John Constable painting….

We are nearing that time of year that marks the summer solstice, also known as Midsummer’s Eve, and school’s out, the garden is up and running (if you have one), and you’d rather be outside than inside, even if it’s hot. The beach is much more important than doing something that resembles work.

Instead of working on something like a short story or a novel, now would be a good time to take something off the shelf that will make you a better writer.  Take a break.  Don’t be quite so intense and worried about getting it done. Give your characters a little rest. Do some sketching or shoot photos. Do something that will inspire a book cover or illustrate a story or poem.

‘Writing In Flow’ by Susan K. Perry is one of the books I have recommended strongly for anyone who wants to write, if only for the sake of writing. I’m going back to that instead of reading novels this summer, because it is meant to jar you loose from being stuck. Being stuck for something to say happens to everyone, and is not something to worry about.

Take some time this summer and into fall to follow one of Susan Perry’s suggestions:  open up to new experiences.

Standing on the porch in the middle of a cloudburst, taking in the scent of fresh rain and feeling the changes in the air while it’s going on, and after it’s done and the storm has moved on – these are physical sensations that you can put into the lives of your characters.

If you’re stuck, don’t worry about it. The flow will return. But if you feel compelled to write, then follow a new path. If you usually create prose, then try poetry instead, as in making up some silly children’s rhymes. If you write poetry, turn a poem into a one-paragraph story.

It’s less important what it is than that you do it.

 

Spring? What Spring? Oh, wait! I See It!


Showy trillium on DP river trailWell, whether we like it or not, Old Man Winter is going to be shown the door before too long, and Mother Earth will be sweeping the cobwebs out the door.  That’s fine by me.  This was an easier than usual winter, because December was a blast from Antarctica that would make anyone sit up and take notice,  But after that blast, we got plenty of rain, a week-long Chinook (snow eater) and the best, juiciest oranges I’ve ever had when I went grocery shopping.

It has been a very busy winter for me.  As I’ve said previously, I helped a sick friend with his blog until he was up to the task of handling it himself. At the same time, I chipped away at what were then current (and now finished) chapters in novels that I have under construction.  Once my friend was back in the saddle, it was easy enough to go on with all the other tasks I had lined up. And that is where I am now.

Happy to report that my progress in those two different novels is moving ahead. It is easy enough to keep them separate from each other, because they are two entirely different stories, but keeping the story lines themselves from getting tangled is a different thing altogether. I did waste a little money on getting a new printer because my old printer broke a gear in the paper pickup and that was that. I found that, with unexpected separation from my two novels, the distance from each story gave me a new perspective each time I went back and picked up the track in either of them. I also found it useful to have several other stories going on at the same time, but not necessarily novels. Short stories will do. I also did a lot more research than I had expected to do for my friend’s blog, which gave me a new perspective on how to make a sci-fi story believable, through a better understanding of planetary biology, geology and meteorology. In effect, the planet and its systems have to be user-friendly if the inhabitants are to prosper there. And because stories are more believable if there is a struggle for the good guys to overcome, it makes for a better story if the people aren’t superheroes.

All that research I engaged in is leading to another direction as well.  I’m not real big on doing non-fiction, but there is no reason that what I dug up can’t be put to use in something else.  That’s the unexpected benefit of doing someone else’s work when he can’t.

Expect more to come. Meanwhile, get out in the sunshine and check the sunset at night.

 

 

Filling in


...continuing along the path

…continuing along the path

I’ve been filling in for a sick friend on his blog, along with other people who either sent me stuff to post for them, or posted their own articles themselves.  It’s a popular blog that gets a lot of visitors, which means that  a hiatus, however, brief, can lose the audience’s interest.  People were somewhat bewildered when on a Monday morning, only two of the usual posts appeared, and after a little reflection, I posted one of my own articles to distract the audience from their ‘what’s happening here?’ concerns.  Just pick up the walking staff and carry on.

Fortunately, I had access and didn’t have to ask for permission to post an article.  As a result, the sigh of relief was tangible. After a couple of days, I put a routine together which the audience seemed to like, found plenty of material to provide grit for their grindstone – that’s a metaphor, really – and things went on as before.

That was the best lesson I’ve ever had in making something happen. If you want it, you have to earn it, whatever ‘it’ is. No one is just going to hand ‘it’ to you or do the work for you.  I’ve said before that we all want to be heard. The reason that some blogs prosper and generate a large following is that the blog owner focuses on what he/she wants to present and forges ahead, regardless of the size of the audience, and continues to make posts whether anyone reads them or not. At some point, the blog begins to get noticed more and more often, and finally, like a waiting daisy, begins to bloom.

Now, in my case, minding the store or guarding the fortress while someone else is out with the sickie-poos is not a big deal, but does it interfere with continuing to work on the novels I’ve started? The simple answer to that is ‘No, it does not’.  There was plenty of time available for me to reflect on what I want to do, where I really want those stories to go, what the Big Bad Guys may be like, what parts I neglected. Now that the owner of the other blog is getting back on his feet, some of the problems I was facing have been solved and I can work on that. I’ll still be posting stuff on his blog because it helps him out, but I won’t be neglecting my own at all.

I never got around to making a list of subjects to cover, and I’m not going to do that, either. It’s better to have a general idea and allow it to find its own path to follow. This is, after all, about writing and the process of writing, how we communicate with others, and what it means to be persistent, to be able to stick to it until a project is finished. It isn’t as easy as it seemed in the beginning.

How you set your own up and what you want to do is up to you, but a staying audience, one that comes back repeatedly to see what you said today or yesterday, takes a while to build.  The extremely small number of people who have had instant hits should be a clear indicator of what it takes to build an audience.

In view of that, and taking into account what I got out of minding someone else’s store for a while, I have a better idea about what I want to do here.  Let’s consider it a new way to keep a journal.

Spring will be here soon.  Be ready for it.  Stick around.

 

Winter doldrums? Keep yourself busy


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Winter is definitely upon us. In some parts of the country, the weather is warmer than usual, rainy, sloppy and downright annoying. In other places, people are so buried in snow that they want to move some place where there is none at all, ever.

If you’re shut indoors, this is a good time to have a pile of things to do, especially in regard to any and all of your creative endeavors. Seriously, writing in a coffee shop with lots of people around you making background noise sounds like a great idea, but the shop closes at some point and you have to go home. Maybe forming a circle of friends who can meet at your place, if you have room, and just yak about writing or do some writing exercises like Rita Mae Brown offers in her books will spur you to do more than you’d planned to do. Remember, February is coming and romantic poems are always in vogue for that month.

My car doesn’t want to start, so that means that if I need to run an errand, I have to walk a half mile to the bus stop and when the weather is crappy, I don’t want to. I’d rather stay home, make treats, do some brainstorming, and work on current projects. And I have plenty of stuff on hand to make treats.

I’m filling in, along with a couple of other people, for a sick friend on his blog. It’s keeping me as busy as a bee in a field of clover, and it’s a lot of fun. I did it out of instinct, because everyone wondered what was going on. The gathering place was not being manned. It just seemed like a good idea to pick up the reins and keep going, and it has worked out quite well.

It doesn’t mean I’m setting my own stuff aside. I still focus on my own work, still feed the birds and the squirrels who steal bird food, and still fix meals and make cookies.

There is no real reason to stop working on your creative stuff, ever. If you need treats to keep your brainstorming going and you don’t want to buy them, there are recipes all over the internet that are easy to follow. It’s well worth your time to do these things for yourself, and besides that, it will probably impress your friends, too. And I can’t think of anything better than being in the 2nd floor apartment on the street side, and looking out at snow falling, while you have a tray full of cookies in the oven, just waiting for you to take them out and finish the entire batch.

Who said winter has to be dull and boring?

Endeavor to persevere….


Swifts in a bunch

Swifts in a bunch

Those were the words of Lone Watie, from the movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales’.

I get stuck on a regular basis. No excuses, I simply get stuck. I start a chapter and bog down. I start a sentence and reread it and groan.

We all have something to say. We all want to be heard, whether it’s stories, full-length novels, poetry, or just twittering in the Ethernet. We, the people on the business end of the monitor screen, want to know that someone, somewhere, is willing to take a few seconds or minutes or even hours out of their busy, busy lives to notice what we have to say or create.

We keep cranking out words and then finally, somebody notices and ‘likes’ it, or not. If it’s ‘like’, we’re tickled pink and giggly. If it’s ‘not’, we get upset. How could anyone possibly not like what I said, wrote, produced? How? How? How can anyone be so – well, insensitive?!?

Well, this happens all the time, and it happens to everyone, so let’s talk about that.

What I’ve noticed in the ‘newly pressed’ groups is the thousands of people who want to tell us something or show us something, and most important, they want us to know about it. Obviously, we can’t all be noticed all the time. The work of some people catches our eye and those are the people we latch onto and continue to follow. The others, not so much. We aren’t impressed by it, it isn’t to our taste, it doesn’t strike a common chord.

That’s okay.

In the process of writing, along with visual arts like painting and photography and sculpture, we cannot please everyone. We can only strive to do our best. So if you are not getting the audience that you had hoped for, ask yourself if you did your best each time you create something. I will not say ‘be your own harshest critic’, but review what you did and ask that question: did I do my best with my creative endeavor? If I were going to plunk down money for something, would I buy this? Would I check it out of the library, put it on my bookshelf, hang it on my walls?

I want to know what somebody else thinks of the stories I create, so I ask for feedback. I want constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is not flaming you. Constructive criticism is someone telling you ‘you got typos!’ or ‘spellcheck is not your best friend’. (Hint: Get a print copy of a spelling dictionary.) Flaming you is destructive, aimed at trampling you into giving up on the idea. If you can survive being flamed, it means that you have enough sense to take that kind of thing with a grain of salt… and then you go right back to what you were doing.

Someone did once post a very critical review of something I wrote, but instead of being hurt, I read it several times, reviewed my own work and asked myself if it really was the best I could have done. Could I have done a better job? I did not feel that I had been flamed. It was more a ‘heads up and snap out of it’ for me.

If you can’t take even constructive criticism without your feelings getting hurt, you need to rethink your priorities.

Are you doing creative work because you want a pat on the head and a ribbon just for showing up, or are you doing this work because you have something to say, to show us, to make us laugh and weep?

The creative arts are full of people who labor quietly, but whose continuous production never gets the immediate kind of attention generated by viral social media. Then finally, after what seems like near-eternity, someone notices and their stories, paintings, poetry, photography all begin to find a footing. These are the people whose work lasts, who generate long-term followings and whose work lives well beyond the end of their lifetime.

As Lone Watie said ‘Endeavor to persevere.’