Monday, October 5, 2015

The Dream

My street in Chiang Mai

Dear readers and friends, 

I have been absent forever so this feels like a long overdue missive to reconnect rather than a normal blog post.

As I write, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Chiang Mai, Thailand, four stories up with a lovely breeze slipping through the anti-pigeon screen and birds chattering outside. There are the dimmest of noises from the city streets. This is a city that bustles but doesn’t rush, if that makes any sense.

I’m finally writing because I’m finally writing! For so long I didn’t feel as though I could post to a blog about creating if I wasn’t and boy, my mind was a blank as a stare from most Thais if you ask about anything in English (I got terribly spoiled in the Philippines where most people speak at least some English). And like the silly American (me) that expects my hosts to suddenly “get it”, I was waiting for something to shake loose in my head.

The truth is I just had to shake myself loose somehow. The past 5 weeks of travel in Asia has definitely re-shaped my world already and this morning it affected my creative side…FINALLY.
I woke up at 6 a.m. – a tad too early for me – so as I lay back down I had this thought, “I should start with a short story” and moments later I was asleep. 

Many of you know that the reason my Twitter avatar is me nestled into a comfy Westin bed is that most of my story ideas have come from dreams.

Well, this morning things fell into place as if I’d never been gone. I dreamt a whole, complete story – beginning to end – complete with important details. I began writing it down about an hour ago. This is just a break in that process.

So, my friends, I’m BAAACK!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reading the Tough Stuff

I am basically a lightweight when it comes to reading. More often than not I’ll go for and enjoy books that entertain or intrigue and whatever I learn in the process is gravy. However, I sometimes come across a book that is very difficult to read and make myself stick with it, gritting my mental teeth, until at last I find something in it that makes me stay through to the end because it simply MUST be read. 

I’ve had this experience twice in the past month, although the books were polar opposites in regards to subject matter and style. 

First up was Little Bee by Chris Cleave, the story of a Nigerian detainee, set in England, except for the back story in Nigeria. Published in 2010, it has sold millions and been a #1 New York Times Bestseller, but this isn’t why I read it. I’m a sucker for a good cover and picked it up at the Friends of the Library section at my own local library. 

This book was difficult to read on two levels for me. The hardest part was forcing myself not to “look away” through the horrors that are described both in Little Bee’s homeland and in the detention center.  However, as painful as it was, I feel I came away with something valuable and would recommend it to anyone who can deal with the deadly grim side of real life.

Secondly, I just finished reading The Rosie Project, a romantic comedy, by Graeme Simsion, published in 2013, and, according to Goodreads, a very popular novel. How can a romantic comedy be difficult read you might ask and rightly so. 

The trouble I had with this one is that the protagonist is a highly functioning sufferer of Asperger Syndrome, who would argue that this condition is actually a gift, and perhaps he’s correct. However, as the narrator, his descriptions are very dry and at times resemble a catalog rather than a novel. All of this is necessary to establish who Don Tillman, the main character, is and how he thinks but it took me about a third of the way through this one to develop any feeling at all for Don. Once I did, then I was invested enough to finish and truly enjoyed the book, but it was getting to that point that was tough. 

So, I guess the point is that if I have the temerity to pick up a book based on its cover, I should make every attempt to get involved with the story and perhaps, in the end, it will pay off.  In the process, perhaps I’ll move myself up to the middleweight division.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

642 Things to Write About

What a concept!  So simple, “Here are some ideas of what to write about, go for it.”

No, they are not my ideas! I was given a workbook by a dear friend who knew I was having trouble with an overwhelmingly large writer’s block. It was created by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto and costs $16.95, in case you’d like to get one. It’s available through multiple sources, Amazon and Barnes and Noble specifically.

This inch-thick book is well worth the time and expenditure, even if you’re not facing a mammoth blockade between you and the page. The exercises inside are fun, thought-provoking and slam you into creativity; resist though you may. I have done a few of them, but have also cheated and read ahead a bit to see what there is to see.  

Beside each topic or question is a space for writing, the size of which indicates to some degree the expected (by the authors) length of the project. Of course, it is up to the reader to truly decide how much time and space should be devoted to each one and whether or not to use the provided space in the book or move the project to another venue, computer or perhaps a treasured journal.

Here’s one example, the first task in fact, and my response:

Question – What can happen in a second?

My answer – Falling in love and falling in love all over again with the same person nearly always actually happen in that second it takes for the heart to flip over.

And off we go! Just thought I’d share this nifty little gift with my writer friends out there.

Friday, January 16, 2015

When Life is Fodder for Your Writing

I have been blocked for a year without any excuse. In my job as a shuttle driver for a local car dealership I have had more than enough fodder for my writing; characters, story plots, situations, etc. I haven’t acted on any of them, but I did have sense enough to make notes.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve thought, “Well, THAT will make into a book!” I find that the personalities that population my stories are very shaped by encounters with real people; usually being layered by the smile of one, the eyes of another, the latent passive-aggressive tendencies of the office bully or the pure magnetism of a male I’ve run into. So I relentlessly make notes on paper or my smartphone, simple jotted memories.

Something that seems to come to me is titles. I have a current list of 78, and some may serve as novel names and others as jumping off points for a short story. Often a title will spark or encapsulate an idea for me better than anything else.

So, now that I am no longer afraid of my laptop, I’m busy perusing the lists and notes; ideas popping all over the place.

How do you capture life for future fiction?