Motherhood of the Travelling Diaper

I have always written slowly, first in a notebook, poring over my scenes until I am sure that they are well polished and later on the computer.  The whole process of piecing together a story always drove me a little nuts (can you drive yourself nuts?) My inner perfectionist was constantly holding back the more productive parts of my brain.  So when I happened upon this article in the New York Times, I began to wonder which process is better: fast or slow?

In this age of instant entertainment, is the slow writing process still relevant?

If Robert Heinlein Says So…

1.) You must write.
2.) You must finish what you write.
3.) You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4.) You must put the work on the market.
5.) You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

This is the advice that Sci-fi guru Robert Heinlein once wrote.  It’s not new advice.  In fact, it’s been kicking around the e-verse for a good long while.  In some ways, I can see how this advice is still relevant for the digital age.  Sites like Wattpad and other online reading sites certainly promote a faster writing process, but do they warrant the quality that goes along with the quantity?

dayoftriffids

 

Binge Readers Anonymous

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with a new Jonathan Strauss series, Lockwood & Co.  Luckily, Strauss has been cranking out the latest instalments of the series out pretty quickly, about several months apart.  I should also point out that Lockwood & Co. is a fantastic series.  Strauss isn’t the only author doing this either–Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation series is another prime example.

While I might have been tempted to pooh pooh the whole fast-writing phenomenon, I kind of love it.  Who doesn’t want to find out what happens in their favourite book series ASAP? I know I do. And there’s nothing more infuriating than a writer who puts out an awesome first book in a series and then just never finishes the series… (*ahem* Jasper Fforde, I’m looking at you, friend.)

jasperfforde

Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Since it is so easy to access entertainment online, it makes me wonder if this new trend has to do with the fact that our consumption of TV and movies is on average more of a binge-watching experience.  I could probably reminisce about the days of yore when people actually had to wait for a certain night to watch their favourite show, but I’m not that old and some people probably still do that.

 

 

 

So, here’s the thing: I can totally see how this fast-moving, binge-reading trend could continue.  I could get on that bandwagon.

Except…

I write really really slowly, so that bandwagon might just run me over.

Motherhood of the Travelling Diaper, Or No Time to Write (Among Other Things)

It was while jiggling my son on my knee whilst also attempting to use the bathroom (all the while a creepy clown melody from some evil toy echoing across the hallway) that I realized I was a mother.  I mean, it’s not like I was like “oh look, I have a baby,” but let’s just say that it was one of those defining moments.

Several weeks passed before I showered, slept or wrote.

Wide_eyes

“Wide eyes” Mikamatto

 

Since becoming a mother, I’ve discovered a new appreciation for slow progress. The day that my son first lifted his head (after several weeks of physio) I began to think that maybe there was something to this baby steps thing.  For a newbie parent, it’s kind of comforting to think about things as taking some time to develop.  Watching my son wake up to the world around him has made me understand something about my own writing:

Slowing down and living in the moment means that we appreciate it more.  Maybe we don’t know how the story will go just yet, but in that moment, the clarity that comes with slowing down is worth everything.

Oh, and Jasper Fforde, if you’re out there, I’ll forgive you for taking an eternity to finish writing Shades of Grey Two.

What do you think? Are you a fan of book series that are quickly produced? Or is good reading still worth the wait?

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Snapshots of Wisdom: Pythons, Spiders & the Uphill Climb

Photo by: Chen Siyuan

A couple of years ago, I was camping in the Australian Outback.  (You might have heard about my encounter with a python.  Spoiler alert: I totally won).  When I was there, my husband and I ended up doing a lot of hikes.

Fact: I strongly dislike hiking.

Fact: A sign at the beginning of the trail that claims to be a “moderate” hike is totally bluffing.

I can recall one hike where, amidst the poisonous neon blue spiders and the miles of searing hot sand, I was getting particularly tired of the uphill climb.  We had been hiking for a few hours now and as the unforgiving sun seared into the backs of our necks, I huffed and puffed my way through the rocky wasteland.  Might I add that we were totally and irrevocably lost?

“There’s no end!” I whined.  “We’re just going to be stuck out here forever!”

The husband was equally unimpressed, but ever the optimistic soul that he is, he insisted that we push on.  “The trail has to end sometime,” he said.  To which I replied “Yeah, when a crocodile has eaten us.”

Without a hint of irony, my husband said “In this part we’re more likely to die of heat exhaustion, I think.”

After some deliberation and a lot of backtracking, we did eventually find our way out of the sandy wasteland.  What we found was a pretty awesome sight:

Ubir, Australia

Ubir, Australia

Every once in a while, when I am knee deep in stories that don’t want to come together, I have to remind myself that all of the best adventures happen when we go a little further, step outside of our comfort zone and work hard to dig deeper.  It’s only when we force ourselves to keep going that we are rewarded.

Snapshots of Wisdom, Or Quotes that Inspire

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, mostly of the author-advice persuasion.  In my literary odyssey, there have been several quotes that have in some way inspired me or at the very least made me smile.  Often, when I find a quote that I love, that kicks my butt into high gear and makes me want to write, I scribble it in a notebook.  I have loads of these notebooks, in piles, on my floor, under my bed…  Over the years, I have spent a lot of time recording these snippets of wisdom.  But here’s the thing: after they’ve been filed away in that mountain of ideas, I never read them again.  So instead, I’ve decided to add them to my ongoing writing saga in the hopes that not only will I read them to be inspired again, but maybe someone else will too.

By: Andrew Dunn, altered by myself

Natalie Goldberg’s notion of “composting” always inspires me to sit down with a notebook and scribble down as much as I possibly can.  I love the idea of gathering moments and letting them break down in our minds to become amazing stories.  It serves as a reminder to keep plucking away at the daily practice, because everything that we do, see, write has the potential to become something meaningful.  I think it’s a perfect reminder to be in the now and to focus on the small details that bring fiction to life.

Do you take note of the little details? What is your writing practice like? Or, if you don’t write, how do you stay in the moment?

Feed Your Muse #5

I don’t know about you, but when I’m stumped for a story idea, sometimes it is fun to imagine a situation out of a few odd items.  I once started a free write using the words “bird, aerosol and Persia” and got the better part of a novel (yet to be finished) out of it.  It’s exciting to see what develops when you aren’t trying to think of THE BEST IDEA EVER.  Isn’t it funny how the most strange and wonderful stories can float out of us when we are doing the dishes, tramping through the woods…skydiving…or any other sane (or insane) activities during the day?   What characters might come into the picture based on the scenario that unfolds? Sometimes it is best to let your imagination take over and see what it provides for you.

Here are today’s story starters:

1. Write a scene that involves a diamond, a blow torch and a pair of old stockings.

2. Write a list of all the terrible things that could possibly happen to a character.  Now write the scene.

3. Begin with the sentence “We were supposed to be in this together.”

See where it takes you! Feed your muse!

In Defense of Future Me

Young Me

You know Back to the Future, right?  In the sequel, where Marty McFly has to go into the future and save his future son from ruining his life? I was watching that movie the other night and I had an epiphany.  (Sort of like the one that Doc Brown must have had when he smacked his head on the toilet and invented the time machine, except that I wasn’t on the toilet and try as I might, I still haven’t figured out that flux capacitor business).

Epiphanies are usually centered around brilliant ideas—the light bulb, indoor plumbing—but sometimes, they are of a more startling discovery.  This morning, whilst poring over an “eat local” map, I had just such an epiphany: my younger self would totally call my present self a douche.  I can imagine how it would all go down, too:

Me of the Present: Ooh! Hybrids! Sunscreen! Yoga! Health Foods! Early Bed times!

Young Me: Douche.

(At this point, Young Me would likely wander off smelling somewhat of patchouli to not shower and maybe eat a waffle and sleep off last night’s all-nighter cheeseburger pizza bender).

The more I began to think of Young Me, the more I began to feel restless, as if I could attain all of my goals if only there was a Delorian to ferry me into the past and allow me to re-write the future.  It’s not that the present is bad.  It’s just that I had this terrible case of the what-ifs.  If you’ve never been afflicted by the what ifs, they are a little bit like if mosquitos and piranhas mated and woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

What if I’d written more in university? What if I’d stayed on only one career path? What if I’d just said no to that last cheeseburger pizza? (Would my ass still fit into the pants of Me past?)  What if…what if…what if…

The what ifs were so bad that they whined in my ear all night until finally, I got up and began to watch a documentary on raccoons, because, you know, documentaries on raccoons are kind of boring.  And then something sort of awesome happened.

Even though it was past two in the morning my non-night owl husband came downstairs and we spent the night talking and laughing—it was instant magic.  (It kind of always is).  Just like that, the What Ifs were zapped away in one big electric charge of Good Times.  (Good Times always trump What Ifs).

It was then that I realized something about Young Me: she doesn’t know shit.  After all, would you listen to your teenage self if she/he told you to wear Winnie the pooh overalls?

I’m hoping you answered no on that one.

I’m betting it’s not just writers that are hard on themselves.  Sure, we’ve got the whole starving artist-solitary-haunted by unfinished drafts thing going for us, but everyone’s got a few…issues. So here’s the thing.  As I sit here in my thoroughly yuppie neighborhood Starbucks, I’ve decided to let team old me win this round.  I forgive myself for not fighting THE MAN as hard as I used to.  I mean, hey.  THE MAN does kind of pay for our house and stuff…so he can’t be that bad…can he?

Here is what I’ve decided to do:

Be in the moment.  Take care of your present self in defense of your future self, because regardless of what may have been, we only really have the present to live in.  After all, if I had the chance to re-write my life, what awesome things (and people) would be missing? After all, let’s not forget what Doc Brown says about meddling with the time space continuum: “Great Scott! You could destroy the entire universe!”

Have you ever had a case of the What Ifs?  If so, how do you get rid of them? Also: if you had a DeLorean and could go back and tell a younger version of yourself something, what would it be?

Why Don’t You Sleep On It?

Hello blog friends! Today we have a special guest joining us. Please welcome Nessa, a friend and fellow writer, who will be talking today about a recent adventure that she had…

Tats

There are certain decisions that require a clear head to make. You can get away with ordering your morning coffee when you’re sleep deprived, and it’s likely one of the better decisions you’ll make all day. Major decisions, like body modification, you should probably sleep on.

Which was my mistake.

Let me set this up for you: I work as support staff for a small municipal police force. One of my many duties is to search and supervise female prisoners, so it’s not uncommon to get a phone call in the wee hours of the morning to the tune of “We have a charming lady here, and we’d love for you to meet her!”

On the morning in question, this call came at ten to one in the morning, and I’d been asleep for three hours, give or take a little bit. So fifteen minutes later I’m walking in to work and we have a banshee in the cells: We had a screamer. And it was a cycle: ten minutes of silence followed by five minutes of screaming. For six hours. The noise drives most people crazy, but I really don’t mind it; it gets pretty entertaining when we’re holding someone who’s intoxicated until they sober up. This was one such occasion, and I had a great time making Silence of the Lambs references with the on-duty dispatcher (“It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again!”).

By 8:00 AM, I’m hitting my stride! I have officers telling me that I can go home and get some sleep, but I thought, “Why would I go home? I could have six hours of over time today, and there’s not a lot going on!” Over time and a slack day at the office? What wasn’t to love? So I stayed at work, determined to last the eight-hour shift I was scheduled to work.

This will henceforth be referred to as Mistake Number One.

Mistake Number Two was when I started flipping through page after page of literary tattoos. At first, I was just curious if I would know any of the quotations that people were having permanently placed on their bodies, and I wasn’t terribly surprised when I didn’t know any of the books. It was alright, though. I’m a book nerd. I know what it’s like to have a novel affect me so profoundly that it makes sense to wear part of it every day from here until eternity.

Then I started to recognize quotes.

And then I started to wonder what I would ever get for a quote tattoo.

And then I saw it: Tolkien’s Elvish on someone’s foot.

It was translated below the picture to reveal one of my favorite quotes from the trilogy: “Not all those who wander are lost.” I was nearing the end of Basic Training, and I was seeing Mac in a month; this quote hit home with new force after all of the trials that I had faced and it seemed perfect to have the quote on a foot. I mean, feet allow us to wander, right?

So I took my feet and went wandering to check the mail for the office. It was a short walk, on a cloudy morning, and my brain was buzzing since a coworker had bought me a tea. I don’t normally drink a lot of tea, and usually it’s herbal blends that have no caffeine in them. This was a large tea, and it had lots. I was now at the special stage of sleep deprivation where my mental process ran like “Bingo-bingo-bingo-SQUIRREL! OH MY GOD THAT MAN IS WALKING A CAT!”

It was actually a Chihuahua, so I’m sure there are people who would argue that it counts as a cat. But now you know where my mind was when I decided it was a brilliant idea to have “Not all those who wander are lost” tattooed on my foot. In elvish.

And it was brilliant! I would give my foot written instruction on what to do should I ever go through a period so stressful that it was akin to walking through Hell in bare feet. I could just autopilot. And then I thought, “Walking… Bilbo’s walking song!” Now, that was far too long to have tattooed on a foot; I have itty-bitty feet, so I’d have to use the abridged version. So I was faced with the decision: Which one did I want to get?

Secret Option C: Both.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Mistake Number Three.

Now, if I had been smart, I would have recognized that I was feeling “special” at the time. The Chihuahua incident was proof positive of it. I should have said “I’m going to go home and sleep on this decision before I commit myself to it.” Did I?

Of course not! What story worth telling ever included the phrase “And so I slept on it”?

I contacted a tattoo artist and set up an appointment. Then I contacted the very good friend who had been a part of previous bad decisions, like “Bring me more Sambuca!” and “I could totally write a thesis on Harry Potter.”

The conversation went like this:

“Ben,” I said. “I’m getting new tattoos! You should come with me!”

“I though you were off tattoos?” he says. “You said the last one was really rough. Where are you getting this one?”

“Two! On my feet!”

“Isn’t that going to hurt?”

“Probably.”

“This is probably a very bad idea. Why am I coming?”

“Because I need someone to drive when it’s over. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to walk, let alone drive.”

“Nessa, if you end up on your hands and knees in the middle of the road again, I’m going to be very unhappy.” (This was the culmination of Bad Decision “Bring Me More Sambuca!”)

“It was a parking lot, Ben!”

“No, it was the road! There was on coming traffic!”

“Well. I’ll be damned. So are you coming or not?”

He sighed. “What time are you picking me up?”

By the time I went home that evening, the decision was so firmly entrenched in my mind that there was no going back. I started to count down the days.

This wasn’t my first tattoo, so I knew what I was going to be facing. Or, I thought I knew. When the needle first hit my skin, I realized just how poor a decision I had made, but it was too late now! And my very good friend Ben, who had stood beside me through thick and thin, sat beside me reading a book and shaking as he tried not to laugh.

It took a little over an hour to do both feet. There was another girl there the whole time having a section of a full back piece done. I’m pretty sure she found religion while she was sitting there, because she kept calling out for Jesus and moaning. I prided myself on giving only the occasional explosive “Ho!” or “Argh!” Ben continued to shake. But I made it! My feet were wrapped; I paid the man, and walked out of the shop under my own steam without limping (which by this point I figured was a major accomplishment). We weren’t three feet outside of the door before Ben burst out laughing and declared, “Between you, that other girl and the buzzing tattoo guns it sounded like a lesbian orgy in there! You should make decisions like this more often!”

I could have slapped him.

The tattoos have healed now, and they’re beautiful. For bad decisions, they’re actually pretty awesome, and Mac seemed to like them when he saw them. He just smiled, heard my story, and shook his head. “Only you,” he said, “would think to give your feet written instructions.”

“I’m pretty sure it may have been genius,” I told him. “You’ll see; just sleep on it.”

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Bio: When not making crazy decisions, Nessa reads, writes, and actively campaigns to have her official work title changed to “Fount of All Knowledge.” She is marrying Mac as soon as the Air Force lets him sit still long enough.

Check out more of Nessa’s stories at http://airforcewifemisadventures.wordpress.com/

Writerly Wisdom Inspired by Fleetwood Mac Songs

Graffiti from Sumner Beach, New Zealand

Nostalgia is in the air this morning, trickling into my ears as I listen to old Fleetwood Mac songs.  There’s nothing better than dancing around your office with the window open, that fresh, dewy rain smell wafting in through the open window.  Yes, Mr. Grumpy from across the street is staring at me again as he shouts into his phone… the postman is likely afraid to go anywhere near the house too and that pigeon which I once named Lester is ogling me in that cross-eyed way that only winged rats can manage….  But hey, sometimes you’ve just got to let loose.

In case you don’t want to jump around in your boxers while being ogled by pigeons and mailmen, here is something that might inspire you to feel awesome today:

  1. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow—be in the moment when you write, but don’t be afraid to keep moving forward too.
  2. Dreams  are what inspire, so listen to them. And then keep on writing, because the Skies the Limit.
  3. If you find yourself trapped under a Landslide, trust that you can pull yourself out of any literary pickle with a little faith and a lot of hard work.
  4. Draft giving you trouble?  Don’t be afraid to Go Your Own Way (at least for a little while until you gain more perspective).
  5. If Monday Morning is really getting to you, give yourself some peace and take a break.
  6. Feeling a little Over [Your] Head?  Don’t worry about what you can’t control.  You’ll get there, because deep down you know you are GOOD.  So believe it.
  7. Love your story and you will find that there will be more Love In Store for you too.
  8. Every time you decide you’re Never Going Back Again, decide instead that you won’t give up and get back to it.
  9. The World [is always] Turning, so make sure you step out of the writing bubble and find ways to interact with books and other writers.  Perspective is everything.
  10.   If the phrase I’m So Afraid won’t get out of your head, let it be there, because when you are out of your comfort zone that’s where the magic happens.