Sources of Inspiration

 People have commented to me that they can’t imagine where I come up with the ideas to write stories.  I tell them that it’s really not a problem, the ideas are everywhere!  I think it’s just about how you look at the world.  I recently saw a graphic that (Gale/Gail/Gayle?) from A Beautiful Mess Inside had created which said, “Legend has it that when you can’t sleep it is because you are awake in someone else’s dream.”  My brain instantly started spinning.  Do they mean that the other person dreaming about you is keeping you awake or that you’re actually a figment of someone else’s dream?  This… this should be a story.  

I see ideas like this all day long, in newspaper stories, in everyday life and online.  I recently found a few web sites that I find inspiring, either because they rang true and touched me, or because they made me laugh and life is too damn depressing.  (According to Martha Beck we should be getting 30 LPD, or laughs per day.  Are you?)

 The first web site I found through Pinterest is about a stay at home Dad with a two year old who writes on Post-it notes then photographs them to write blog entries.  Several of them made me laugh and I could relate to others.  You can check him out at http://messagewithabottle.tumblr.com/

 The second web site I found was because of the graphic quote above –  http://abeautifulmessinside.com/  I haven’t fully explored her web site but just the things that she turns into images are inspiring.

The last blog I found was from The Bloggess, because of her recent book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.   She grew up in the little town of Wall, Texas with a taxidermist who had a crazy sense of humor for a father.  She was the only goth chick at an agricultural high school.  I was laughing through the whole book but there were poignant moments too.  It made me look up her blog and I was interested and touched by what I saw there as well.  I highly recommend it.  http://thebloggess.com/

It’s the little things that shift your perspective and make you consider life in a new light. Sometimes I look down at my hands and see the age spots and think of how time is flying by, and sometimes I look down and see my engagement ring next to my wedding band and feel like I’m wearing a tiny crown.

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Refilling the Creative Well

When I’ve spent a lot of time creating, like last weekend, it can leave me feeling tapped out.  Like I’ve run my creative well dry and I need to give it time to replenish.  Sometimes I can help it along by adding experiences.  Here are some of my favorite ways to do that.

  • Reading Fiction or Creative Non-fiction – I enjoy lots of different types of fiction but I just picked up a book my husband had bought me for Mother’s Day because it was on my Amazon list, Strange Brew, with urban fantasy short stories by Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs and many others.  A couple of my favorite non-fiction books for inspiration are Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen and Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  There’s an entry for each day of the year and I can just open it to a random page or look up the day for inspiration. (I’m going to stop there or we’ll be here all day.)
  • Taking Naps – I’ve always done this on the couch in the living room, preferably with a favorite old movie that I’ve heard so many times that it just kind of lulls me.  (Casablanca, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, A Field of Dreams, Moonstruck, A League of Their Own… feel like you’re getting to know me yet?)  However, I don’t really have a couch anymore so I’m more likely to nap on a bed upstairs which means quiet, and I’ve found that to be more restful.  Even better is a warm summer day with the windows open and the curtains blowing in the breeze, particularly when the farm down the road is working on fields that aren’t near my house.  There might be birds twittering around outside or cicadas buzzing in the tall grass.
  • A Good Movie – See the list above, if you haven’t already seen them.  Sometimes I just want something to make me laugh but sometimes I like something that makes me think.  To be really useful, it has to be a movie I haven’t seen before, that takes me somewhere new in my mind.  I said recently that sometimes I wished I could just wipe out the memory of a particular movie so that I could see it again for the first time, like the first Harry Potter movie.  I love seeing it over again occasionally, but I’d love to have that first experience of it all over again.  Hopefully there’s something wonderful and new in the movies just around the corner that we can all enjoy.
  •  Cleaning the House – Okay, not so much the cleaning as the having it clean, but I don’t have a maid.  (My husband is willing to help out in this area but there’s nothing like cleaning it myself, so I guess the act of organizing and cleaning is restorative in itself, come to think of it.)  Cluttered spaces seem to infringe on how my mind works.  I feel jumbled inside my head.  A good clear out does wonders for me.
  • Go Somewhere New – Now, this could entail travel, but that hasn’t happened recently so I’m going suggest a technique that I read in Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life.  It’s simple, I take a different route from how I usually go.  I have a rather long commute so I have several different routes that I can take to get to work in the morning.  I change them up every once in a while and notice the changes since the last time I went that way.  It forces my brain out of it’s rut.  (Can’t wait to take a real vacation again but, with a 2 year old, that’s a little ways in the future.)
  • Music  – Music seems to speak right to the emotions.  I remember hearing George Lucas say something to the effect that music is fifty percent of a movie experience.  Movie scores are some of my favorite music but I enjoy just about any type of music, depending on the mood I’m in.  A couple of my favorite albums for nudging my creativity along are the soundtrack to Practical Magic and Eye to the Telescope from K.T. Tunstall.  Something that has a driving rhythm, like Tunstall’s Black Horse & the Cherry Tree, really works for me.
  • Hot Drinks – I’ve fallen in love with hazelnut latte in the past couple years but I also recently bought a couple packets of an old favorite – Land o Lakes (LOL!) raspberry and amaretto hot chocolates.  Bellagio sipping chocolate can also be turned into an awesome hot chocolate with a full cup of milk.  I’ve enjoyed herbal tea but it just doesn’t give me the same decadent kick.
  • Taking Pictures – There’s something about how thinking about taking pictures forces me to slow down and really see the world as I try to frame a shot.  It makes me take notice of things I might normally cruise by in my daily life.
  • Writer’s Group – Bouncing ideas off other people in the pursuit of our craft, sharing the love of writing and creating together is almost a surefire way to get my creative juices flowing again.  I love to hear what other people are working on.  We’re passionate people by nature, I think, and we can get fired up about a project.  There’s a certain glint in the eye when we’re on the trail of something.  I have a feeling if you could tap it, we could light the room without any electricity.

Writer’s block is no fun and it can be incredibly frustrating.  The frustration can create a snowball effect.  Remembering to refill my creative well can help keep that from happening.  Definitely worth the time and attention.

What do you do to refill your creative well?

For your inspiration…

Disappointment? Maybe

Well, I finally recieved the e-mail from the New York Foundation for the Arts.  I did not qualify for a Fellowship this year.  Oddly, I’m not that disappointed.  I’m not sure if that’s because I knew it was a long shot (but worth it at $7,000.00!) or because things have been going pretty well with Yahoo! Voices.  (Though not nearly to the tune of $7,000.00.)  Maybe I’ll be more disappointed tomorrow, or maybe I’ll just get on with writing some more.

I had a busy weekend, submitting various pieces of writing to Yahoo! Voices.  My latest one just posted.  It’s actually an essay that has taken me over a year to write, about the night a tiny tornado waltzed through our yard and sideswiped us.  I was home alone with the baby.  Funny how you run on instinct when something like that happens. I called it 27 Minutes, though maybe I should have called it The Tiny Tornado That Waltzed Through My Yard.

I started that essay about five times but never quite finished it.  It’s not very long so all I can say is that my brain resisted it.  I suppose that’s natural when you are writing about a traumatic experience.  I still get very nervous when it storms in the evening.  I’m not sure if that will ever go away.  Writing is supposed to be therapeutic, and I suppose it can be, but I don’t think this has helped me that much.  I think time has done the most good.  Still, I’m oddly proud that I finally got it out and done.  My writer’s group suggested marketing it to many different venues but I felt like I just needed to be done with it.  So, there it is.  Maybe some people will find it interesting.

6/12 – Okay, a little more disappointed today.  Things to do though.  Best to just keep moving along.

Here’s a pic from the next morning.

27 Minutes Pic

Carriage house roof lying on garage and my car.

Editing and The End of the Line

Well, it’s been a great run but it had to end sometime. Yahoo! Voices has updated their top spots. Devolution: The Beginning garnered 279,448 views and my villanelle, Regrets: A Confessional Villanelle, received 56,639 views before Yahoo! booted them out of the top spots on their Creating Writing page. 
 
I received some really nice comments in the process, as well.  One person said the villanelle was “deep and powerful” while another said the last stanza was “epic.”  Personally, all I could think was how tortuous it was to write!  I had the idea immediately but it took me three weeks to tweak it into form.  I’m really glad people liked it.  Someone called the beginning of Devolution “gripping.”  I hope they will be back to look for more.
 
I do wonder though, how many people really liked it, or at least derived some modicum of entertainment from it, since I don’t see that people shared it on Facebook.  Perhaps they copied and posted the link.  Very hard to tell.  This is where you just have to write for yourself and hope other people enjoy it too.
 
Devolution started as a novel.  Since it was sitting on the hard drive of my laptop, not going anywhere, I decided to pull a story out of it when Yahoo! Voices asked for a short story of the science fiction persuasion.  I had already done a lot of editing on it, following advice about getting things off to a fast start, so it wasn’t too difficult. 
 
Last night I pulled another story out of it.  I’m looking at it as linked short stories, sort of a serialization in the tradition of Charles Dickens.  It feels good when you can go back to a peice of writing that you haven’t looked at in six months and think, “Not bad.  I’d pick this book up to read myself.” 
 
I’m still editing the boring stuff out of the next installment of Devolution.  Much easier to do when you haven’t seen it in six months.  I’ll post that then, and this is where it gets sticky, I’ll have to write some more.  At the end of the scene, my character and her brothers are confronted by a gang on a bridge, then everyone is swept off the bridge by a flood.  My character has been nearly drowned and pulled out of the water by strangers.  The possibilities are limitless. 
 
Wasn’t there another novel I was supposed to be writing this summer?  Yes, and it’s happening, just a little slower because my mind has too many things it wants to say all at once.  Feels a little like a flood.
 
 Oh!  Forgot to mention my latest poem, Agnostic Blessing, is up.  It was inspired by another poet I met at a workshop, Susan Deer Cloud.  I told her about seeing a wolf and she said that was powerful medicine.  That made me start thinking about other animals I had seen in the country where I live.  Hope you enjoy!

The Fine Art of Procrastination

Well, it’s June 1st and I’m supposed to be starting my novel today.  What have I done instead?  Let’s see…

  • Got up.
  • Showered.
  • Had breakfast.
  • Checked Facebook.
  • Started laundry.
  • (Congratulated friend on finishing her novel today.)
  • Wrote in my journal.
  • Finished making grocery list.
  • Went grocery shopping with husband and munchkin.
  • Made lunch.
  • Ate lunch.
  • Put away leftovers.
  • Continued laundry.
  • Got munchkin down for her nap.
  • Looked at Facebook.
  • Read Ragen Chastain’s blog on health at every size.
  • Writing a blog post!

There were quite a few other odds and ends in between there but you get the idea.  I’ve finished reading Writing the Breakout Novel and it has made me think about a number of aspects of my book but it has also made me realize how far I have to go in developing this idea.  So, do I plan it all out on paper before I start writing or do I just start and see where I go?  I think the answer will be somewhere in between. 

I’m not even sure where this novel starts.  Does it begin with the short story that I wrote or at another point?  I’ve got the character, setting and scene charts here.  I’ll fill out everything that seems evident and hope it points me in a direction.  If not, I’ll start with the short story that I wrote and go from there.  I like to have a picture in my head of a scene and get that out every day, which usually turns out to be about three pages. 

Here’s to a summer of creativity!

But first, I think I’ll go take a peek at Pinterest. 😉