Friday, March 29, 2013

Rising to the Challenge - Writing from A to Z

Despite the struggles I've been having (and complaining about here) with myself, with my Muse, with my writing, I threw caution to the wind and signed up for the A to Z Challenge.

It really is quite a feat to post every single day (except Sundays) and to align that post with a word that starts with the appropriate letter of the alphabet.

Monday kicks off the challenge with the letter "A," and I've already got "absinthe" in mind.... And before the month is over, I may need the real thing. (By the time I got through April 2012, I was exhausted.)

This year, I think I'll be doing 100 word stories (slices of life) revolving around a café. And that's probably about as ordinary as it gets.

And I'll be taking a hiatus from any other postings in April (not that there've been many of late) since, in addition to the challenge, I'm still hoping to make some headway with a short story (though not the one I originally started with). (If you want to read those complaints, you can find them here.)

But I've learned my lesson and I'm trying to not make a huge thing out of it. I'm trying to get back to the fun. To the bare bones of my writing. To why I started doing it in the first place. And that has nothing to do with markets and nothing to do with editors and nothing to do with readers (though all those things are keen).

So, here we go.

Image via Sarabbit @ Flickr

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thoughts On Accepting Failure

For the last few days, I've been thinking about a writing prompt. I have the outline of a story in my head. 

I also have the distinct feeling of failing-before-I've-begun. The blank page of my notebook is staring at me, mocking me, daring me to mar its face with shitty writing. And the calendar seems to be losing days at an accelerated rate; the deadline will be here before I know it. 

Normally, I get at least a third of the way through a project before I start questioning whether or not it's any good or if it sounds exactly like something else I've read or written. 

My Inner Critic is alive and well and rampaging through my head. He's making me second guess every idea I come up with, question my ability to string a sentence together, and--maybe the worst thing--he's pulling all the fun out of writing. (He's also making me turn this blog into something not unlike a psychiatrist's couch where I kvetch endlessly about my neuroticism and internal woes.)

I know a good portion of the problem lies with my underemployment. I need one foot in the waking, working world. It's becoming obvious that I don't do well as a non-earner. That's a long term issue (due to the lack of jobs in my field in the area in which I now live and the fact that I'm probably dismissed as overqualified for many of the part time jobs I've looked into). 

It is what it is and it may not change any time soon.  

So, I need to concentrate on what I can more fully control: the lack of writing, my entertaining of my Inner Critic, my deadline phobia and general fear of failure. All relatively normal parts of the writing life that are currently exacerbated.

Unfortunately, there's no magic cure. No potion to quaff, no pill to take. No encouraging words that will make the problem disappear. There's just blood and sweat and tears. And the occasional screaming fit.

And, though it pains me to say it, maybe I need to accept the idea of failure. Accept that I probably won't meet this particular deadline under these particular circumstances. And that it's not the end of the world. Because even if I met the deadline, that doesn't mean my story would have a home. 

After all, it's said that acceptance leads to change. Once the idea of failure is not such a bogeyman in my head, maybe I'll get through the blockade and start writing again. 

What do you think? 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Music Mondays: Winging It Edition

I'm not even sure how it's suddenly Monday, but here we are. It's Monday. I've got nothing....

So far, today, all I've managed to do is print up the instruction booklet for our taxes and work myself up over a story idea and then calm myself down about the same idea in order to avoid overthinking it (and thus rendering myself completely incapable of actually writing  it).

And I'm lamenting to the stranger turn in weather. There's snow on the ground. I'm not amused. If you could see my face, you would be frightened by how not amused I am. Snow belongs in the depths of December. The recesses of January. Even the first few days of March, I can deal with snow. But when it's nearly April it is time for winter to go away and turn the stage over to spring.

Oh. But complaining about it isn't going to do any good and I don't want these Monday posts to turn into a complete vent-fest (as they've been wont to do lately). So, music. Here's what I'm winging it to this week.

1. "Carnival of Rust" - Poets of the Fall

2. "Tonight, Tonight" - Smashing Pumpkins

3. "Start Another Story" - Emilie Autumn

Monday, March 18, 2013

Music Mondays: Mental Health Edition

So, fellow writers, I had a mini mental meltdown at the end of last week which resulted in my a. questioning my basic ability to write fiction (which, if I'm totally honest, happens approximately every few months) and b. shelving the short story I've been fiddling with since the end of January.

I've been chasing my tail for weeks and while I like the world and some of the mythos that plays a part in story, I can't get it to come together. I'm missing something integral.

The story was born from a prompt given to me by an editor so I could attempt to write something new (and more content appropriate) for possible inclusion in an anthology. I've never had so much trouble writing from prompts before but maybe I put too many expectations (and presumed expectations) on myself this time. (I'm also not discounting the fact that it's been rather loud in my head, lately. Lack of steady work does strange things to one's mind.)

So, rather than continue to drive myself crazy, I decided to set it aside and turn toward other things. The A to Z Challenge is coming up. I have a few other projects that have been needling me (while I was distracted with the aforementioned short story). I have things to do.

I won't count myself out of the running. Maybe I'll stumble on the missing element. Maybe I'll create a story from one of the other prompts I was given. Maybe. But I'm not going to limit myself to that one creative venture - it's too depressing when it doesn't pan out.

And because of all this, I definitely need a mental health playlist this week. It's a short one. A little new age-ish, a little despairing, a little hopeful.

Tell me, when you're having one of those moments where you just want to ball up the pages of your writing and let the cats have at it, what do you listen to?

Cristofori's Dream - David Lanz

4 O'Clock - Emilie Autumn

Honor for All - Jon Licht and Daniel Licht (Dishonored OST)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Music Mondays: DST Edition

Finally, we've come back around to having that extra hour of daylight in the evening. And with it, some spring-like weather. It was 70 degrees yesterday and partly sunny and I left the apartment, for the first time this year, without carrying a hoodie with me.

This week, I'm working on writing my fingers off. On my deadline-having short story. On my little pet projects that are mostly for the joy of playing with words.

And here's the music list I'm working to.

1. Lemon Meringue - Poe
2. Frozen - Madonna
3. What I've Done - Linkin Park
4. Lullaby - Shawn Mullins
5. Arrival to Earth - Transformers: The Score




Friday, March 8, 2013

Cutting Up: A Writing Exercise

A few years back, I found myself receiving copies of Vogue. No idea how. It remains a mystery to this day.

I don't read magazines, but when presented with free ones it seems a shame to just throw them away. So I find other uses for them. Namely, word collages. (It's like being back in school! Only this time I'm not trying to find words/pictures that honestly describe me and won't upset my teachers....)

This exercise is basically the "cut-up technique" popularized by William Burroughs (and, for me, David Bowie since I learned about it while watching a Bowie documentary on VH1 years ago). I use this technique in pretty much the same way I use Magnetic Poetry (Breaking the Block), to inspire or occasionally supplement my writing.

You'll need:
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Imagination
And, if you want to immortalize your words, some paper/board backing and glue would probably help. (Or a picture frame.) I tend to just leave my clippings loose, stick them in a box when I'm done, and break them back out when I need some creative calisthenics.

Here's one of mine:

Cut Ups

While this poem, in its entirety, is nothing much to write home about (and I haven't done anything with it) I really enjoy some of the phrases and I know I used at least one set in a NaNoWriMo novel. It's a fun exercise, easily doable (if you lack magazines, you could always use newspapers) and a good substitute for a Magnetic Poetry kit.

Have you ever used the cut-up technique? How did it turn out?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

100 Words: The Morning After

He uncurled with the dawn, muscles slowly warming, awakening at the first touch of the sun. The soil beneath him, soft from its recent turning, hadn’t made a very comfortable bed.

Stretching, he cracked his back, sat up, pulled his blanket close around him.

Across the expanse of the cemetery, beneath the crests of milky white fog, squirrels tumbled together, played chase.

Sighing, he turned, leaned against the tombstone that had served as his companion throughout the night; his fingers traced the loops and whirls of her name the same way he used to trace her face.

“Good morning, sweetheart.”

For Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge: Milky.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Music Mondays: Hope for Spring Edition

Last week was a failure on the blogging front. I was waylaid by an interview, for a job that I both wasn't entirely sure I wanted and wasn't sure would be what I was looking for. My gut instinct was right on both accounts.

Of course, afterwards, my brain got onto me about things like the economy and sequestration. These are those tough adult you work extra hard to get a job - even if it's a job you'll probably be miserable in - or, do you utilize the fact that you're not desperate (money wise - mentally, I might be a little on the side of desperation...mostly because having some kind of paying work helps keep me and my creativity to a schedule) to keep looking for a job you think will fulfill you?

I've chosen the latter. I'm still not entirely sure of it. But I have support. And I'm hoping this interview is a good sign and that I'll come across something soon. (Or that one of the somethings I've sent in resumes for will wow me with contact.)

In other arenas, I'm also hoping spring might grace us with its presence soon. While I've enjoyed the pretty snowfall we've had the last few days, I think I'm ready for a little warmth and wind and the sun peeking out from behind huge fluffy clouds. I confess...I want to lie naked in the sunlight. (Of course, other than a nudist beach, I have nowhere to do that at present considering I live in an apartment.) I'll have to settle for a bathing suit.

Here's my music list for the week.

1. Let it Flow - Toni Braxton
2. Under the Milkyway Tonight - The Church
3. Return to Innocence - Enigma
4. Into the Great Wide Open - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
5. Waiting for the Night - Depeche Mode




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