Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Cleaning and Fresh Ideas

You know I don't normally spring clean.  Cleaning is an all year round affair.  But this seems to be the time of year when I clean more than usual.  Today, I dragged winter coats and boots downstairs - there should be a celebration just for being able to type those words!!  Never mind that there is still no sign of grass in the backyard and snow piles are fighting tooth and nail against extinction - we're almost there.  Another month and fingers crossed, I'll be rollerblading.

So aside from dreaming of far away places where everything is lush, green and warm,  I'm considering new titles for a newly revised story.  Why is it that a second title is harder than the first? 

The first seems to come from somewhere deep in your gut and for a time it seems right.  The second - well this one isn't coming that easy.  I've even settled on a few titles until a google search or two quashed all three - too many others have thought that was a pretty awesome title too.  I even wondered for a time if with so many fun and witty titles out there, is there room for one more? 

With title ideas stalling,  I took a break to make a date with the vacuum cleaner.  It's amazing what a mundane activity like that can do for your creativity.  So the title isn't there quite yet, but it's closer then it was and the dust bunnies - well they're shivering in fright in the far corners where they're safe.  For now.

But that's not all - a date with the laundry came up with a completely different turn for a new story.  Is it the mundane routine of these tasks that makes the brain hunt for something, anything to prevent boredom?  I don't know but whatever it is, my house will be spotless as long as housecleaning gives payback like this.

How do you get stalled creativity switching back into high gear?

And for something a little more fun than hunting dust bunnies - The Long and the Short of It is having a treasure hunt.  There are Easter eggs hidden on author sites throughout the web, including one on my site.  Tons of prizes to be had - check it all out at the Long and the Short of It.  The contest begins March 29.

Here's what you're looking for - the classic easter egg in varying colours. 

Good Luck!


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chance Encounters

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”  Buddha

You know you’re in the zone when you’re writing and the background music, becomes just that, background. In fact today, I thought I was listening to classical music. It was classical all right, classic rock and not quiet.  It took a while before that fact registered but here’s my excuse... My heroine was heading upriver into the wilds of Northern Thailand, a killer was on the prowl and in a troubling situation there was really no time to register anything about music. Really, I had just tuned out and tuned completely into the story.   The details of the story were clear, in focus and everything else was nonexistent.  The zone or as the experts call it – flow.

The ability to tune out everything around me is something I do when I love what I'm doing whether it's reading a book or in the process of writing.  It’s a skill that I can’t seem to voluntarily invoke, it just happens. And when it does I’m lost to everything except what I’m doing.

It’s something almost everyone can do easily in childhood when imagination is in overdrive. Back then one thought could take you into that inner realm. You became so focused on the subject at hand whether it was carving your initials on the metal case of your geometry set or thinking of your after school project; that the schoolroom lecture, the adult conversation, whatever was happening outside your head vanished. So we knew how to do it easily once - how do we get it back?

A google search or two returned what instinctively most of us already know: 
Love or enjoy what you're doing
Be challenged
Know where you're going

So now we know how to make the flow happen instead of the chance encounter I had today.  Oh, and one other thing, as my yoga instructor would often say, still your mind.   Then get into the zone and let it flow. 

When are you in the zone?

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Passion, Determination and Plane Delays

Today I read about the Air Canada flight that was delayed because of the men's Olympic gold metal game.  It's never happened before in over seventy years of business.  Why did it happen now? 

Because of passion, determination and the will to win - only this time it was a terminal full of air travelers.  Air travelers who refused to board the plane until that last second of overtime was played.  The outcome of the game was out of their hands but yet I'm sure it felt as real as if they were playing on that ice.  They were willing to face the possibility of missing their flight and the costs involved with that to see the outcome. 

Writing fiction is like that.  If you want to succeed you've got to be willing to sacrifice.  It's the one profession where you can't just apply for the job.  Instead there's usually a period where you must work for someone else while working to get your writing career off the ground.  And of course there's the juggling of family and friends around all of that.  It's not easy and along the way I've seen many writers fall by the wayside.  Writers with talent to spare, whose determination for publication success seemed to flag at a certain point, sometimes before the first novel was finished, sometimes after the first few rejections.  Rather like runners trying to do the 400 meter and only used to the 100 meter dash they'd slow down, start and stop projects or unwilling to make further sacrifices, just quit altogether.  But I've seen other writers who have quit jobs, survived on pretty much air and succeeded through sheer determination.  There are a few that are lucky and the 100 meter dash provides the gold but for the majority it's the 400 meter over and over again.

It reminds me of watching a building being built in Thailand where cement was hauled up in buckets by pulley.  A long, frustrating process and one that required sheer determination.  Or the time I sat on a ferry docked in Malaysia and watching a slight little man carry  a 50 kg sack of sugar.  The sack slipped and fell into the ocean.  He dove in immediately, again and again and again.  At one point I was sure he would just give up.  But he never did and exhausted after numerous attempts, he finally struggled with that now soaked sack of sugar raising it out of the water.  A sack that if it didn't outweigh him before, surely did now.  But he wrestled with it until others finally helped him and his sack of sugar onto the dock.  I felt like cheering. 

That was determination.  More determination than most of us would have in that situation.  But for him that might have meant the difference between a paycheque that week or not.  Who knew what the stakes were.  And how high do the stakes have to be before you quit?  What are you willing to give up for something before a dream becomes an unreality? 

Me?  So far I seem to have given up sleep. You?

Or has all this talk about determination just exhausted you - Maybe a contest is just the thing to get you through the end of the winter blahs.  I stumbled across this site just the other day:  Books We Love


Monday, March 8, 2010

Fact or Fiction

There is no Central Bureau for Interpol in Saskatchewan.  Imagine that!

Why the interest in Interpol you ask?  Or you didn't.

It's about books of course.  The research for a book is what took me on this particular tangent.  My interests these days, as I'm mid book times two, seem to be dictated by people whose existence is dependent on my imagination. Imagination or not, they still need a sturdy base and that means facts.  So when it was clear that the hero in this fictional story had to work for Interpol, my first thought was that maybe I could visit the local Interpol office.  Time and distance put a stop to that thought pretty quickly.  Interpol has one Central Bureau per member country.  In Canada it's in Ottawa and that’s pretty much a trip to Mexico away from here.  

I never thought that writing fiction would have me collecting a data base from story to story of seemingly unrelated facts. Not that I mind - in fact next to writing, delving into obscure nooks and crannies in the local library has almost become a hobby - almost. So it's off to check out my latest interest - film documentaries.

What grabbed your interest today?