Attractive Lifetimes.

“…has he the possibilities of growth that would make a lifetime with him seem attractive? These things don’t appear later—they are either there latently or they will never be there at all.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

When was the last time you sat down and enjoyed a book about a protagonist who is set in their ways, only focused on maintaining their creature comforts? My guess is probably never. In order to be interesting, a story has to have some kind of arc. Every journey requires some growth. Sure, some stories will end with a character rejecting all the growth and continuing on in an endless cycle of futility, but even that entails making a choice.

Fitzgerald wrote the passage above in a rather charming cautionary letter to his daughter after she told him that she was interested in a man. I agree with him wholeheartedly on its importance. The first requirement of a protagonist is potential for growth. Why would we settle for being supporting characters in our own stories?

The only difference in my philosophy is that I believe we all contain possibilities of growth. Have you ever met a baby who didn’t love learning and growing? Because I haven’t. It’s just that some of us manage to cultivate it, while others smother it in comfort and convenience.

Don’t be that person. Cultivate growth. In your characters and in yourself.

Tips from Other People, Part Two.

Writing a book is a lot of things. Fun and hard work. Terrifying and exhilarating. Time-consuming and all-absorbing. So if you are yet to take the plunge, or you are part way through the process, or you’ve just started the next book, don’t forget to make the most of these Stages of Awesomeness. They are…

via Writing a Book: Stages of Awesomeness — Magic Writer

 

One of my favorite things about the internet, besides #ShakespeareSunday and Grumpy Cat, is how you can discover somebody, even if you’ve never met, even if they live on a WHOLE DIFFERENT CONTINENT, and be like, “Yes. This is one of my people.”

The lovely Elise, writer of the post I’m sharing with you today, happens to be one of those people. And she’s got some really good advice for us all. I won’t ramble on about it here, because I want you guys to read her post, but let me just say that it came at the right time. I’ve been way down deep in the terrified dumps, and it’s so good to be reminded that there are awesome things in store.

Plus there’s a photo of Lego Superman. What’s not to love?

Thanks, Elise!

How You Remember.

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”

-Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Living to Tell the Tale

This is important. It may be an oversimplification, but it is important. Yes, things happen that shouldn’t happen. Injustice is a real part of our broken world. But some people manage to rise above circumstances, while others are held back by them, forever tied down by the past, present, and possible future. And how we choose to remember what happens has a major effect on the shape and direction of our lives.

Apart from the personal moralizing, this could also make for a great internal journey for a character… something to think about, anyway.

Tiny Stories.

Hey guys! A whole week has gone by, and I’m still breathing. In fact, I discovered a new exercise that I can totally do, even when times are rough.

Write hundred-word stories. Come on, even at our worst, we can write a hundred words, right? Or if that’s too much, try fifty. The exact word count isn’t that important, the point is more just to give yourself an achievable goal so that you can feel like you’ve accomplished something. Write just one a day, and who knows? You might be able to write yourself out of your slump sooner than you imagined. At worst, you’ll have a ton of little sketches that you can potentially expand on later.

I’ve been doing that this week, and I think it’s going okay. The nice thing is, they don’t even have to be finished stories. They can be little slices of life that can lead your thoughts down new paths. It will still work.

So that’s really all I have to say today. If you’re struggling with your writing for whatever reason (depression, life intrusions, or just too danged busy), give yourself a tiny word count and go for it.

TTFN.

Lost Enough to Find Yourself.

Directive

Robert Frost  

Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there’s a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods’ excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone’s road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny’s
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.

My mostest favoritest poem by Robert Frost. Also his most Eliot-ish. I wonder if there’s a correlation there?

Also my Introvert Manifesto. Let me draw your particular attention to the lines,

“And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home.”

Makes me want to cry in the best possible way.

Don’t even talk to me about the last two lines.

Breathing through the Meltdown.

When I was little, I would occasionally  have meltdowns. As did most of us, I’m guessing. One of the things I remember most distinctly is how my mom would stand calmly in front of me and simply say “Breathe.”

Of course, I didn’t really appreciate that at the time. My thoughts were usually something along the lines of “What are you talking about, breathe? I’m busy melting down here, and breathing is NOT a priority. Sobbing is.”

I was like four years old, okay? Don’t judge.

Nearly twenty-two years have passed since that time, and I’m proud to announce that I now handle meltdowns like a pro.

Sometimes.

At other times, not so much.

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Now maybe nobody has noticed, but over the last couple of weeks my blog posts have (subtly or not so subtly) been little rah-rah pep talks that amount to “I’m not experiencing writer’s block. No, no, of course not. It’s just a little momentary hiccup. I’ll be fine.” Meanwhile my brain has been screaming “You’re not fine!”

Ugh. I’m not fine. The writing has been going slowly and steadily down the tube for close to a month. It started with an inability to figure out endings (what else is new), then progressed to an inability to move things beyond the little anonymous conversations that take place on one of the tracks in my brain. Now it’s reached a point where even my little brain-dwelling babblers have shut up. I haven’t even picked up my notebook in four days.

Normally when inspiration is on a low ebb, I use it as time to revise the junk I wrote when inspiration was happening. Not this time. I’m terrified to even open my last NaNovel, because just the thought of seeing the trash I’m capable of churning out when I have a deadline has me wanting to burst into tears. Hello, four-year-old self, I didn’t know you were still in there.

But this morning, I suddenly remembered how my mom tried to counsel me through the meltdowns all those years ago, and I think I might be okay. In this case, “breathing” means reminding myself that even if I haven’t been writing, I’ve been doing a lot of good productive reading, which can teach just as much as doing the actual work. Also, it’s a reminder that even writing one measly paragraph is progress. If I can feel myself REALLY spiraling out of control, breathing means turning my brain off completely, like doing ballet barre work that forces me to focus all my attention on tiny nuances of motion and stillness.

Listening to something soothing also helps.

We all know that allowing ourselves to have full-on meltdowns never leads to anything productive, even if the meltdown is in reaction to the fact that NOTHING ELSE is leading to anything productive. Panicking has never saved anybody. So I’m allowing myself (forcing myself) to breathe, and reminding myself that life is like Bolognese.

Does anybody else out there have good “breathing” tactics? I’d love to hear them.

Rambling about a Dead Language.

I’m really into listening to Old English at the moment. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m reading The Hobbit for the first time (Nope, I never read it as a kid. I know, horrible, right?), or maybe it’s just because I’m a nerd. At some point I’d like to give the language a study, but right now I can barely squeeze in time for the modern languages I’m trying to master, let alone ancient ones, so I just listen.

Exciting and soothing at the same time, somehow, isn’t it?

Here’s a bit of Beowulf, if you want some dramatic singing.

So yeah. By the way, has anybody out there read Beowulf? I read Seamus Heaney’s translation last year, and I actually loved it. It was so cheerfully and unabashedly testosterone-fueled. It reminded me of watching Marvel’s Thor movies. It was like, “Yeah, he’s spent a few days underwater doing battle with monsters. Without scuba equipment. Wanna make something out of it?” Joyous.