As part of the SPFBO (details here) all the bloggers taking part have been assigned 30 books. By the end of a six month period the aim is to choose one book to put forward into the next stage. So, I’m aiming to check out 5 books a month. My list first appears here and I’ve picked and […]
The short story which remains unfinished; the screenplay which remains unstarted; the photo organization photo stalled; the kitchen still dirty.
Excuses are everywhere: too many projects, too many ideas, tugging you in different directions; or yet another migraine dragging your brain down into mucky pits of stagnation and dullness.
But sometimes excuses are good ones. Like friendship. Instead of spending yet another day at the computer trying to think of effective marketing strategies, I spent Saturday walking. And walking. And walking. In a big circle around a dirt track at a local middle school. One of my friends is a breast cancer survivor and every year she participates in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Since I can’t afford to donate money, I do what I can. I walk the track with her, supporting her in her goal to raise the much needed funds for research.
Amidst the sun, the wind, and the allergens assaulting me, I remind myself that migraines, debilitating as they are, aren’t cancer. And I remind myself that writer’s block, although it can be deadly to my career, won’t kill me. So I walk, and let my brain float free with no thoughts other than those of putting one foot in front of the other. If a cancer survivor can do this, so can I.
So, days later, I continue to put one foot in front of the other. And I continue to hit one key on the keyboard after the other.
Progress in defeating my migraines is slow, but steady. With the help of acupuncture, every week shows improvement. I can look at that bottle of pain killers and say, I don’t need one of those.
And I will (WILL) finish that zombie story which popped into my head during my Baja vacation (way back in March). I will finish a first draft by Sunday. If I don’t, you can scold me. The first draft may not be pretty, but it will be done. One stumbling zombie step at a time.
Actually we do. In fact, we encourage it! We let our friends bounce ideas off of us. We help each other set and track goals. We give each other feedback. We offer words of understanding and sympathy when things don’t go well and those rejections roll in. And we promote each other.
So if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre and would like to try some new authors, please check out these terrific offerings from my good friends Xina and Cheryl!
And if you’re a writer, keep writing. Get together with your friends. Create your own writers workshop group. Don’t let your friends give up. And don’t you give up either.
If you’ve never tried acupuncture, it’s hard to describe the sensation of those little needles going in, but they don’t hurt. Except for the ones in my ear, and I gradually got used to those. What was weird – and painful – for me were the sensations inside my head as the acupuncturist chased the pain from one spot inside my brain to another with each needle insertion. Not that I’ve never before had headaches which moved around, but to feel them do so decisively at the behest of an outside influence is just, well, weird. Finally, the pain seemed trapped on the upper right side as the acupuncturist inserted one last needle and left the room, letting my body adjust and to heal.
The pain wasn’t finished of course. It had itself a merry little dance from the right side of my brain to the left, and back, settling into a strange-feeling patch of pressure around my right ear, and then back over to the left, before – perhaps with nowhere else to go – it slipped away, leaving my brain finally free. A stupendous feeling.
That may not seem like such a big deal to someone who suffers from only an occasional headache, but to a migraine sufferer or someone with chronic headaches or cluster headaches, having a pain-free brain sometimes feels like a miracle. Especially for me lately. These past few months have seen maybe five pain-free days each month, leaving me in a perpetual fog. Know what it’s like to feel as if your brain is wearing a wet fuzzy sock? I do. It’s especially frustrating for a writer like myself, with my ability to concentrate, to create, rapidly diminishing under the onslaught of pain and medication. This had become the norm for me. My brain had come to expect the pain, to look for it.
But I cannot let myself succumb to this new normal. Not only do I need to function in daily life, I also need to write. And that’s become increasingly harder as the months crawl by. (Hell, I haven’t even been able to muster enough motivation to read a book.) So I’ve decided to try something different, an alternative medicine which some people are skeptical about, but which others I know have had success in dealing with chronic pain and other issues. I’ve only had one treatment so far, and it’s not an instant cure, but I’m willing to try. I want to try. I want the old me back.
The pain won’t give up the fight easily. I can already feel it trying to worm its way back through my brain, trying to take over my life once again. But I can fight back. And I’m looking forward to a good fight!
You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop: the
twilight zone world of a seven year old!
When I’m between wordly travels (usually due to lack of funds), I have to seek adventures closer to home. Really close to home. Most of my friends either have children too old to need a babysitter or don’t live near enough for me to help them out, so my babysitting opportunities have been rare lately, which is why it was a treat – and an education – to watch over seven-year-old JB the other evening.
I’d forgotten how destructive (yet creative) little boys can be: how a living room can become a demolition derby for trucks, cars, and even Lego robots. The sequence went something like this: crash the trucks into the wall, fling the robot across the room whereupon it disentegrates into pieces, change positions, crash the trucks into the opposite wall, re-assemble the Lego robot, repeat.
And all the while spinning a zombie story that went something like this: the zombie robots invade, there’s a lot of fighting, they eat brains, and then…everyone loses their heads. It’s not the first time I’ve heard JB, or other small boys, tell tales of decapitation. What is it about little boys that they want to remove heads?
At the same time there is astonishing creativity. Just feet away from the truck graveyard was a racing track which JB had designed and laid out on the floor using only masking tape. There was also a cardboard box containing a diorama of some futuristic-looking space station (I think that’s what it was) made from glue, tape, Legos, old CDs, thread spools, and other miscellaneous junk objects…and some headless action figures of course. All from a kid who doesn’t watch t.v.
It was a display of imagination I tend to only see in the children of friends who don’t rely on the television to be babysitter and pacifier. (One friend, who is a teacher, told me that imaginative play is more prevalent in such children than those who spend hours in front of a television with their brains disengaged.)
I’m not knocking television. I’m not a hater. Admittedly, I like my t.v. I’m one of those people who like to have the t.v. on even if I’m not watching it for the background noise. It’s comforting.
But I do remember that my childhood was equal parts t.v. watching, reading, and free play – running around outside with the other neighborhood kids, unsupervised, until the various mothers began yelling that dinner was ready. What did we do? Pretty much anything. No, we didn’t get into trouble…well, maybe minor trouble…but we always let our imaginations run wild with all sorts of silly adventures (all contained within that neighborhood which is all we knew of the world at that time).
I appreciated spending the evening with a child who played (not playing a video game – although that can be fun too), especially a kid who loves zombies like I do. I need to get some more zombie inspiration from JB, and write new zombie stories. Heads will roll.
There are many ways to test the boundaries of your comfort zone. Traveling is only one of them. A more risky method, to some, is to put ourselves – our creativity – “out there” into the public eye. All writers, all artists, hope for accolades and sales, and fans. But first comes rejection.
We’ve all been there. Rejection letter after rejection letter. How many do you have tucked away in a drawer or shoebox? Or filed away electronically in your email inbox? From magazine editors, to book publishers, to literary agents. From faded photocopies of impersonal form letters to scathing commentaries on your lack of creativity. It hurts, doesn’t it?
And in-person rejection? Even worse. Workshops with editors and fellow writers can be a wonderful place to find inspiration and make friends, but they can also be gut wrenchingly painful. But if you can survive being skewered by a professional book editor like the “evil Ginger” (as we referred to her afterward), you can survive anything. Even Hollywood.
In 1996, I wrote a spec script titled “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother,” for the television series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” about Dr. Bashir’s efforts to save the same dying aliens who had murdered his parents. A few months later, in 1997, that script earned me the rare chance to pitch ideas to the series’ producers. I took those experiences I had at the writers workshops and steeled my nerves as I walked onto the lot at Paramount Studios. I told myself I would do better. And I did, though probably not my best. I was still nervous. I recall laughing at a non-funny comment. But I also remember a nodding head, and “interesting” while watching the producer scribble some notes on a yellow legal pad. The meeting ended cordially with a handshake and a “we’ll call you.”
I had a lot of hope that phone call would come, but it never did. That was disappointing, and depressing. But no writer can let that stop them. You have to keep trying. Keep writing. Write, re-write, edit, re-write.
Never dump an idea. I resurrected the title of that spec script for a fantasy short story published on the web. And I transformed the script into a science-fiction short story, “The Life of Words.” Dr. Bashir’s parents became the “brilliant but dead Bashins” and Dr. Bashir morphed into a linguistic anthropologist named August Goodloe. The aliens, and their terminal condition, remained the driving force of the story. Originally published in the journal of Anthropology and Humanism, “The Life of Words” is now found as part of my “Skin and Bones” anthology available on Amazon Kindle.
And all those rejection letters still tucked away in a drawer? Someday they’ll make nice kindling for a bonfire.