Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My New Word of the Day

As a writer, I'm often on the lookout for - or at least open to - language opportunities. New to me phrasing. Picking up a new word. Seeing or hearing what Jessica Morrell calls "firefly words" (or phrases). Catching a linguistic gem which crosses my visual or auditory path.

Today I received one of those in an email. And the email has nothing to do with writing or writers - except it was, obviously, written.

The email came from Chef Glenn of This is the place where I learned about making bark and other handy snacks in my dehydrator; no, I'm not planning a long backpacking trip where I need to be concerned about the weight of my body's fuel for the trek. But I do need some portable foods for those long days where I'd rather not have to go to a restaurant all the time or my schedule changes and I need food fuel on hand.

The word was right there, near the top of the email. Perfect. And, no, I don't really know how to say it. But here on the page you don't have to listen to my lack of accent mimicability!

Here it is - my new word, yes, it's German:

... a natural or recreational area nearby where one can relax.
See? Isn't that a very good word for where I am? Perfect. Thank you, Chef Glenn - for your recipes and the word.
Lester's naherholungsgebiet is as close as the front porch.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Backing up the Dam or Writing Fuel?

photo by Dot.

It's not a bad time. Or necessarily a hard time. But it's one of those "a lot" times.

I came off of vacation into a heavy work time - no complaints, I have the work, I was able to make up some of the work time missed. The beauty and struggle of being part-time employed combined with self-employed is that there is no PTO and yet there is some work hours flexibility.

In that busy time I did some editing of a couple short stories; one of them is going to be submitted to a publication this weekend. I also worked on two pieces from the M-book.

It's good to be back in the garden, which is huge. Well, the parts of it that are still producing. The spinach outgrew itself and now new seeds are planted. One kale type is about expired and the other is nice a big and will become tasty kale chips in the next few days (when I have time to harvest, trim away the woody parts, and put them in the dehydrator). The tomato plants and the spaghetti squash are the giants. I wonder what dehydrated spaghetti squash will be like? Squash chips, anyone?

And my own other projects in the wings. The ideas written on paper while on vacation. The email notes to self of scenes or characters or germs of a story. Photos for visual creations, memory aids to detail in a story. And more.

Today I picked blueberries in a writing friend's yard and she gave me a couple of squash, as well. I petted her recovering dog and we talked about writing, the current political scandal on the home front, growing fruits and vegetables, and whether saving things that might help with a future book are actually fodder for creating story or a memory aid of a time it's hard to let go of. And more.

And I'm looking at that interplay, the tension, between work and creativity - between work and art. Is that a necessary and healthy tension for most of us? I'm not sure. The person I was talking with yesterday says, yes, for most people it is. Because if only the independently wealthy or that magical infinitesimal group of superstars who make it are the ones who are allowed to create, we're all in trouble. Right? She has a point.

My perspective now as I wrap up this post has changed from when I started it two days ago. I've made a conscious decision to not go back and edit out the rough parts or the parts that have changed; I've even decided to leave the title, which is still accurate and yet this post has changed.

I was feeling stuck when I started this writing. Not so much stuck as hovering in a place of waiting to see what was going to happen next before moving forward with anything. Hovering, watchful, wary, nonproductive. Partly because I have a few important people in my life going through some really hard things right now. Really hard. It's given me some personal introspection and "things to work on" and that's okay - but I was hovering, unknowing, waiting.

I think the wind has shifted and I feel some movement.

But the questions still remain about :
- how much discordance is too much, when we cross the line from "artistic suffering" (I know - hold that thought, that's another writing all its own) to paralyzing overwhelmedness
- what are the key ingredients for keeping the energy moving through those times? when it's Our Time? when it's a Friend's Time?
- is it maybe a good idea to just write it down now, as it goes, as it is; without thought toward literary merit or publication? Or is it better to let it pass through and write it down later, with some perspective, with intent? Or both?
- do we really need to suffer for our art? No - that one I will answer for myself now: I don't believe it is necessary to suffer to create. I think suffering gives us insights and that there will be suffering - but I don't think we have to seek out suffering in order to create; we have to be present to create and that brings with it a whole range of experiences and emotions.
- balancing creative time with work and home and family and friends.

"Wallabies Talk the Talk"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Playing with Words


Have you heard of Wordle? It's a website where you input some text or link to a webpage and you get some art from what you entered. It's fun to spend some time there, playing with text. I first heard about it a couple of years ago during NaNoWriMo. I played; I forgot what it was called; I forgot about it. Periodically it surfaces in my brain and I try to remember how to get back to the site, since my bookmarks/favorites are so huge now and after changing computers due to blue screens of death and totally clogged systems I've even given up searching because it might not even be there, anyway.

Then yesterday Wordle surfaced again. I've been thinking about it recently, wanting to play, but too busy to look into finding it again. Then I received an email of a writer's blog post, which included her Wordle from one of her stories.

Yay! I decided to enter the text of the short story I'm preparing to send out into the world. There's an upcoming deadline I want to make for an anthology.

Wordle is an interesting experiment in taking the text apart, from which the Java applet creates a visual cloud. It lets a writer view her work in a new way - seeing what pops out and what gets lost. It's interesting - this Wordle is actually a pretty good visual representation of my flash fiction piece. (On Wordle I titled this, "It's a Food Thing." The name of the short story is "Meatballs on My Mind.")


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Beware of Cats Bearing Gifts

I don't know why this is the thing which brings me to The Writing Vein tonight. I haven't posted here since returning home, despite other intentions. I have done some writing, mostly editing, but I haven't come here.

I meant to.

I did post a very brief travelogue with two or three pictures from each day on my Facebook timeline. Very brief. But an acknowledgment.

And I did what the partially self-employed do, the part-time employed without vacation time (or other benefits): I squeezed out as much time off as I felt I could afford and squeezed in the work time I could around that. Which resulted in ten consecutive days off of work = bliss. And a fruitful and replenishing ten-day road trip. And a return to a string of long work days to minimize missed time.

It was worth it. Every hour.

It also meant I was going from work to sleep to getting ready to work, rinse, repeat. That's okay.

But I didn't come here.

So now here I am.

With creativity flowing and laundry to do and ideas percolating and walking and working and my computer acting up. In other words, life. And words.


Earlier this evening we were settled in to watch a movie and we heard our cat. I thought he was at the front door wanting to come in. He does that sometimes.

My partner said something like, "but that doesn't sound like him." But it was him, I knew. But it wasn't quite his normal "meow letmeinnow" sound, I agreed.

So she went to the front door and opened it. We have a set of bells on the door and when it is opened or closed they jingle, of course. We had the bells long before we had the cat, but still it's a sound he's come to know and he knows it means the door is open.

She opened the door but he was nowhere to be seen.

I heard him again. She heard him. And as she was shutting the door I saw him coming down the stairs and heard his paws on the wooden steps. Then my partner reacted and went to the other room and said something like, "He's got something. Your turn!"

The cat prounced happily into the living room where I was. Nothing was in his mouth. But when I went to the stairs I saw it.

Not a mouse - he's done that a few times; once it was a squirrel. But this was a little brown furry body - maybe a mole? Or something like that. And it was my turn to dispose of it. Which I did, after putting the cat outside so he wouldn't grab hold of it while I was getting something to scoop it up with. Poor rodent.

I didn't get mad at the cat. It's what cats do and he was proud of his catch and was only bringing us a present.

For now his little cat entry into the house is blocked. He's going to have to be let in for a little while. I don't want to wake up in the night to a little furry present in the bed or under my feet in the bathroom.


This incident made me wonder about things which are familiar but don't turn out to be what we think. Like the cat's meow to be let in actually being an announcement of his prize.


Next time I think I'll remember that particular meow.

I wonder what other subtle differences I should pay attention to in other areas of my life?

I wonder how I would write that in a story. The difference in his timbre and resonance. How to use that to build tension and story.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Inspiration: Being Present

Walking is one way that I take a break from writing. One way I find inspiration for writing. Walking helps clear my mind as it clears my lungs. It helps move the stuck places so that creative flow can happen. 

And being present is an important component of walking for inspiration for me. 

If you've followed me for a few years, you know that not too long ago I walked a half marathon, I was on a long distance walking relay team, I did 5k and 10k races. And more. That was good. Exhilarating. A real sense of accomplishment.

But it wasn't always being present in the same way. Not for me, anyway. I was present in my body but not as present in the world around me. I had to focus on my pace, on minute changes in my stride, the temperature, my knee, my posture, etc. It was "all good" as the saying goes - but it wasn't creatively inspiring.
Now when I walk I am more present. I still have to notice my knee, my back, and so on. But it's different. I'm not walking to make a new personal best or to qualify for a relay or to increase my time. I'm walking because it feels good and it makes my body happy. And that thing I mentioned about clearing the air - in my lungs, in my brain, in my belly - so that creativity flows better.

And I notice things around me. People. Rocks. Cracks in the sidewalk if there is one; shapes in the cobblestones or the path if not. I see shapes and color and story. I see something happen and a story or a name or a scene comes to me. A person whose appearance seems to carry a story inside. 

Today I went for a walk and these pictures are some of what I saw. I took many pictures and I don't have stories for them yet. But they were inspiring. 

Do you take time to "be" in the world? What do you see? What catches your attention?