Month: August 2012

Stimulus

To be entirely honest I have not been able to write much at all this week. I feel scatterbrained and completely disorganized. Have you ever felt like that during your creative process? You are not alone.

Everyone has a different way of functioning at their best and while some people are good at whipping up completed projects in that scatterbrained mind set, I cannot. For me, when I am in this mind set I cannot get what I want to get done. It feels like being trapped inside a sturdy bag underwater. There’s a trick lock to open the bag from the inside but the key is near a rip in the bottom and is slipping closer to the hole every time I move to get it. Why not just escape through the rip? Well, you see, there are sharks outside the bag waiting for anything that comes out of the rip, while at the top of the bag there’s a floating deck with a hole in the middle where I can climb out of the top of the bag. It’s very frustrating, more so when you’re fully aware of your own peril. This is an over exaggeration but the general image is correct.

At the same time there are so many ideas brimming behind that invisible barrier in my mind. Like the image in the paragraph above, it’s like being stuck, immobile lest a single muscle flex wrong will land you just where you do not want to be. I sat down recently in my room with no music on, no noise, just listening to the rain preceding hurricane Isaac and tried to figure out why I couldn’t just write. In looking around my room and my travel journal the realization crashed on me like waves pounding the black sand beaches in Hawaii: I was stuck, physically and mentally stuck in place.

The most creatively productive times in my life were when I was organized and  traveling around. In elementary school my parents would take my sister and I to Jamaica, on family trips, and around our area. Our backyard was a mini nature walk, with trees and grass to run and lay on and a swing and a hammock. In high school I my family went on a trip to Canada every summer and I was on Robotics team 233 (which I joined since I couldn’t have horseback riding lessons) and each year we travelled to an out of state regional competition and then the championship in Georgia. If I was not hanging out with friends I was exploring on my own. When it came time to travel away for college I was still in motion. I was shy to go out on my own so I mostly tagged along with my friends. The more I explored, the more my senses were stimulated, my desire for adventure was fed, and I learned constantly and adapted to change. All of this fed my creativity.

During this recent slump I went on an escapade in my new area to find jeans and a nice top. I have only been here a month and I had not really explored the area just yet except for a few bike rides to the park. Visiting one location with my GPS for guidance yielded a new top and a potentially comfy pair if shoes, but finding comfy jeans is metaphorical murder for me: it’s hard! Now my GPS is not a top notch, fancy dancy device but I told it to navigate to one of the department stores it had listed. On the way to said department store I stumbled – as much as you can driving – upon the mall not far from my new place. I think I had been to this mall once before and a few years ago but I had no idea it was so close. Considering the way both the mall and my place were situated we were tucked away in our own little part of the area. Outside and around the mall there were a plethora of shops that I would usually find in the same area only across the state where I’d lived before college. It was the first mall I’d ever been inside where you enter on the second floor and could pay to skate at an ice rink inside. Finding this new place excited me so much that I did a lap and a half on each floor just grinning and swinging my umbrella before I noticed my stomach was demanding food. The quest for food lead me to finding a wonderful Thai place in the food court that I would like to try again.

Back in my room contemplating this adventure I decided that this was it. I was fed up of the bare routine of going to the gym, going to work, then coming home. I missed exploring. I wanted the stimulus of finding out what was in my area and places I could have fun and explore. Since that trip I have located a pretty nature bike trail I want to try on another day and park not far away called Honeymoon Island. That’s an adventure for later this week.

How does this relate to my creative process? Stimulus and marination of ideas is part of the process. Stimulus provides new ideas and a way to puzzle out what I could be stuck on, something that has worked before, and marinating ideas is like aging alcohol: there’s a certain time each needs to develop all the flavors in the brew. So while I am at my current job I will find a way to be mobile, continue learning, have fun, and keep moving towards publishing and working with horses. I will do it.

Time to slip out amongst the sharks. Don’t worry, I’ll keep the ampullae of Lorenzini in scope for defense.

Regaining Vocabulary

When I was younger most of the TV that I watched consisted of animal documentaries so I was learning a lot of information that I was interested and invested in. I read a lot and I was writing whatever whenever it came to me, whether it was a five day streak of inspiration or thirty minutes on slow days. I would string my writing and conversations with new words I learned and I was constantly collecting information.

More recently I picked up an old crossword puzzle book and started on the last puzzle I had left off on thinking, “Yeah, my vocabulary is awesome! I can pick this back up no problem!” What a disappointment. I am ashamed to say I could decipher very few of these clues on my own unlike when I had first picked it up. Now, I’m not talking about high level puzzles with words and terms pulled from the dark corners of the dictionary reserved for the elite and stuffy. No, I’m talking about crosswords with a language level pulled from a well written book or well scripted movies; the words are the kind from a scientific documentary where the terms are blended so well that they translate their meaning easily in the context of a sentence. The words that made sense. What is more shameful to me is that when I peeked in the back for help I realized that I did actually know quite a few terms. The only reason I was not coming up with the answers on my own was because I had not been using them at all so they traveled to the ‘back’ of my head, hiding in the corners with information that is ‘deleted’ every few years.

So I have decided to change this.

The more I learn, the better my writing becomes (no one can truly tell you they do not like learning – it’s everywhere).

At my current job I am paid to watch TV programs and then generate questions that our company can quantify into data which they use to advise our clients on what types of brand insertions are successful, what areas it would be beneficial for them to expand in, what is not working or attention capturing, etc. Now, this does not necessarily expand my vocabulary but encourages the use of my current vocabulary. The change? I now bring that crossword puzzle book to work with me for my break time. Now when I am eating dinner or waiting for my edits to come in I put on instrumental music like Desert Symphony by The Piano Guys and work through a puzzle. I fill in as much as I can of one puzzle on my own and flip to the next one. Yes, I do leave the blanks blank. My goal is to let some of the clues simmer and knock around in my head, searching for the matching word. If after a few days I cannot figure out the word to a particular clue, or if it is something I never learned, then I allow myself to peek in the back to learn a new word.

This brings me to a challenge for you. Go to this site with daily crossword puzzles, start a game for free and just go through for fun and see what you can do. That’s not the only crossword puzzle site out there, just use your search bar! Also, it’s handy if you have the paper delivered to your residence, just ask to take out the section and give the rest back to your roommate or whoever reads the paper. Don’t mind the timer and you can mute the music if you have other music that you prefer to play. If you need help with a clue you can use Crossword Heaven but I implore you not to. Wait until the very end when you have filled out what you know on your own and just cannot go any further without help.

I wish you fun~

 

Shark Week Art

This week is shark week! Although equines rank highest on my list of favorite animals I can’t help but admire sharks. They are the great predators of the sea and they have survived through the dinosaur age and are still a top predator in the ecosystem of the deep blue ocean. They’re even found in the shallow parts near the shore! The more I learn the better and more realistic I can make the fauna in my stories. So this week keep an eye on my deviantArt journal for shark week, while I celebrate by drawing pictures of sharks. For now here are two completed pictures. Click on them to be directed to a page to learn more about each!

Pictures to Writing

Sometimes when I get stuck with my writing I doodle. Often those doodles are associated with scenes from my story and most of the time the pictures that develop from the doodles are associated with my main novel, titled The Green Book for now.

In the past few weeks I’m happy to say that writing for said book has been going well. Recently I wrote over 4,000 words over the course of three days and for the business of my life recently this is fantastic. Since then it’s been a steady average of 8oo words per day and not all of those were written by pure inspiration. On a good day a cloud of inspiration settles around me, dampening out the rest of the world and fueling me with chronological ideas whether I’m eating, writing, biking, walking around the park, or cooking. Often this metaphorical cloud sticks around for a few days before drifting off but even then parts of it still cling to me. When the cloud has dissipated I can still write for hours and not realize that most of the day has gone by and I have yet to shower. Don’t stick out your tongue. You’ve done it with some task too.  On off days I plan out time to write. For example after I put in a load of laundry I fill my large water bottle and sit down at the table where I can here the machine cycles and write. On these days I do not have any particular inspiration but keeping the characters going help me to assess if I’m keeping them in sync with their personalities where as with the inspirational writing I may misplace a dialogue in an effort to get everything down. I believe great writing comes out of both of these situations. It’s like being in a good relationship: while the spontaneous adventures are fun sometimes you can find an adventure you never imagined in a planned event.

The picture featured below is of a scene yet to come in The Green Book. As it is these two characters are still at odds with each over as a result of a misunderstanding that spans many years in their younger lives, and extends generations into their family histories. A lot of the pictures that come out of this story have a storybook feel in my head and I like using textures that make it look like the aged pages of a well worn, much loved book. Who knows, maybe I will publish the illustrations inside the book when it is ready.

Advice for the week: warm up your hand before you start writing, or both hands before a long bout of typing. Grab a tennis ball or racquet ball and squeeze it, or open and close your hands, but do not clench too hard. The goal is to warm up the muscles, not strain them. Straining comes later! I’m kidding.

Equine Rescue Center Visit

My short story “Ointment” from the Kaleidoscope series is out for free on the KDP Select list on Amazon until August 4th! After that it will be available on Smashwords.com. I may do an extra post next week with the link to the Smashwords version.

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About two weeks ago I promised you a post on my visit to an equestrian rescue center. This is not an official sponsoring or promotional article for said center so I shall leave it nameless. So much happened in the hours I was there the first day that I am only going to focus on an overview of the experience.

To find the place I had to stage a fight with my usually reliable gps. After back tracking several times through a neighborhood my tires finally hit mud – wet mud, soppy mud, squelch-under-your-tires-and-threaten-to-get-you-stuck mud. Over this mud hovered the smell of horses, of hay. It was a mini-adventure just parking and jumping over the puddles that had not yet been pulled underground. Once I’d found people and gone over the basics for volunteering I ran back out, changed out sneakers for boots, and got to work mucking out the stalls after morning feeding.

Some horses had not been turned out to one of the pastures and either munched in their stalls or leaned their heads over the wood doors to examine us. The whole barn area was filled with the moist earthy smell of hay the staff had to clean out when there was flooding in the feed room and the sweet musk of horse. It was skin and hair and breath of the understanding, ever observant mammals.

I had never mucked out stalls before. At the ranch where I took lessons I could not stay on long enough to get to a mucking out lesson. My neighbors let me come over in high school and rid their horses but they were kept on open land with the wooded area for shelter and no stalls to clean. On this morning mucking out was particularly difficult because the rain had matted much of the bedding down so it was difficult to tell what was urine and what was just wet bedding. The surest way to tell: lean down and sniff. It’s hard to miss that acute sour odor. As much of that as possible went into the wheelbarrow, along with brown, droppings. Then I unclipped the water buckets from the hooks and emptied them outside. I did not fill them back immediately after rinsing them out. Fresh water was better for the horses and so the buckets would be filled when they came back in.

I even mucked out a stall with a horse still in it. For the most part he was obedient and shifted out of the way when I needed him to, when he was not trying to escape that is. There was a high school girl who came to help out. She had been volunteering there for a few months so I decided to follow her around and pick up on what she knew. However, she said she had not slept much the previous night and it turns out with all the bragging that she did not know much about working with horses. It showed in her hyper skittish behavior, which she tried to pass onto me, acting constantly flighty and nervous that the horses were going to kick. I was drawing on past experiences where I was taught handling and safety by a well versed instructor who fostered my love of horses in her lessons. I am therefore proud to say there was no hint at all of a horse kicking me on this visit and plenty of the instinctual feelings I had on dealing with a situation turned out to be right when an older more experienced volunteer stepped in.

After mucking out the stalls the high school girl walked around the pastures with me pointing out the horses, naming them, describing them, telling me which had children and where they were – there were even a few courtships in progress apparently.

The herd grazed the refreshed earth and lifted their heads to watch us occasionally. At first the one donkey brayed at several intervals and when I looked over it appeared he was breaking up scuffles between the horses. There were so many, grey, flea bitten, bay, dun, chestnut… Some of the horses I met were mouthy and pushed near to lick my arms and hands as if they were salt blocks. It was similar to being licked by a dog and the affection (and begging for treats) was clear.

I found that like each time I had been around horses I had a particular fondness for the stubborn ones and the giants of the herd. Two of the largest horses were brothers and I followed them along the fence and rubbed the soft hair on their neck while they grazed. Given the time I would have probably just leaned against them and immersed myself in the smell of them while they walked and ate as I did for many afternoons with my neighbor’s gelding. Unfortunately, this time I wanted to absorb as much as I could and bent to the task of chasing the mischievous stallion at the center back into his small pasture, lest he eat something poisonous in the area he had escaped to.

Though the pastures were mucked with mud and my legs ached for two days from trudging through it, and my hands throbbed from lifting so many water buckets, the proximity to equines was worth it. Plus, I came away with more clues on how to write body language for both animals and humans.

Until next week, happy trails!