girl.investigates

because everything has a story

Month: December 2016

Closing time

I’ve been taking a little break from writing and settling into my reading instead. The holidays gave enough justification for me to do it with only the slightest twinge of guilt. That little twinge of guilt made me decide that I would at least share the favorites of my holiday reading spree, so here are two things that I think are worth a read. First, I’ve been settling into my annual read of Winter Solstice. Reading Rosamunde Pilcher is like settling into a warm bath. The worlds she creates surrounds me in comfort and the warmth soaks right into my bones. Each year I pick up my favorite of her books like an old friend and settle myself into a story filled with good people, with love and friendship and good food. All too quickly I turned the last pages and knew that soon I’d return to reality. But it’s not quite the New Year yet, so I figure I can put it off a little longer and spend just a bit more time reading and resting without too much guilt.

The second is not a book but a blog. This morning I read this post and instantly, I’m in love. Her description of a slow mountain town comes alive on the page. Reading it, I feel like I’m there. I can see the movement of wind on the lake and feel the chill of mist coming off the water. There’s magic in the way a story can pass an experience from one mind to another, and this one had me spellbound.

That’s all I have to say, for now. I’ll be watching the clock tick towards midnight and crossing my fingers that the New Year will bring good things. I know we all could use them right now.

Okay, I lied. I’m not done yet. After I thought I was finished writing I went upstairs and piled all my notebooks from the last two years on my desk. I was wondering what I was doing on this day, December 31st, last year. Oddly enough, the end of my notebook and the end of the year coincided perfectly so the last few pages belong to December 31st, and on January 1st I started a new one. So it was easy to find what I was looking for. This might be my favorite part of my notebooks. They enable me to answer these inane questions of when and where and what happened. I’m not sure anyone but me will find this interesting, but here is what I wrote:

It’s here, the final day. The last few pages. I’m sitting at a cafe downtown on my lunch break. It’s Thursday but I have tomorrow off for New Years. The sunrise has been beautiful the last few days. Cold, clear mornings, with frost on the railings of the deck. Ned and I went running—it was freezing. We ran down the road instead of cutting through the stairs so we could check whether the road was icy. Then we ran down to the water and stopped, just to look out across the water for a bit. My legs are tired and sore, it feels like I pulled something, maybe from rock climbing. I went climbing yesterday right after work. I was feeling a little crazy, my head spinning from stress and caffeine and lack of sleep. We had family visiting for Christmas too, and that always adds to the stress. There was just too much to do and I got overwhelmed. I thought climbing might help, and it did, like it always does.

It’s been a short week for me. Good thing, too, because I’ve been so tired. I’m feeling a lot better today though. I think the exercise is helping me feel better—still soft, round, and blob-like from all the holiday inactivity—but better. Good even. I like this cold weather. The frost and clear sunlight. I wore my bulky warm scarf today and a layer of flannel. I feel cozy, all bundled up. We’re going to dinner tonight with friends. I can’t remember the name of the place we’re going but it’s the Something Room. Oh, right, the Dunbar Room. It sounds fancy, like the room of a mansion. Like, the Sun Room, or the Billiard Room. Now I’m thinking about playing Clue as a kid. Ms. Flannel, with the scarf, in the Dunbar Room.

So it’s dinner tonight and then a three, maybe four day weekend. And my birthday. I’m trying to get Monday off so my birthday won’t be a normal Sunday. I hate Sundays. Me and Sundays, we have a rough relationship. We have an agreement though, where I try not to think about them too much and they promise only to come once a week. It seems to be working okay so far.

I’ve been reading through my journal. I’ve been trying to think about this year in broader strokes. What 2015 has been for me. Finishing a year and a journal at the same time, I feel obligated to take a moment of reflection. To make something of these last few pages. This time last year, partner and I were newly serious but not yet living together. I was journaling sporadically. I’m trying to remember what we did for my birthday last year but I can’t seem to recall.

An older guy and his wife just came in. He walked up to me and said he was a tourist. He said he was assuming I was a local and asked if I was writing a book. I told him I was just writing on my lunch break. His wife was standing in line, glancing over at her errant husband. I wondered if he walked up to random people in cafes a lot. But he apologized for bothering me on my on break. You get one quiet hour in the day and here I am barging up and bothering you. I didn’t have a moment to tell him how quiet it is at the office this week. Everyone is on vacation except a few people left behind, holding down the fort. I don’t need any more quiet, but he and his wife buy coffees and leave.

…I’m home now. I got a bottle of Rendezvous Rye, from High West, and made myself a mini sazerac. Mini, as in half of everything. If I may toot my own horn, for a moment, I must say that I am quite happy with my sazerac. Although I suspect that the rye is doing all the work really. I suppose I don’t need some grand conclusion here. The day is done, the year is done, this journal is done. Not with a grand finale like a play or a symphony, but like life.

Things are, until they end.

Here’s to the turning of the year,

Carol

Welcome BlogHoppers!

I hope you’re all having a good December and enjoying being done with Nano. I also hope you have slightly more comfortable writing locations than the one in my photo. What can I say, I like to write on location. This one is from Glacier National Park in the fall, where I thought and wrote about the movement of rain and water across the continent. There was a lot of rain to think about, on that trip. Right now I’m writing on location from my couch. It’s warmer here. And drier. Ned agreeNed on couchs.

After the mad dash to finish fifty thousand words last month, it’s been nice to slow down a little and think more about what I’m writing. I’ve had some time to learn about how I might make my writing better instead of just spewing out words. I particularly enjoyed reading this article on using theme in fiction writing. Also, I’ve gone through a few of my favorite books and tried to dissect what it is I like about them. Since Nick Hornby is one of my favorite authors, I’m finally getting around to reading his memoir, Fever Pitch. It’s sort of incredible how engaging it is despite my complete lack of interest in the British ‘football’ scene in the seventies. I guess, in the end, it’s about people not players. About family, not fields. Sorry, I felt the compulsion to alliterate there. I won’t do it again. Probably.

I’ve also signed myself up for a writing class at Hugo House in January. I’ve been writing all by my onesie for a while now and I’ve been think I’m way past due for a little guidance. When I first started writing I didn’t worry about having no formal training in writing whatsoever. Who cares about that? Writing is just communication and we all do that every day! Then I read something that I wrote a few months ago. Have we invented time machines yet? Because I want to go back in time and tell myself to go take a writing course for ****’s sake.

Recently I finished a second draft of my short story. I sat there just sort of staring at it for a while and that’s where I still am, a week later. Just kinda staring at it with no idea where to go from here. I know it could be better. I just have no idea how to do that. So I’m singing the Hogwarts theme song over here (Teach us something please!) to the tune of Another Brick in the Wall.

I’m ready to start learning in a more formal way. Maybe someone will even tell me what the hell to do with my novel draft from Nano 🙂

Cheers,

    Carol

 

On Creativity

Frankly, the notion of creativity makes me a little grumpy. I’ve always preferred logic, science, things that can be explained. Things that can be quantified. So I started Nano this month with the notion that if I sat down at my laptop every day and worked hard, that would be enough. So I sat down. I put my fingers to the keyboard. You know what came out? Crap. Uninspired crap. I’d like to think that I am occasionally capable of communicating stories in a way that might resonate on the page, but I sat and I wrote and wrote. Words filled up the page, yes, but there was nothing in them.

So I got up. I put music on. I curled up on the couch. I tried writing in the morning with coffee. I tried writing in the evening with wine. I went to coffee shops, and bars, and joined write-ins. I found certain places that made words flow, instead of being forced out, painfully scraped from my head. I have found one cafe where any time I sit down at their table, I just disappear into the story. I wake up hours later, apologizing that I’ve monopolized their table for three hours and five coffee refills.

There is something to this creativity thing, something that I don’t understand. But I accept it, now. I go to my cafe and I wear my special knit cap that makes me feel both cozy and writerly. Someone told me once that Neal Stephenson writes his novels longhand, with a fountain pen, by candlelight. While I’m not sure that is entirely accurate, I’d understand if it were. Sometimes it’s odd little things that make writing turn from muck to magic.

That said, my mind can’t help but approach creativity a bit more systematically. I’m always tracking various factors and trying to correlate them with how the days writing goes. The most important factor I’ve found is what I eat. I’ve been trying to get my diet back on track (just in time for the holidays, I know…) and I find on the days when I cave and eat something terrible I can barely get a word out. My brain feels sluggish and useless and I struggle to get out five hundred decent words. So no pasta, no pizza, no sugar. Sigh. I’m eating celery as we speak and feeling thoroughly morose about it. But I’ve found a diet that works for me and if I stick to it I find that my head remains clear and the quality of my writing improves.

Something I’ve found that is a little more ethereal is that I need motion to write. I can’t seem to get anything out in the morning until I’ve gotten up and gone somewhere. That might be biking to the grocery store and coming back, taking the bus to a coffee shop, or taking Ned to the dog park then stopping by a cafe on the way home. There’s something about the way my thoughts change while I am between places. Maybe it’s my restless nature, maybe it’s the inspiration of seeing people and things flowing past. I don’t know, but it makes a difference.

One element that I’m sure will comes as no surprise to anyone is that my best writing days involve coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I know this is no revelation. Coffee has been part of the intellectual and creative process for a very long time, dating back at least as far as the 17th century during the rise of the English coffee house. Coffee is often given a role in the rise of the enlightenment, and those are some serious credentials. It’s funny though, the enlightenment saw the rise of reasoning over other sources of knowledge. I’m not sure which of those categories creativity falls into. To me, it’s outside of the world of reasoning. You can’t argue with inspiration, it just comes or it doesn’t.

I do want to say that none of this is intended to diminish the importance of hard work. When professional authors say that nothing is more important than working hard, I believe them. There’s no substitute for sitting yourself down in front of that keyboard (or fountain pen) every damn day. I’ve just come to believe that the little rituals you place around this time, they matter too. Not everything can be explained. Some things you just have to accept.

Cheers,

Carol

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