September 9, 2016

Ideas Catching Fire

Oh my god, oh my god!! I just came up with the greatest idea for a novel!! A series, actually!  It’s called The Moshfeigh.  Oh, I could just bury my head in this idea and not come up for months. I don’t want to say much about it other than it’s science fiction and it's very Ursula Le Guin-esque. Lush world, competing idealogies, one insignificant being must save her species from subjugation. Lots of social and political intrigue. Hmmmm. 

I’m at the exciting world-building stage that’s in some ways the very best! Because you haven’t had to do any hard work yet, just play play play.

One itsy-bitsy problem: I have at least five book ideas ahead of this one. Two in my Wyoming Chronicles series, two in the Round Earth series, and a memoir. And why oh why do I always think in series?

You heard it here first, folks. Let's see which idea wins out ...

September 5, 2016

Despair to Optimism

As I’ve mentioned before, I have long cycle manic depression. Not diagnosed or anything, but every 3 months or so I cycle from optimism to despair.  In the despair phase, I feel like I totally suck. It’s hard to get anything creative done, because, you know, what’s the point? In the optimism phase, I’m manic, I’m going, I’m a creative fireball.

I’m not way out there. In optimism, I’m not unreasonably manic. I’m just upbeat and motivated and getting a lot done.  In despair, I’m not suicidal (usually).  I’m just reamed out, empty.

And, at the moment, I’m transitioning from despair to optimism. Could you tell? By the fact that I’m blogging? 

Something that happens, which I always notice on this part of the cycle, is that I turn outward.  My mind and emotions are no longer a hamster on the wheel. Instead, projects come toward me like road signs and I follow them and everything starts to hum along.  I notice how absolutely fabulous it feels to create and to put things out there. Who cares if these victories are tiny ~ publishing a blog post, posting a photo for photo-a-day, having a meaningful exchange on Facebook with another writer. 

But, the thing is, because I open up and start saying YES to the universe, good things come my way.  A friend recently sent on a call for a writing opportunity, and I followed up.  Had I been in the depths of despair, I would have let it pass. But since I’m revving up, I took it and followed up. And I got the assignment! 

It would be so easy to say, “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, girl! It’s all in your power to control. Why don’t you just be optimistic all the time?” Well, as many of you know, it’s not that easy.  It’s also a subtle way of blaming the victim. “It’s your own damn fault you’re depressed. If you’d just eat better/get some work done/focus, it’d all go away.” Riiiiiight. 

A lot of the time I can white knuckle it.  I can force myself to get things done. At least get up in the morning and get dinner on the table. But, sometimes, I just can’t. It takes more emotional energy and courage than I possess. 

But when I’m on, man oh man. One of my most recent novels I wrote start-to-finish in two months. TWO MONTHS. 

At least I’ve learned moderation in my habits (thanks in part to my supportive husband). That makes the lows less low and the highs more sustained. When I was a teenager and knew nothing about moderation, it was all lows, pretty much. 

But really what I wanted to say was that CREATIVITY ROCKS!!  Nothing beats the feeling of things coming out of your brain and body and into being. Nothing.  It’s manna from heaven! 

September 2, 2016

Slow TV

Feeling rushed?  Try some slow TV.  Watch the complete train trip from Bergen to Oslo, Norway.  All 7 hours, 14 minutes, and 13 seconds. No car crashes, just rolling countryside.  I love the idea!!

September 1, 2016

The World Is an Alien Place

You know, if you really think about it, the world is an alien place.

We go through our days living inside our heads and bodies and rarely really look at things or think about things. 

Or maybe I should speak for myself:  I go through my days living inside my head and body and rarely really look at things or think about things. 

But if you take a moment to observe and to question, or to do some research, you realize that the world is fantastic, and truth is stranger than fiction.

I mean, you could spend your whole life just reading about and figuring things out about the world. It’s truly amazing.

I remember realizing, when I came to college, that I truly could be anything and that anything I wanted to learn was literally right there within my grasp in the library. Now it’s on the internet, the whole world of knowledge.

It made me want to scream with excitement and possibility.

The world would be a better place of everyone wanted to scream with excitement and possibility.

August 31, 2016

Hot Pork Sandwiches As a Metaphor for Life

I made hot pork roast sandwiches for supper tonight.  You know the ones?  You take leftover pork roast, slice it thinly. You chop some more pork into small pieces and fry it and make a nice pork gravy out of the fried pork, chicken stock, and corn starch to thicken. Then you serve it by layering a slice of bread, a piece of pork, and hot pork gravy.  It’s yummy and easy and comfort food.

If I’d really been doing it right, I would have made homemade mashed potatoes, but I was running late on time.  So just fresh sliced apples and steamed broccoli with lemon pepper on the side and some pickles.

It’s funny how everyone has their own system for eating.  Some people eat out all the time. Some people only eat homemade. Some people favor lots of cheese and cream. Some people favor veggies.  I lean toward unprocessed homemade food. Sure, on a week when we’re running late to everything, we’ll grab something at Wendy’s or nuke a frozen dinner, but in general I try to make something homemade.

I have lots of shortcuts.  For breakfast, I buy sausages and cook them all slightly underdone and then freeze them so that they can be nuked to warm for breakfast.  They’re better than the ones you buy already cooked.  I make a parfait by layering fruit and yogurt and cereal or chocolate chips. We have bagels and cream cheese or toast with butter and toppings.

Dinners, I try to have all 4 or 5 food groups: a protein, a veg, a fruit, a grain, and milk. So I’ll roast or crockpot or time-bake some meat of some kind, I’ll steam some veggies, we’ll have bread and butter or I’ll timer some rice, and I’ll chop up some fresh fruit.

I guess my yen is for unprocessed stuff.   I used to go way in for strange diets when it was just myself, and it wasn’t until we had kids that I got serious about trying to balance everything. It seems to be working. The kids, so far, have maintained a healthy weight, fights about food are fairly minimal, and they try new stuff.

Things that surprise me. My son loves blue cheese and tomatoes. My daughter loves corned beef and cabbage.

One of the things that got me thinking about this is that I’m much more thoughtful about my kids food than my own.  It’s easier for me to help them be healthy than it is to make myself healthy, due to the half-hazard way I was raised.  I was thinking recently that I should think of myself as  a third person. That way, I might be able to treat myself better than I would otherwise.  Think of myself in the third person. 

And all this is a metaphor for my writing.  I can’t seem to convince myself I’m worth it, either in food or writing. Something to work on, for sure.

As Robert Goolrick says, “If you don’t receive love from the ones who are meant to love you, you will never stop looking for it.” 

January 21, 2016

Exciting Things on the Horizon!

I've been absent here for a while. It's because of a combination of, first, being down but then, second, I was actually getting some writing done!

I'm trying not to stare into the face of the beast too much.  You know, spend too much time online gazing at my and others' navels. Don't get me wrong ~ I love myself a good navel gaze, but it seems to contribute to my depression sometimes, and so I have to look away.

I have to look inside because that's where I need to be to get the writing done. And, boy oh boy, I've been getting some really great writing done! I won't say too much about it right now, other than it's YA, but let me tell you, I got the best reviews from my kids.  My daughter said, "It's just like Percy Jackson!" and my son said, "I don't like it ~ I LOVE it!" Of course they would say that, but it warms my heart to the cockles!

So let me just say, wonderful things coming down the pike. I'll fill you in once I know more.

Happy writing!

September 21, 2015

War Is Mass Delusion

Via the Atlantic

I was thinking this weekend about war and about the rhetoric around war vs. the real reasons we go to war.

It started from a thoughtful post on Facebook friend Stephan Heard’s wall:
I just came to a startling conclusion about how I perceive delusions to work: Namely, the idea that the delusional thinking itself is safe: It is a withdrawal into the creative spaces and processes of the mind, where thought is beautifully free-flowing and the mind can conceive of alternate realities conceptual in nature, imagining things otherwise difficult to apprehend ... The struggle being that delusions cannot ultimately seem to exist outside of the consequences that occur via the delusions, nor can the delusions easily substitute for the goals and tasks a person has and can only seem to achieve though standard rationality and purposeful action. Where, then, and at what point, do the delusions become so disconnected from reality that they cease to be connected to the real world whilst yet simultaneously guiding action that exists in the real world, ultimately leading to the conflict that it leads to?
Delusions in general, while not causing harm except in bizarre situations, are dangerous, and that is what makes them so valuable, but is undermined by the traditional ways we are conditioned to think ...

I responded:
Great observation. I think it depends on the delusion. (I have relatives who believe we're descended from aliens.) I think delusion is a necessary part of the writer's process. A writer has to believe both that what he or she has to say is important and worth listening to - a certain brand of hubris - but simultaneously he or she often believes that they are worthless, and this is a driving factor in getting work done. It also takes a certain amount of delusional thinking when you start a novel - "Yes, I can write 100,000 words!" We could also talk about how war and religion are delusional and harmful, but that's a much bigger subject.
PS And I agree that delusions inside the head by themselves are harmful, even without considering resulting actions.

A delusion is an idiosyncratic belief that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument.

What do we say about war?  It’s necessary. It’ll bring peace. We’re just doing it for noble reasons.  Death is a necessary cost of political interest ~ to bring democracy to the unwashed heathens. That it’s for the best.

Why do we really go to war?  Commercial interests. Political interests. Too many young men at loose ends challenging the establishment, so let’s have a draft (both the Crusades and Vietnam and probably many other wars). Because we have all this confusing and subtle frustration in our daily lives that has to be focused somewhere, and we think if life were only black and white, if we had a goal, if there was an enemy to fight, we’d have a place to release all this anger and hate.

To be sure, many of the men and women who fight in wars are doing it for the noble reasons. They risk their lives because they believe in God and country and that they are sacrificing themselves for the greater good.  This is an amazing thing.  A very laudible, if misplaced, thing. But many soldiers (I’m not trying to speak for them, of course, but I’ve read it time and again) get over there ~ wherever there is ~ and quickly become disillusioned.

But we lie to each other.  We baldfaced lie. Since it usually isn’t us or our loved ones who pay the price, it doesn’t touch us.  It’s like cheating on you diet ~ oh, I’m making myself feel better ~ but every time you take a bite, someone dies. It’s like passing a law that doesn’t do anything but make yourself feel better, but every time, a country is invaded.

War ~ an idiosyncratic belief that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument.

Humans are capable of such vast and unimaginable horror.