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Just Writing

For as long as I can remember, I’ve collected books on writing. Books about Building Believable Characters and Character Traits. Books claiming to be The Pocket Muse or telling me what should be included in The First Five Pages. Even books that simply asked What If?

More recently I turned to online resources, and the best I found were actually sites about blogging and writing copy. I subscribed to several and started reading regularly. A handful survived the first month, and I still read them every day because they are truly inspiring… but reading them has done nothing for my writing. Or lack thereof.

Book by book and Bird by Bird I read and I read, but I seldom wrote. Oh, I wanted to write, but I thought I wasn’t good enough, didn’t know enough, wasn’t ready. When I did try my hand at writing, it was clunky and awkward, and I quickly got frustrated and went out and bought another book. No Plot? No Problem! Even Stephen King was lecturing me On Writing, and while it was all very inspiring, it didn’t help me write. I was frustrated. Writing, real writing, became just a joke between Mum and I. I was going to write, she would edit, and… then we’d both laugh because we knew it was never going to happen.

Then one Saturday morning I read a blog post. The post itself was good, but even better were the comments. Suddenly I found myself in the middle of a story, and I was refreshing the page every few minutes to see what happened next, and who would come up with what. Oh how I envied these people their witty dialog and creative descriptions. I wanted to play! Not long after that day I was told that I could play. All I had to do was write.

What?! Just sit down and… and what? Start typing? Are you kidding me? You can’t just write. There was no way that was going to work. No way! And who else will be writing along side me? Oh, just the very same bloggers I’d been voraciously reading on a daily basis. Oohing and ahhing over their creativity, style and choice of words. No no no, that would never work. I couldn’t possibly hold my own in such a crowd. Oh but I wanted to.

So for the first time in my life, I made a commitment to write. I created a character profile, and sent in my request to join Escaping Reality. The site launched, and it was daunting and terrifying and so very exciting. For awhile I watched and read, observing the interactions and the writing. I noted the differing styles coming together and met some new online friends. Some were writers, some gamers and some just there to watch.

Finally I wrote my first post… and no one laughed (which is a good thing as it wasn’t meant to be a funny post). So I wrote another, and when my turn came around again I wrote yet another. They started to build up little by little until suddenly I realized my character, Lizzy, was developing a personality. It was actually happening like I’d read about in all those books on writing. Lizzy started to take on a life of her own, and I was just writing it down, and with some specific feedback from my co-writers, I was getting a little bit better at it. Each post better than the last.

I was writing! Not reading about writing. Not thinking about it. I was writing as if it was the most natural thing in the world to simply sit down at a keyboard and start typing dialog and descriptions and thoughts and fears. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but somehow (and by somehow I mean with a lot of encouragement from everyone in the community) I was OK with that. I’d spent my whole life thinking about writing instead of writing.

No more. Thank you again James and Harry. If I ever publish anything at all, you can be sure it will be dedicated to the two people who taught me that the best way to learn how to write is to just write.

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pencils and moleskinesWhen I was in school, eons and ages ago, it was nearly impossible to find real wooden pencils. That makes no sense, I know. Apparently pencils that melt rather than burn was a stupid fad of the 80s, and damnit I wanted wood. Maybe it was my internal architect screaming to break free, maybe it was stubbornness, but nothing but a Dixon Ticonderoga would suffice.

Why am I writing about pencils? Well, I went pencil shopping this weekend, and darned if every pencil I found wasn’t real wood! As a matter of fact I didn’t see a single “plastic” pencil in the lot. I thought it would be as simple as it used to be to grab the only box of wood pencils on the shelf and be on my merry way, but nope. I had my work cut out for me in selecting just the right pencil, and I took my sweet time.

Why did I need a pencil? If I tell you I recently purchased and read Nick Cernis’ ebook, Todoodlist , most of you will probably begin to understand where my head is. Before that I was drawn in by his blog article Moleskine Notebooks: The Ultimate Guide (and how to rank your addiction), and I can only hope “How to Deal with Your Moleskine Addiction” is soon to follow, because I’m in danger of hand cramps as it is.

While I’ve been noticably absent from the blog world, I have been writing, and enjoying it! Never fear, I believe this trend of absenteeism will soon pass, because I’m building up ideas and thoughts on things to write here. I’ve been jotting down things that I think of that normally I would forget within minutes. So now when I sit down to write a post, I should have plenty of fodder.

So, what have y’all been up to?

8 Things About Nicole

I’m not a meme person (I know, I know. Everyone says that. Sue me!), but this particular meme gives me a chance to share some things about me that I may not think to share under normal circumstances. So without further ado, here are “8 Random Facts About Me”.

  1. I was adopted when I was six weeks old, and I count myself extremely lucky to have been chosen by the most amazing couple I’ve ever known. As a couple, M&D (aka: Mum & Dad) are an inspiration to just about everyone who knows them, and people often make a point to tell me so, though I am well aware of the fact. I was truly blessed the day the adoption agency called M&D telling them I had a birthmark on my finger and asking if they still wanted me. They still picked me, flaw (singular!) and all.
  2. Home View

  3. I just may have had the perfect childhood. Mum quit nursing when they got me, and Dad was a high school teacher. We adopted my brother when I was five  and he was two. Somehow, and to this day I don’t understand how, on a high school teacher’s salary we had a large house “in town” and a second “cabin” on Sugar Island AND a 27″ Chris Craft cabin cruiser (very much like this one). It was like having three homes my entire childhood. Each summer when school ended we would close up the house and move, lock, stock and barrel, to the cabin. Then, at some point during the summer, we would go on at least one boat trip to little towns in Ontario for at least a week. How all this was managed financially, I have no clue.
  4. In 7th grade I had a computer class for “Basic”. I learned the whole, start, print, goto, end thing and figured out how to place green pixels on a black screen. I haven’t had another computer class since then, and yet I have: 1) become a Cisco Certified Network Engineer and worked all over the country, 2) designed, created and maintained a database driven intranet for a major travel agency, and 3) worked as head of a web design department. I’m good at teaching myself how to do things that snag my interest.
  5. I am allergic to duck eggs. Are you? Are you sure? Have you ever had duck eggs? It is entirely possible to be allergic to duck eggs and not chicken eggs, so you’d have had to have eaten them to know. Me? I’m extremely allergic to duck eggs. I’ve imagined that one day in the not very far off future, some brilliant soul is going to find that the cure for the common cold or cancer is based entirely on using duck eggs. Great!
  6. I adore Photoshop. It’s an obsession really. I spend hours just fiddling with images and learning how to do new things. I can watch Bert Monroy video podcasts for hours (and admittedly, I do). Alas, this doesn’t mean I’m at all… good at it. But one day, if I keep practicing! :)
  7. I went to Art School at the University of Michigan. I thought after high school that I wanted to be an architect. After all, what else would I do with my mad drafting skillz?? Who knew it would take nearly twelve years to measure up to Mike Brady level? So I moved on to Industrial Design. Six years later, and I was outta there… and I haven’t even looked for a job in the field. Not my thing. Ah well. One day I will have the loans paid off for the myriad lessons learned in those years.
  8. Disney. I can’t write a list of things about myself without mentioning Disney. (In fact I’m watching Enchanted as I type this.) In one of my very first forays into the online world I discovered FDC. The Future Disney Cabinet, an online role-playing community (in MUCK format) featuring Disney characters. I immediately signed up and played Archimedes (from The Sword in the Stone) for several years before FDC sort of faded away as the Red sunfishoriginal members got caught up in “real life”. :) Luckily, we had become such a tight-knit group that many are still close friends both online and off. My life would have been very different without them.
  9. I miss the water. I consider myself a boater. After all, I grew up living on the waterfront (both addresses) and vacationing on a boat. I haven’t lived near the water since leaving home, and I miss it so much. I’m literally like a fish out of water. From the time I was 5 or 6 Dad promised me a sailboat when I turned 13. When I turned 12 he surprised me a year early with a sunfish, and I was in heaven. My goal is to one day live on the water again.

So there they are, 8 things. This got a little long, so I’ll leave it at that. :)

I’m not going to tag anyone else to do this, because almost every blog I follow has already been tagged by someone else. :) But if you’re reading this I encourage you to join in, simply beacause it’s fun! Here are the rules:

  1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
  2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
  3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
  4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’ve been tagged, and to read your blog.

Leave a comment if you’re going to join in, because I would love to read what you post. And enjoy!

Reserved Tea Time

Most every day, some time between clearing the dinner dishes and heading into the bedroom for the night, I fill my silver tea kettle and put it on the stove to boil. My tea kettle is huge and it whistles marvelously. It sounds just like you would imagine it should, cartoonishly perfect. I leave it to sing long enough to enjoy the sound, yet not long enough to cause the rest of the household to start shouting at me, then I pour the steaming water into my Lore coffee mug. Selecting from my stash of coveted herbal tea bags, I unwrap one, dip dip dip, and I wait.

I stand there in my kitchen waiting for the tea to steep, and I can already feel my body and mind relaxing in anticipation. (Is that possible, or does anticipation automatically mean tension? I don’t think so.) I remove the tea bag and squeeze out every last drop by wrapping the string around the bag against my favorite teaspoon, the one with the scrolled “N” on the handle that I bought for a nickel at Goodwill, and I’m almost ready. Almost.

While the entire tea making process is ritualistic, my favorite part I share with the small honey bear that lives on the second shelf of my “beverage cupboard” where I store my teas, coffees, creamers and biscottis. I flip his top open and upend him over my steaming mug, then I squeeze his tummy as I swirl the thick stream of honey around and around, watching as it disappears into the hot amber liquid. A couple clinkety clinks of my N spoon, and I’m ready.

I may not have had a moment for myself the entire day, but that’s fine. Now, here with my fingers wrapped tightly around my hot mug of fragrant tea, this is my time. Until this cup is empty, nothing else is important. Nothing can get to me, and the chaos in my head starts to softly and gently click into some sort of order. My thoughts are so clear and my body so relaxed, more so than any other time of the day. The ritual and the tea can do this for me, and it is so freeing to know I can bring myself to this place any time I like with the simple ritual of making myself a cup of tea.

All Things to All People

Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun.
-Colleen C. Barrett

I work from home in an office environment where the phone rings constantly, and where Al Gore would surely pitch a fit at the small forest under which my desk is buried. My days consist of repetitive tasks and many unhappy people, so some days it’s tempting to let the negativity and monotony drag me down. Today was one of those days.

Around noon I found myself staring out the window directly behind my monitor and ignoring the ringing phone. I could feel the tug as a gloomy melancholy tried to snake around me and pull me down into some dark place and have its way with me. I was tired, and it was enticing to just give in. It was at that moment my little dog waddled into my line of sight and plopped her little butt in a patch of sunshine on the sidewalk.  She closed her eyes and raised her head towards the light, soaking it in as if fueled by the stuff… and I couldn’t help but smile.

My Gilly, short for Ghirardelli, is almost six years old, and her favorite things in the world are sunshine, me and food (in that order). If she can have one of those things at any one time, life is fantastic! Given two or (God help us) all three at once, she’s nearly apoplectic. I envied her so much at that moment, so happy with just a few rays of sunshine on her face, but then I thought, “Why shouldn’t she be happy with just that? Isn’t sunshine the whole reason you moved south in the first place?” And in fact it was.

Growing up in the frozen tundra that is northern Michigan, my fondest dream was to move south. It didn’t matter where, as long as it never snowed, and the sun shone all year long. (At 8 years old this seemed like such a fantasy, but then I realized there are places where this actually happens!)  So why shouldn’t a bit of sun on my face make me just as happy as it was making Gilly right that minute? So I left the phone in the house and took my tea with me out to the back yard for a good fifteen minutes. I called Gilly over, and we lay swinging quietly together in the hammock, eyes closed, soaking in the sun and sounds around us. It was the best fifteen minutes of the past two weeks, and I plan to revisit it again tomorrow, because I can.

I hope each of you can take time out today to go sit outside, away from the computers and phones, TVs and radios, and listen for awhile to the world. It’s an amazing place.

Blogging vs. Journaling

I virtually surround myself with people I aspire to be like. Done it for years. Maybe we all do it. Most recently I’ve added several bloggers to my immediate internet circle, and while I just show up once in a while as a blip in their periphery, I do interact here and there. I’m not a blogger, but I enjoy bloggers very much. Hell, I’m not even a writer, but I play one in my mind. Maybe, by writing more often and surrounding myself with these inspiring folks (most discovered via the crafty Men with Pens), I’ll get better at this. I know one thing.. I’m enjoying it so far!

As it is, I just blurt a post out here and there, because let’s be honest, all this is is my personal journal. It’s not a blog by any means. It has no focus. It’s… practice, if you will. I’m dipping a toe into the waters and deciding if I really want to go swimming. I love swimming, but it may not be what I want to do right this moment. Time will tell. In the meantime I’m going to expend some effort and do some actual design work for myself. A new feel for this site is definitely on the list, which apparently means a WP upgrade, so stay tuned!

Making the Most of It

Since September 2007 I have been keeping tabs on one Mr. Randy Pausch who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the year before.  On September 18, 2007 he gave a “Last Lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University, where he had been a professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design since 1988.

If you’ve not seen this 76 minute video, I recommend it. It’s inspiring, sad, funny and uplifting all at once. I can’t say how many times I’ve watched it, but it never fails to remind me, not only how precious life is, but how there are so many different ways to handle your troubles. I want to handle mine like Randy Pausch is handling his. I can try, but quite honestly, I can only aspire to be the kind of person that he is. Still I watch, I listen and I try.