Monday, May 22, 2017

The Necessity to Create


There are days when I’m overwhelmed with a need to create something—anything. This isn’t a rare occurrence either. My fingers itch to make something out of nothing. And sometimes, the more “nothing” the original thing is, the more rewarding the final product. A blank page. An ugly furniture item. An unlikely canvas.

Last Friday, I searched our basement until I found a piece of drywall nearly severed in two. I stood back and put my imagination to work. I decided the drywall would do just fine. I whipped out whatever paints I knew existed in the house. I found inspiration online, then went to town.

Here’s what I painted.







I’m no Michelangelo, but nothing compares to the time I spend creating. A calm sweeps through me, somehow managing to simultaneously settle me and revive me. I’m not ashamed to admit creativity is my sanity.

“I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories . . . Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” 
Ray Bradbury


Monday, May 15, 2017

Personal Space



We recently bought a new TV. And it’s great. It is. However, I’ve noticed something that feels a little strange and I’ve finally put my finger on it. There’s almost too much detail. There are times I click it on and I feel like the actors are hanging out in my living room. It’s taken me a while to adjust. I’ve gleaned something else from this new TV watching experience and it’s mildly off-putting.

The screen doesn’t leave any room for my imagination to kick in. All the pixels and minute details are filled in for me.

This happens in books, too.

I read a cool quote the other day that touches upon this exact point. Annie Proulx emphasizes, “I think it’s important to leave spaces in a story for readers to fill in from their own experience.”

I wholeheartedly agree. An adept novelist gifts the reader with their own reading experience. The act of writing for me is an intensely personal exploration. The act of publishing is a sacrificial process of letting go. Why letting go? Because it’s up to the reader to fill in the gaps, to filter in their own life experiences as they read. The story ultimately becomes theirs to interpret.

The following are indicators an author has neglected to leave enough space for the reader.

Too Many Details
Like my TV, the author has inundated the reader with a litany of details. Every unnecessary one inserted in the story slowly robs the reader of identifying with the plot and/or characters. Details should be chosen wisely. Use them, absolutely. Details can do wonders to bring a book to life. However, make sure not to pixelate the reader to death.

Formulaic
If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know I’m not a huge fan of math. It shouldn’t surprise you then that I also don’t love formulaic writing. It’s another imagination stealer. Plot your heart out. Know where your story is headed, but don’t color-by-number your writing. It limits all that your story can become, at the same time as dulling down the impact for the reader.

Pretty Little Bow Writing
I’m all for an uplifting or satisfying ending that provides resolve for the reader. I think an author does a reader a disservice when they insert a tidy, clean ending or plot path, assuming that’s the only way to do things. Life is muddy. I’m not suggesting authors need to royally screw up the lives of all their characters (although that certainly can help strengthen a plotline). I am suggesting an author will seriously want to consider their motivation for making things pretty. If it’s too pretty and spotless, readers will struggle to identify. Imagination will suffer.

No Room for Reflection
Even in the best suspense novels (especially in the best suspense novels) authors find a way to allow the reader to digest what’s going on. They play with pacing so the reader has a moment to reflect upon what the main character is going through—they’re given an opportunity to really feel it. To empathize. That is the crux of good writing. Nuanced pacing. It’s writer’s gold.

Premature Solutions
Don’t resolve problems too quickly. Let suspense grow yeast-like in the reader’s mind. Give them time to make guesses, to fret, to become more invested in the story. If an author doles out rapid fire solutions the story loses its ability to root inside the reader’s minds. Connection is lost.

I love a realistic, gripping story, but not at the sake of sacrificed imagination. I still want to read and wonder. I want my own memories and moments to fold into the stories I’m reading. It’s difficult for this to occur when an author has unintentionally impeded a story from strumming imagination. Sometimes, as authors, we’re so obsessed with making things communicate as real, we forget to leave space for the reader. It’s worth paying attention to. Your readers will thank you.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Starting Somewhere (My Initial Reaction to 13)


I’ve spent the past few days a little heartsick after watching the 13 Reasons Why series on Netflix. No, more than a little heartsick. See, the thing is I have been wrestling with how much of a reaction to reveal, with how I want to respond and I still don’t think I’m ready to. Not yet. Not fully. Maybe never fully.

I watched it because two of my favorite people on this planet were interest in watching and knowing more. I knew what I was getting into. I read the book. I’d heard and read enough about the series. 

I watched and endured flashbacks of so many moments in my childhood and teen years when I feared my sister would actually, this time, be successful in her attempt to take her life. I watched well aware of my own stubborn demons.

I watched and I came away feeling more things than I’m even able to put into words at this time.

I will. Someday.

And I have. With and for two of my favorite people on this planet. We’re talking about it.

And that, as with so many things for me in this life, is a start.



“This is motherhood for you,’ said my own mother. ‘Going through life with your heart outside your body.”
―Jennifer Weiner

Monday, May 1, 2017

Navigating the New


It’s been over nine years since I’ve moved to a new area and even then, as I found myself surprisingly returning to the state where I grew up, it didn’t exactly feel new. The smells, mannerisms, landmarks, and expressions all felt a bit like coming home.

Moving this time conjures an undeniable and unavoidable newness. Southern hospitality is as welcome as it is startling. My brain hurts trying to log the names of roads, classmates, schedules, and restaurants we’re told we have to check out. Even the grocery store, something I used to tackle in under a half hour, now takes almost an hour.

Everything is new.*

There are days I crave the familiar. The comfortable. The things and people I know and love.

But you’re an adventurer I remind myself. This is exciting. You love the prospect of all that’s yet to be discovered—to be experienced.

True. But I’m also human and I find, not only for my sake but for the sake of my whole family, it’s good to be honest about the deluge of change. It’s exhausting at times. And scary. And lonely.

I’ve decided to take my time. To dip my toes in, when in the past I might have leapt in. I have no idea if this is an older, more mature me emerging. Or if it’s the evidence of my scars. Or if a maternal muscle is flexing. It could be an amalgamation of both wisdom and caution. Whatever it is, it makes sense for now.

Instead of flinging my doors open and taking the world by storm, I’m tilting my head to the rain and letting the droplets fall where they may. Because like Mary Oliver once wrote, I too believe

“…the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things
.”

*I lived in Georgia twenty years ago, but for less than a year…not quite long enough for much to root.

**Told you I’d be back. ;-)

Monday, April 3, 2017

I Went to My Own Funeral Last Night


This isn’t a riddle. I’m fully alive and last night I had the overwhelming pleasure of being around some of the dearest people I’ve met in the past nine years. I sat quietly as they stood and shared into the microphone some of the most loving things anyone has ever said about me.

See, I’m leaving. Moving van set to arrive soon. I heard many of these rock star women say how much they’ll miss me. I wish I had a profound way to communicate, a larger-than-word way, more-tender-than-hug way to speak into these women that they’ve changed my life. They helped me to believe in myself as a writer, a friend, and a loving human being. They embraced me at my quirkiest and hung on through the years.

I’m scared as I’m about to embark on a new adventure with my family. I’m also excited.

And I can’t think of a better crowd to sort through this tumble of feelings with than the one I was graced by last night.

Goodbyes are hard. But they also remind us of what we value and all that has rooted deeply inside.

So now you know, I wasn’t actually at my funeral. But I experienced a rare and unparalleled glimpse of the sort of impact I’ve had on others for the past decade.

Like I said, they’ve changed me.

“There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.” ― Charlotte Brontë

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” ― Ray Bradbury


*Will be taking a brief blogging hiatus due to big life changes. Will return May 1st. You can count on it.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Write Amount of Pressure

Tension is key for a thriving plot. It doesn’t hurt to experience a little tension when it comes to accomplishing a writing task either. It’s all in the way you choose to react to the ticking clock. A little pressure never hurt anyone. In fact, it can bring out the best in you.
If you’re willing to see things through a unique lens.
I realize some people work better under pressure than others. I’m going out on a limb to say that anyone can succeed when the flames get hot. It’s all about taking a note from a mind-blowing story from the Bible, and doing the Shadrach-dance the second our fingers feel the heat.

Five Ways Pressure Can Inspire Our Best Work
It Sharpens Our Perspective
Tension forces us to come to terms with how badly we want something. When we’re counting the hours we’ve invested and the lack of sleep we’ve sacrificed, giving up suddenly seems foolish.
We Launch into Fight Mode
Adrenalin-charged, we take to the task with a rejuvenated fervor. No backing down. We feel our muscles thrum and our brains tingle. Game on, we think, as we throw ourselves into the current project. We will reap the rewards for going in and staying in with a winning mindset.
We Learn to Trust Our Guts
There’s no time to consult ten different people or to Google every last doubt away. When our time is crunched, we get the privilege of learning something foundational that has the potential to spoke out into every facet of our lives. We evaluate our writing with ruthless, yet discerning judgment. We don’t contemplate what works and what doesn’t. We just know. Because it’s a waste of time to double-guess ourselves. And there’s no time to waste.
We Refuse to Bow to Excuses
Procrastination is the ultimate Ice Queen. If we know we have time, most of us are likely to take it. Don’t get me wrong, time’s a beauty. I’m a huge fan of allowing plot ideas to marinate and novels to organically unravel. However, without any kind of flame stoking the fire, our work is at risk of turning to ashes or ice. We’re tired. We’re too busy. We’re not good enough. Spear that Ice Queen and get to it, flamethrower in hand, and imagination on fire.
We Develop Our Author Voice
One of my favorites thrills as a writer is when I stamp a watermark of myself on the page. Here’s the tricky part, time is necessary when it comes to authors discovering voice. No way around it, to possess a strong writer voice it takes years of discipline.
Another way to look at this…when are you most likely to divulge your secrets? When do things have the potential to get crazy real? Answer: When your feet are to the fire. In small bursts of pressure-filled time we can dig up some of the best that exists inside us. It’s the pressure that coaxes it out from where it may have remained dormant for years if all continued status quo. Flames refine us.
I frequently create self-appointed deadlines. Keeps me on my toes. Keeps my material fresh.
Make tension work for you.

Now, Abednego. (Or as I hear it in my head, I’d better go.)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ice Wine


Because we have a disarray of boxes all over our house, and I have more to do than I could possibly cross off any list, I’m going to keep today’s post short & sweet.

It was my turn to select the food and drinks for book club last week. We read the psychological thriller, THE ICE TWINS by S.K. Tremayne.

I decided to have a little fun in the liquor store while choosing wines. I took my time wandering the aisles until I came across these five…


Do you believe we had some left over?


How