Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Losing Your Passion

Most writers are familiar with the idea of 'writer's block'. That's not what this post is about. This is about something more devastating--losing your passion to write. Now I know there are folks who write because they possess the technical ability. There are others who do so for personal enjoyment. And then there are those who write because that's who they are.

They are storytellers. Whether they're ever actually published isn't the most important aspect of their writing, though sharing the story is an additional element. But the very action of sitting down and composing a story is the essence of who they are. They write because they have a passion for writing. Technicalities, grammar, punctuation, even spelling aren't allowed to get in the way of the story. They are the writers who sit day after day at their computer or with pen and paper, enthralled by their characters and worlds. They're the ones who can't wait for formal writing time or space and spend their time scribbling scenes and notes on bits of scrap paper or napkins.

Writing is life.

Then disaster hits. It might be family chaos or medical issues, discouragement or depression. That glorious passion and exhilaration disappears, leaving a writer husk behind. When you've been a writer most of your life, the loss is like going mentally blind. You don't just lose your stories. You lose the interest in them. And there isn't anything to take their place.

I think I'm on the edge of this lonely, lonely place...this desert where there are no characters and no worlds to explore. I used to wonder how a writer could just close up shop and walk away, but I think I know now. I'm stubborn and hate giving up on a project once I begin. I suspect that stubbornness is all that's between me and taking that walk away.

I wonder if there are no more stories for me to write. Maybe. Only time will tell.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Group Opinions

Very early in my writing career, another author wrote something in her own blog, and other writers piled on, vilifying her for what she wrote. I am deeply ashamed that I was one of those writers. As I look back, it had nothing to do with me--or anyone else. It was her personal opinion on her personal blog, but in my self-righteous take on the correct way for authors to behave, I added my voice to the chorus. I've apologized to her several times, but the damage never goes away...the damage to our friendship, the damage to our professional relationship, and ultimately, the damage to her writing career.

At that time, such an event was relatively rare, but any individual who spends time on the Internet now knows it isn't rare anymore. It's a daily event for total strangers to drown someone they don't even know in the vicious, burning acid of their unwanted, unsolicited opinions. After my experience so long ago, I have refused to allow myself to be drawn into such muck.

But I know just how easy it is.

Every one has something that's a trigger. Every one. It's usually a personal experience that resonates, that sets us up, so we jump in with both feet to batter the target. On a daily basis I read posts and comments that could easily draw me in. But after that one incident left me feeling so desolate and ashamed, I made a conscious decision to walk away, to scroll on by.

You might ask why I feel so strongly about this. It's simple. I don't want to ever again have to face the possibility I might have had any part in the destruction of another person's life, career, productivity, talent. It's incredibly easy to destroy with just a few words. Every author out there knows the truth of this statement. Every one of them knows the damage from a bad review or careless opinion can not ever be made better by a hundred fabulous reviews. For all our days we carry that bad review, that meanness in our heart.

The next time you are tempted to jump in and add your voice to the mean chorus of dissenters, think about this...there's a reason our elders taught us, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Scroll on by.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Power of Music

Scientists say truly powerful music can give us goosebumps, raise our blood pressure, or give us peaceful solace. I vividly remember the first time I experienced the goosebumps phenomenon. My parents took me to a performance of Handel's Messiah. I found the performance uplifting but frankly, I didn't understand what all the hoop-la was about.

And then...the choir moved into the Hallelujah Chorus. Without knowing how--or why--I was on my feet, chills running up my spine, my arms roughened with goosebumps. Why? I don't know. I have discussed my experience with other musicians who were not affected in the same way.

There are other pieces of music who touch me in the same way...The long (20 mins.) piece from Chariots of Fire. Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes.

The young people upstairs play their music non-stop. It's loud, heavy on the drums, and gives me a headache. I would call it rap music. I analyzed why it affects me so negatively, and realized it sounds angry to me. I find confrontation and anger very stressful so this particular music evokes all sorts of negative feelings. I wonder what it makes my neighbors feel? Power? Sex? Anger? Why do they find it so attractive?

In an effort to cancel out the negative effect, I decided to play one of my own CDs and was surprised at the result. First of all, I couldn't 'hear' the music from upstairs, though my music was pretty soft. In some weird way, it blotted it out. And second, an immediate feeling of calm flowed over me.

Certain songs always give me that soul deep sense of peace. Amazing Grace. Abide With Me. Hmm. Many of them are hymns--not surprising when I was brought up in a religious home. Some songs are universal, I think. It wasn't by accident that Amazing Grace was chosen for the funeral scene for Spock. Who can forget the sound of the pipes as his pod was shot out into space?

Music. Melodies for the soul.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Inspection

Every year our apartment complex does inspections of every apartment. Some years, most years it's a simple walk through to check for damage, illegal pets, illegal tenants, etc. Then there are the years they do a full court inspection--like this year.

So...late Monday evening a note was posted on our door notifying us that they would be here Wednesday with exterminators to inspect all the apartments in our building. In order to be ready, we needed to empty every cabinet in the kitchen and bathroom, all the closets so they exterminators will have access to the floors. They will also inspect smoke detectors, replace filters, take pictures of the appliances, floors, etc.

We have no storage except the closets. Yesterday was akin to moving with a twenty-four hour notice. And I'm not sure how they'll take photos of the floors as they are covered with boxes and totes and all the rest of our stuff.

On the upside, I found some stuff I've been looking for. On the downside, we found stuff we need to throw out. A lot of stuff. But not today. Today, we need a shovel to just hold back the tide. And tomorrow we'll have to put it all back. More or less. The hunk has resolved to toss out at least one box per day. At that rate, it will all be done around Thanksgiving...or New Years.

As we age, we discover there are fewer and fewer 'things' we need or want. For the last three years our rule has been 'one item in, one item out'. I suppose we should go to a 'one item in, three items out' rule. Anyone have a shovel?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

High Ground

I've been reading the ridiculous coverage about the rich parents paying colleges/universities obscene amounts of money so their undeserving children will have a place in school. You may ask how I have the nerve to make that judgement call. It's simple. If it takes that much money to guarantee an admission, then the kid obviously didn't or cannot make the cut. Based on the few comments the kids made, I found no reason to change my mind.

Here's the thing...arrest the parents or whatever, fine the schools or whatever, but the kids are supposedly adults, so what are their consequences? They get a free ride in more ways than one? The way I see it is simple--the parents never treat their children as adults, the kids never grow up and learn to be adults. Never.

If the kid went along with the scam, then I believe there should be some sort of consequence. Maybe no admission to college for five years. Maybe not ever. Or maybe all the money paid should go into a special account that covers the college costs for students who would never have a chance otherwise to attend college. Or maybe require the ninnies to work a real job...like digging ditches or picking up trash along the beaches and highways or sorting recyclables, for the same time period they would have taken in school.

While mom and dad are having their careers trashed and their pics flashed all over the media, the kids are living the good life. Is this where we've arrived? It's fine to want better lives for your children, but teaching them the 'anyway to get ahead, legal or not' life plan isn't the way to go. It teaches the kid nothing except entitlement.

All of us learn by making mistakes. Some have the resources to escape the consequences. I'm pretty sure that isn't a good thing for them or our educational system or our country. We no longer know where the high ground is because we're so busy dancing on the low ground. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Plot Holes

Without disparaging him, I believe I can reveal that the hunk is not even remotely a writing critic. So you know how bad any given television show is by the number of plot holes he mentions. Of course, he didn't understand the concept of plot holes when I first began writing, but after twelve years of my yammering, he's getting the idea.

A couple nights ago we were watching a show on Netflix and he started muttering. I wasn't paying much attention as I was splitting my time between watching and reading. Suddenly, he says, "Plot hole! They never tell you how they know this!"

I had to laugh. If my non-reading husband can point out the plot issues...well, you know it's a truck size hole.

Readers might wonder how that can happen. And I have the answer. The writer carts the story around in their head for the duration. From beginning to end, they have an idea of the general layout. They sit at their computer pounding away on the keyboard, making sure the basic parameters of the story are present, but often they miss the holes simply because they know in their brain what the story is about. And what they know never makes it into the written story.

It's easy to notice the holes if you've never read/watched the story. They're obvious. But when you've worked and reworked and revised and edited a story over a period of months, the questions fade into the overall noise and background. Then you leave the reader or watcher wondering what in the world you were thinking about.

I set my books aside for a couple months so I can approach them with a fresh perspective. I'm not always successful, but I do try because I know exactly how frustrating it is to wonder...how do they know that?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Recommendations vs Reviews

A while back I noticed a spate of authors begging readers to review their books. I've thought a lot about the recommendation vs review thing. I would rather a reader recommend my book. Some will ask what's the difference?

The way I see it is a recommendation is general. Maybe you're in a library or bookstore and meet someone looking for something to read. You get into a brief discussion about books and mention several authors/titles you've enjoyed. Recommendations are general and focused on genre. For instance I might recommend N.J. Walters if someone was interested in paranormal romance or Anne McCaffrey is they were looking for sci-fi fantasy. John Sandford or Jonathan Kellerman might be good recommendations for mysteries. I might even get into a discussion about the books an author writes under different pen-names (Nora Roberts/J.D.Robb or Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick). Regardless, the entire conversation would still remain general.

A review on the other hand is personal. A review is about how the book affected a particular reader. One of the problems an author--especially a new author faces is the difficulty in understanding the difference between the two. I have a book that received both a one star review and a five star review. Same book. The one star review was quite long which is unusual. The reader trashed the book from beginning to end, citing examples. The five star review mostly consisted of "Wow!!! Great book!!!"

Both reviews were the personal opinions of one person. They might as easily have been written for Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet. And their effect on the author should be the same. What the individual reader takes away from a book depends on so much of their personal background and baggage. This is true regardless of genre. It's pretty much why I ignore reviews while paying more attention to a friendly recommendation.

A recommendation asks nothing from me. If I read one of the recommended books, I have no pre-conceived expectations except the possible enjoyment of the story. But a reviewer expects me to agree with their assessment. For my own enjoyment, I decline.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Joy



Life is tough. Most days, I'm do pretty good. But there are occasionally days that are dark. I could choose to believe everything is hopeless. On those days I choose joy. Everywhere, there is at least one thing that can bring a smile to our face. I choose to seek it out.

Laughter doesn't negate compassion. It doesn't wipe out grief. It doesn't take away pain or fear. What it does do is give us the healing gift of joy for however many minutes we allow it to. Isn't that the loveliest thing you've heard today?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Losing My Mind

Getting older is...difficult. Of all the annoying things I've encountered, memory loss is the worst. I used to have a memory like the proverbial elephant. Now, I can't remember stuff I thought about this morning. Case in point--I worked out a fairly complete blog post (in my head). Had breakfast. Sat down at my computer and that blog post is totally wiped as though someone cleaned my brain with a blackboard eraser. Boom.

Before readers tell me to consult my doc STAT, been there, done that. Brain scans show nothing untoward. Best guess is some combination of medications causing brain fog. Lalalalal...

I write down stuff. As the memory has fuzzed up, my notes have grown more detailed. I used to be able to write a name/phone number down and when I glanced at them, instantly knew what the significance was. Hah. Now I write down the number, name, circumstances surrounding them, dates, etc., etc., etc. Still might have to puzzle over them for a while.

Dementia does run in my family but not until folks reach their late eighties generally. Sooooo looking forward to that--NOT. On the other hand, by then I'll have plenty of practice.

In the meantime, I'm discovering a whole new advantage to memory loss. When I re-read a book, it's like it's a brand new story. In fact, I may never have to buy a new book again. Time was I could recall the character's names, story plot and sub plots, and possibly even most of the actions. Heh. I might even remember the character's descriptions and the place the story took place in.

Yesterday, I read a Jonathan Kellerman book I've read previously, numerous times. Didn't recall anything about it until the last two chapters and then mostly had the details wrong. Interesting. It was a new experience for me. In the past, when I re-read a book it was because I looked forward to revisiting an old friend. Now it seems I'll have a host of new friends. Apparently, there are some upsides to aging.

Blessings.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Anny's Guidelines

We all have rules or tenets we live by. As we grow older, our rules might change...

1) It always rains or snows when you have an appointment. The farther you have to travel, the worse the weather.

2) If you desperately need to sleep in preparation for a medical test, you'll definitely be wide awake at three a.m.

3) Your severity of need for a bathroom is directly related to how far away the restroom is. If you're wandering around in a gigantic store like Costco or Sam's Club, it will always be in the opposite corner.

4) If you take your tablet or reader with you to wile away the time while you wait on your spouse at an appointment, it will run out of power five minutes after you turn it on. If you're in the car, you can change that to three minutes.

5) On the day you have fasting bloodwork, everyone in the city you live in will show up at the lab at the same time. Your number will be 87 and you'll finally get to eat around three p.m.

6) If you are nervously waiting for the result from a medical test, you'll hear from the doctor about three weeks later. If you're not really worried about the results, he/she will call you within twenty-four hours.

7) On the day you've planned to go out to eat with your spouse for a special occasion, you'll both wake up with upset stomachs. Immediately after you cancel your plans, you'll feel fine.

8) The weather/temperature outside or inside has nothing to do with whether you're hot and sweaty or cold and shivering. That always depends on your internal thermostat. It might be eighty and you're wrapped in an afghan, or it might be twenty while you're comfortably wearing shorts and a sports bra.

9) Preparing for an appointment, a walk in the park, or a shopping trip takes approximately four hours. It might take longer if you have to shave your mustache, color your hair, or find your shoes.

10) The number of medications you have to take each day directly determines how big your spread sheet is to help you manage them.

What are your rules?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Failure and Success

Writers (and other creative folks) struggle with the possibility of failure and success from the moment they conceive a new project. What is their definition of failure? How will they measure success?

My personal notion of success and failure is three-fold for either direction. The book is a success if I think of a story idea, bring it to completion, and publish it. The book is a failure if no one reads it, no one buys it, and it languishes in limbo.

The Makepeace Sword (my last book) was both a failure and a success. It sold less than ten copies total and received one review so it pretty much ticked all the boxes as they say on the Great British Bake-off.

I admit it's hard to see the positives when the negatives are so glaring, but I have to laugh when some writer is bemoaning their lack of sales because they only sold two thousand copies of their book. The truth is, in the current climate, those kinds of sales are on the high end. I can count on ten fingers all the authors I know who are extremely successful.

Some say people don't read anymore. I don't think that's true. I think two things happen. Some readers don't buy books anymore, re-reading their favorite books instead. Maybe they can't afford more books. Maybe they aim for a higher standard of writing when they spend their money. The other reason books don't sell is because folks don't value the work and time it takes to write.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard from readers who think I should (A) send them a free book because they're such a fan of mine, or (B) should lower the prices on my books (approximately $3) because they're too expensive. Then I think about all the stuff people spend money on--coffee, eating out, etc. and I shake my head. There's that lack of respect for what I do.

We talk about how our money is worth less, but it's pretty much our own fault. Something for nothing? I don't think so. I long ago decided I'll write for myself. I happen to like my stories, my blogs, my memories. And maybe, just maybe, I'll choose to allow the occasional reader to buy what I write.

Blessings.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Baggage

Image result for baggage


baggage~~ what someone with kids, debt or other problems brings to a relationship. 

Families. Sometimes you wonder about the general overall plan, don't you? My mom was memorialized on Friday. A surprising number of the family were able to attend, even though everyone lives sprawled across the country. 

Since I wasn't able to attend, naturally I received several reports about the family gathering. Not one report agreed with the next. With a lot of experience behind me from attending years of family get-togethers, I had zero expections that they would. One of my siblings expressed concern about that and this is what I said.

Point of view. How we experience an event depends so much on our past and the mounds of baggage we insist on dragging around with us. 

For some reason, likely because we base our ideas on the undependable media, we choose to believe a family unit is perfect. Sacred. Inviolate. The reality is far removed from that ideal. Some families are fortunate enough to strike close to that ideal, but the vast majority are all at the other end of the span. 

Past traumas, personality clashes, different lives and even wide age differences can affect how we view our family members. I know several siblings that absolutely can't stand each other. Such is life. If another family member is toxic, then I'm all for moving on. I can only control or deal with my own baggage--not everyone else's.

Here's the deal. In those rare times when we all join together to celebrate or mourn, are we mature enough to be civil? 

If not, then at least be mature enough to stay away. And take a moment to remember your baggage is your own. And it always affects your point of view.