Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Inconvenience of Inspiration.

            If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that inspiration is a fickle creature.  You cannot force it without consequences (usually detrimental).  You can beg, plead, and try every manner of trick to get it going, only for it to blatantly ignore you.  Then, at the most possibly inconvenient moment, it slams into you like a Mack truck—you won’t have a pen and paper or computer ready, you won’t have the time…
            It’s quite possibly the most frustrating thing about being a writer.  That or a very close second to listening to all your characters argue and squabble in your head.  I haven’t decided which.
            Case in point: I’ll give you a play-by-play of my latest run-in with my temperamental muse, which took place yesterday.
            Mondays are my barn-cleaning days at my job.  I muck stalls, pick the arena, rake the aisle and breezeway, sweep the walkways, pick up stuff left out: lead lines, muck boots, helmets, trash, and grooming supplies.  This is all on top of my usual feeding and turn-out.  It takes quite a while.  I’m usually left alone with the normal barn noises and my thoughts, which makes it feel a lot longer.  I used to take my iPod with me, but all winter it was too cold since I needed my ear warmer and can’t fit my headphones under it (I don’t use earbuds; they don’t fit and they’re uncomfortable; I have a pair of ear-only ones that fasten over my ear with glasses-like earpieces; they look silly, but the sound is much better and they’re comfortable).  Monday was the first day I’d remembered to bring my headphones with me—I listen to my iPod through my car stereo all the time, but the headphones had disappeared for about two months.
            I didn’t start listening to the music until I got feeding and turn-out done, so I could distract myself while mucking.  Raking up horse manure is probably one of the most inconvenient places for inspiration to strike.  There’s nowhere you can go (no place clean and/or dry, anyway), and usually I’ve forgotten to keep a pen and notepad in the car; they’re usually at home where I took them in the last time to transfer my handwritten work into the computer.  I don’t take breaks often, anyway.  Work comes first.
            So there I was, cleaning out the arena, listening to my iPod on shuffle, thinking about one of the scenes I’ve been wanting to write out for a while now.  It’s the new scene of how Dix Osis winds up with Wolfsong’s Warriors—he stows away on the ship and is discovered by the youngest pilot Wolfsong hires: Paul.  I got some images and dialogue as to how the scene would work, as well as multiple battle stands among the Immortal (of which my infamous Kett is part) thanks mostly to the fact that I listen to a lot of military-beat-esque music from movie and game scores.
            I figured when I got home I’d sit down and work on the Dix scene.  I sat down at about 3:30, having wrapped work up sooner than anticipated, and wound up staring at a blank Word document for hours.  I did a little work for my Cicada Creek Stables stories, but nothing I was happy with.  I felt depressed and frustrated and tired.
            I talked to Dan online for a while, but he was multitasking and not very chatty, so we said goodnight.  I went upstairs and took a shower, then figured the shower had woken me up enough (it was now about midnight) that I’d read for a little bit.
            My mistake was listening to the iPod again.  I got no enthusiasm to read, and I didn’t want to go back downstairs and turn my computer on again, so I got out a notebook and one of my favorite gel pens and sat down at the “art desk” my sister built this winter (I’m still housesitting).
            Nothing.  I couldn’t even get a start down for the Dix scene with the music.  So I thought I’d give it up for the night.  I’d listen to the iPod a while to help me relax enough to sleep.
            I walked into the guest bedroom where I’m staying and was hit over the head with images and dialogue for the ending of Brink, the story I began thanks to National Novel Writing Month.
            So I wound up sitting on the floor at the doorway to the closet on a pillow, my Brink binder on my lap as a makeshift desk, scrabbling to write as fast as I could to get the scenes out.  The reason for the location?  I’d taken the tall lamp and the desk lamp out for more lighting in the “art room” at night, so there was no light except in the closet.
            My handwriting is far slower than my typing, but I was writing fast for that.  I cannibalized three or four short scenes I’d started to write for other stories and added new elements to suit Brink.  When I heard the clock downstairs again, it was two am.  And here I sat, wide awake, racing to get everything I’d seen and heard in my head down on paper, despite the early morning feeding to come.
            I finally made myself put it down and go to bed, knowing I’d have to get up in a few hours to get out to the barn.
            Why doesn’t inspiration ever come when it’s convenient?!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Know How You Think. Know What You Like. Use Them.

            As a writer, it’s important to understand how you think.  If you know your thought process and what stimulates your creativity, the easier it is to harness inspiration and generate ideas.  That’s why it’s also good to know what you like in general.  Sometimes the smallest thing you like can be used, whether as something in your story, or as the start of inspiration for it.
            Since this has been a very rough week for me (in more ways than one), I tried over the last couple of days to rediscover little things I like and trace my way back over the way I think; I won’t spend time on my thought process because it’s different for everyone and, as a pessimistic introvert, mine’s really different from most.
            As for the little things…
            Perfume bottles have made an appearance in my stories.  Favorite foods, favorite places (such as Big Sur and Grand Tetons), even favorite books—such as Treasure Island—have made it in, whether altered slightly so the feel of a location is there, to having the book on a coffee table in a scene.  My white-and-black cat, Cassiopeia, made a cameo.  I like plants—especially orchids—animals—especially horses, cats, and dragons—and semiprecious stones like hematite, tiger’s eye, seraphenite, and moss agate.  I like gel pens in multiple colors, and to use a variety of fonts in a variety of colors on a variety of colored backgrounds, depending on the story I’m writing and the mood I’m in.  I like the delicate detail of dollhouses and their furniture.  I love the contained, fragile world aquariums contain.  I love the smell of old books, the feel of them.
            I like the feel of the solid presence of a cat snuggled up against or on me when I sleep or read.  I like the feel of the wind in my hair and the freedom—the outright euphoria—I can only experience when I canter or gallop a horse across open pasture, something I haven’t done in far too long.  I like the weight and balance of holding a blade in my hand, or the tension drawing my bow.  I like the feel of embroidered Chinese silk, the color with which it glows in the sunlight—colors that can’t be duplicated by any other fabric.
            I love the smell of a forest in summer—the cool of its depths surrounded by a radiating warmth from the sun mixed with the dappled shadows.
            Each of these things can be utilized in my writing.  As I’ve said before, I try to incorporate real things from my own life as a way for people to know me better, if they know what to look for.  It’s like my secret code to people I know and love, saying: this is who I am…can you see me?  Can you understand?  Can you accept?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

When in doubt, interested, or curious, research!

            I’ve neglected my blog a little in the last couple of weeks due to being ill.  What I find amazing about that span of time—and a bit creepy—is the wild trails my mind went on while I was sick.  I got a clogged ear and sinuses, and that seemed to spur my brain to contemplate things I don’t normally.
            These included a lot of aging thoughts, such as marriage, pregnancy, kids, balancing job and home life, retirement, and the health issues that run in my family along with older age.  The older we get, the more potential issues show up.
            As I’m nearing 30, there are a lot of things changing.  Most people I know my age are engaged, getting married, or considering/having kids.  The younger siblings of the friends I grew up with are in late high school or college.  Since I’m getting older, my chances of marriage and kids narrows; after 30, apparently, the chances of having a child without birth defects grows, as does risk of complication.  I’m starting to feel old.
            Granted, the unlike-me contemplations provide  good opportunity for writing research.  Sometimes a glimpse at mortality, too, will do that.  In the last two weeks, I had to watch one of the horses I’ve known for years be humanely euthanized due to old age and colic.  Daddy turns 60 this year.  I had a strange “interview” by an insurance agency wanting to recruit me to tell its services to senior citizens, and some of the information they gave us about the aging populace was a bit…intimidating.
            So, as with many things that pique my interest, I spent a good deal of time researching them.  Marriage and kids are two things that are a possibility in the future, and growing older definitely is.  I’ve dealt with animals and breeding, and taken physical health classes in school, so though reproduction isn’t foreign to me, there are still little things everyone is expected to know but no one really talks about.  Guess that’s one good thing about the internet.  It makes “uncomfortable” subjects accessible.
            One of the reasons I looked into the topic of pregnancy, too, is the fact that one of my main science-fiction characters was born due to a one-night between Kett and her mother.  I was curious how good the chances for this were, given it seems like a lot of people who want kids can’t have them, and others who don’t want them have them.
            This brings me to the tip of this entry—when in doubt, research!  If you’re interested in something and want to use the topic in your writing, research!  I’ve read many authors who didn’t research something in their work that had parallels in real-life, such as the author who thought the horse colors bay, chestnut, roan, and dun were the same.  Granted, some authors love to show just how much they know and researched, which leads to information overload on a reader.  You don’t have to put all the stuff you know on a topic into your work, just enough that it fits the story and if people look it up for themselves, they can see you’re correct.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Books Read in 2011: February

            G.I. Joe: Origins, volume 4
                        (by IDW Publishing; graphic novel)

            Transformers: Drift
                        (by IDW Publishing; graphic novel)

            20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
                        (by Jules Verne; Kindle)

            Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 24
                        (by Hiromu Arakawa; manga)

            Halo: Evolutions volume I
                        (anthology; novel)

            Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne
                        (David Gaider; novel)

            Dragon Age: The Calling
                        (David Gaider; novel)

            Transformers: Bumblebee
                        (by IDW Publishing; graphic novel)