Tiny Life Update

Hello everyone!

I have just returned from an excellent trip to the western part of South Dakota with my parents.

We went to Mount Rushmore, of course, and several parts of the Black Hills.  We also took a little side trip through the Badlands on the way back, and hit the kitsch heavens of the Corn Palace and Wall Drug during the drive.  We called it our Americana Road Trip vacation.

I have several fun post ideas that have come from the trip, and I am excited to share them with you.  However, it’s been a very full, very tiring week and tonight what I want most is to sleep in my own bed.

Thank you for your patience!  More vacation-inspired posts to come…  (And yes, they will be writing related!)

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Relationships

There are very few movies, television shows, or books out there where one person is totally alone and interacts with no one.  I’m not saying they don’t exist (I can think of a few examples just off the top of my head), but they are by far not the norm.

Because of this, there are lots of places to turn to see both the good and the bad of how to develop a relationship between characters.  I’m not just thinking of romantic relationships, although many male/female pairings that don’t start out with that intent end up with at least sexual tension if not an outright relationship.

In this case I’m thinking more about friendships, partnerships, co-worker relationships and family bonds (or lack thereof).  Our main characters may be solo actors (although often they are not) but they still interact with the people around them.  While these secondary, tertiary, and peripheral characters may not be as developed as the main character, the interactions still need to feel genuine and human.

I don’t necessarily use fictional relationships as my base to develop those between my characters.  More often I pull from my personal experience; most of us have some type of interaction in our lives that can be used, even loosely, to create the dynamic between characters.  Even so, it is still interesting to think about books or movies you enjoy and the examples they provide, especially if the relationships feel forced or awkward.

Cleaning

I spent most of today cleaning my apartment. (Since that’s what I worked on, that’s what I’m writing about.  If you don’t want to hear about it, you may want to skip today’s post. :))  I have company coming tomorrow (Mom and Dad!) and I wanted to make the space presentable.

Okay, maybe I was going for more than presentable.  I did have a couple of moments were I thought, “Wow, I’m going for Grandma Clean here!”

Perhaps that statement needs some clarification.

When I was a kid, we had two standards of clean in our house.  We had the everyday clean, which included clutter being put away and surfaces being wiped down, to make the house look and smell nice for those of us who lived there.  My sister and I may not have been very good at this, so I suspect the place was messier than Mom would have liked most of the time.  We did, however, manage to get it to this state on a fairly regular basis, at least that I remember.

Then there was Grandma Clean. This was the standard when Grandma was coming for a visit, and it was a much higher standard than everyday clean.  Wiping surfaces didn’t cut it here.  No, this meant scrubbing corners in the bathroom, dusting every shelf in my room (and I had a lot of shelves, with a lot of knickknacks), and even cleaning the shower!  (My sister and I were usually responsible for cleaning the hallway bathroom, so most of these memories are laced with bathroom cleaner scent.)  Of course, this is the clean that we should have had all the time, but in a busy life with messy kids, a few times a year for Grandma’s visits was probably about what we could manage.

Today I did the details – using the vacuum attachments to get into edges, moving furniture to get to the carpet, dusting, and yes, cleaning the shower.  As it was when I was a kid, this kind of deep clean isn’t something I can manage on a weekly or monthly basis, but it is nice to get it Grandma Clean from time to time.

Where to Start?

My parents are coming to visit soon, so I need to clean my apartment.  It isn’t actually dirty (for the most part), just really cluttered – particularly my second bedroom, which is where they are planning to sleep.

Here’s the problem: every time I decide to get started, I’m not sure where to begin.  I get a bit overwhelmed because there are a lot of things to do.  This means that I haven’t actually started cleaning at all.

This is also a problem that many people (myself included) have with writing.  There’s too much to do, too many tasks to start, so we don’t even begin.

The trick is to just start.  It doesn’t matter what you start with, just start.  Even if it’s a scene you really want to write that doesn’t come next, or washing the dishes you just used, get started!

And if you really need incentive, do what I’m doing tonight: set a timer and give yourself a bribe if you work until it goes off.  🙂

Time on my hands

I worked this morning, but only for a few hours, and I don’t work tomorrow.  This may seem like no big deal to most of you, but my schedule has been really bizarre for the past several weeks due to some crazy work stuff.   After I got off from work, I went to the farmer’s market, grabbed some lunch out, and then came home and took a nap.  A few hours later, after some reading, TV, and web browsing, I found myself at a loss.

If we’re being honest, I was flat-out bored.

I started to call my mom, but then realized two things that made me hang up.  First, running to my mother whining, “I’m bored” is something I should have outgrown a decade and a half ago.  Second, I already knew what she’d say.  Go for a walk.  Take your dog to the park.  Write.

Heeding my mother’s unoffered advice, I went for a walk.  I had planned to use my foot-brain connection to start stirring up Mara’s story again, but instead I made a realization.  I have forgotten how to relax.

Perhaps that’s not the right wording.  It would probably be better to say that I’ve forgotten how to enjoy my down time.  For the past several weeks, what personal time I’ve had has been consumed with getting enough sleep, feeding myself, and keeping my apartment in livable condition.  Now I find myself once again with time to spare, but with my previous habits all but vanished.

Tomorrow I plan to go hike at a local state park.  Nature always has a way of helping me center myself, so I am hoping that a good morning out-of-doors will realign this odd new situation.  That foot-brain link should also kick in, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally have some pages to show for it.

Listing

I’m going to tell you a story about birding, and then one about reading.  They are related; you’ll figure it out.

When I was in college, I went to Grand Cayman with my mom, my sister, and my mom’s friend for spring break.  I was already on my way to being a bird nerd, but not fully there yet.  My mom (who was also in college at the time) connected me with one of her professors, who loaned me a field guide for the birds of the Caribbean.  This same woman, whose name I regretfully do not recall, asked me at the time if I kept a life list.  I shrugged it off, said something about lists from ornithology and high school, but she persisted.  Serious birders kept lists of the birds they saw, and I should do the same.

I took her advice, writing down the twenty or so species that I saw in Grand Cayman and then compiling my list of things I’d seen in high school, college, and my backyard.  I ended up with about 100 birds or so, with a total of 125 when I moved to Texas for my first real job.

I’ve kept the list going, and it currently stands at 783 birds.  My goal is 1000 in my lifetime.  I think occasionally about that nice professor who suggested that I should keep a list, and I am grateful for her suggestion.

Recently, I met a young lady while I was home for my sister’s wedding.  It was at my family’s church, the Sunday after the wedding.  My parents had to get there early for a commitment they’d made, so I was sitting alone in an empty row, reading.  (I take a book everywhere.)  To my left I noticed a girl, maybe eight years old, sitting with her family.  She was also reading.  After a bit I decided that it was worth it to go say hi and ask what she was reading; I think it’s important to encourage girls who like to read.  During the discussion I had with her and her mom (who was sitting next to her) I mentioned that I keep a journal of the books I finish.  She looked skeptical at first, but when I told her it meant I could go back a couple of years later and figure out the title of that book I remember reading, she lit up.  Her mom asked her if she thought it would be a good idea to start one of her own, and she agreed.

I have no idea if that young lady started a book journal or not, but that’s not the point.  If I had started one at her age, it would have been filled several times over within just a few years; I was a voracious reader then, even more than now.  As I walked away, I realized that I had possibly just done for her what that professor did for me so many years ago.  To all the females out there, I encourage you to encourage girls to read.  We need more smart women on this planet, and reading seems like a good place to start.

Finding Writing Again

To start with, I need to thank you for your patience.  I know I disappeared for a while – between all the work crazy and my sister’s wedding, my downtime has been reserved for eating and sleeping!

Now that things have leveled out a bit, I have time for writing but I’m having a bit of trouble getting back into it.  This is probably why all the writing advice says to write daily; when you get out of the habit it’s hard to bring it back to life.

There are some blog ideas on my bedside notebook, and Mara’s tale has begun bouncing in my brain once more.  I’m also still four rejections short of my 2013 goal!  Here’s hoping that coming back today is just what my inspiration and motivation need!

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