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How Many Words?

Gentle readers, it has been a week.

Empathetic critters, such as myself have taken a hit. Not only from personal issues, but from the rising level of hurt, angry rhetoric, senseless killing, and crumbling ecosystems. So I’m stepping back. I’ve left my social media site for a very restful and cleansing week and have decided I’d like to get back to the other side of this website.

That is–Writing.

I’m not just here for flowery posts about helping your fellow humans, finding the light, being the better the world needs… I’m also here to inspire you in your artistic endeavors.

Now I don’t know much about all the arts, (Bob Ross, I ain’t), but I know a few things about the written word. What little I do know I want to share, because others shared it with me and boosted me up when I flailed for solid ground.

So today’s post is about writing. Specifically one of the greatest tools I have ever used to get my novels started, finished, and published.

Ladies and Gents, tomorrow begins the 2018 NANOWRIMO (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth).

Nothing will test your writing muscle like being under a 50,000 word deadline in 30 days.

Impossible? Actually no. But it is a challenge.

Precious few of us have the luxury of spending our days with uninterrupted time to dedicate to our writing. Most of us have jobs, children, families, and obligations, which can make the 1700 words a day seem unattainable.

But I’m here to tell you it’s within your reach. And what’s more, it will help you cull the nasty, time-wasting habits that keep you from doing your job as a writer.

When your time is limited, and the word-count is great, three major things happen;

1.) You stop farting around on the internet. Yep. You heard me. (Actually, you just heard my mother speaking through me). When you only have thirty minutes here and twenty there, and maybe ten in the car, you no longer have the luxury of scrolling through the latest cat videos or Pintrest-ing the hell out of your meal plan for the week. Ten minutes, you will learn is enough to get a good few hundred words in if you focus.

2.) You stop self-editing. What’s more terrifying to the creative process than Facebook Life envy? Um…you’re sitting on its butt. It’s you. You are. You feckless human. You who judges the words and sentences while they’re barely hitting the page. We don’t have time for your inner critic. And what’s more and better, the word-count box doesn’t care. It doesn’t care what the words are, if they are grammatically correct, if they contain gaping plot holes, or confusing tense. It just cares that the words are there. Which is all you should care about anytime you write a first draft.

3.) You begin to believe in yourself as a writer, even when things get tough. Somewhere in the middle of the month, when the bar graph is starting to catch up to itself and you’re hitting the doldrums, you’ll start to wonder not just if you’ll finish, but if you’ll ever want to write again. Some days will be bad, and barely a thought will come. When you reach these places of stagnation you’ll somehow find the outright stubborness to keep moving, even if the plot goes a little wonky or you lose/gain characters that make no sense. You’ll get over humps and realize that you are capable. And that, as G.I. Joe used to say, if half the battle.

It’s just words, people. Just a lot of beautiful words.

And, kids, this is your time. Life doesn’t get any longer. If you really have a novel in you, a pile of papers on the back burner that you’ve put off for far too long, this is the time.

It is now.

Go to the website, and create an account, free of charge (though donations are always welcome and needed!)

NANOWRIMO

Hold yourself accountable to your writing.

I’ll be popping in for a few short blogs during November but most of my words will be playing on a different field for the month.

Good luck! I look forward to hearing from those of you participating and drop me a line if you need any warmth or encouragement.

This is the year you write your novel, I can feel it.

book book pages college education
Photo by Victor on Pexels.com

VerseDay 10-25-2018

What Was. . .
Hours fall silent in Autumn’s dappled shade
The undertone
Impending death
Swallowed in fiery grandeur.

Illusion of beauty
Laid waste by crackling footfall.

Wind torn branches
Stripped barren
Their cold black fingers
Silhouetted against the potential dawn
Where murderous flocks huddle
Waiting for light,

Warmth.

Never comprehending
Both are gone.

Giving Light

It’s a whirlwind of lies and vitriol out there right now, am I right? Social media sites spreading memes about the other party, the dangers of our world, the arrogance and wrongness of the side ‘opposite us’.

There’s something about fighting with someone online that can whip us up into an adrenaline laced mania. Maybe it’s the anonymity. Maybe it’s the conviction we have in our own righteousness, the hard line we draw against any challenge to our perceptions.

And when you try to disengage you are still frowned upon. If you don’t stand up for what you believe, you’re in danger of being part of the problem. That is true to some extent. But there’s something to be said for the deep-breath pause that begs us to consider if the argument we’re forming is going to change any minds or just throw gasoline on the fire.

All of this made me think of the world, and what we contribute. What we give to it.

So often we give our opinion, we give our hatred, we give our disapproval and judgments. We give our anger and our raised voices. So we give. But we give things that hurt our humanity, often, without making worthwhile differences.

I’m not judging. It feels good to vent.

It also feels good to do heroin, I’m told. Doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for us to do.

See what I’m getting at?

How about, just for today, you and I think about what we can give to the world that will lighten the dark?

Can you give your time?

Can you give an open mind and a willing ear?

Can you give forgiveness that you’ve been holding back?

Give to your charity. Give full un-technology distracted attention to your children. Give your boss a break. Give your smile, even when you haven’t been able to in a while.

Sometimes, I think we feel if we give these things (our love, compassion, forgiveness, time, etc.) then we will have none left for ourselves.

But just like the worry that comes with a second child, (how could we possibly love another as much, when we love the first so ardently?) we quickly learn that love doesn’t subtract or divide.

It multiplies.

The more you forgive…the more forgiveness you will want to give (you’ll find the lightening of your heart is such sweet reward).

The more you love…the more you want to love.

The more you listen…the more you learn…the more you learn, the more compassion you give…and the more you feel it in and for yourself.

And you spread light, you lighten sadness, and lightening of sadness drives away the haze of hatred that’s settled over us all.

You may not get it back 100% of the time, that’s ok…because that’s not the reason we give.

We give because we can.

We share our light to push the darkness back from one other.

If it comes back, it fills our cup to do it again.

And again.

And again.

So this isn’t a rocket-science, grand-idea blog today.

This is a remember blog.

Remember, human. You are a force to be reckoned with with both great and terrible results. You’ve a light inside. And you can guard it with closed arms and gnashing teeth, suffocating its power inside for yourself alone. Or you can open your arms to the dark, and let your light spill across the vastness.

The night is dark and full of terrors. But we’re pretty terrifying too. Beautifully terrifying.

And the darkness won’t ever leave if we do not light it up.

So light it up.

VerseDay 10-18-18

Today’s submission for The Beautiful Stuff’s VerseDay comes from Heather Hudson, of Aurora, Colorado. Heather is a writer, novelist, poet, and all-round amazing human. A warrior momma, and a black-cat whisperer.

Enjoy!

Marked

“I wish I could mark you the way you mark me.

A neon tattoo of warning or desire.

I wish, that when I touched you, they could see you also.

A bright neon sign that said

broken, shy or…dangerous.

I wish that our meetings could be recorded on your skin.

And others could see that you grope without asking

or that you have a tender true heart.

I wish we could mark you,

and then we would all know your virtues and your sins.

They would say prove it.

And you would roll up your sleeve

and your love or your violation

would be revealed.

No one would have to prove who you are. Everyone would see.”

Heather Hudson

Letting Go of Illusion

“How often, you wonder, has the direction of your life been shaped by such misunderstandings? How many opportunities have you been denied–or, for that matter, awarded–because someone failed to see you properly? How many friends have you lost, how many have you gained, because they glimpsed some element of your personality that shone through for only an instant, and in circumstances you could never reproduce? An illusion of water shimmering at the far bend of a highway.” 
― Kevin Brockmeier

As a fiction writer, especially of the romantic persuasion, it’s often easy for me to get caught up in my own imagination. My writerly brain has been trained to play out scenarios and let them run wild. It’s part of the creative process and the free reign I give these thoughts allows me to write the scenes and stories that cause heart palpitations and fingers to eagerly turn to the next page.

woman reading a book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But sometimes, the delicate barrier between the two halves of my brain is a bit too porous. Sometimes the barrier is permeated. Sometimes, the imagination bleeds over. And it begins to skew my reality. What is actually before me can be muddled with the over-active nature of my creative process. Instead of observing at a safe distance, I scoot in closer and start to ask…”and then what if…”

It’s taken me to some interesting and inspiring side roads, but it has also led me  this to some pretty dark and hurtful places. Places like paranoia, obsession, depression, and a loosening of the bonds of my reality. It can cause a false sense of what is real and, from that place, I have made poorly founded decisions.

I have been in situations where I lived in an heightened-aware but still fuzzier, reality. Lines get blurred and harmless words and actions became life altering. Sideways glances were sure signs of betrayal. Meaningless banter, the grounds for turning my back on people I loved. I’ve spent a lot of time hurting, in tears, wondering why the path I saw ahead felt so wrong to what my brain was telling me. I was at sea. Lost and drifting with no anchor to keep me grounded.

What’s the cure? What’s the fix? What can any of us do when our brains run away from us and our behaviors follow suit?

Sometimes the consequences of those misguided actions we take, in our obsessive/paranoia state, are severe enough to shake us back into reality. That may be the only way, when we are in too deep, to regain proper perspective.

But it is also the most damaging.

Occasionally it takes someone who can see your reality outside of yourself. Who cares enough about you to point out the cloud surrounding you and who can start asking the right questions. Like snapping spiritual fingers in front of your eyes, breaking through the rosy hue of illusion.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s easy. It’s often a long fall and a hard landing when you come down from your illusion. It’s painful. Reality isn’t usually a fun place to live in. But walking around, shrouded in falsehood, does nothing to better our humanity and the way we interact truthfully with one another.

Take a good look at your life. Be aware of the way you react to situations, be introspective with the perspective you use and step outside yourself to see what’s really going on. Because the further you go down the rabbit hole of the world you want to live in, the worse the consequence, the higher the risk, and the deeper the damage in the world you actually live in.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to keep my mouth shut and calm the creative-brain response, until I’m sure my words and actions are justified and are coming from a place that is true. It requires that I remove myself from being the central character in a story and take a moment to look at the setting, the other characters, their perspectives, the actual thread of what is going on.

Being a good human is hard. But if we truly love, when all illusions have been stripped away, then we owe it to our fellow humans to try to live the most honest, real life we can.

“Meanwhile, the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.

She might have seen that what had bowed her head so profoundly -the thought of the world’s concern at her situation- was found on an illusion. She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself.” 
― Thomas Hardy

VerseDay 10-11-18

Today your weekly dose of culture-building poetry comes from the talented Ben Brizell, a writer, poet and blogger. Check out his other work at: Benbrizwritings

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Further

Looking back through

all these memories;

ticket stubs,

scrawled notes,

stacks of poems,

leaves a painful taste.

All I can do is wonder

If it all really went that well.

I’m a cynic at heart,

which leaves a little room for bias.

 

 

Ben Brizell

Fate vs Free Will

Throughout history numerous wars have been waged between opposing forces. Dark and light. Good and Evil. Nature and Nurture. Life and death. Star Trek and Star Wars, Marvel and DC… TP rolled over the top or under. (Only savages prefer the latter.)

marvel vs deathstrokeOpposite ends of spectrums that often are viewed in our tiny human brains as opposing sides of a coin. The polar ends of a hard line. The divisiveness of the universe that plays out in a constant cosmic game of tug-o-war. One such spectrum is the dichotomy between Fate (Destiny if you will) and Free Will (Choice).

Do our choices determine the path of our lives, or are our “choices” merely preconceived steps towards a destination we’re meant to arrive at? Does the idea of free-will make us feel as though we have more power in our lives? Or does the idea of Destiny free us of the responsibility of how our lives pan out?

I’m honestly asking, because I don’t know the answer.

When I was young, I believed in fate. Because fate is more romantic, and epic, and dramatic. It made me feel like I was on the path to something amazing. It made me feel that one day I’d fall into the life that had been preordained and made especially for me. That it would all work out, because it was foreseen by some great hand of Destiny.

Then I grew up.

And I started to realize that every single choice I was making was branching me off in an ever complicated tree of life. Going to a party or not, where I may or may not talk to someone who would, unbeknownst to me, cause waves of change in my everyday life.

red trees
Photo by nien tran on Pexels.com

Stepping into a dojo on a trial basis, no intention of becoming involved. Even going so far as recognizing that one heated moment in a shower could lead to a phenomenal, empathetic, intelligent beautiful being who shares my house and riles my bassets up with her french horn practice.

Every single moment I was living, I was making choices and those choices made my path. There was no destiny, only the narrowing of options as I peeled away the possibilities with strokes of priority peppered with chance.

But some days, some cloudy Wednesday mornings, I swing back… back to the idea that maybe… maybe every choice I’ve made, in this ‘long and scattering set of tracks’ has led me exactly where I’m supposed to be.

blur bubbles clear close up
Photo by Ruatsanga Hmar on Pexels.com

And I like feeling that way, not because I feel it relieves me of responsibility, or that everything will work out to be something decided long ago, but because it helps me to know that every pain, every ill, every challenge and heartbreak I’ve suffered has built the scar tissue I needed to be where I am and to be the person I am.

Did the universe know I’d be this person? Did the universe need this person? Am I meant to be here for the fate of someone else, to be their lesson, their ill, their challenge. . . their heart break? Or am I here for something better? To be the hand in the darkness. To be the mender. To be the balm for broken hearts, and the gentle touch after life’s severity? I suppose that, too, is a choice.

Fate or Free Will?

I’m not sure it really matters. Except that you can’t let your life be decided for you. And if you wait around for your destiny to find you, it might not be the one you expect or want. Sometimes, in that glimmer of knowing what you’d like to see your life manifest as, you must weave through the murky waters and make the choices that lead you to the end you want.

Life’s not much more than a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. There are about fifty ways to kill yourself prematurely, and only a few paths lead to success, but most importantly, it ends no matter what choices you make along the way.

So make the choices that bring you happiness, that bring you beauty. Make the choices that fill your cup.

VerseDay 10-4-18

Easy Love

Angry, razor-winged butterflies slice

In panicked arcs round my tender insides

This is no beautiful love

It is night sweat terror

And loss of blood in bathroom stalls

It’s the parallel tracks

Running against the grain of skin.

This is no patient love.

Second guesses and words unretractable.

Sharpened blades offer short-lived respite

to permanent real estate on my body

A place I can trace over when I miss you

This is no kind love

How did they cross my lips?

Treacherous words. Frantic and transparent waves slipping through anonymity.

As if I misplaced the filter; careful years in the making, and

Gave you the warm blood of my heart, without request.

This is no courageous love.

Food on my tongue feels

Like an affair.

When only your attention satiates.

Only your words complete.

Dying inside from misplaced memories and impetuous revelations.

This is no easy love.

Muse

Vim and Vigor. Piss and Vinegar. Spunk, Spark, And the Immortal Divine.

sexy secretary pinup girl 1960s

I’m talking about Muse…not the band…I mean the illusive, seductress…who steals into your thoughts and whispers sweet plot lines into your ear like naughty suggestive teases.

One of my favorite older movies starred a young Julie Andrews and even younger Mary Tyler Moore. It was based on a Broadway musical and was set in the roaring twenties when women were toying with independence and embracing a more modern sense of sexuality. In Thoroughly Modern Millie, the main character, a stenographer, comes on to her boss by lounging across his desk and rasping out the line; “Well, when you’ve got it, you’ve got it.” (In context she’s referring to Tom Sawyer’s innate mojo despite his tender age of 12)

Julie Andrews Rockin' It

So when I think of that evasive and tease, inspiration, I think of that line.

When you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

The problem is that so many of us think we cannot create without ‘it’. That unless the muse is on our desks, lounging across our scattered post-it notes and circling the rim our cold coffee cup with a delicate finger, we won’t be able to create anything substantial.

Can I let you in on a secret I’ve learned? That blank stare against the wall of a writer’s block doesn’t come from a lack of ‘it’. It comes from the expectation that having ‘it’ is the only way creativity will come, and that anything other than madly typing away the best idea we’ve ever been gifted, is simply a waste of our time and divine talent.

Let me tell you something about my muse. He’s a well-upholstered, balding guy in a basement, with a half-smoked cigar hanging out one side of his mouth and a sneer that could stop a very determined freight train on its tracks. He’s an asshole. He doesn’t come out when I sit down at my lovely little desk with all of my office supplies neatly aligned inmy muse OCD perfection. He sneaks up behind me at airports and gooses me like some over-entitled politician. He wakes me up in the sweetest six minutes of sleep before the alarm goes off by hitting me in the face with his meaty hand and a pale idea of how to fix Chapter 8. He’s the one that whispers, in dark undertones, questions about unassuming passerby’s that turn into vibrant characters. I cannot summon him to lie across my desk and pull up his smooth skirts seductively.

He’s got it, all right, but it’s never what I expect.

The one exception is this, and the point of my post this week:

That bastard shows up every time I give up hope on him and just sit down to write anyway.

The first few sentences on my own are stumbling patches of weeds, filled with gopher holes and tripping hazards. But if I ignore the imperfections and keep at it, one paragraph becomes a page, and so forth and so forth.

I don’t stop for clerical errors like misspelled names, or fudged facts. I forget the use or non use of oxford commas and just let the words go where they go. I don’t allow myself deletions, even if I’m painfully aware of the stupid that trails behind my keystrokes.

It’s like emptying the hot water from the camelback tube on a hike. You have to draw out that nasty part before you can get to the refreshing cold stuff.

Before I know it, I can smell cigar smoke and salami and that cagey bastard is behind me…nodding in a nearly impressed manner.

Creativity is part vim and vigor. It is part mojo. It is part magic and a dash of spark. But it is mostly work. Even when the playing is done and the book is written, she’s just a dowdy, ill-fitting dress until you nip and tuck her into shape.

Maybe creativity lives in my basement because a dash of it goes a very long way. It’s the elbow grease we have to buy by the barrel full. Because long after Muse is sacked out on his brown plaid recliner with one hand down his polyester waistband, the work still remains and that’s when we really find out if we are indeed full of vim and vigor.

. . . If we’ve got ‘it’; the magic that turns muse into story, story into book, and book into experience for you and your readers alike.

So don’t pay too much mind to capturing that sultry vixen. Just write. When she whispers at you in crowded stores, or on quiet trails, be at the ready with pen and paper (or…ugh, yes your cellphone if you must) to catch her teasing giggle. But for all of the other 97 out of 100 times, don’t let her be the excuse you aren’t putting your ass in the chair.

After all, a muse is best attracted when she’s being ignored.

Happy writing, Kids.

VerseDay 9-27-18

Happy VerseDay! Beginning next week, I will be featuring some of the amazing stuff that you have been sending in. Until that time, please enjoy this triplicate of Haiku.

The feeble heart stroke

Little beats against her ribs

Sparrow trapped within.

Rush of blood to brain

Thoughts misplaced; edged with remorse

For words said, too late.

The trouble with love

Is the world in which it’s borne.

Death springs from context.