With coffee and writing implements at hand, I can determine the shape of today.
|I tend to write in the morning. After morning coffee and writing comes whatever the day holds...work, more writing, family time, reading, maybe even some gaming. It just depends...but writing first, always. And once I start writing, I get an idea not only of what I'm writing about, but how the rest of my day will go. Hence, the shape of today.|
|Well, well, well. A water main break in town forced the library to shut the moment it was open, so I find myself with most of Saturday free. It seems like a good time to update my blog as I'm being prompted to do.
This past week has been busy and a bit rough, with the car's temperature gauge behaving more athletically than I'd like. However, at yesterday's oil change I was assured that all was normal, so I suppose it's just the reaction to the summer heat and probably a bit of automotive paranoia on my part. In any event, it gave me a reason to get that overdue oil change done.
And now, to business. I've been neglecting my duties here at WDC both as a writer and a reviewer and I need to remedy that. I've just finished reading an entertaining little book called The Pen Commandments that reminded me how wonderful our particular magic is here. Even this morning's guild missions reminder announcement was pretty sparse (I didn't realize I was gonna be home two hours after posting it and thought I was out of time). I need to pick up my pen again. And keyboard.
And book, as well. There's a thunderstorm threatening nearby, so this might be a strictly "analog" reading and writing day. But hey, I'll take it!
|It's actually well beyond coffee time today; getting on towards lunchtime, in fact. With my work schedule having shifted back towards the middle of the week, I have resumed Monday errands and have already finished those.
I'm glad to say this weekend was productive for a change. I finally carried out my threat to clear the front porch of all that clutter and have cleaned up the chairs. And Ming, who took no notice of them previously, now sits in mine and meows piteously every time he hears me moving around in the kitchen, just as if he doesn't have a friend in the world. For a cat who started life as a very timid kitten, he's certainly gotten assertive.
Now, hopefully, I can turn my attention to a writing project for the remainder of the day. I've been reminded that I'm eligible for the "Journey Through Genres" contest with my membership, and this month's prompt is "fanfiction". I've never indulged in fanfiction; it just doesn't seem right to mess about with somebody else's characters and world. But a setting that suits me perfectly has come to mind, and a story to go with it. So after getting a little clarification on the rules (I don't want to annoy Neil Gaiman), I've started putting it together. Using Scrivener, because I'm rusty. We shall see how this experiment goes.
|The strange irony of the COVID-19 era is twofold. We who are introverts by nature didn't really change our lives that much; indeed, for the few weeks I worked from home I'd only leave for grocery runs or trips to the laundromat (thanks to one of several household crises that erupted at this time). The rest of the time the job was actually keeping me hopping most of the time between meetings and various exercises meant to sharpen our skills. I was appreciative of that, though. It kept things from getting dull. For the last several weeks we have been back in our (still unopened to the public) brand-new library building providing some limited services. No late evenings, and no weekends. The hours are a joy, and I'm relishing them because I know they won't last. Once we reopen, it'll be back to the old schedule.
The lockdown meant I finally got my wish...I was being asked to stay home as much as I could. You would think during this time I'd be writing all I could, but really I did very little. It's not until now, when life is returning slowly to normal, that the ideas and desire to shape them are forming. It came to me out of the blue (at work, to boot), that I should take the vague time travel story idea I started on last year and form it into something I can work on during NaNoWriMo. That's not until November, so it gives me plenty of time to develop characters, story, and ways around the paradoxes that are popping up in my mind. I know where I want the story to go, but getting it there is going to take some work. And research, of course. I'm gonna need to read a few of the better-regarded time travel novels that I haven't gotten to yet.
Dang! That means I'm gonna have to read more books!
|For the last few weeks I have been making the acquaintance of the ugly kid brother of writer's block: reader's block. The usual joy that accompanies the activity of reading is eluding me.
This might be due to a number of causes. I'm around reading materials nearly 24/7, and I might have burned myself out a bit. Plus, RL over the past couple of months has been particularly trying between family concerns, the busy summer reading period at work, and a suspected case of sciatica that can sometimes nearly incapacitate me. It's certainly aggravating not being able to do the things that need doing, when I have a chance to do them. I know there are people in much worse circumstances than I so I try not to complain too much.
But naturally, this bleeds over into my writing, or lack thereof. I've barely done anything here at WDC. I've barely done anything on my own, though I have several projects started that need attention and work. I even took out a subscription to Asimov's so I can re-acquaint myself with the art of the short story. The clock is ticking, and I need to smash these two blocks and get on with things.
To that end, I am departing my my usual choice of reading material (even a return to Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar didn't have the desired effect). Currently on my nightstand is the singularly titled The Jewish-Japanese Sex and Cook Book and How to Raise Wolves, by one Jack Douglas. This appeared randomly in one of my library-themed social media feeds, and on a whim I checked our system to see if we had a copy.
So naturally I put a hold on it, mostly so I could enjoy the expressions on my co-workers' faces when it arrived. Nor was I disappointed. However, this humorous account of life in rural Canada and Connecticut is pretty entertaining, set as it is in the early Seventies. The author was a contemporary of Jack Paar and had an...interesting...choice in pets.
But my real hope is that this change will recharge my love for reading, and thusly rekindle the writing fires as well. Often when reading a book my little "internal librarian" is considering what book to have ready when the current one is finished, and she's been quiet for too long...until now. She's wandering up and down my mental stacks once more, deciding which road my mind needs to take next. And that is a hopeful sign.
|This morning I realized my browser's "bookmarks" bar was getting so crowded the Scrivener forum button had been forced off it. I rectified this by renaming the social media button "The Cacophony".
It fits, don't you think? Social "media" has played a heavy hand in the disintegration of our culture, because those who love strife find it a very useful tool for spreading the worst humanity has to offer, at lightning-fast speed.
I know it doesn't have to be that way; I use it myself mostly for staying in touch with family members and quickly contacting my gaming guild. It's also useful for keeping up with local news like severe weather or other important information. Social media is a tool. So is a hammer, but you can use a hammer to build a home for someone, or to bash out their brains. As Eric Clapton said, it's all in the way that you use it.
I know it would be pointless to try to convince everyone of this; it would be like trying to make them understand that reading is better for the mind than a steady diet of television. Better to just live according to what seems best for me, and use my time constructively when I'm not working or attending to life obligations.
The clock is always ticking.
|Once again, some kindly soul at WDC upgraded my membership for a couple of months, so I'm able to actually update my blog. The least I can do in return for this is try to be active.
Real life has been kicking my tail of late, but at the moment I am reading Stephen Koch's The Modern Library Writer's Workshop, which is providing me with some inspiration and impetus to keep pecking away at my stories. He draws from a wide variety of writing heroes to shape his lessons on storytelling...and I'm especially appreciative of the fact that he focuses on storytelling above all. Something I need to bear in mind myself when I work. I sometimes tend to get too caught up in backstory and lore, and he argues that it's vital to get the story down first, then worry about the window dressing.
Real life calls me yet again, but hopefully I'll be able to return to the keyboard later and attend to a story or two.
|It's been about a year since I've taken any online courses, which are available through the library's website. I believe I may have been signed up for a writing course, but upon checking my account this morning I see I'm still only signed up for a history course which I haven't started yet. Either I finished the writing course or I was removed due to inactivity. It makes no difference, things were a little crazy this time last year.
In any event, I just signed up for and began an intensive refresher course on English...punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, the works. It's a long one with many lessons, but I believe it will help me. I was taught all that in school but that was a long time ago. It can only do me good in the long run!
|Reading another WDC member's writing blog has gotten my pumped up to get to my own material again. I have this week's guild announcement to write (not a "real" writing gig, but one I enjoy and use to sharpen my skills), an idea for a submission for a contest here, a smattering of stories, the crown jewel, and an article or two.
I grumble extensively about life getting in the way but truth be told, I need to discipline myself more. I can't do anything about life getting in the way, but when I'm sitting here and not else-wise occupied I can focus harder on what needs to be done. Reading the thoughts of that other writer (who seems to be a college student), I can see where I can make improvements to my own approach. None of these things, not even the guild announcement, are going to get written unless I bear down harder on myself.
And a workday is headed down the pike toward me, so I'd better put a few minutes in on something this lovely morning...
|I am blogging rather later in the day than is usual for me, but I'm waiting for some wild rice to finish cooking and don't want to get involved in anything too intense or distracting until it's done. So here are Friday afternoon developments:
After more than a decade, I have removed the monitor stand/keyboard drawer combo from the desk. I got a new keyboard from Amazon this week (my old one was getting faded and grungy-looking) and took the opportunity to remove some clutter. The metal shelf/drawer dates from a time when monitors were much more cumbersome than they are now; even this twelve-year-old Dell monitor is not as clunky as the monitors the shelf was designed for. It sits a little lower since it's now just sitting on the desk surface, but that's not a problem. And the keyboard, though quite basic, feels wonderful. No more rattling!
The aforementioned wild rice is to be part of a broccoli casserole recipe I haven't tried before; I wanted to try something different today. I'm going to try some modifications (why use an abomination like "Cheez Wiz" when you can use actual shredded cheese?) and I'm looking forward to the results.
Rice is nearly done...time to head back to the kitchen!
|Yesterday I began reading M. John Harrison's The Pastel City, which I recall Neil Gaiman recommending in The View from the Cheap Seats. This slim novel was written in 1971 and looks every bit of it, from the figure of a knight on the cover to the title's font that screams '70's. The protagonist, Lord tegus-Cromis, is already known to me from a short story by the author called "The Lamia and Lord Cromis" which I read many years ago. Harrison's hero is moody and his world bizarre...a fantasy civilization that has grown over the rubble of a prior technologically advanced one. And the writing is beautiful, which brings this world up nearly to Lovecraftian fever dream levels. It is a delight.
Among my irons in the writing fire is one that I've been mulling over for a few days; an article on Weird Tales which seems to be dead again. Others have already written about the Unique Magazine's last incarnation and how it went sideways, but I fear it will get lost if someone doesn't try to resurrect it one more time. I don't entirely understand what happened there (someone of Marvin Kaye's caliber certainly should have been able to make the magazine thrive), but it would be a pity for it to slip into obscurity so close to its centennial. So I may dig into that.
In the meantime, the workday beckons...