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Earlier this week I received the results of a competition I had entered, and for which I held out great hope. It was related to my writing and even an honorable mention would have been a huge step forward for me.
While entering I knew it was a long shot, but I really believed I had a chance.
Predictably, when the results were announced I was nowhere in the list, and yes, this got me a little down.
That’s the trouble, sometimes, with having hope. A burgeoning flower bud of belief can so easily get ravaged by insatiable locusts (over dramatic metaphor alert!!!).
When one is a rather sensitive artist type, it’s hard not to feel steamrolled at such times. Then again, what separates the doers from the dilettantes is tenacity.
So after feeling mopey for several days I am starting to rally. In defeat my resolve becomes just that much stronger.
For almost two years I have been using a really wonderful service that forces me to submit writing to literary journals every quarter. They are strict taskmasters and they keep me focused.
Once every three months I send out about thirty submissions, of which most of them are rejected. This means piles and piles of both email and snail mail arrive at my door just to say “you are not a good fit.”
Amazing how something like two hundred rejections can really make a girl immune to the woes. It’s like a pair of ill-fitting shoes. At first it hurts, then it makes a really painful blister, then finally a callus forms. The thin skin has toughened to endure the scraping.
This morning I was thinking back to about seven years ago, back before The Good Man and I had married, and he was living in San Francisco’s North Beach. A really cool new art store had opened on Columbus Ave. near his place and I was just beginning my foray into the visual arts. Visual arts were a big departure from writing, which had dominated my creative juices for so long.
I loved everything about the art store and bought quite a few supplies there. One day they had posters up announcing an auction. Customers were invited to submit art works and the store would display them and then at the end of the month, the store auctioned them off for charity.
Great! I was on board. I created an item to give to the auction and when The Good Man turned in my piece for me, he was asked to put a starting bid. Because he loves me and encourages my work, he put the amount of $50 as a starting price instead of starting at zero as most other artists were doing.
Later, when we walked into the store to see my stuff on display, my piece was at the very, very back of the store among the tools and shelves where they stretch canvas. My work was clearly more amateur than the rest of the offerings and it stood out as the only one using the photographic medium, but ok. It was on display which was a huge rush.
When the auction was finished, they called to ask me to come pick up my work. The rather arrogant and sniffly clerk informed me bluntly that my piece was the ONLY one that hadn’t sold (meanwhile, he gave us a flyer so we could attend his exhibit of butt ugly paintings at a local small gallery).
I was, of course, embarrassed beyond belief, humiliated and totally crushed. Being judged by a more experienced (and in my mind, more talented) artist just about did me in.
Just thinking about it still gives me shudders of embarrassment. This morning in the wake of my recent defeat I thought again about this experience. I recalled today that among all the donated pieces, my work was the only one that listed a starting bid.
All others put in a starting bid of $0, and they all sold. Snotty clerk said they didn’t have a lot of bids and bidders. All of this means that at the end of the auction, someone could have thrown $5 at a piece of artwork and would have won.
Today I understand that instead of being sheepish about that whole thing, I should be proud. I may not have sold my work but I valued my art enough to put a price on it.
Which is stronger? Valuing my own work and not selling it at that auction, or giving it away for free, thus saying the value of my work is nothing?
I know which one I choose. Today I have straightened my spine and I feel a little better.
In defeat, my mettle is being tempered, and that only makes me stronger.
Image from ScienceGuide.nl.
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Hello to the last day of 2012. Yes, today is the last dance. It should be a waltz, I think. A symphony of memories in three quarter time.
The past 365 days have been one hell of a ride. As the old saw goes, you tend to remember the bad things and forget the good. Uncharacteristically for me, when I look back on 2012 all I can remember is the good.
I worked my tail off this year, but I also got to make my first, second and third international journeys. I have emerged from those experiences a changed person. Changed for the better, to be sure.
I suffered the worst bout of writer’s block I have ever known. I’m still not quite over it, but through this block I learned to appreciate the art and craft of writing so much more. Suddenly I have to work a lot harder for every word I put on the page which makes me love every word that much more.
And after year’s worth of rejection letters for my stories and essays (well over 100 emails or paper letters saying “no”) I was finally rewarded by having an essay published. I didn’t think my essay full of hard words would find a home, but it turns out the editor of literary magazine Wild Violet saw something in it that worked for her and her editorial schedule. Boom, I was in.
I have much gratitude to editor Alyce Wilson for publishing my words. It is a beautiful feeling of satisfaction and it makes me want to work that much harder so I can have this feeling again. My next round of submissions went out just last week. May my words take flight in 2013.
The Good Man and I celebrated four years together and I love him more today than I ever have. In these four years I have learned a lot from him and have laughed a lot with him and have felt very safe and loved. That, my friends, is magic.
Standing on the precipice of 2013 there are some big changes coming up right away. Good changes. Happy changes. I’m scared spitless but isn’t that the best way to head into the New Year? Scared and happy and full of enough courage to dive in and not fade away.
I stand tall even if my knees are shaking, just a little.
And so are you by me? Beside me, to guide me, to hold me, to scold me, ’cause when I’m bad I’m so, so bad.
Let’s dance this last dance. The last dance, tonight.
It’s Please Recycle day! I think that should be a government holiday. Oh wait…..
Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons License in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.
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In 2011, I did NaNoWriMo, the writing challenge where you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days, and for the first time in seven years of participating in the annual event, I failed to cross the finish line.
I mean full on fail with sad trombones and tiny violins. I even blogged my lament.
Now here we are in November 2012 and it is NaNoWriMo time again. I ended October feeling nervous and remembering my big fail from last year. I wavered and fretted and finally decided to try again.
But I went ahead and jumped into the challenge. I squinched down my shoulders, hunkered down with my laptop, and by god, on Wednesday night, I did it.
Whew, it was a great feeling to cross the finish line again.
*With a nod to Bull Durham for the post title.
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If today is Halloween, that must mean tomorrow is November 1. The first day of November is not only Dia de Los Muertos, but also ushers in the annual National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.
Eight times I have successfully completed a 50,000 word story in the span of just 30 days. Last year was the first time I attempted and failed NaNo. And even in my failure, I learned a lot.
In the spirit of try, try again, I’m going to take a run at it again this year. This despite the fact that I have no story ideas and a lot of anxiety about it.
And so as an athlete stretches and runs wind sprints in order to get ready for the big game, I am going to run some wordy sprints.
With that, I turn again to Unconscious Mutterings for some random word prompts. I love this warm up.
So here we go!
- Crying ::
What I will not be doing on November 30th if all goes well. That said, a good cry is cathartic and good for the soul. It might take a heavy bout of crying mid-month in the throes of writer’s block in order to break through and make it to that 50,000th word.
It remains to be seen.
- Reluctant ::
I am, truly, rather reluctant to have another go at this crazy month of writing. It’s always awesome and I’m amazed at what I can produce in so short a time. It’s also quite taxing on The Muse. I get creatively wiped out by the end of the marathon. Blisters on the brain pan or something. But it’s also quite satisfying. That mind numbing creative exhaustion means I have created something and that is the coolest feeling in the world.
- Decade ::
My first go at this crazy NaNo game was back in 2004. I’m closing in on a decade of this wordy abuse. Lots of words and time well spent. By writing this blog I know my writing has improved vastly and my ability to write on the fly has grown strong. So hey, rock on.
- Mustache ::
Plus, let’s just settle this right now. Rollie Fingers. Greatest mustache of all time. Boo-yah.
- Water ::
Well now, not to bring down the language and mustache party, but water sure has been a topic of conversation lately, hasn’t it? Water, so life giving, so essential, so gosh darn powerful. The photos of subway stations and buildings and streets filled with water in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy are so profoundly scary and overwhelming. I know that New York and New Jersey are incredibly resilient and will bounce back. But as of today, it’s just overwhelming to witness the power and destruction of simple H2O.
- March ::
Let’s see…the 2012 baseball season ended Monday. The celebration parade up Market Street in San Francisco was today. Baseball is officially over.
World Baseball Classic begins March 2.
- Stripes ::
As I’m writing this, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is on the telly. Right now Linus is sitting in the pumpkin patch, wearing a red shirt with stripes, explaining to Sally about the Great Pumpkin.
Then he uttered something that seemed a little meaningful here in on the last day of October and six days before the end of election season.
“I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”
Oh how I wish I could find a place, even a small pumpkin patch, where there is not a sign of hypocrisy and sincerity as far as the eye can see.
Sadly that’s not the view from where I’m sitting. Maybe I’ll check again next week.
- Friendship ::
Recently I got to spend three days with my best friend of over twenty years. She is family and brilliant and each year of our friendship means everything to me. We may live miles apart but she lives right here in my heart every day. Being with her for a few days made me actually miss her MORE than I already did.
Time is the scarcest commodity of them all.
- Weirdo ::
It’s a testament to the kind of woman she is that for over twenty years she’s put up with a weirdo like me.
Tomorrow also brings the anniversary of the day I met The Good Man. It’s a testament to the kind of man he is that he puts up with my special brand of weird every day.
I’m very lucky and that’s said with nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.
- Contacts ::
As this Halloween night wanes on, time to pluck the contacts from my eyes and bid adieu the season of orange and black. An ABC TV interstitial just announced it is now officially the “holiday season.”
This makes me sad. And scared. And reluctant.
Ok, for now, I must focus on NaNo. Freak out over the holiday season can wait until later.
Well there you have it. Whew. I’m winded and warmed up and ready to write!
Image from Soccer Skills and Training.
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This exercise was so amazing for me and my old friend The Muse last week. It really helped break some of the rust off the creative pipes and since it was so much fun, let’s let The Muse play the Unconscious Mutterings free-association game again.
- Social ::
A friend posted a link on Facebook essentially declaring that social media is over. Wait, there’s something ironic about that sentence. No matter, let’s press on.
Personally, I’m pretty ready for all things social networking to stop being all anyone talks about. As if this is changing the world.
Sure, something just as annoying will take it’s place, but maybe as “the book close(s) on Web 2.0″ the internets will have grown up a bit. Stretched a bit. Maybe the next big thing will be something great, innovative and useful.
Just don’t take away my lolcats. I beg you.
- Fairy tale ::
It’s too early to discuss Christmas songs. Way too early.
However, if we were going to discuss Christmas songs I’d tell you that I think it’s magic that a song entitled “Fairy Tale of New York” begins with the lines:
“It was christmas eve babe/In the drunk tank”
I mean really. Could that be any more perfect of the holiday season? I think not.
A nod of thanks to my Rock Star cousin for turning me on to that tune many years ago when I was having a Very Dark Christmas.
- 0 ::
Neither odd nor even, positive nor negative. Zero is the beginning, a place to start. Nothing and everything. Zen. Infinite.
And a bunch of other woo-woo stuff.
Null, nada, naught, nuh-uh, nope, zilch.
Sort of beautiful in it’s perfection, really.
- Football ::
That said, I think I’ve become too much of a baseball girl. I mean…162 games a season vs sixteen. Right? I think you can get by with a lot of luck over 16 games whereas you have to be mentally and physically disciplined to make it through 162.
This is a weird time of the year where the end of baseball overlaps the beginning of football.
Right now my San Francisco Giants are oh-so-very-close to making it into the postseason again and the 49ers have won their first two regular games.
All in all, not a bad place to be.
Why, I’m pretty sure the answer is: Nobody.
Lights, camera, action. Take action. Action Jackson. Action hero. Action games.
Yeah. I got nothing here.
- Setting ::
Sometimes, on a rough ol’ Monday like this, I think about going to my happy place. I have several, actually, but the one I’m thinking about today is the town of Half Moon Bay. It’s about a half hour drive away, it’s where I got married, and it’s the beach I visited just after moving to California.
It holds a special place in my heart and features some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
I’ve watched that setting sun alone, with dear friends (and beers) and with my love.
Here’s my favorite photo, taken (by me) near Miramar Beach, and even this cool photo doesn’t totally capture the quality of light. But it’s enough to help me escape gray cubicle walls, if only for a moment.
- Boomers ::
Did you know that in Australia, an adult male kangaroo is called a Boomer? I didn’t either.
I learned that seeking an alternative for this prompt that would let me write about something other than ol’ hippies.
And I thank YOU, Wikipedia, you glorious repository of knowledge.
- Rough ::
This morning, this glorious Monday morning, I woke up rough. Real rough. I remember the days where I could stay up all night drinking and carousing and then get approximately one and a half hours of sleep, wake up chipper, go to class, take detailed notes, get through the day and go out again.
Now I stay up late on Sunday night watching a good movie and oh holy hell I’m a mess from the time the alarm goes off until I can go to bed early the next night.
Time really does make fools of us all.
- Words ::
“What are words for? When no one listens. What are words for, when no one listens at all?”
Hello you beautiful Missing Persons.
That was the very first non-rodeo related concert I attended. (If I include rodeo shows, my first concert was Freddy Fender. You can’t make this stuff up). My big brother took me to a show at the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque. Bits of what I’m sure was asbestos fell from the ceiling during the show.
I wanted to be Dale Bozzio so bad I couldn’t see straight. I still do.
- Account ::
Longing to be Dale Bozzio, and Belinda Carlisle, and Terri Nunn and others like them – yeah, that accounts for a lot of my teenage years.
Really, a lot of my life.
I just read British comedienne Dawn French‘s memoir. Now there is a lady who is 100% comfortable in her own skin. And now instead of just admiring her, I want to be her too.
I’m such a suggestible little girl.
Ok, well…back to work.
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Writer’s block. It’s on me again.
Who or what should I blame? My brain overburdened by a global job and a lot of work? My blabbermouthing about how easy I could flow words to a friend over happy hour drinks last October? Fatigue?
Or is it simply the ebb and flow of creativity? Today the stream runs strong. Tomorrow it’s drier than the Rio Grande in July.
I don’t know but I’m frustrated all to heck by the lack of rhythm and flow to my writing. I’ve still produced some stuff but lately it feels labored.
Today I was reading back posts and I actually envied myself for how easy and effortless it seemed even just a year ago.
The more I feel frustrated, the less likely The Muse wants to play.
Ok, so let’s just not take anything very seriously at all.
Back to free form, free association. It’s a self-indulgent exercise. And I dig it.
I’m playing the Unconscious Mutterings game this week.
- Tenure ::
- Baptism ::
- Holders ::
- Irritation ::
- Academics ::
- Mug ::
- Charge ::
- Percent ::
- Clears ::
- Selfless ::
That thing that all professors want, right? Means you are all dug in there like a tick and ya ain’t going anywhere. Mainly it’s a good thing but I gotta be honest, there are some rather tenured folks in my non-academic job that really are more roadblock than firebrand. Tenure can lead to laconic in a hurry. I appreciate the guy who has been here thirty years and knows everything about everything. But dammit, a little open mindedness would really help my days go by.
The other side of the coin from tenure. Yesterday I interviewed a really good candidate for my job opening. He asked what is the onboarding process. I wanted to sugar coat it but lying isn’t my style. “Um, drinking from the firehose? Baptism by fire? And other cheeky colloquialisms to say there isn’t an onboarding process.” He replied “Oh.” I said “Hey, don’t worry, you would be surrounded by really good folks. One person has been here ten years. The other person just one year. They can both give you amazing perspective.” He seemed ok with that answer. I hope so because he seems like a good candidate.
Right now, at this moment, my badge holder thingy that is clipped to the waistband of my jeans is digging into my side. Excuse me for a mo’….there…better. Whew.
Yeah, the skin at my side, right above my hipbone is pretty irritated. A little bit of skin was pinched under the clip of my badge holder. I *hate* that. Ow.
There is this guy I work with who has somehow adopted me as his friend and mentor. God knows why. No, seriously, this kid has a far brighter future than I ever did. He’s working full time (and a lot of extra hours) and he’s going to school for his Master’s Degree. Good lord. While I did fairly well in the academic arena, that day I walked across the stage and took possession of an MBA, I knew there was no way in hell I would go back to college.
That said, I often think about going to school to get an MFA. I wish I was brave enough to have gotten an MFA back when I was college. Business school just seemed like a smarter option. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and talk myself, just a clueless kid at NMSU. I’d discuss with her that an MFA is a fine educational option. Then I’d tell her that when that one kind of cute cowboy at that one party suggests you two split a bottle of Mad Dog that you just say no and run. The hangover was simply not worth it
When I started working at this office, my second level boss, ie The Boss of my Boss, had this really funny, kitchy coffee mug. Something made by his kids. I always thought it was odd because it was really in contrast to his super buttoned up and uber office professional style. But he seemed to like it. Right now he’s up for a huuuuge promotion and I notice he’s swapped out the mug adorned with his kid’s artwork and “have a good day daddy” to some quiet, sedate, professional mug. It makes me kind of sad. I suppose I shouldn’t blame him for living up to expectations.
In other mug news, when I was in England and at my company’s facility, my boss was on travel for one of the weeks I was there and he said I could sit at his desk. Well, the folks in that office enjoy tea breaks in the morning and the afternoon (so freaking civilized!!!) and they invited me to join. I didn’t have a mug and the plastic cups in the breakroom didn’t seem heat-proof, so I dug around my boss’ desk and found a mug. And I used it. All week.
At the end of the week I carefully washed it and put it back in his drawer next to his jar of instant coffee. I put a note inside
“Dear Boss – I used this cup all week. On Friday I scrubbed it with soap and very hot water, but it still contains the germs of a minion. Just thought you should know. –K”
I don’t think he’s found the note yet or if he did, shook his head and threw it away. My boss is a very ramrod straight former military man with an easy going personality. Which I why I like picking on him.
Where I live I have an assigned parking spot. This is like gold in the Bay Area and I’m glad to have it. Of course, it’s a narrow little spot over by the trash bins. My Jeep fits the spot but doesn’t leave me a lot of room to maneuver around the sturdy concrete pole and the rubbish bins.
Every morning when I leave and every night when I come home somebody has left some castoff bit of stuff by the bin in the narrow space I have to walk around my car. One day a broken suitcase. Then a broken Ikea cabinet. Then a busted table. A roll of carpet. A shopping cart. A bag of old shoes. A busted rug cleaner. These are all true and accurate things left in my teeny tiny space over the past week.
So every day I move that crap over and every day a new thing shows up. I know who is doing it, a guy just moved into the building and he’s casting off stuff. That said, I’m a hundred percent sure I’m going to kick his ass if this doesn’t stop. I hate my parking space as it is (last week a pipe busted over my spot and dripped a lot of water on my car), but I firmly believe finding his garbage in my parking spot is grounds for a sturdy steel toed bash to the shins.
I own such a pair of boots. I’m just saying.
I appreciate how nice it is when one clears the broken and busted stuff from your apartment home. But I’m going to clear his kneecap off his leg right soon.
Yeah. Kind of a funny word to show up now. Uh oh, there’s that non-practicing yet Catholic-upraising guilt coming on.
Let’s see, on that commandment list there is something about not wanting on your neighbor’s spouse. And not wanting on your neighbor’s stuff. Nothing about not wanting to apply bruising retribution on your neighbor. I’m good. Right?
Oh fine, I shall do an act of contrition, eat (beer battered) fish for my Friday lunch and think heartily about what I’ve thought about doing.
Image found in several locations on the net, but unable to find attribution. Will remove or provide attribution details at the request of the owner.
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So here’s the thing….today’s Theme Thursday is: temptation.
It’s a good word. A juicy word. I should be able to really sink my teeth into that, right?
Um. Yeah. No.
Maybe it’s one of those words that could go so many different directions I can’t pick just one.
Or maybe I’m just a little dull inside today. It happens.
So I Googled the word temptation and inadvertently added an s on the end, which brought up several rockin’ broad collared photos of the band.
Which made me think of The Pips.
Which made me want to repost this, which has absolutely nothing to do with the word temptation or the band The Temptations.
Thankfully the Theme Thursday crew is very forgiving.
Without further ado…whooot woo!
Originally published July 20, 2011
This morning my eyes fluttered open around 6am. My alarm wasn’t due to go off for another hour and a half. I had a raging headache and my body decided I should get the full experience of the pain instead of sleeping through it all.
Since sleep was no longer within my grasp, but in no way did I want to get out of bed, I grabbed my trusty old iPod that I keep by the bed, clapped on the headphones and set my Pod for shuffle.
An Elton John and a couple Merle Haggards went by. A Harry Connick crooner about nightingales and London-town was certainly relaxing.
Then the opening strains of Midnight Train To Georgia filled my ears. Ah Gladys. Such a powerful voice. It’s been a while since this one made it’s way to the top of my shuffle list, and it was like visiting with an old friend.
I turned up the sound to hear every word, every note.
And that’s when I made a decision. I need some Pips.
They provide such great affirmation.
Gladys: He’s leaving/On that midnight train to Georgia
Pips: …leaving on that midnight train….whoot whoo!
Gladys: And I’m gonna be with him/On that midnight train to Georgia
Pips: I know you will….leaving on that midnight train to Georgia…whoot whoo!
The Pips provide emphatic punctuation to what Gladys is saying. She’s tormented. Her man is heading out of town. But her Pips back her play. They underscore her words. They give her power.
I need this. I need Pips. Three of ‘em. Right away.
Can you imagine how empowering this would be?
Karen: Hey boss, we need to chat
Pips: bossMAN…gotta have a chat…
Karen: I think I need a raise
Pip: You *know* she needs that cash…whoot wooo!
Yeah, I mean how could I get a no to my request with the power of the Pips behind me?
Or in a very important negotiation:
Karen: So Supplier, your pricing is too high, we need to cut 20% out of the quote
Pips: You know that quote’s to high…twenty percent…oh no!
Or employee relations:
Karen: So, I noticed you’ve been missing deadlines lately
Pips: …Missing them deadlines…
Karen: That’s not good
Pips: …Not good!…
See what I’m saying? I think you do.
So now, next steps. Where does one go to hire a set of Pips?
Monster? LinkedIn? Maybe Craigslist.
Wanted: Three Pips. Must enthusiastically support everything I say. In harmony. Multiple woot wooos acceptable. Must provide own wide lapel leisure suits. Please apply via email. Provide references.
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After spending a mind boggling sixteen days in another country working her arse off and also having a little fun, our Superhero returns to home base, Casa de Enchilada, for rest, relaxation and to plan her next move.
Lacking a blog post for the last week, it’s time to take action. However, jet lag, life lag and a lack of ideas has caused our superhero to be stumped.
“To the Random Word Generator!” she cried out. And thus it was so.
In one of those cosmic kinda “whoooah, I’m not drunk enough to understand the meaning of this” moments, I sauntered over to my favorite Random Word Generator this morning while looking for inspiration.
A kick start and kick in the butt for the Muse.
Upon click, this is what the generator replied:
“Your random word is: Changeover”
Well shut my mouth. That about sums it up, doesn’t it?
The changeover. From GMT to PST. From rainy ol’ England to sunny ol’ Northern California.
From London Bridge to Golden Gate Bridge.
From cold sandwiches alone in a hotel room to vibrant dinners with The Good Man with The Feline trying to sit on my lap.
From a little lost American in London to a New Mexican in California.
Ah yes. The changeover is really a changeback. Back to where I belong.
Reunited and it feels so good.
Photo from SFGate.
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The news this morning felt heavy on my heart. Via Twitter, I learned that author Ray Bradbury had passed away at the age of 91.
91 very productive years is one hell of a good life.
Even though I never met Mr. Bradbury in person (The Good Man did) I consider him to be an essential part of my own writing life.
Fifteen years ago I took my first few fitful steps into writing a full length novel. It was an effort that far transcended any type of writing or story crafting I’d ever done. I was tortured by demons, a flighty muse and painful, quavering self doubt. About halfway through the work, just attempting to put words on a page became massively frustrating.
Looking for inspiration, I went to my local library to see what was what. While prowling the aisles, my eyes traveled across a book title, “Zen in the Art of Writing.”
I read Mr. Bradbury’s essays on the art and magic of writing cover to cover and quite literally cried my eyes out the whole way.
Because his book unlocked something inside of me.
Something that will never be locked away again.
For that, I owe Ray Bradbury a deep debt of gratitude. He saved my (writing) life.
A few favorite quotes:
Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.
My stories run up and bite me on the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.
I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love remake a world.
Ray Bradbury in 1984. Photograph: Sophie Bassouls/Sygma/Corbis
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Take a look at this photo. It’s not my photo. I came across it yesterday and I kind of liked it.
It’s got that color saturation and green tinge that you see in a lot of these new square format apps for the iPhone and Android (my personal favorite is Hipstamatic).
Actually, I like this photo a lot. But I didn’t heart it on Instagram. I didn’t like it on Facebook. I didn’t re-Tweet it either.
Because this photo was found inside a frame and mounted to a wall at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.
This photo is part of their Walker Evans show.
This weekend, my photography group took a field trip to check out the exhibit. Going in, I knew very little about Walker Evans other than he had captured a lot of powerful black and white images from the Depression. I purposefully didn’t study up before my trip because I wanted to learn about the photographer through his photos.
Well. Knock me over. I was really, seriously and deeply educated by the time all was said and done.
First of all, Walker was a writer, and then moved into photography. He did both for most of his life. So take that you scallywags who say an artist should pick a medium and not dabble. Feh! Also, I really came to appreciate Walker’s sense of irony. You have to get up close and look around the frame of his photos to find it, but it’s always in there.
That said, the part of the exhibit that gave me the “holy crap!” moment of connection was at the very end when I saw the photos tucked away on the back wall.
It seems that in his early seventies, Walker Evans was left tired and uninspired and found himself unwilling or perhaps unable to create.
And then he got himself a Polaroid SX-70 camera and an unlimited supply of film.
“I bought that thing as a toy, and I took it as a kind of challenge,” Evans explained. “It was this gadget and I decided that I might be able to do something serious with it. So I got to work to try to prove that. I think I’ve done something with it.”
As I stood there looking at the photos, I was at first jealous. Jealous of that “unlimited supply” of Polaroid film. I am completely devoted to the Polaroid camera and used several different versions growing up and well into adulthood. I shot Polaroid until the film was no longer available.
Thanks to the Impossible Project, it’s still possible to buy Polaroid film, but at almost $24 a pack, that easy carefree snap-whatever-you-feel-like and just buy another pack mentality has to be reined in.
So I stood there feeling jealous about having all that free film on hand.
And then…my hands came up and framed either side of my whaaaat? face as I realized…
I have access to an instant camera and unlimited film. But in a different format. Sames tools, different age.
I have Hipstamatic on my iPhone. And Instagram. And a bunch of other toy camera apps.
All of these beautiful color saturated photos. They can still be made! I can still snap with reckless abandon! Oh dear god I have this gadget and I might actually be able to do something serious with it.
Oh my goodness. Oh. My. Goodness!
This realization left me dazed and confused and happy. So happy.
Top photo, “Untitled, 1974 Unique Polaroid” by Walker Evans and used here under Fair Use.
Quote from The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer.
Bottom photo, “Power” Copyright 2012 Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right column of this page. Taken with Hipstamatic app for iPhone.
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To get the ol’ creative juices flowing, I’ve been working a little, here and there, on a lesson book of painting techniques. I’m pretty comfortable working with a brush and craft quality acrylics, but now I’m learning methods to create an image from scratch using real big boy paints and brushes.
It’s a big deal!
Today’s lesson was to paint my own color wheel. At first, I thought “Meh. A color wheel? Boring.”
It turned out to be a really interesting and useful exercise, and helped me learn both the paint and my new (fancy) brushes. When my work was done, I fell a little bit in love with my hand crafted color wheel.
And since I can’t seem to separate my High Arts from my Craft Arts, when I was done, I noticed the little bit of imperfection at the center of my wheel. That place where all six colors meet? There was paint overlap and some small white spaces.
So I did what any good crafter does. I hid it with rhinestone. Fabulous!
Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth. Subject to Creative Commons license.
I must have colors and color theory on the brain. Here’s a photo I snapped earlier today:
Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth. Subject to Creative Commons license.
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It would appear there is an internet meme going on lately concerning writing tips from classic authors. So far I have come across 10 Tips on Writing from businessman David Ogilvy and Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments, both very worthy reads.
Yesterday, I came across an article in The Atlantic titled 6 Writing Tips from John Steinbeck.
This is the advice that really resonated with me…which is odd because I have such a love-hate relationship with Steinbeck.
My first foray into Steinbeck was in High School where I was held down against my will and forced to read Grapes of Wrath. I *hated* Grapes of Wrath. Loathed. Jettisoned the book across the room in disgust more than once. I found it over the top, preachy and that alternating narrative about the Joad family interspersed with expository about the Depression and the Dust Bowl was dreary and overworked.
My next read was The Pearl, which I read grudgingly because it was Steinbeck, but I actually enjoyed in spite of myself. Then I read Of Mice and Men which I found to be a cruel, sad book, but the writing was solid. Then, because I liked the movie, I gave the book East of Eden a whirl and found it to be only so-so.
So I’d given Steinbeck a chance, didn’t like his stuff, and from High School on, I read zero Steinbeck. I wasn’t having it, unh-uh, no way.
I was vocal and insane about how much I WOULD NOT read Steinbeck.
Enter my multi-talented and fabulous cousin. Two years ago, he was in town and we went to Monterey to celebrate his birthday. While there, he asked if I’d ever read Cannery Row and I said no. Then I issued my overworked rant about Steinbeck.
He said, “You should give it a try, I think you’d like it.”
Well that was that. If my cousin said try Cannery Row, then by god I had to try it.
I went to the library bookshelf and plucked the slim tome from the pile and gave it a read.
I loved it. Every word, every story, every character so utterly perfect. I really actually truly loved and adored a Steinbeck book. Magic!
So when I stumbled across Steinbeck’s writing tips, I paid attention.
My two favorite books on writing are Ray Bradbuy’s Zen in the Art of Writing, which saved my life during my first real and profound battle with writer’s block, and Stephen King’s On Writing (which my rock star cousin gifted to me, because he’s so right on like that).
The little list of Steinbeck’s advice is pasted below…this now goes in the favorite pile too.
Here it is:
From The Atlantic.
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“Where do you get your ideas?”
It’s a question I get asked a lot. Sometimes with a shake of the head after reading one of my more out there blog posts. Sometimes with genuine curiousity.
I even talked about it a bit here.
Really, I think coming up with ideas is about being an observer of life. About noticing the little things here and there and then talking/writing/painting/arting about them.
For me, I’ve always thought the world is a fairly absurd place, and I find something to laugh about or think about (or both) every day. Ideas are everywhere. Around every corner. In the sky. On the ground. At the bottom of your cup of coffee. Yet so many still can’t see them or maybe don’t pay attention.
Then sometimes, a good idea pops me so hard across the chops that I don’t know how anyone could be oblivious.
Today, I had to have a minor procedure done at my HMO. The center where I had this done performs a LOT of different minor procedures so there were a lot of us, and my doctor was running late. This meant I had some time on my hands as I sat there in the ready area in my backless gown with a blue shower cap thing on my head.
I was separated from the other patients by only a thin curtain on either side.
I listened as the 88 year old lady in the slot next to me ran down the list of medications she is allergic to (quinine..what an odd thing to be allergic to), explained that her knees hurt all the time and could they prop them up. She was also quite determined to make sure every person attending to her knew it was her left eye that was the problem. She was very concerned over them getting the wrong eye. Very concerned.
There is totally a story there. I mean, I was already starting to craft it in my head as I waited. I wished I had my trusty MacBook so I could start making notes.
Then there was the 67 year old woman on the other side of me. She was there for a colonoscopy. She was clearly nervous, you could hear by her voice. She was very docile and compliant to everything the nurse asked of her, but she struggled a bit to get into her gown (I heard her muttering to herself).
When they came to get her for her procedure, I heard the nurse say, “Ma’am, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have to take off your underwear.”
C’mon! You can’t make this up!
But by far the best idea I heard all day was when the doctor came into the space next door (the lady with the eye issues) and said, “Hello Mrs. Sanchez. I’m Dr. Scary. I’ll be working on you today. This is my nurse, her name is Mercy. Are you ready to begin?”
A doctor called Scary and a nurse called Mercy? Tell me that isn’t a fabulous short story just begging to happen.
I was catching ideas with a butterfly net today!
And for the record, for my procedure, I got to keep my underwear on.
Image from the Best Quotes and Poetry blog.
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I am the ape man. I am the walrus.
I am neither of those things. I am the fail whale.
Yes. That is me, sad tighty whiteys and all.
Fail a’ Fail-a-rino.
Today is November 30th. The last day of the festivities that are National Novel Writing Month.
This is the annual event where writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
2011 marks the sixth time I have had a go at NaNoWriMo.
My first shot was in 2004. I struggled, but made it the first time out of the gate. There have been years since then when I have skipped participation. But every one of the five years I have tried my hand at NaNoWriMo, I have succeeded in passing the finish line by the 30th of the month.
One year, I finished in 21 days. Yeah, that rocked.
This year, however. Well.
50,000 words are the goal. As of this moment, I have 14,239.
See. I didn’t just fail a little. I failed a lot.
A big round blobby smelly unctuous fail.
That’s me. Mz Failsalot.
I was going to simply try to hide this away. Pretend it didn’t happen. Not say a word. Not mention it to anybody unless they asked.
Then I decided that confession is good for the soul.
Own it! Sing it! Love it!
Yes, yes…I’m one of those perfectionist kinda gals. It makes me happy to complete what I start. Completing a project matters.
Also, I’m excessively proud of my ability to produce words. Not just any words, but halfway decent words written at a rapid clip. Paragraphs with a good foundation that some powerful editing can improve and shape into literary magic.
But this year, way too many hours at work (a project is failing and I’m paddling as fast as I can to keep it a’float), a prolonged bout of writers block (see Monday’s post), and an extraordinary amount of hubris (I had the audacity to TALK ABOUT my story idea…..that is certain death to creativity) came together in the perfect storm that smashed my tiny seafaring vessel to the rocks.
Oh, the drama! The anxiety! The shaaaaaaame.
Yep. I blew it. I firmly believe that owning it, giving my failure both light and air, and speaking of it publicly……Well, all of that takes the sting out of it. Draws out the venom.
Helps me be ok with it. And learn from it.
So today, I sing a song of failure. It starts off sad, like an Irish lament, but ends up peppy like a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
Fffffffffffffffffffffffailure where the agony comes sweeping down The Muse!
Whew. Now I just need to do an act of contrition, and the Universe will grant me absolution.
Fail whale image is by Ed Wheeler and found on deviantart.com. Follow him on Twitter @EduardoWheeler