Category Archives: Stress

How Creativity Works: A Parable

On the dusty plain where your mind exists, you dig through the earth with crumbling fingernails searching for soil where thoughts will grow. You till the earth with a pen and are ready for the rains.

Last year’s crops were terrible, anemic excuses for crops. Tasted terrible, provided no sustenance. But the rain, the rain had been powerful. You just didn’t do enough work. This year every day, even as crops die and life becomes the toil of waiting, you work preparing the fields. The rain is coming. The winter is harsh and cold and barren, seeping the juices from your soil. All that’s left is endurance, the day-in, day-out churning of words from dirt, however malnourished.

Then it begins as a breeze, a tickling behind the ears, the neck, the ankles. Carry your hoe, shovel and sword; stand against the wind until you can see the wall of rain pounding toward you under onyx clouds, a stampede. Ride the flood.

Allow the water to crash through your veins and cleanse the dust until you are new and raw and enlightened. Strike fire with your sword as the storm overwhelms you. The speak has finally come, great streaks of lightning like Neptune’s trident in the dark. Your mind is ready, a circuit begging to be completed. So when genius and creativity arrive in the form of tumultuous storms, your tools are sharp, your mind prepared to bear crops.

Allow the storm to consume you as you consume the storm.

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The Importance of Carrying a Notebook

Two days ago, I blogged about the importance of paper. How writers, more specifically I, feel about paper and its uses for writers and within society. What about the notebook? With the innovation of the IPad and tote-worthy tablets, haven’t physical paper notebooks become a thing of a past for writers? I would contest no because I write in notebooks every day. Yesterday, I bought a new one.

Newest notebook, small enough to fit in my pocket.

As you can see, I've already christened the white paper with a new poem as of last night.

When I first got the Nook tablet, I figured that I would no longer need a notebook. There’s an app called Fliq notes where I can type in reminders to myself. Of course, I cannot do so at school. And perhaps I cannot do so quick enough when the Nook is turned off. Just pushing onscreen buttons is a hassle which takes longer than writing down the note would be. So while Fliq notes is great, I do not use it to record lines of poems I think up.

Sitting in class and you think up a paragraph for a short story you’ve been working on. Here is a place to write it.

Personally, writing in journals gives me a sort of connection to the writers of the past. Ernest Hemingway wrote in notebooks before typing up his stories. Like those writers, I can practice thinking slowly about a story instead of rattling it out too quickly. Perhaps with more time, I will be able to write something more eloquent and less fraught with spelling mistakes.

When later, I must type up the draft of a story, I am allowed to again revise the story giving me an even better story than I started off with. It’s less obnoxious as well than carrying around an IPad or laptop wherever I go. Recently, I’ve created a rule for myself. I must only buy notebooks that fit in my pocket. That way, I can carry it whenever I am going out, and in the middle of the street, if I hear something brilliant or am struck suddenly with an idea, I can write it down.

I’ve filled an entire shoe box (and more) full of notebooks, both ornate and plain. This is a collection I’ve kept since about the ninth grade. Each notebook is completely filled with words. Stories, poems, and thoughts.

I realize, that is rather a lot of words inside of those notebooks. I even included my Nook, which can served as a note-keeper too.

Here are some of my favorites:

I bought this notebook in Germany two years ago. It has musical notation on the cover and inside to one of Chopin’s most famous pieces.

Here is a better look at the cover.

This next notebook was the one I bought during Black Friday, though it was decidedly not on sale. It is actually the larger version of my newest notebook.

This next notebooks is another definite favorite for two reasons. First off, it is small with rounded edges, also thin. Making it very easy to carry in my pocket wherever I go. Though my newer notebook is smaller, it is thicker, which can be irksome at times. Also, this poem was the last bought during my trip to Alabama three weeks ago. It is already filled with stories and poems.

Lastly, my utmost favorite notebook. My uncle bought this notebook for me in Karlsruhe at which point I stopped transcribing my adventures in marble notebooks and began in this. In fact, the journal entries and sketches in this notebook were the inspiration for my poem “The Savage Summer.” The cover design and spin held together by strings, the entire poem is just… a work of art. See for yourself.

I hope you have enjoyed viewing these and learning about my own notebooks. Do you hold notebooks dear to you as well? If so, share your stories in the comment section below. Tell me about what sort of notebooks you own and how you use them. Until next time, Ciao.

What I Learned From Acting: How to Make Characters People

If you ever want to learn how to make a character become a real, fleshed-out person, audition for a play. Become a character.

A few weeks ago, I auditioned for The Crucible on the spur of the moment and learned the following day that I had been cast as Giles

This is what I'm SUPPOSED to look like. Handsome, eh?

Corey, a combative 87-year-old man whose wife is arrested as a witch. He storms the courts in an attempt to save her life.

Never having acted in a play before, there was much to learn. But what I really wanted to figure out was how to make a character come to life. Set in Puritan times, we could not convey the characters as modern people, yet had to be relate-able to modern people. This created an interesting conflict.

Who is Giles Corey?

In the script, he’s almost daft, certainly crazy. I was an old man, yet I was 17. How could I act older, appear older? What might I think differently, being much, much older?

But what does he care about? BECOMING a character forces you to ask more questions. Therefore, even a minor character in a story has great internal conflicts. Giles is fiercely loyal and for that reason, dies by the end of the play. Yet he is frightened by death, angered by those who permit innocents to die.

When writing a novel, use some of these same questions to help make your characters more real. If it works for actors, it works for writers too.

1.) Understand the many facets of your character

Even if your character does something horrendous, perhaps he or she does it for a good reason. Even “evil” characters have qausi-good intentions at times. At one point during the play, I lunged at another man, screaming, “I’ll cut your throat, Putman! I’ll kill you yet!” While seemingly a deadly promise, consider that I scream this line at the man who just damned me to die. It’s understandable.

In your story, make sure to understand everything your character does and make sure it’s “in character.” Even if you don’t reveal these reasons in your story, you need to know them to keep your character consistent.

2.) Know your relationships

If you’re character is a cruel guy, maybe he’s not cruel to everyone. Nice people are not nice to everyone. Know how each character feels for the others. Are they jealous or respectful or resentful? Especially if characters are relation, figure out their family dynamic. Again, there’s no need to overtly explain this, but it’s safe to know how each character might react.

3.) Know what your character owns

This may sound weird, but it’s important to know what a character owns. His clothes. His possessions. Does he have a wallet or a money clip? Does he wear bowler caps or cowboy hats? What do these things say about him?

Know what sort of car he or she drives. Know how your character might decorate his or her bedroom/apartment. Know whether or not your character owns pets. Again, you don’t need to describe all of this, but know it.

One great trick I learned is to pick a single object of great importance to your character. Make the character own the possession. Whatever it is, this is distinctly this character’s possession. In The Crucible, Giles walks with a cane. The cane became a very important part of my character. I could use it in so many different ways to help show my emotion.

I might shake it at someone because I’m angry. I might rub the top nervously. I might spin it in my hands.

All of these visual cues can be translated into a story to represent what your character is feeling. After a number of times, the reader will understands that, “Giles stroked the cane, spinning it in his fingers” means “Giles was nervous.”

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These are all the pieces of advice I have at the moment, but take them into consideration to help your characters breathe. We justfinished the first weekend of performances. The last 3 start on this Friday. I have learned so much from acting in this play and will definitely blog about it later on in the week, because the people I’ve met are amazing. It has taught me a lot about character development and a lot about people.

Flashback Thursday: The Hogwarts Dorm Life

The Character Arc Corellation

Facebook’s Dirty Secret

Using Facebook nowadays, I feel like an old woman dipping her toes into social-networking waters. Calling out to my son to ask how to comment and how to look at Aunt Judy’s new album of her new cat. In my me-as-old-woman fantasy, it’s a Siamese cat, and I get to use a Mac Book Air, but have no clue how to.

Since joining Facebook in 2006, I have survived through dozens of website design changes. The newest change literally puts a live-action news feed in the top-right corner of your already existing news feed. Soon, it will release the “Timeline” feature which will confuse me further. But why must Facebook make changes? Why are people up in arms about this? Simply, read on.

When I first joined, Facebook looked like this:

Now, it looks like this:

Soon, it will look like this:

So, what’s up with the changes? Well, a site like Facebook can’t afford to not evolve. With Google + as a new viable competitor, Facebook must……. oh, who am I kidding? Google + doesn’t stand a chance.

Sure, it will gain new users after the “change,” but really the change might help us. Now, I no longer have to spend hours of the day checking each person’s status to see what comments were left. Now, Facebook does that for me. So, do you need to stalk your ex or find out where the nearest party is? Well, it now requires absolutely no work.

Facebook repeatedly puts us all on the same level of clueless confusion. Once our parents and grandparents joined Facebook, our generation laughed at their ineptitude. But now we find ourselves… scrambling for answers.

No, Facebook! You’ve taken away our savvy, our only source of pride. Now we’re on the same level as our grandparents. We are old ladies using the internet for the first time.

Well, at least they haven’t figured out Google + yet.

So, maybe, this is a conspiracy to knock us down a level. I’m watching you, Zuckerburg. I’m watching…

SENSATIONAL HEADLINE GARNERS ATTENTION!!!

Writing for a newspaper, you keep strict guidelines on what you right about. Even as a columnist, you’re not allowed to spread gossip or back up your argument with hearsay. Like, did you guys hear that Obama is an illegal alien? No, like an Extra Terrestrial alien, straight from Jupiter. He crash-landed here in 2006. After two years, he successfully took over AMERICA!!

The truth is, the truth is boring. What is exciting is sensation. Oh, you’re girlfriend broke up with you? Yaaaaaaaaawn! How about, your girlfriend cheated on you with your half-brother, so then you committed a brutal double homicide?

What is worse, now, is that what we think is sensational is not. At least fifty years ago, reporters squawked about murders and embezzlement scams, but now all that’s kept hush-hush. Now, the government’s part of the game, with all the Aces up its sleeve, so we shout new sensations like…

MILEY CYRUS SHOWS CLEAVAGE

like…

LADY GAGA EATS A BURGER KING WHOPPER!! GAINS 1/2 POUND!

like…

THE SECRETS TO WINNING SCRABBLE

We cop out to sensationalism, but we can’t even do it right. I use this notion when creating names for poems. Names like…

Skinny Dipping with Strangers

Sexting While Driving

Anything to render a reader’s attention, or that of a listener. We use flashiness, though, to hide that there may not be real stories. We ignore the real to highlight the trivial. Like… the innovation of new ketchup packages…

Shopping habits of frugal buyers.

Listen, if you want to me to listen, give me a serial killer, give me a historical building being blown apart, give me a mob war… surely the most interesting news we have to offer isn’t that Ashton Kutcher is now part of Two and a Half Men.

ALL CAPS IN BOLD HOLDS GREAT POWER.

True Blood: Season 4 in Review

How to De-stress