Monday, August 27, 2012


As I'm getting back into the process of creative writing, a friend suggested that I find some blogs or tumblrs or writing sites that offer good writing prompts. I hadn't thought of it, but when she said that, it seemed so obvious! That's how rusty I am...

I have found one or two that I like on tumblr- though to be honest I only login once or twice a week- and a few good random ones here and here. We also have a book or two on our shelves here at home that have prompts, exercises, and ideas. I still enjoy the feeling of writing by hand for short pieces, so I think I want to answer prompts on paper and then take them to the computer if they seem to be leading somewhere.

I think a realistic goal I will set from this week until Christmas is to answer a prompt every other day- and I'll probably have the best luck with it at lunchtimes or before bed.

And I should be sure to put a little notebook in my new purse so I always have some paper around, since as I mentioned previously, my style of humour and storytelling is very observational.

One book about writing that I like to read for its own sake is Anne Lamott's sweet and honest book Bird By Bird. It makes me laugh every time I pick it up, and inspires me to try afresh. I also love her style of writing; she has a distinctively wry voice which sounds so plaintive yet playful.

I've also been re-reading L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon trilogy (for the millionth time), and her diary entries usually make me feel that I might be better off venting or recording my thoughts on paper instead of generally dumping them on MM all the time. (He tries to listen but I don't completely blame him for tuning out.)

What other resources do you find useful in prompting new material?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm a Hufflepuff, and I'm happy that way

I was a late and reluctant reader of the Harry Potter series, only to fall madly in love with it when I gave in and started reading them. Now I'm a bit of a Potter nerd, and I'm not really sorry for that. It will be interesting to see what place the series holds in the hearts of future generations; I suspect it will rank alongside and below such works as the Lord of the Rings, but probably outrank the Chronicles of Narnia, the Chronicles of Prydain, and other such beloved works of fantasy, simply because of the sheer size of the Potter fandom (and the range in ages of its fans, some of whom were kids when the series came out, book by book, and some who were adults, not that it matters).

Nearly every time I take one of those Sorting quizzes, I get Hufflepuff as a result. Once or twice I've gotten Ravenclaw, but I think that's because those two houses are arguably more similar than any of the rest.

This used to upset me, at first. I mean, nothing against Hufflepuff, despite my love for badgers in literature, but I think most readers naturally favour Gryffindor which has a) the coolest name, b) the famous Potter, c) a reputation for bravery, and d) most of the adventures. And despite the fact that they are fictional houses, I don't think it's necessarily a futile exercise to assess oneself in such a way.

Slytherin maintains a bad reputation, of course, but also the association of cleverness and the ability to manipulate others through charisma (or old-fashioned threatening). Ravenclaw has the distinction of being genuinely wise, clear-sighted, and philosophical. Poor old Hufflepuff's sterling qualities are loyalty and friendship, which simply don't sound as grand.

Ah, but they are indeed qualities that matter, and matter to the majority of society in a more direct way than mere philosophy, manipulation, or even courage. Upon further reflection, I concluded that I simply am not brave. (I fear too many things to be considered brave, and I rarely confront those fears of my own volition. During at least half of Harry's exploits I would have stayed behind with Neville.)

Nor am I particularly clever. I have my moments, but the number of derpy, ditsy ones quite overwhelms the others. I have just enough cleverness to know my (manifold) limitations.

I hope I am not manipulative. I do not think I am charismatic. (I think most people who possess those two qualities can recognize them, like Tom Riddle did.)

I am, definitely, deeply loyal to my friends, and very much in need of them. I am a people person, first and last, and this is my strength and also my undoing. Of the handful of talents I possess, loving is perhaps the best. I deeply value fairness and temerity as well. Hufflepuffs are self-deprecating, easygoing, and always ready for fun.

There are downfalls to this personality, naturally.
I can get a little weird(er) if left alone too long. I feed off the energy of a group or crowd or even a single friend nearby, which can leave me deeply drained without my noticing. I can talk the leg off a table (yes, that is a downfall!). I have a lot of friends, some would say too many. I am a people pleaser, too, and often make promises I cannot keep. I like to do things for people- give special gifts and remembrances- and I've been told I have a saviour complex because I worry too much about others' affairs and grievances- specifically ways they might be rescued.

In the past year I have tried to emphasize keeping my word, not taking too much upon myself, and giving my worries to God more faithfully and frequently, with some success, though there is still much room to improve. I also have to work hard to keep my family and friends from becoming idols in my heart that take precedence before God.

I have to go now- but I have more thoughts on these matters for later.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Someone else said it better

 It seems to me that the great pleasure of human life is not in having an opinion, but rather in learning all the ways you are wrong, and all the nuances you failed to account for, and all the truths that turned out to be not as simple as you once believed.

~John Green, via tumblr

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My grey rain

This pulsing throbbing aching heat

Empties all thought except escape

Mind reeling away to hide in the dark-

Protected, cooled, stilled, silent.

Outside, life carries on in noisy uncaring haste,

Running past wilted rosebushes

Anxious to burst on the scene.

Reluctantly, eyes open, reaching for


Monday, August 13, 2012

Blots in my copybook

I think I might be a bit of a perfectionist.

Not in everything- though we all have discomfort zones- but I zero in on certain areas of life, like cooking and crafting, and in formal writing (because I really won't go to bail for the contents of my emails!). I self-edit a lot. I obsess over the perfect balance of flavours. I am rarely satisfied with a dish, a scrapbook, or a poem because I generally feel I could have done just a bit better.

No doubt this is a hindrance in some ways to my writing. In my time as a technical writer, I had to learn when to let go of a report, especially since final approval and final edits came from colleagues and thus were outside the scope of my proper work. It's usually harder when the piece is personal, creative, original, or poetic.

How does one combat specific perfectionism? Should I try to care more about the areas I'm not obsessive about, or should I try to be more relaxed and open to sharing items that I consider less than perfect?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spinning stories

I'm really feeling perplexed about where to start over with my writing, as I've said before, and I think one of the frustrating things is that in real life, I'm not a bad storyteller, though I say it myself. I love telling stories of any kind, especially the weird/ odd/ dumb stuff that happens to me or that I do to myself- there's an endless source of punchlines- or about family moments.

I guess you could say I really love observational humour. I like it in standup comedy, I like reading it in novels, I like it when others share it- especially when catching up with friends far away who have stockpiled stories to tell since the last phone call. I try to jot down the outlines to jog my memory when my friend Pin, who is insatiable, says, "Tell me STORIES!". At first I can't think of any, but if I have written them down or when my husband says something to remind me, they come pouring out. My life is pretty low-key, especially the last 4 months of being home with the baby, and yet I often experience wonderfully goofy moments that affirm my belief that God has a sense of humour. We are made in His image, and so we were made with funny bones, and the ability to notice things to enjoy!

So I think I need to find a way to either use observation to fill my narrative more between the humourous moments, or expand those moments and their significance. I also need to work on plot, period. My mother used to say when I shared pieces of stories that never seemed to progress, "Where is this going?"

I'll share a couple of quick examples before I end this post- they're not recent but they give you an idea of the kind of thing that cracks me up, especially when I'm the one that says something loopy.

Me: "Are you sure you want to go to the drive-in theatre tonight? It might rain."

Mr. Monday (MM): "........we'll be watching from our car."
 MM, at a winery tasting: "Well, I haven't finished testing your wine, but I tell ya, I love these chips!"
At a hotel, I realize I left my tweezers at home, so in a rash moment of frustration with a very visible stray hair under my brow, I decide to try improvisation.
Five minutes later, MM is electrified to hear the bathroom door open and my announcement, "
"You might think this sounds strange, but I cut my eyebrow while shaving with your razor!"

I have many more but they will have to wait- MM and I have a Super Mario Bros. date while the baby is sleeping!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Missing pieces

So, I've been thinking about this voicelessness of mine, and it occurs to me that there are a few specific factors that are contributing to this flailing-in-the-water feeling that I have when I try to commence creative writing these days.

First, I can tell that I lack depth. My comments, posts, and even my thoughts are much more skimming and shallow than they were a year or two ago, I believe. I confess I am not sure how to go about regaining depth. Maybe I should slow down when writing, even when I'm only commenting on Facebook or posting on someone's blog. Maybe I need to pick two or three places online and focus on making actual contributions to them. (Maybe I need to be offline more.)

Oh yeah, I also lack focus. I can't even blame it on becoming a mother. I have such a variety of interests and curiosities that I flit from topic to idea like a butterfly on crack. (And now I am wondering if anyone has introduced butterflies to crack.) Related to this, the things I most enjoy in life (e.g. cooking, reading, makeup, crafting, hiking, singing, etc) are things that I am good at, but I don't excel in them. I'm not sure I excel in anything, to be honest, and that bothers me, because I like to have goals. (I mean, I do have goals, like "Work on organizational skills", "Be kind", and "Pick up rosemary and couscous at the store." But those are hard to measure.)

I think discipline is the third main ingredient that's absent. (Please note that these are not excuses. I am trying to figure out what is broken so that I can try to fix it. I made this mess myself.) That's partly why I am starting up this blog, even if nobody sees it. I am going to post thoughts and get back into the habit, and hopefully as I jolt and lurch along, the cogs will eventually regain their smooth rotation.

I dwell in Possibility.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Look, listen, learn

This blog is a space for me to find my voice.

You know, I had one in the past. It sounded stronger then- maybe a bit too strong.
Then I fell ill and stopped writing for the joy of it.
Later I learned how to write in a technical way, which strengthened many areas of my writing but withered my voice.

Now I'm trying again, because I'm convinced that my best self can be in the future rather than the past.
It will take time. You are welcome to wait and see.

A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.
~Lou Holtz