Tag Archives: inspiration

Can’t Complain


Short post today, but a thing I realized the other day. Things are pretty good, lately.

I mean, I’m stressed. I feel like I don’t have nearly enough time in the day to do all the things that need doing. But I have a hard time finding anything to complain at length about outside of the mild day-to-day annoyance. Things aren’t perfect, but I’ve learned not to chase after the perfect at the expense of the good.

In fact, I may have stumble into the perfect formula for living life as a happy man. Here it is.

  • A wife who puts up with about 70 percent of my particular brand of bullsharknado. (I don’t want to get away with everything.)
  • 2 kids who simultaneously drive me to my wits’ end and remind me about what really matters in this world.
  • A dog who occasionally makes me want to commit murder but is mostly chill and awesome. She runs with me three mornings a week and won’t let me slack, but won’t let me overdo it. She loves our kids and puts up with being poked and prodded and petted and, occasionally, ignored. She is the best dumb dog.
  • A gaggle of cats who remind me that occasionally, everybody has to clean up somebody else’s crap. (Generally a few times a week.)
  • A job where I am appreciated, respected, given a fair bit of creative license, and generally left to my own devices.
    • It doesn’t hurt that just about every morning I’m treated to a lovely sunrise over the hazy football field:
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  • A running habit that clears the mind and doesn’t allow the body to rot.
  • A creative spirit that won’t let me rest.

Combine all parts in a middle-aged guy with desperately thinning hair, mix thoroughly, and leave to thicken.

As Ferris Bueller said, regarding driving a Ferrari, if you have the means, I highly recommend it..It is so choice.

I mean, maybe my particular vehicle is more like a 2000 Camry — functionable and reliable rather than flashy and rigged to win races — but it’s sure as hell working out for me so far.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results. This week? Maybe not so productive.


Project Projections: 80% Chance of Bloodbath


My current project may kill me.

Not because it’s awful, like my protagonist’s assignment in Accidentally Inspired. Not because it’s just too much work, either, like that pile of stuff in your garage that you keep meaning to sort through and clean out.

It’s going to kill me because much like the weather here in Georgia, it’s alternately the best thing ever and the worst thing imaginable, and I don’t know how many fluctuations I can take before my lungs fill up with phlegm and my sinuses explode in protest.

The good:

While I was writing it, I had the feeling that it was terrible. I kept changing things in the middle of the narrative, the plot and characters congealing like a quivering pile of multicolored unidentifiable mystery meat in a school cafeteria. But reading through the story again this week, I’m pleasantly surprised. The plot needs work, to be sure, but it’s more multi-knotted rescue rope with the odd loose end than formless hairball of half-digested tail fur.

Also, there are some lovely turns of language in it — especially toward the beginning. I love a good simile or metaphor like I love a third slice of cake — but like the third slice of cake, I have to wonder if I’m not overdoing it. Trying too hard, indulging in fripperies because they feel good right now, rather than because they’re what I need. Not so much in this book. The language is playful and sometimes poetic, though always a little off-the-wall — kinda like me.

I found a note that Past Me left for Future Me (now Present Me) to “have fun with this story” — my previous story’s protagonist spent most of his time in a smothering haze of self-doubt — and I seem to have followed that advice pretty well. In this story, there’s adventure! Robots! Murder plots! Secret agendas! Double agents! Explosions! It’s not clicking like a finely-oiled machine, yet, but the pieces are there for the clicking, and it was actually already fun for me to read even in its first form — AND YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ITS FINAL FORM YET.

In short, there’s already a lot of good going for it. Of course, that brings me to the flip side of the coin —

The Bad:

A lot of the language that I so enjoyed at the outset dries up like a California reservoir after the first third of the book. Not coincidentally, that’s about where I started making major changes to characters and plots and had to spend all of my fargoes keeping those balls in the air. But that now means I’ll either have to trim it back in the first third or surgically implant it into the latter parts, neither of which is likely to feel natural.

Some of the rewrites on order are massive. I’d guess offhand that maybe a third of the book needs a ground-up rewrite and another third needs a heavy dose of some terrifying, unnameable, especially pointy and sharp editing tools. I know, I know. The editing is supposed to be the hard part. But this particular EPOS feels like it may be bigger than the last one I climbed. Daunting.

The last one, I don’t even want to say. It almost hurts too much. But I can’t avoid it.

I lost the ending of the book, back when I lost the flash drive that had my most recent first draft on it. Only the last 5000 words or so, but still — that one bit of stupidity continues to haunt me, like I went and built a house on an old Indian burial ground. Now, the ending needs — as all endings need — some serious tweaking and tuning, so the loss itself isn’t that bad. But the fact of the loss is pretty damn demoralizing, and leaves me with a grungy feeling as I get ready to step into my rubber gloves and galoshes and slice into this thing.

But the slicing is inevitable anyway. Just means I go into the work with a little bit of gudge already on me.

So. Kill me?

On second thought, I don’t think so.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results. This week? Maybe not so productive.

 


Terrible Reviews: LaLa Land


When was the last time you saw a film that rearranged your view of reality?

My wife and I saw LaLa Land last night, and as the kids say these days, I am shook. SHOOK.

I can’t do my typical review on this film: the good, the bad, the wtf. I’m reeling from it, like I stepped into the ring with Ali for kicks. I’m seeing stars, occasionally blacking out, chasing the dancing elephants into every corner where they evaporate in ice-cream flavored puffs of smoke.

I loved it. Absolutely loved it. To put it in perspective — this coming from a guy who hates everything — not only am I satisfied in having paid extra to see it in the theater, but I immediately rushed home to buy the soundtrack. Granted, the soundtrack is currently on sale at Google Play for only $8, but still — I gave them my money twice in one day. TWICE.

Okay. Let me focus and try to tell you why you need to pony up and see this movie.

The visuals.

From the striking primary colors of the protagonist and her cohorts at the beginning of the movie to a stunning Fred-Astaire-esque soft-shoe against the backdrop of the cosmos, this is a movie working on your subconscious wonder center with every shot. Not since Jet Li’s Hero have I been so struck by the use of color and composition in a film. It’s stunning. Absolutely stunning.

The music.

It’s usually the job of the music in a movie to vanish into the background, to hover in that liminal space where you don’t really notice it but it still works on your subconscious. To surreptitiously set the mood while fading featurelessly into the background. But you can’t do that with a musical; the music has to be front-and-center, the dancing elephant in the three-ring circus.

And here, the music has to pull double — or maybe even triple — duty. One of the two protagonists, as a jazz pianist, lives and breathes and dies with the music. So it’s not only the lifeblood of the form of the film, it’s an integral part of the plot as well. Luckily, the musical score delivers like Domino’s. The leitmotif is in full force and the melodies are magical. It’s catchy and touching and powerful and it makes you want to listen to it again, which leads me inexorably to …

The feels.

I have a dirty secret to confess. I’m a theatre teacher, and I don’t get particularly sussed over musicals.

I know, I know. I can’t stand Grease, I would be fine without Les Miserables, and I barely bat an eye over Phantom of the Opera. I’m just not moved by the genre.

But this movie moved me. And, as has been well-documented here at this blarg, I hate everything. Yet, somehow, I found myself watching this movie, rapt, oftentimes with tears threatening to fall, as the two protagonists swirled around each other like binary stars in orbit.
I’ll concede here that I’ve been known to bust a tear at kids’ movies. Something about having kids myself makes me susceptible to leaking from my eyeholes when the emotional stuff starts. Mufasa falls into the ravine and Simba nuzzles at his lifeless corpse? Grab the tissues. Bing-Bong leaps from the wagon so that Joy can escape the ravine of oblivion? Definitely something in my eye.
But despite the decidedly lower stakes in La La Land — no dead parents, no shattered innocence, no longing for the simpler days of childhood — I found myself looking skyward and thinking of kittens, lest my wife glance over and catch me wiping at my face. The film is touching and heartfelt and, despite its whimsy, genuine.
The Verdict.
I could go on about how awesome the movie is. The freaking adorable tap dance number. The shameless homage to 80’s new wave music (complete with keytar). The (yes, I’ll mention it again) suspended-in-air dance among the stars as the couple falls head-over-heels in love with each other, and I fell right along with them.
All of that is secondary, really. What shocked me about the movie was this: I can’t recall the last time a movie jolted me so hard, so completely out of reality, as this movie did. For all of its two hours, I was literally transported. Pulled forcibly from the humdrum of the world I know and flung into the whimsical rollick that is La La Land. It’s just what the doctor ordered for a country desperately in need of a distraction; no surprise it’s up for so many awards.
This movie cracked through my carbon-reinforced, unemotional shell and inspired me. And if you can get past the super-campy opening number, it’ll inspire you, too.
Rating:
Four out of four lovingly polished Miles Davis EPs.
(If you’ve seen it, by all means, let me know what you thought. I’m still trying to rearrange my worldview around this movie.)

 


Cleansing the Stream


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A writer’s brain is something like a mountain stream. It rollicks downhill, cascading in gouts of churning white foam over razor sharp rocks. It meanders dreamily around lazy bends in the riverbed. Sometimes it hurls itself off cliffs and pulverizes the stones below with its immense gravity. And eventually it dumps itself out into an ocean or lake brimming with the contents of other streams, other minds.

The stream also plays host to a panoply of life: the fish swimming upstream in their scaly mail, the bears whose merciless jaws slam shut on the hapless fish, the infinitesimal specks that feed upon everything else. All of which is lovely and poetic and whatever. Ideas are living things, is the point, and the current that beats at them and bears them along is fueled by the work the writer is willing to put in to those ideas. A flowing stream is a healthy stream. A stream that does not flow stagnates and rots.

But a stream also collects anything that falls into it. Dead critters. Tin cans. Toxic runoff. These things can poison the waters and taint everything that comes from it.

And there is a lot of poison threatening our streams, of late.

A lot of writers — in my circle, at least — are the liberal sort, and it’s hard to view the daily news, living in Trump’s America, as anything but a literal toxic cloud. (And I imagine even non-liberals are feeling a little more heartburn than they expected, these days.) It becomes very hard to write coherently and fulfillingly when you’re living in existential dread for the future of your country, of your loved ones, hell, even the planet.

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But the stream only purifies itself by flushing the toxins out. We have to keep writing, even when we’d rather not, because we’ll never get clear of this stuff if we don’t let it in, process it, and then purge it. That means writing every day, even just a little. Not letting the stream stagnate. The writing is like a stream. A few words becomes a sentence. A sentence flows into a paragraph. Paragraphs pile up and become pages.

And while we’re at it, we can also protect our streams. Limit our exposure to the whirling crap tornado, walling ourselves off from it where and when we can. Build a chamber — metaphorical for most of us, unless you’re one of those Neil Gaiman types who can indulge in a literal chamber of solitude — into which we allow only so much poison. Cut back on the news. Don’t go rage-reading every story pointing out incompetence and malevolence. Don’t go hate-sharing every link on facebook, every subversive tweet.

Don’t simmer, in other words, in the toxic stew that threatens your stream.

Stay plugged in — because what they really want is for you to give up and stop paying attention — but don’t try to grasp at every thread of the fraying tapestry. Grab hold of one or two strings. Engage enough to get good and angry and motivated. And then stop the flow of the poison. You can’t fix it all. You can’t properly get upset about every little thing that happens. And that, too, is a source of poison: the feeling that it’s all too big. Luckily, there are others of us out there picking up the slack.

We can’t avoid the pollution, but that doesn’t mean we have to drown ourselves in it. Stay afloat. Keep the waters flowing. Keep writing.

dory

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Hirsute Spheroids, née Hairy Balls, and Your Story


I’m a bit of a physics nerd, by which I mean I love physics oddities and learning macro concepts about how the universe works without actually getting my hands dirty in any of the intractible numbers involved. That fascination often leads me down rabbit holes on youtube, whence I arrive hours later, head buzzing with cosmic understanding or mind shattered from inability to process.

Today’s SOCS prompt is “hair”, and while it’d be easy for me to write again about my lack thereof, my mind immediately leapt to the hairy ball theorem (which is, if nothing else, a perfect example of how badly scientists need help naming things — the “hirsute spheroid theorem” would prompt no more than 1/5th the giggles). In short, the theorem states that if you have a hairy ball (*snicker*), there is no way to comb it in such a way that all the hair lays flat. (And there’s nothing worse than a hairy ball with a cowlick.) The math proves this, though I don’t care too much about the math (that’s the department of my sister and her husband, both Georgia Tech grads who do the rest of us the favor of making sure that the numbers support the buildings that stand up around us and the rockets that put our fancy things up in the air or shoot other countries’ fancy things out of it). What I care about is concept. Hairy ball. Can’t comb it flat.

Here’s a brief explanation of the theorem, if you want a better explanation of it (and Minute Physics is worth the subscribe, by the way):

But this is a writing blog, not a maths blog, so why the hockey sticks am I blerping around, getting all hot and bothered about a physics conundrum?

Because writing stories is a bit like the hirsute spheroid theorem. (Nope, still makes me giggle, if only 1/5 as much.) Stories are these weird little hairy balls. The ball (giggle, snort) is the world of the story, where the characters frolic and screw up and alternately threaten the safety of the world or rescue it from deep-sea humanoid squid monsters. The hair (chortle, cackle) is the characters and their frolics. And like the follicular matter in the hirsute spheroid theorem, there’s no way to have those frolics or those characters line up perfectly. Like a lump in the carpet or, well, like the hair on a ball (okay, seriously, I’m done laughing at that), when you flatten it down in one spot,  it springs up anew somewhere else. Lay a perfect plotline that neatly traverses the entire surface and you arrive back at the beginning to find a bizarre cowlick sticking up.

For a writer, this seems like a problem, but it’s not. Note that the hairy ball theorem is stated as a theorem, not a problem. An observation of reality, not a lament of the way reality ought to be. It’s only a problem if you assume that your hirsute spheroid must somehow attain a measure of perfection, which it never will anyway — the perfect being the enemy of the good, as it is.

Stories have flaws, in other words, and it’s a fool’s errand thinking we can iron them all out. Instead, embrace the flaws, iron out what you can, and accept the odd fact: bed-head is, for some reason, in style.

Image result for bed head

Also, a note: careful with your googling if you go searching the hairy ball theorem. Also, just for the lolz, the Wikipedia entry for the hairy ball theorem cheerily points out that, on Wikipedia at least, “‘hairy balls’ redirects here.”

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


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