Writing Frustrations and Bird Poop

Bird poop is not pleasant. It’s messy, and one of the worst offenders around here right now are the robins.

Robin

Once winter is on the wane, I’m always delighted to welcome the earliest robins. They’re harbingers of spring, after all, and that makes me smile. By summertime, however, I’ve begun to tire of the white accumulations that adorn our deck railings and outdoor furniture, and I’m no longer smiling.

Robins are pretty, and they sing a sweet song, I’ll give them that. But they don’t eat birdseed. The lawn and garden are their kitchen source for earthworms and berries. The only appeal our deck apparently has for them is as a bathroom… a place to perch and deposit their doo-doo, which I don’t-don’t like! Someone had a warped sense of humour when they named the species ‘Turdus migratorius’.

We had 45 people coming here last night for a church barbecue. In preparation, we had pulled weeds and tidied the gardens. Hubby power-washed the deck, and I wiped down the lawn furniture. You get the picture. We wanted things to be neat and clean for our guests, and it was… until late-afternoon, just before the first guests arrived, when Mr. Robin Redbreast dropped in and dropped. Ackkk!!! It was too late to get out the hose, but there was no point in stressing over little blobby things, as maddening as they were. I found a rag, cleaned them away as best I could and carried on, soon forgetting all about the annoyance and enjoying a wonderful evening with friends.

The writing application that occurred to me later had to do with not overstressing about little things. No point in grinding to a halt  when the wrong words deposit themselves on the page during a first draft. Better to look at the overall picture, get on with the job and worry about cleaning up the messy bits during revision. There are bound to be more messy bits before it’s done and we’re ready to put the manuscript out on display anyway.

In future, when I’m getting really frustrated, maybe I’ll try and remember to mutter, “Oh, poop!!!” then have a laugh and get back to work.

What’s your method of banishing first draft frustrations?

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A not-terribly-useful photo journal of a morning in my life…

Bear 6Some days I approach the writing of my blog post wondering what I can say that will be meaningful, or interesting, or useful. What bit of wit or wisdom will make you feel it was worth your while to stop here? My tidbits about the craft of writing are gleaned from personal experience and can’t be counted on as professional expertise. My life isn’t full of extraordinariness that makes it much different from anyone else’s. My efforts at photography are hit and miss at best. I take oodles of shots, and discard most, but I present you with the few that suitably illustrate my topic du jour.

My problem today? No ‘topic du jour’ will come to mind! I have no brilliant writing analogies, and my days recently have been pretty ordinary. However, I DO have some photos I can share, not because they’re particularly great photography, but because the subject matter is pretty spectacular… at least, it is to me, given it was shot in my own backyard.

I’ve mentioned before that we live more-or-less rurally, in a cul-de-sac, but one where the few homes are surrounded by woods and marshland. All manner of wildlife wander through en route to wherever. Wednesday the biggest bear yet came through… but she stayed. And stayed.

Bear 1

My hubby yelled at her when she started up the stairs to the deck, so she backed off. Instead, she wandered around the lawn and through the gardens. She climbed high into one of the very tall (200′) evergreens and then backed her way down again. She laid down and grazed on the grass, got up and wandered some more, repeatedly… for eighty minutes! (I know that because I checked the time stamps on the first and last of my 100+ photos.)

Bear 5

She didn’t DO anything, but neither did she seem inclined to leave.

Then, after keeping us entertained for eighty minutes, she took one last stroll through the garden shrubs, turned and headed with determination across the yard towards the trail to our marsh… this time followed by a little cub who materialized from behind a rhododendron and scrambled to keep up!

 

Bear 3

Our best guess for the prolonged visit is that, en route to wherever, it must have been time for the cub’s morning nap. Mama Bear had deposited him there, out of sight just above the creek, and left him to snooze while she put in the time munching and mowing our unkempt lawn, and posing for her extensive photo opp.

Bear 2

(If you’d like a closer look, click on the photos to enlarge)

I’m left with an abundance of photos and memories of this close-up wildlife encounter, but I still don’t have a useful Friday post for you. Nothing brilliant has emerged from my boggled brain, so I hope you’ll be satisfied with this photo journal and feel your visit here hasn’t been entirely in vain.

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“Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth,
and makes us wiser than the fowls of heaven?”

[Job 35:11]

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When ‘gluing one’s butt in a chair’ takes on new significance

Chair

#amfinallygoingtohaveahappybutt

My post on Facebook yesterday was the truth: “Went to Staples for a glue stick this afternoon… and came home with a new office chair (… and yes, I remembered the glue stick, too.)”

There was this unfortunate combination of things – sore shoulders and a “$100 off” price sticker – that sidetracked me in the centre aisle. I was on my way to the cashier, honestly, I was, but…. With the glue stick clutched in my hand, I gingerly settled into a black leather chair and was still there when my hubby came looking for me.

I have a perfectly acceptable computer chair, one that’s comfortable by everyone’s standards but mine. It just doesn’t fit my backside. I know the fault is mine – my backside is generous, to say the least – but the coaxing voice in my head told me I was still entitled to some comfort as I work at creating my fictional worlds.

So yes, I now have a new  and very comfy chair in my office. (And where am I currently sitting with my laptop? Um, I don’t think I’ll answer that completely irrelevant question.)

OHI_0155-WriterHealthTipArmsThe point is, ergonomics is an important consideration for writers. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines ergonomics as “a process of matching furniture (including tools, workstation, equipment, and environment) to the workers and their work tasks to reduce the hazards for injury and discomfort without undermining productivity.”

There’s nothing wrong with using a pad of paper or laptop balanced on our knees to write as we’re propped up in bed, but as a continuous practice over the long term our backs, necks and productivity are bound to suffer. I know most of us aren’t going to spend big bucks on equipping our writing spaces – at least, not until we’ve signed a publishing contract that will offer us a little expendable income – but it’s not a bad thing to keep sound ergonomic criteria in mind if we happen to run across a particularly good sale.

The ideal list:

  • a workspace designed to minimize distractions (including comfort, noise and temperature)
  • good lighting (a mixture of direct lighting (60%) and indirect lighting (40%), plus desktop task lighting in a 20:1 ratio with the surrounding light)
  • windows with glare control (adjustable blinds or shades)
  • a fully adjustable chair with height-adjustable armrests (and the knowledge of how to set it for our needs)
  • an adjustable desk, or one of an appropriate height for us (Dr. David Brandenburg, a UCLA certified ergonomist, says, “The standard 29 to 30 inch desk is way too high for women.”)
  • a foot rest
  • convenient accessories such as a copyholder, plus, if we use one, a computer placed at the correct height and distance, and a mouse that fits our hands and doesn’t require a stretch to reach

If you had your “druthers” (and no cost restrictions), what would be your first move towards a more ergonomic-friendly writing environment?

~

Cartoon used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com 

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Using graphics and editing in home décor & writing

“White space and margin and editing are all things I’ve learned to appreciate in many areas of my life. Especially our home. Lately I’ve felt like our home needs some breathing room….And I’ve been wondering what it would be like to clear out my house a little longer than my usual quieting of a space. I want to have a month without accessories in our house….I feel like it will give me a fresh perspective of the beautiful things I use in my home.”

~

DSC05836Immediately after reading that on The Nester’s blog, I saw a comment from Sandra Heska King on Facebook: “*I* need some breathing room,” she wrote. “Some white space. I’m in. This quest for simplicity–it never ends.”

The reference to white space, margins and editing are familiar to any writer or graphic artist. We know how important they are. But in our homes? I had to think about that for a bit before acknowledging that lack of bare space in both my home and my life causes me stress. I can’t write if my office is a total mess. My mind tightens up when surrounded by clutter and the words end up trapped inside. When housework piles up I get frazzled.

And yet I’ve always thought simplicity is found more in a state of mind than in an environment.

I love browsing through home decorating magazines and websites. Through the years I’ve learned I’m not a minimalist when it comes to home décor. I like having meaningful objects and artwork around, but can’t tolerate being smothered by an abundance of them.

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Dark walls and white accessories help keep this room serene.

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I had to edit items from this room — there was too much clutter for me!

I think personality determines the style or décor we’re comfortable living with in our homes, and it shows up in our writing, too. Some of us write sparse, streamlined prose with an emphasis on plot. Others dish out setting that captivates the reader with sumptuous, down-filled description.

Until I re-read some of my fiction I’d never realized how closely my writing style parallels my home decorating taste.

What about you? What’s your style?

 

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Journeying IV – Coming Home

“Wisdom and understanding can only become the possession of individual men by travelling the old road of observation, attention, perseverance, and industry.”

Samuel Smiles
On the road...

On the road…

I’m a terrible homebody! If I had my druthers, I’d probably be an armchair traveller and have a clone to do any actual travelling. While I love our fifth-wheel trailer and our little Cariboo cabin and I love visiting our children and their families,  getting organized to leave home is always an effort. Staying home is comfortable.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine missing out on the sweet discoveries, the family joys, and All. The. Photo. Opps along the way. (Oh, and the cruising experiences… I have to admit to liking them, too.) So, I compromise and travel only to places that are meaningful to me. And then I come home. I said I was a homebody, didn’t I? 

I’m home again after three-weeks-less-one-day away. I had a wonderful time, but it feels good to be back. Now I get to be the insufferable host(ess) for the next while, and bring out my photo albums… ;)

(If you wish, you can click on a photo to enlarge it
or, if you prefer, you can skip the next part altogether.)

~

Waiting at the Galena Bay ferry landing.

Waiting at the Galena Bay ferry landing.

On board...

On board…

Crossing Upper Arrow Lake, BC

Crossing Upper Arrow Lake, BC.

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A new day dawning…

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Sun Glow

I’m not usually up early. Dawn isn’t my time to shine. But from my sleeplessness the stillness of a dewy Monday morning draws me, and I quietly slide open the patio door and slip outside. The deck boards are cool under my bare feet and I tug my robe closer in the early chill. Birds are just beginning their morningsong, greeting the sun with birdy chirps from hidden perches deep in the trees. A hummingbird buzzes past for his first guzzle of the day.

Hummer

Mixed with the happiness of visiting family, there is a wistfulness to this new day… a stray reminder that tugs from the darkness. A praise song from yesterday’s worship service bubbles to mind and soothes in the silence:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name *

Whether it’s another new week, a brand new day, a fresh new moment — or all three — the newness allows for starting over. Today’s beginning is not like yesterday’s or tomorrow’s but is a now opportunity for which to be thankful.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

.Budlit

In the glow of this Monday morning I find a sturdy beauty. The day will burst open whether the world is ready for it or not, and there is blessing in that continuity.

FushiaI will settle into more writing later today, but not now. I tiptoe back inside and slide the door closed. The warmth of my bed beckons and I’m going to cuddle down for another two hours. When the rest of the household awakens I will join them, refreshed and ready to welcome the joy of today.

But first I’ll need to withstand the temptation to warm my chilly feet on my sleeping hubby’s backside!

~  ~  ~

*10,000 Reasons

(Matt Redman)

 

Contemplating blog changes…

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Our marsh in the late evening is a quiet place. The birds are silent, geese and ducks have hidden away for the night, and the tree frogs haven’t begun their chirping. The stillness is only broken by the occasional buzz of a passing insect.

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It’s changed a lot in the time we’ve lived here. Sixteen years ago it was a pond – it even has a name on municipal maps – but through the years wild grasses have filled in the shallow areas. Now in the summertime the only visible water is in the deeper parts where a stream runs through.

Life’s full of change; nothing is totally static. If it were, it would become stagnant.

As I flipped my calendar to another new month it occurred to me that later in June I’ll be marking this blog’s fifth birthday. Eight hundred posts in five years – a consistent average of over three posts a week – and nearing one hundred thousand views. Whew! I wonder if anything I’ve said has been of any real interest or value, or if I’ve simply been occupying myself with my “mental meanderings”.

Musings have a way of taking my thoughts on a journey. I start out with an innocuous seed of an idea and before long it’s shot up into a gawky plant that branches out all over the place!

That happens in my novel writing, too, and during revisions a lot of ruthless pruning has to take place. Pruning can be hard, but it clears away deadwood and makes for a healthier plant (or story) in the end. So I’m thinking it might be time to tackle some pruning here on the blog.

Watch for changes later this month. Let me know which ones you like… and yes, which ones you don’t. :)

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