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?

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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.)

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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.

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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

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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!

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*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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Does your home décor match your writing style?

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“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.”

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

Our Master Bedroom

Our Master Bedroom

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 undone housework piles up I get frazzled.

Our Family Room

Our Family Room

And yet I’ve always thought simplicity is more a state of mind than an environment. I’m not a minimalist when it comes to home décor. I like having meaningful objects and artwork around, just not being smothered by an abundance of them.

I believe 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. In between lies a graduated plane of styles.

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?

 

~  ~  ~

Just bearing with it!

For all of the almost-seventeen years we’ve lived in this rural neighbourhood, we’ve coexisted with the wildlife. The deer eat some of our garden plants which I replace with ones they don’t like. The coyotes occasionally keep us awake at night, and raccoons play Peeping Tom through the patio doors. A few closer-than-desirable encounters with bears on our deck are memorable, but there’s never been any real problems.

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We’ve learned to remove the birdfeeders before bears come out of hibernation in the spring, and to keep the temptation of garbage to a minimum. The acreage isn’t fenced, but we have a fenced dog yard, and in one nook  next to the house garbage cans have been contained in a wooden bin. Only recently did a bear decide to brave the dog scent and scale the fence to investigate the garbage.

Apparently on Friday night he had a midnight craving for our leftovers. I had words with him when he began flinging the cans against the house in an effort to dislodge their secured lids.

The phrase ‘Mexican standoff’ comes to mind. He ignored me, but he didn’t get the lids off, either. However he did manage to pry them up far enough to drag the contents out onto the ground before they snapped closed again. When I rapped on the window above his head and flashed the lights at him, he eventually ambled away… towing a couple of the garbage bags with him as he clambered over the fence, through the back yard and into the bush. Of course the bags snagged on the fence so the resulting mess was greater than if I’d left him to his munching undisturbed.

One day I’ll learn. In the meantime the garbage cans have taken up residence inside the garage where I must edge my way around them en route to the car, because there is absolutely no extra space in our garage. If you could do a better job of organizing our truck, van, Model A, lawn tractor, snow blower, fifth-wheel trailer hitch, freezer, pump organ, work bench and garden tools… well, you’re welcome to try… but that’s why the garbage bins were outside in the first place. I think I’m resigned to just bearing with it until winter freeze-up and hibernation begin again.

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Who do you depend on?

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Our five-year-old granddaughter wanted to go for a family walk last night. It might have been a bedtime delay tactic, but in the end we agreed. She was determined we should go down the trail “through the forest to the pond,” so we did, and discovered a few inhabitants who haven’t been around for the past couple years.

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You have to look carefully to see my favourite…

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Yes, it’s a Canada Goose nesting on top of the beaver lodge. For years we had two pair of geese in the marsh each spring, and one goose always returned to patch up her old nest and settle in until her brood hatched, confident that few predators could bother her. Then one summer a few years ago, after a group of homes went in on the other side of the marsh, the water level dropped. The beaver did their best to dam up the creek, but in the end they abandoned the lodge. After that the geese nested elsewhere, out of sight in the tall grasses.

Now they’re back. I don’t know if their presence indicates the beaver have also returned, but the lodge has again found favour as a secure nesting locale. Nearby, the gander patrols, ensuring the ducks, hawks and coyotes keep their distance.

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It’s fascinating to see the interdependence of the wildlife. The beaver’s home provides security for the goose, while the gander’s honking and squawking warn her and the beaver of anything intruding into their space.

There’s a parallel of sorts in the writer’s world. Each of us has a job to do as we nurture and deliver our stories. As much as writing is a solitary task, we’re dependent upon others for critiques, editing and publication, to help us reach our goal of providing a good story for readers. At the same time, those same people, including the readers, need writers to keep writing if there are going to be books to produce. There’s interdependence in the industry but there is also interdependence at the grass roots level.

Who do you depend upon when you need story advice, editing assistance, agent recommendations and the like? Or are you a true loner? :)

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Revisions: How complicated can they be?

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A cedar arbour has stood in our back yard for some fifteen years, supporting a climbing white hydrangea for the past ten. The hydrangea wasn’t blooming, but I was told it could take many years to get started. Finally, two years ago, the first couple blooms appeared, and then last year there were a half dozen. Halleluia!

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Last summer we noticed the arbour was listing to starboard, and by fall it was threatening to fall over. The wood was rotten and the hydrangea pushed vigorously from the one side. My hubby nailed supports on to prop it in place over the winter and last week we began the task of replacing it. We didn’t expect it to be much of a challenge. Just get a new arbour ready, ease the hydrangea branches off the old one and take it out, slide the new one into place, anchor it, and presto… replacement complete. Except I wanted to salvage that hydrangea, and we discovered its woody stems were tightly entwined through the latticework. Thus we had to undertake the huge job of cutting the lattice on either side of every branch, and wiggling the loose pieces free. It ended up taking the better part of three days.

I don’t know if we stressed the hydrangea so it won’t bloom this year, but we’ve done our best to save it and (I think) it’s still alive. I did some judicious pruning, also trimming the rhododendron beside it to give it some room, and cutting back hemlock branches that wanted to rest across the top. All we can do now is wait to see what happens this summer.

DSC01211The process reminded me a little of manuscript revisions. The hardest part of writing a novel is getting the first draft in place, right? The revisions just require some reorganizing, checking for continuity, maybe shifting the occasional scene, and, of course, fixing lots of typos and grammatical errors. That’s what I thought until I began revising my first novel. How could it take me so long? Every slight change I made required subsequent changes somewhere else. The main character was wimpy; the antagonist was unbelievable; there was too much backstory. I cut, changed and corrected, but the resulting narrative was choppy, and I ended up doing a total rewrite from the beginning. A year later it still didn’t feel right.

That manuscript has long since been shelved and I’ve learned a lot as I’ve written my way through several more. I enjoy doing revisions, but I understand now that there is much more to them than implementing a few quick changes. As we gain experience and knowledge some of how we write becomes instinctive, but a good revision checklist is still desirable. I keep one handy that I found years ago on Nathan Bransford’s site. It’s still there if you’d like to check it out. There are undoubtedly lots of others.

Getting it right the first time would be nice. If I were a planner and plotted out the story in detail before starting, I would undoubtedly cut down on the amount of time I spend on revisions, but I don’t think I will ever be one those writers who thinks everything out first, ponders the words as they hit the paper, and never has to look at them again after typing ‘The End’.

Revisions shouldn’t be complicated, and if we have the basics right, they won’t be. I highly recommend reading PLOT AND STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell, and WRITING 21st CENTURY FICTION by Donald Maass for an understanding of what good writing is all about… and the groundwork that goes along with the gruntwork.

Do you delight in revisions, or dread them, or do you sit somewhere in between? How do you tackle them?

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Looking for Perfection

DSC09849Some of our family members will be moving soon. Others are hoping to. Over the past year we’ve helped both families scour real estate advertisements and follow umpteen For Sale signs in the hope of finding the perfect new home — the perfect location, the perfect condition, and the perfect features at the perfect price. Apparently it doesn’t exist.

My hubby and I have moved many times during our years serving in different churches. Often we lived in manses — houses provided by the church — but in the latter years we bought our own homes. Price was always a determining factor, but except for when I was running a business and the space had to accommodate my equipment, we didn’t have a lot of requirements. We needed three bedrooms, one of which would be used as an office. With four children an ensuite bathroom was desirable, as was a fenced yard for the dogs. We ended up with some less-than-perfect houses, but we moved right in and made ourselves comfortable anyway.

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I’m sure our families will eventually find the houses that are right for them, too. They won’t likely be perfect, but they’ll meet the necessary criteria and will quickly evolve into comfortable ‘home central’ sanctuaries .

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I thought of all this after reading DD Shari Green‘s blog post yesterday. The question was asked, “In your writing life, and in particular your efforts to reach your March Madness goals, what’s your Biff?” The reference will be familiar to those who are “Back to the Future” fans, but if it’s not, feel free to stop reading and whip over to Shari’s blog to discover its background. Go ahead. I don’t mind waiting….

Did you notice all the “Biffs” people mentioned in their comments — obstacles such as rambling writing, health issues, perfectionism, self-doubt, tiredness, guilt, fear of failure, procrastination and lack of initiative. A few even mentioned their children! So many things stand in the way of creating the perfect book.

In a perfect writer’s world there would be limitless story ideas, uninterrupted blocks of time to develop them, a driving desire to write, and a lucrative publishing contract plus oodles of readers waiting when we’ve completed our perfectly written book. That’s in the perfect world. The one that doesn’t exist for us any more than the perfect house does for my family.

DSC08776Instead, we may have to compromise a little and recognize that while perfection is beyond our reach, producing a well written story isn’t. We have to write (and finish) it, improve it with revisions, get it thoroughly critiqued, revise it some more, then, even if it’s not quite perfect (and it won’t be), send it out into the world. Omitting any of the necessary steps dooms us to the rank of real estate ‘looky-loos’, ever dreaming, but never taking action to help the dreams become reality.

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