Uncluttered

This graphic always makes me smile. While it’s meant to be funny, there’s a kernel of truth tucked within. Einstein Cluttered Desk Clutter drives me nuts! A temporary, working mess doesn’t count, but the kind that builds slowly, insidiously, sneaking into places where it should never be–? I hate it!

Our master bedroom closet and my office are two offending locations right now. The closet is just plain overcrowded, while the office qualifies as cluttered. It’s important to make the distinction because overcrowding can be frustrating, but clutter is mind-warping. Granted, both are first world problems … an embarrassment of overabundance that should fill me with guilt for having what much of the world does not.

What it does, however, is immobilize me. In my office, creativity is at a standstill. I can neither write, nor push myself to do something about the clutter that is to blame, so I escape with my laptop to the family room. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, right? Not totally, but it helps.

The closet is harder to ignore. It’s a mid-sized walk-in under the guise of being an all-season storage locker. If it were smaller, I’d do what one of my daughters does, and every few months sort off-season clothing into a bin and put it in the basement. But because our closet gives the illusion of being generous, my hubby and I keep our entire wardrobes in it. As a result, the rods and shelf space allotted to me are woefully inadequate, everything is squashed together and I can never find what I’m looking for!

(This is embarrassing, but it's all for the sake of honesty. I yanked a T-shirt out of the pile and it toppled.)

(This is embarrassing, but it’s all for the sake of honesty. I yanked a T-shirt out of the pile and it toppled.)

Closet-1 I need to clarify that I am not a shopper. Some of my most frequently worn clothes are ones I’ve had for more than twenty-five years. I own about six pairs of shoes, but wear the same ones almost every day. I’m not an hoarder, either, although perhaps I qualify as a keeper-of-things-I-like.

That’s why a recent Facebook post caught my attention. A friend talked of “creating a minimalist capsule wardrobe”. She advocates “paring down your closet to include only the clothes you love and really enjoy wearing. (And the ones that fit…not that you hope will fit in 2 months.)” Her inspiration came from the Un-fancy blog.

Now that our kitchen’s mini-reno is complete, I’m ready to embark on a new project. I’m not likely to go out and shop for anything to create a new ‘capsule wardrobe’, but I feel inspired to do some paring down. When I pack a suitcase my criteria is always comfort, coordination, condition and ease of care, and I see those as a good goal for my closet clearing.

A tidy closet won’t contribute anything towards my writing, and whether or not this exercise will inspire me to tackle the office clutter is yet to be seen. I’ll let you know.

Do I dare ask you to describe the condition of your closet and/or desk? Are you one who produces best in a distraction-free, pristine environment, or while nested within the comfort of familiar clutter?

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Late Night Thoughts: Sights and Sounds

If you’re anything like me, too often you go through a day seeing the obvious but missing the gems. Sometimes we focus on what’s right in front of us, and see nothing else.

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Other times, if we look beyond the obvious, we discover glimpses that beg to be investigated.

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Little glimmers,
hidden bits of truth and beauty,
sometimes visible,
sometimes only heard.

Beyond the bank of trees that border our back garden is a marsh. At one time it was a pond, officially named on municipal maps. In recent years there has been less water, but a stream still flows through and contributes habitat for geese, ducks, and assorted other wildlife.

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Where earth shimmers
In garish greens,
Liquid and leafy
Reflections of a secret life
Lived marsh deep.

Where night blackens
Sights but not sounds
And coyotes and tree frogs
Compete
In discordant harmony.

(To hear our late night marsh activity you’ll need your sound on.)

In both your life and your writing, I challenge you to look beyond the obvious, look into the depths, and discover meaningful capsules in the world that comprises your everyday.

What one thing have you discovered today that you consider worthy of recording and remembering?

~

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.

[Hebrews 11:1]

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Just another spring morning…

A bit of blue sky, a glimpse of sunshine…yesterday was the perfect day to paint or play, depending on your priorities. For my hubby, it was his morning to begin applying the white paint I had taken several weeks to choose. Our kitchen mini-reno is almost complete. With all the construction done, it’s now paint and fabric time.

He was carefully applying Benjamin Moore’s ‘Vanilla Milkshake’ to the breakfast nook wall when he discovered two adult bears on the lawn below the window. Both were black bears, Ursus americanus, although one was decidedly brown. (Black bears come in various shades of black, cinnamon, brown, even white. If you’re curious, there’s lots more info here.)

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For these guys, it was time to romp through the garden, tromping on shrubs, overturning that pink pot of sedum, and breaking a branch or two. Then they settled in to graze on grass, just as a different visiting bear had done exactly one year ago to the day. (I shared that morning in photos here.)

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We noted the yellow tag in the black bear’s ear, a sign that he had been relocated by conservation officers. It was likely this was the same bear who visited our back deck on a couple of earlier nighttime bird feeder raids. That one wore a yellow ear tag, too.

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On closer inspection of my photos, it looked like there were actually two tags, each with different numbers. Not a good sign for this bear, who apparently is establishing his reputation as a troublemaker.

DSC05032 - Version 2We’ve duly reported the encounter to the conservation office, but living rurally means we expect to see wildlife here occasionally. Last night it was coyotes, a pair behind the house yipping and howling in competition with the chorus of tree frogs.

I’ll take wildlife any day rather than the smog and congestion of city living. Over the four-or-so decades of my hubby’s studies and pastoral service, we’ve lived in both big and small centres — Vancouver (BC), Toronto (ON), Coleville (SK), Creston (BC), Calgary (AB), Port Alberni (BC), Langley (BC), and Maple Ridge (BC) — almost always having our homes on typical residential streets.

In retrospect, we wish we’d discovered country living a lot sooner. It isn’t a lifestyle that suits everyone but the peacefulness and treed setting is a blissful sanctuary for us.

I realize my love of a quiet rural setting has rubbed off on my fictional characters who are all situated somewhere other than in a major city. They all own dogs, too. I guess it’s true that we write a bit of ourselves into our stories, but why not? In our world-building, we’re in control of every aspect of our characters’ lives, so why wouldn’t we let them live or work in places reminiscent of our personal experiences and preference?

Would you label yourself a city-dweller or a country-lover at heart? Where do you situate your characters? (Tell me I’m not the only one who imposes my choices on them! Come to think of it, I’ve even had a character encounter a bear on his property.) 

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Renos and Revisions: Decently and In Order

Renovations can be stressful. Being a contractor’s daughter, I shouldn’t be surprised by renovation woes — the delays, unavailability of ordered materials, and, of course, the mess.

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There’s a difference in being a contractor’s daughter, and being the affected homeowner. Now it’s personal. The problems that crop up, while apparently trivial to the contractors and suppliers, are a bigger deal to me.

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Quality of work is paramount, but reliability is important, too. When multiple contractors or technicians are involved, each is dependent on the others to do their tasks in a timely manner. When one is delayed, the effect ricochets down the line. Some delays are unavoidable; some are not. Some are a result of poor planning.

Last month I wrote about the minor kitchen reno we had started. The main contractor has been super, but a couple of the sub-trades have held up the process. The end should have been in sight today, but it’s not, and it’s frustrating. I tend to be impatient when it comes to inefficiency.

I related my other post to the writing/revision process and I now realize my current situation is also applicable, especially when it comes to revising a manuscript. Without effective planning, it can become a frustrating endeavour. If I begin with the wrong things — perhaps tweaking sentence structure and grammar — before dealing with larger issues such as plot holes, location of scenes or character development, I will find myself muddling along, going over previous ground multiple times, and inevitably having to redo earlier edits. That prolongs the task. My hubby likes to say things need to be done “decently and in order”.

Editor Danielle Stoia  says, “the editorial work on the road to publishing has three [progressive] stages: taking care of the FORM (Substantive Editing), the LANGUAGE (Editing or Copy Editing) and the final overview (Proofreading). Any and all manuscripts should go through these stages … and the need for this ‘quality control’ does not affect, infringe upon or otherwise criticize the quality of the writing or the author’s competence.”

We still have lots of little things to do in this reno — painting, installing a new range hood and light fixture, window coverings — but even if we went ahead and finished all of them, until this pesky tiled backsplash is done, the room will not function well or look complete. It’s one of the biggies!

(But at long last, today I have a sink, tap and running water again! WooHoo!)

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#wipMadness Day 19: Memories That Matter

IMG_0979 - Version 2Heritage items intrigue me although I’ve never been one to collect antiques. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, either. I like things with a history that is significant to my family — with some kind of personal connection. That’s why I treasure this glassware. I doubt the pieces have any monetary value, but they belonged to my maternal grandmother. They are older than I am, and I remember her using them on special occasions during my childhood.

IMG_0980 - Version 2Is it the memories or the items themselves that attract me? In this case, definitely it’s the memories. My personal taste doesn’t lean towards ornate anything, but I keep these pieces displayed in our china cabinet and enjoy my regular glimpses even if I don’t normally use them.

Memories are a big part of our existence, and yet when it comes to giving memories to my fictional characters, I forget how important they are.

After spending time creating  plot, conflict, and setting, too often I let my characters’ personalities develop solely through their actions and words. Without a past, characters can be two-dimensional. I’m trying to correct that in this manuscript. One of the reasons my progress has been so slow during March Madness, is because I’m taking time to get to know my characters better … finding out what happened in their past that is bound to influence their present.

Q4U: Do you give your characters a past, complete with memories that play a part in your story?

~

Denise tells me she’s drawn the name of another prize winner. This time it’s… (insert drumroll here)…

 TANYA

Yay! Congratulations, Tanya!!! You can stop by Denise’s goal-setting post to select your prize from those that haven’t been crossed off the list, and then email Denise your choice at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com  .

We’re almost three-quarters through the month. (Can you believe Spring arrives tomorrow?) Are you satisfied with the progress you’re making towards your March goals? If not, what can you do differently during the next ten days that will leave you with good memories of the month’s achievement when it’s over? There’s still time to make your efforts count, Wipsters! :)

And don’t forget to check in tomorrow with Tonette de la Luna!

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Monday Distractions

Yes, it’s Monday again, and yes, I’m late with today’s blog post, but I was distracted by three things this morning, and it’s all Jan Drexler‘s fault. (Of course, my short attention span might have had something to do with it, too.)

First, was her Facebook post sharing an opportunity to query a particular publishing house. It caught my attention and I had to go investigate.

Then I came across her meatloaf recipe on Yankee-Belle Cafe’s website. Meatloaf is a favourite around here, but hers looked and sounded like something special so I had to take time to copy out the recipe. At the end she also posted a link to this beautiful song with graphics that took me right back into my morning devotions.

So here I am, an hour later, still without a blog post, and it’s time to get on to other things. Sorry! Maybe you’ll check out the links, get distracted yourself, and forget my shortcomings.

I’ll leave you with some shenanigans by two of my other Monday morning distractions. (Did someone say, “Squirrel”?)

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

[Psalm 118:24]

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#wipMadness Day 12: Revising and Renovating

How is your second week of March Madness progressing, fellow Wipsters? I know some of us are working on new manuscripts this month, while others are revising, reworking or rewriting completed drafts. I’m one who likes the revision process, although I know not everyone does. I like finding ways to make the storytelling more effective even if it involves a lot more effort than writing the first draft.

Some improvements require a rearrangement of scenes, others may be better with some scenes totally eliminated. It’s always difficult making that kind of decision. We work hard for those words and cutting them out can be painful. At this point the unbiased opinion of a professional editor is invaluable.

I liken the process to the impending upheaval in my household — a kitchen renovation. Our house is now twenty-four years old and, while it’s been well maintained, it hasn’t had any updating. A total makeover is out of the question, so my hubby and I had to decide what changes would be the most beneficial to its enjoyment and value. The kitchen is an obvious place to start.

Kitchen-BeforeReno

The view “before”. (Stay tuned for “after”.)

 

The oak cupboards are classic, all three major appliances are quite new and the floor was replaced not that many years ago. They will stay.

QuartzSamplesOn the other hand, the sink and range hood are rusting and need replacing, the island will be rebuilt to one level, counters and backsplash will be replaced, as will cupboard door knobs and hinges. The light fixture will get an update, too. Once all the contractors depart, the walls that I mentioned last month will finally get their coat of fresh white paint (although, admittedly, I still haven’t found just the right shade of white yet!).

Like revising a story, an honest evaluation usually tells us when something needs fixing, but the help of someone more knowledgeable can be invaluable in identifying how the changes should best be implemented. Tackling them piecemeal can result in chaos. In our case, we went to a kitchen consultant, shared our ideas, and received some great advice. Now it’s time to make a start.

My kitchen is going to get very messy before the new improved version emerges. (That’s true with a revision, too.) But a good working plan is in place and I’m confident I’ll like the end result.

What’s your usual process for manuscript revisions? Do you follow a plan or go through and fix things as you encounter them?

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Are you happy with the progress you’re making towards your March goals? What, you haven’t set any goals yet??? It’s not too late. Head on over to co-ordinator Denise Jaden’s introductory post (here) and add yours in the comment section. While you’re there, check out all the great prizes being offered this month, too. Then tomorrow, be sure to stop by Tonette’s blog for a Friday dose of inspiration and encouragement.

Happy writing (or revising), Wipsters!

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