Preparing to Write

I’m with Aristotle, at least when it comes to creative achievement: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because I’ve learned from years of experience that making them sets me up for failure and discouragement.

So it is with my writing; I’m not likely ever going to change my natural creative rhythms. I’ve learned that working with them is more productive than fighting to overcome them.  Identifying my optimum writing time was an important discovery. I’m definitely not a morning person. Ask anyone who knows me: my brain takes a long time to wake up. So I’ve accepted that mornings are better used for devotions, journalling, and/or social media.

My best time to write is in the evening … the late evening. When the day’s routines are over and the house is quiet, nothing needs me except my manuscript. There are no time constraints so if the words don’t flow quickly, it doesn’t matter. Nobody is around to pressure me. In the blackness beyond the windows, the world sleeps. At least, most of it does.

There are the occasional late night visitors, but, while admittedly they’re a distraction, they don’t create much of a disturbance.

I don’t write as long into the night as I once did — the older I get the more sleep I seem to need — but I can still produce more words in an hour after midnight than I can during a daytime hour.

Location is important, too. I need a quiet place so I can hear the voices in my head. (Did I just admit to hearing voices???) I have a well-equipped office where I can close the door if need be, but the recliner in our family room usually draws me at night. Part of the problem in my office is the clutter. I can’t seem to be creative if my space (or my mind) is full of unrelated messiness, and my office usually is.

Decluttering is probably my single most effective aid to writing. I’d do it more often except one thing leads to another when it comes to my office, and I could spend the entire day in there, trying to organize the piles of paper, books and photos. Setting a time limit on tidying or any other preliminary activity would help, but when I’m in the mood to write it’s far easier to choose a location that doesn’t require preparation. Hence, the family room wins at night.

LL Barkat has a recent post that inspired me to think more about mental decluttering. (Simple tricks to make space for your writing) I think I’ll head back over there and reread it. I could use some extra inspiration today. How about you?

~  ~  ~

 

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Happy New Year: 2019

This morning’s snowfall didn’t last all that long, but it seemed appropriate for the start of a new year. There’s something fresh and hopeful about a landscape blanketed in pristine softness. It’s akin to beginning a brand new journal, opening a calendar to the first of twelve untouched months, or stepping onto a beach where the outgoing tide has left the sand shiny and smooth, waiting for fresh footprints.

a beginning
filled with
unspoken promises
of new opportunities

Wishing you the exhilaration of a fresh start.

~

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope.”

[Jeremiah 29:11]


“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind

and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal…”
[Philippians 3:13–14)

~  ~  ~

 

Out with the old, in with the new (not years)

Who still has hanging flower baskets blooming in December here in the Pacific Northwest? Even the local nursery has abandoned attempts to keep theirs presentable so I’m not sure why mine are still growing. Admittedly, the blooms are few and small, but geraniums are geraniums, regardless of size, right?

My hubby had taken all the other tubs of anemic annuals off the deck in mid-October after Thanksgiving, and carried the patio furniture down to the basement where it will wait out the winter months. But the baskets still provided a minimal bit of cheerful colour as they dangled outside our family room windows.

At least, they did until this weekend’s frost. Despite the protection of the overhanging eaves, sometime during Friday night they shivered themselves out of attractive into bedraggled. Without its tiny white blossoms the bacopa maybe didn’t look too bad, but everything else…? Meh!

Yesterday we ventured out to a tree farm and cut our Christmas tree, and as my hubby was setting it into its stand this afternoon, he decided it was finally time to remove the waning greenery.

I kind of hate to see the baskets go. They’ve hung there since early May and survived through blustery late spring winds, summer holiday neglect and torrents of fall rain. I feel like I owe them something in exchange for their persistence.

Then again, it IS Advent now and the outside Christmas lights twinkling above them seem a bit incongruous.

So, “out with the old and in with the new”…greenery, that is. The sickly lantana and geranium leaves have gone to compost heaven and from the other side of the window pane I’m now enjoying the fragrance of fresh fir adorned with cheery baubles, not blossoms.

I’m sure I could find a writing analogy in this if I tried hard enough, but at the moment I’d rather just sit here squinting at the tree lights and pondering Advent thoughts. Taken totally out of context I am reminded of an applicable scripture verse:

“…the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 🙂  [2 Corinthians 5:17b]

~

Wishing you abundant Hope on this
first Sunday in Advent.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Summertime & Keeping it Real

When there’s deep snow to slog through, I complain. When it rains for weeks on end, I complain. When hot sun arrives and pushes the thermometer up past the 30C degree mark, I complain. Apparently I’m hard to please. LOL.

After several days of suffocating heat, the summer solstice arrived today in delightful moderation — filtered sunshine, a breeze and 21C degrees. It couldn’t be more perfect.

(Lantana ‘Marmalade’)

My bare arms were even a bit cool as I sat out on the back deck this morning. (But I did NOT complain!) Now I’m doing a bit of writing and revising, and have suddenly been faced with the realization that in this current manuscript, my characters haven’t complained. Not once. That made me think back to the previous book. Did anyone complain in it? They argued (sometimes a lot), they objected to some happenings and reacted negatively to others, but I can’t recall anyone actually complaining.

I may have to go back and check, because reality says ordinary people always seem to find something to complain about — the weather, a child’s behaviour, the condition of lettuce at the grocery store. Even glass-half-full people don’t live every minute of every day in a Pollyanna glow.

As writers, we have the ability to create make-believe worlds where everything is the way we would like our lives to be. The main characters can always be thoughtful and kind in their interactions with other likeable characters (we’re not thinking of the villains at the moment), but how realistic is that? How credible?

When writing dialogue, it’s important to make our characters speak ‘normally’, which means they won’t always use full sentences, or show a clear step by step progression of thoughts. Colloquialisms and abbreviations will happen. To have them speak formally would make for a stilted conversation. A similar parallel occurs in how they live their lives. There are going to be occasional speeding tickets about which they will grumble. Granted, storytelling should minimize the mundane and stick to the important scenes that move the story along. But a glimpse into the everyday reactions of our characters is necessary to keep it real. It’s okay if they occasionally complain.

In a word or two, how would you describe your main character’s personality? How does that affect how s/he reacts to conflicts encountered in the story?

~  ~  ~

(Peony)

 

 

He is Risen Indeed!

Yes, it’s April Fools’ Day
and yes
it’s Easter Sunday.

But the resurrection was no joke.

Those nails were real
as were the thorns

painfully drawing blood
that ours might be spared.

Jesus died.

He was removed from the cross
and buried in a tomb
sealed behind a boulder.

But three days later
He was not there.

The tomb was empty.

He had risen
as He said.

He overcame death
to promise us life.

Halleluia!

~  ~  ~

Repeating An Irish Recipe and Blessing

I was perusing my Irish Soda Bread recipe while I ought to have been thinking about a blog post, but then realized I can kill two birds with one stone by sharing the recipe. (Where does that dreadful saying come from? I couldn’t kill one bird with anything!) This is a post from 2012. I hope you won’t mind the repetition.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all!

This is the day to be celebrating all things Irish, sharing shenanigans and wearing green. At least that’s how North Americans seem to celebrate, along with perhaps raising a pint of ale or Guinness. We make more of St. Patrick’s Day here than they do in Ireland.

Since I can’t ignore my Irish roots (I’m a McGuire — from the 13th century Irish MagUidhir in County Fermanagh), I always have to do something special to mark the occasion. Most often it’s just the wearing of a bit o’ green, but my family will vouch for my tendency to doctor normally un-green foods until they turn a shamrock shade – for instance, green porridge for breakfast, or perhaps cereal with green milk, maybe a lunchtime sandwich with green cream cheese filling, or green Jello for dessert.

However, now that our children have moved on and I can no longer embarrass them with such things in their school lunch boxes, I’m more restrained. I’m thinking of making my favourite Irish Soda Bread recipe today. (It’s tame, I know, but then you never can tell if I’ll give in to a leprechaun’s temptation and add a little green colouring to the buttermilk.)

I’m told there are two kinds of soda bread… a cake type that is normally kneaded and baked in an oven, and a farl type that is rolled out into a circle and cut crosswise into four equal quarters to bake on a griddle. While the farl type is apparently preferred more in the north of Ireland where my family originated, and the cake type in the south, my recipe happens to be the cake kind. It’s a little sweeter than the traditional loaf, too, but very tasty. I’ll share it as my St. Paddy’s Day gift to you.

~

IRISH SODA BREAD

4 c. flour
¼ c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ c. butter (I’ve used margarine, too)
1-1/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Sift dry ingredients together and cut in butter.
Blend in buttermilk, egg and soda to make a dough that can be kneaded.
Turn onto floured board and knead gently until smooth.
Shape into ball, and place in greased 2-qt. casserole.
(You can also bake it on a cookie sheet if you prefer.)
Brush top with egg yolk or cream and slash a deep “+” on it.
Bake @ 350oF oven until done (about 45-60 minutes, or until bottom crust sounds hollow when tapped).
Wrap loaf in tea towel and cool 1 hour before cutting.

~

 Go n-eírí an bóthar leat

~  ~  ~

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