From the Archives: New Perspectives

While visiting one of my favourite blogs one Thursday back in November 2011 — Susan Atole’s Just… a Moment — I was intrigued by the unusual perspective in her featured photos. I learned she had been challenged by someone to lay on her back for taking photo shots, and I decided to try it, too.

This unusual perspective offered design and reflections, glimmers of colours and shapes not previously noticed. The ordinary became extraordinary.

There’s something to be said for lifting our eyes beyond the obvious. If we always look at things from the same perspective, we’re going to keep seeing the same things in the same way. It’s true in life, and it’s true in writing.

I’ve been doing some editing for a friend, and am appalled at how often I’ve found an error in sections already line edited several times. “How could I possibly have missed that?” Every time I read through a chapter on the computer my brain insisted on reading what it expected to find, not necessarily what my eyes were seeing. It wasn’t until I printed the manuscript and read it in the new format that more errors popped out at me. For the final proofing I printed it again, but in a different font, and found still more.

A new perspective provides fresh inspiration when we’re bogged down writing a scene, too. Where do we go when our only idea keeps leading us to a proverbial brick wall? Sometimes we need to take the story on the road … write in a different environment, use different tools, maybe give the scene to a different character.

A different perspective tricks the brain into shifting its thinking. And that new viewpoint may be all that’s needed to stimulate the mind and send it off in a fresh direction.

Besides laying on your back, how might you achieve a new perspective for an existing project? Has a new perspective ever helped you out of a dilemma? 

~

(A click on the photo will enlarge it so you can see the source of my camera’s focus.)

~

The day this was originally posted (in 2011) I was also talking about Dealing with Transitions over at The Pastor’s Wife Speaks Blog. Please consider clicking on over there if you’d like to read what I said on that topic. [The Pastor’s Wife Speaks blog was discontinued at the end of November 2011, so it was my final post there.]

~ ~  ~

In Pursuit of Coolness

 

Weather2

Nothing profound from me today. It has been, is, and will continue to be hot. Please don’t see this as a complaint. I wouldn’t dare complain for fear it suddenly changes to unending rain! Instead, I’m trying to think of a positive side to hot sunshine.

It does bring on the flowers. I’ll say that for it.

Summer Peony

~

Summer Sun

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

 Robert Louis Stevenson
(from – A Child’s Garden of Verses – 1885)

~

I remember reading that to my Grade One students a good many years ago. There are lots of good things to say about the sun, but I don’t do well in the heat and right now I need something cooling to distract me.

Water 1

Ahhh… yes, that helps.

Water 2

Oh, this is much better! Now I’m of a mind to go in search of a beach and some ice cubes — the perfect pursuit on a hot summer day. 🙂

What’s your best way of cooling down when it’s too hot to think, let alone write?

~  ~  ~

There will be a shelter
to give shade from the heat by day,
and refuge and protection
from the storm and the rain.

(Isaiah 4:6)

~

 

Frozen Light

.

“I am the light of the world.”

.
[John 8:12]

.

.

How exquisite your love, O God! …

You’re a fountain of cascading light,

and you open our eyes to light.

.
[Psalm 36:7,9 – The Message]

.

.
Blanshard Peak – 5,085 ft – part of the Golden Ears mountains of the Garibaldi Range
[Photo taken November 19, 2011 from Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge, BC]
~
.

New Perspectives

.

While visiting one of my favourite blogs on Thursday, Susan Atole’s Just… a Moment, I was intrigued by the unusual perspective in her featured photos. She said it was on the High Calling Focus blog that she encountered a challenge to lay on her back for taking photo shots. It was a challenge I couldn’t ignore

This unusual perspective offered design and reflections, glimmers of colours and shapes not previously noticed. The ordinary became extraordinary.

There’s something to be said for lifting our eyes beyond the obvious. If we always look at things from the same perspective, we’re going to keep seeing the same things in the same way. It’s true in life, and it’s true in writing.

I’ve been doing some editing for a friend, and am appalled at how often I’ve found an error in sections already line edited several times. “How could I possibly have missed that?” Every time I read through a chapter on the computer my brain insisted on reading what it expected to find, not necessarily what my eyes were seeing. It wasn’t until I printed the manuscript and read it in the new format that more errors popped out at me. For the final proofing I printed it again, but in a different font, and found still more.

A new perspective provides fresh inspiration when we’re bogged down writing a scene, too. Where do we go when our only idea keeps leading us to a proverbial brick wall? Sometimes we need to take the story on the road … write in a different environment, use different tools, maybe give the scene to a different character.

A different perspective tricks the brain into shifting its thinking. And that new viewpoint may be all that’s needed to stimulate the mind and send it off in a fresh direction.

Besides laying on your back, how might you achieve a new perspective for an existing project? Has a new perspective ever helped you out of a dilemma? 

~

~

Today I’m also talking about Dealing with Transitions at The Pastor’s Wife Speaks Blog. Please click on over and join me there. [I’ve just learned The Pastor’s Wife Speaks blog will be discontinued at the end of November, so this is my last post there.]

A writing lesson gleaned from rose hips

.

In the same field where I had snapped photos of purple fireweed during my August trip, last week I was greeted with a haze of red. Summer’s wild roses (Rosa acicularis) had left behind an abundance of their seed pods, known as rose hips.

Years ago in my more ambitious ‘happy homemaker’ days I had haphazardly gathered a large bucket of them during a mild fall, and taken them home to make Rose Hip Jelly. I heard rose hips contain Vitamin C in large quantities, twenty times that of an orange, but didn’t know they contain little or no pectin. I also didn’t know the seeds contain tannic acid, are covered with silver hairs that can irritate the digestive system, and should be removed first or strained out after cooking. I used an aluminum pot instead of a stainless steel one, too.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that my first attempt at making the jelly wasn’t much of a success. It turned out as a rather tasteless, tart syrup. Later years I waited until after the hips had been touched by frost. For better flavour I picked the ones that were neither orange nor deep red but scarlet red, cooked them with apples, strained out all the seeds, and added pectin. Success!

It proved that diving into the project without any real knowledge of what I was doing resulted in an inferior quality product.

I’d say that pretty well sums up what happened when I wrote my first novel, too. While I was an English major and had no problem gathering together 120,000 words, I didn’t know how to properly process them. The result was disappointing. I’ve learned a lot since then, and subsequent stories have seen the benefit of my education. But I’m still working to come up with the best recipe!

~

Have you ever tackled a project without adequate preparation? What was the result?

~

ROSE HIP JELLY

(This isn’t the recipe I used, but I think it’s a good basic one.)

Rose hips reduce by two-thirds during cooking, so you will need 3 cups of raw rose hips for each cup of puree. 
A good gel is difficult to achieve without added pectin.

  • 9 cups raw fresh rose hips – to make 3 cups rose hip puree
  • l pkg. powdered pectin

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 4 cups sugar

  • Add coloring, if desired

Wash berries, cut off the tops and ends. Simmer the prepared rose hips in a minimal amount of water until soft — about 10-15 minutes. Mash with a potato masher until smooth or puree in a blender. Filter through a jelly strainer or cheesecloth.

Combine 3 cups of the puree with pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Add sugar, boil hard for 2 minutes or until gel is reached. Pour into hot sterile jars, leaving 1/8″ headspace. Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and rings. Water bath for 5 minutes (or seal jars with melted paraffin).

~

Using Photography in Writing

.

Not everyone who writes wants to create their own photos to accompany articles and blog posts, and with the availability of free graphics online, it’s relatively easy to find suitable illustrations when we need them.

Photos are often the inspiration for my posts here. I look through my digital albums until I see one that suggests a topic or potential analogy. Occasionally I take specific shots to illustrate an existing idea, but I’m a shameless shutterbug, snapping everything that catches my attention whether it has merit or not. You just never know….

Magazine editors seem to appreciate my offer to provide a few related photos when submitting material, and not long ago even used one as cover art. But I’m not a great photographer – I discard more photos than I keep, and often wish I had the talent of people like Susan Etole, Sandra Heska King and Ann Voskamp, or my daughter Shari Green and cousin Gary McGuire, whose photos always make my breath catch.

For decades I was content with my 35mm SLR camera until, eight years ago, we were given a digital – a Pentax Optio 33L – as a retirement gift. I was ecstatic with its 3.2 megapixels and 3x optical zoom and have used it extensively, totally content with its capabilities and portability.  This weekend, however, I received an early birthday gift… a new digital camera. It isn’t highly sophisticated as cameras go, but with 16.2 megapixels and 30x zoom, my new Sony Cyber-shot has features that I’ll probably never fully learn how to use, while still being small enough to take everywhere. Besides taking the usual still shots and movies, it records in HD and 3D, and even has GPS!  I just have to figure out how it works. It has ‘auto-intelligence’ that is much smarter than I am!

I like its ‘soft skin mode’, which will be great for portraits of grandchildren… maybe not a good choice for bird shots, but hey, I’m experimenting.

So tell me, do you think articles and posts are enhanced by the addition of graphics and photos, or most times is the text sufficient on its own? If you use photos, do you take your own or borrow from another source?

~

Challenging Changes

.

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Our trip home from the Okanagan mid-week was one of those things. The afternoon’s drive started out pleasantly enough. Sunshine. Picture-perfect clouds. Hardly any traffic.

I barely noticed as more clouds snuck in…

… until suddenly, well along the mountainous Coquihalla Highway, the darkened skies dumped their contents.

Then, just as the clouds began to lift and we neared the town of Hope, BC, bordering the eastern edge of the Fraser Valley…

… we encountered an ominous sign.

Earlier in the day there had been a massive mudslide which closed the Trans-Canada Highway. Traffic from three different highways backed up for miles as vehicles united into one lane and were re-routed by police and Department of Highways personnel through the town to a secondary highway on the other side of the Fraser River. That last leg of the trip should have taken us an hour and a quarter. It took us five.

As we finally approached home, the remaining clouds parted. We arrived late and tired but safe, and were glad to learn that no-one had been seriously injured in the slide or any of the subsequent traffic accidents.

Of course there’s a writing application coming. 🙂 I think it ‘s true that the writer’s journey often encounters unexpected changes and challenges, too.  There are the pleasant and productive times, as well as long hours of struggling with the direction our stories are taking. Times of hoping and waiting. Disappointing detours that make us wonder if we’ll ever reach our goals.

But if we follow the guidance of those who have expertise, if we do our part with patience and persistence, we’ll find our way. The route may not be quite the one we intended to take, and perhaps we’ll have to compromise a bit on the destination, but if we trust God to be the Navigator in charge of our lives, He will see us safely through the maze.

Have you encountered major detours in your life or your writing? What got you back on track or did you permanently alter your course?

~

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.”
[Proverbs 3:6  AKJV] 

.

Taking a Closer Look

I do it all the time. I hurry along, busy with daily trivia, looking at things as I go but not really seeing them. I’m physically there, but not focused on my surroundings. You know how it is when you glance at something and later can’t remember what it looked like?

Fifteen years ago our family holidayed on the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii). While there we celebrated my birthday, and my eight-year-old granddaughter gave me a jar of pebbles collected on a beach below Tow Hill near the northern tip of Graham Island. The jar had also been filled with water because only when they were wet did the rocks display their hidden beauty. For me it was a priceless gift.

That jar of rocks still sits on my china cabinet shelf, and it still has a trace of the original water in it. The rocks glisten with the residue of condensation. I treasure this simple gift because of the giver’s loving heart, but also because those rocks are a constant reminder of the beauty all around me that too often goes unnoticed.

I’m not much of a photographer but am forever snapping photos, often without looking beyond the lens to see the miracle of detail. How often have I captured the picture of a gurgling stream or lakeside vista without stooping to discover the treasures at my feet? How often have I bypassed ordinary rocks without washing off the dust to reveal their true beauty?

 

While we’re rushing through life we miss living.

~

Slow Me Down Lord

(Wilferd Arlan Peterson)

 

Slow me down, Lord!

Ease the pounding of my heart
by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my harried pace
with a vision of the eternal reach of time.

Give me,
amidst the confusions of my day,

The calmness of the everlasting hills.

 

Break the tensions of my nerves

With the soothing music of the singing streams

That live in my memory.

Help me to know
the magical power of sleep.

 

Teach me the art
of taking minute vacations,

Of slowing down

To look at a flower;

To chat with an old friend or make a new one;

To pat a stray dog;

To watch a spider build a web;

To smile at a child;

Or to read a few lines from a good book.

 

Remind me each day
that the race is not always to the swift;

That there is more to life than increasing its speed.

 

Let me look upward
into the branches of the towering oak

And know that it grew great and strong

Because it grew slowly and well.

 

Slow me down, Lord,

And inspire me to send my roots deep

Into the soil of life’s enduring values

That I may grow toward the stars
of my greater destiny.

~

 

Subject vs. Composition vs. Balance vs. Structure

The subject of a photograph isn’t as important as the exposure and composition. Last week I posted an unsuccessful photo that blurred because the shutter speed couldn’t cope with the vehicle’s speed, and yet three people commented that they found the shot “interesting,” “engaging” and “fun.” Accidental shots can have fascinating results.

When I’m framing a photo I try for an interesting, balanced composition but sometimes, even with the ideal subject, there’s too much background clutter or competing colours. It’s not until the photo is developed that we discovered the old telephone-pole-growing-from-a-person’s-head problem. Thank goodness for PhotoShop!

Hidden Rainbow

The principles of good photography can also be applied to novel writing. Having an interesting plot isn’t enough. Getting the composition right, knowing when there’s too much useless clutter, deciding what to leave in and what to “crop” during revisions – it’s all part of our education as writers.

Some folks may have a natural “eye”, but I’ve been told that the difference between a good photographer and a mediocre one is in the number of photos they discard that you never get to see.

It strikes me that might equate to our novel writing, too. How many attempts have you discarded in your effort to produce a piece that’s gallery material? (Don’t ask me, though. I’ll never tell!) What do you feel is the most important aspect of effective storytelling?