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Gentlemen and ladies, start your engines…

zieglerwriterdeadlineOnce again, I’m trying my hand at the #NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Contest. It’s a bit insane, given that I have officially “given up writing” (see previous blog entry), but there’s something oddly compelling about a contest with a very short deadline, given parameters, and a small word count, even for we procrastinator types.

See, in the contest, you are sorted into heats, given a genre, a location, and an object to work into your story. This time they are allowing some freedom about the genre definition, but really really want the location to figure prominently in your story. There are hundreds of people competing in the contest, which has several rounds; people gradually get winnowed out and tossed to the four winds until the last round where you compete against maybe a hundred people from around the world for the last fast fast entry.

As for me, well, I’m procrastinating. What else would you expect? I was given the genre “Historical Fiction” and a location and object that I don’t find particularly inspiring to my creative mind (plus I am not a fan of historical fiction genres unless they are very well-done and I can guarantee 1000 words is not going to be enough to do a good job). So I’ve been researching, looking into ideas that I can pluck from my local area and inhabit with people.

Right now I’m thinking of George’s Island (sometimes without an apostrophe), a little drumlin in the harbour in Halifax that has been used for defence since the first inhabitants landed here. It’s nicely situated in the middle of the harbour, with commanding shooting lines to cover any entry to the landing spots themselves.

The island has been used as a fort, as a prison, as a party locale(recently), a provincial park, and also, alas, as a parking place for many of the Acadians expelled in the Grand Derangement. It’s a windy spot, always, and tales of the poor women and children left there in November of 1756 give me the chills. The Brits didn’t treat the Acadians well, to put it lightly, tossing around 10,000 of them out of the Maritimes and leaving them to freeze and die on boats and in the water and on George’s Island (until they needed them to repair the excellent farmland dykes the Acadians built that were broken down and so they allowed a few of the men back). True, it was wartime. True, the French and Mi’kmaq were winning battles and scalping people and some of the Acadians were right in there fighting the Brits, despite some of their neighbours swearing non-combat oaths. But so many died with the expulsions that the shame was great enough to alter the course of Canadian history.

Longfellow made up Evangeline, and the rest, as they say, is history. Never deny a poet can move a country. Even if he’s never been for a visit to the place.

But enough of politics. Now I have to whip together a story involving these elements, make it read human, channel my inner Wolf Hall-ishness (hahaha), and come up with a readable short short story to send in by midnight tomorrow. Yikes!

On the very good side, we get feedback from our entries, and I can post my entry in the forum for other participant’s comments. Should be interesting…and who knows, maybe this will get me started writing for real again.

Or maybe, my apartment will just get really really really clean…

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Writing resistance

So, I’ve just realized a project I thought was nearly done is in fact, only halfway there.

It’s too short. It’s 24,000 words. It should be 35-40,000. I could weep.

I’m tempted to send it around as a novella and hope it gets published that way. But I’m also tempted to rewrite the entire thing and add bits to where it is thin and FIX it. It will take me a long time. But the story will have more depth, something that my wonderful writing mentor, Donna Morrissey, suggested when I was working with her thorough Humber’s School for Writers.

But I can’t help but wonder, is this a real need or is this resistance? I just finished reading the excellent The War of Art by Stuart Pressman. It’s filled with tales of how/why we procrastinate. The tune was familiar. I could probably play it on my ukulele. Let me just see…

But I digress.

I could also felt a scene to describe it. Let me try that…

The sad thing is that I set myself up for mocking as I procrastinate. Everyone is onto me now. Truth is, I find writing HARD. I enjoy it when I’m in the flow, but the flow is harder and harder to maintain. That’s why I can actually do the three day novel contest, but no way can make it through Nanowrimo.

I’m a 50 yard dasher. I always have been, even in school. I could run like the dickens for 50 yards, but my energy petered out for the long term. It wasn’t until I laboured for my daughter for 18 hours that I realized I had strength to endure, and it’s not like I had any choice in that.

So I fling myself into a writing jag and block out people but I can only maintain it for a while. Then I find my wandering eye sliding over to a neat art project or that pile of yarn or a book to read or a tune to play…and the flow is lost.

Resistance? ADD? Or am I just not suited to writing, after all?

Every time I start writing, I go through all of these doubts and then I realize how perfectly I’ve created a wall to doing it. I need to do what I’ve done before in all sorts of other areas and just shaddup and push on through.

From Writers Circle:

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How to keep writing if you think your writing is shit…

From another blogger, Ksenia Anske, who was recommended to me by Michael Davis, one of the two really good instructors I had at Gotham Writer’s Workshop (the other was Gregory Fallis)

How to keep writing if you think, etc.

Michael also has an excellent blog, filled with much goodness.

Happy reading….

Creativity and madness

I’ve struggled with depression for years. It started with my multiple sclerosis and was the first symptom spotted. Coincidentally, I restarted writing.

My family always tells me I’m the creative one, the one who thinks oddly, out of the box (though I would argue my older brother is also gifted in this area – and my kids are wildly so). I know that, during my brief career in management, I was often on a completely different page than many. This led to feelings of failure and isolation and utter hopelessness…

So, now, I’m having a bad bout with the MS – blurred vision, muscle spasms, pain, confusion, the whole package. And depression. And I feel at these times, any challenge is beyond me, AND, at the same time, my life is meaningless if I don’t do something important. It’s a tough place to be stuck. So I decide to quit everything I am doing and try new things in a flurry of trying to succeed at anything, anywhere.

51TTMH+FdgLAlong comes Maria Popova’s excellent Brain Pickings today: Creativity and Mental illness. Sometimes, at my most paranoid, I think she secretly knows me, her postings are so appropriate for the day…

And suddenly I don’t feel so alone. There are many others here in the murk (with occasional northern lights and lightning) here with me.

Now all I have to do is decide. Do I quit the writing game? Or do I listen to my chafing neurons and continue?

Submission Madness

In “the Secret Life of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4”, by the hilarious Sue Townsend, Adrian’s class is on a field trip when the bus driver, driven to the ends of his nerves, submits to motorway madness. All of the kids arrive home safely, but shaken, and the bus driver gets a well-deserved rest.

We’ve all been there, right? In the car, with howling kids? My oldest son just about lost his hearing thanks to the endless screaming by the middle one. I’ve felt that madness slip over me. (My sister still tells the story of me putting them out of the car.)

Well, today a different madness came over me. I started submitting things to publishers and journals. All sorts of things. Stories that have lain fallow for months, little ditty poems that struck my fancy, shorter or longer versions of other works in progress (called WIPs by the trendy Humber).

It’s not strictly speaking a sane process. I mean, I could work on these stories longer, could probably edit them for another few years, but there’s something about being in this crazy Humber program that makes me want to take it all seriously, start sending things about. It’s been a while since I was published, except in our local grass-roots poetry journal, OHForgery (which I love).

Oh, I’ve sent things in for competitions, sure. Won a few. Placed in a few others. But going for the publication thing – hesitant. See, in a contest, you can always argue there were so many competitors that you couldn’t possibly be expected to win. So when you don’t, that’s cool. No self-abuse required.

But when a journal writes back, no sorry, this isn’t for us, well, it chews a bit of your soul away. Immediately you start the inner walk of shame.

So today, I’m sending out submissions like I used to send out flirts in online dating. Send out lots, you don’t notice the no replies as much. Someone usually replies pleasantly…

Of course, if I don’t, I’ve got some lovely Writers Tears to drown my sorrows…

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Cold Crusading for Democracy…

No writing done today. Why? I can’t see out of my eyes and my throat feels like bears came in my sleep and dug for beetles there. 

Been in bed all day, reading and watching British TV, while my cat wanders in and out, mewing in a bored sort of way. He’s even gone mad once or twice, just to see if I react. I do. I cough. He remains unimpressed.

I’m winning, though. I can feel those rhino viruses making a dash for the nearest exit. I hope. Time’s a wasting.

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(image from Articulate Matter, a charming site with pictures of plasticine squids that seems, alas, to have gone quiet.)

Ogden Nash‘s “Common Cold”, my favourite poem for such moments:

Read by “Tom O’Bedlam, a wonderful name if ever I heard one…and a deep, resonant voice, similar to mine today…

Enjoy.

Common Cold
Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I’m not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever’s hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne’er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare’s plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

 

 

Four Ways to Organize Your Notebooks

Four Ways to Organize Your Notebooks.

As someone who still hasn’t got the hang of Evernote, I like the simple tips in this article. I already like the different notebooks for different things one – I had one for Sarah Selecky’s excellent course, Story is a State of Mind, and have a fresh new one for my Humber times. I have DA’s little grumpy book for my personal rants and etceteras…

But I need to start colour-coding and leaving space between entries…and a table of contents is good, too.