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…

http://redroom.com/member/dorothyanne-brown/writing/first-date

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.

 

The howling

ImageI’m getting an understanding for the agitation caused by the Mistral. The wind has been howling around my place for hours and hours, making the cat’s ears twitch and getting loud enough at times to make the sound of the radio vanish.

It’s good writing weather, not pleasant enough to escape outside, not gruesome enough to make me hunker down under the blankets and hide. It’s dark enough to make thought of evil characters easy to produce, warm enough to keep my fingers cozy on the keys.

And yet, I’m not writing.

I know it’s Nov 1st, start of Nanowrimo, I know I have assignments due for my writing class (and fair enough I did work on that), but I’m instead reading and percolating things and doing my usual mental canoodling. Tomorrow, I hit the computer and get to work.

Really I will….

Art credit:http://gfamcnally.ca/#sthash.6K4ZVYdP.dpbs

Mad writing begins…

ImageYep. It’s that Nanwrimo thing, which someone told me sounds like baby talk.

In a way it is. You sit and write madly for hours and days and just try to get stuff out of your head onto paper and finally spew out 50,000 words by November 30th and then pat yourself on the back for accomplishing it and forget all about it.

Unless you are like my niece, Stephanie, who honed and self-published her book. Or Stephanie Domet, who wrote her first book this way, and who is offering a workshop at the Tatamagouche Centre this weekend to start people off.

Or me, and use the month to complete an already planned writing project. I’m leading a workshop, too, just a humble free one and so you get what you pay for…it’s at the Woodlawn library in Dartmouth and should be fun.

Or so many others, who use this month and the assigned schedule to help reactivate their writing lives and start living creatively again. It’s all a good thing, both the making of a resolution and meeting it and the writing itself.

But your novel will NOT be immediately ready for prime time. Revision, revision, revision, right? Nanowrimo gets a bad name because people write their 50,000 words and it seems so good to them in their “I did it!” wash of superiority, they think it’s ready for prime time. 

Don’t do this, please.

But do participate. It’s free. You get writing prompts. You get bragging rights. And really, you only have to write less than 2000 words a day.  And strangely, at the end of the month, you may well have something. It might not be a novel, it might not be anything like what your started out to do, or it might be exactly what you wanted. In any case, you’ll have written, and as you can see elsewhere on this blog, the feeling is unbelievably wonderful.

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How do you know when it’s ready?

41vZycAOEfL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I’m delighted to report my wonderful, smart, and confident niece has written and self-published her first book and is now marketing it to bookstores in her area, as well as on Amazon. It’s called “Crescent” and I’ll link to it here.

When I first heard about this, though, I was startled to find in my heart a bit of anger. I was frustrated – I don’t have a book yet myself, and yet I’ve been “working” at writing for some time (though procrastination seems to be my main output). The things I do write, people tell me, are good. Why don’t I send them in for publication?

Where does that niece of mine get her confidence? I’ve never ever been that confident in my entire life. Was it my mother’s fault? My English teacher’s fault? (She told me a story I sweated over to write for my parents as a Christmas present was trivial and derivative) (It probably was but I cried buckets writing it and my parents cried even more reading it, so there!) My ex? There must be someone I can blame, surely.

Facebook doesn’t help. Everyone is writing books and books and more books and I am smothering in the weight of all those books published when mine are not.

It’s not like I haven’t been published before  - for a while there I was making a pretty good income from writing. I’ve been on CBC’s Sunday Edition, I’ve got publications in humour, non-fiction, poetry, fiction, even the Oxford Companion to Medicine.

And yet I hesitate. I have turned myself into one of those things I promised myself I would never be, the dilettante writer. The wanna be. The liar.

And so I heap more scorn on myself and freeze myself into even greater immobility. It’s ridiculous, but I can’t seem to stop myself.

Nor can I stop myself from writing.

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
― Dorothy ParkerThe Collected Dorothy Parker

Ah, so true. But there is joy to be had in writing – the joy of seeing things more clearly, of being more present in this world, of delighting in all those other really good books out there (we really don’t need another one, I tell myself in my dark heart…) because we’ve struggled to get things just right ourselves.

I’ve restarted The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in an attempt to jumpstart my mind, and am working on a few things that have deadlines so that is a good thing. I love deadlines. I’m waiting to hear about a couple of submissions, hoping things go well. I’m doing the 3daynovel thing again this year, working on a mystery plot.

I’m wishing my niece well with her book, which is really quite good and you should all buy it. But that initial anger I felt – I’m hanging on to that, too, because it might just push me over the hump to get my stuff done, too.

Connecting to the writing muse

I am SUCH a bad working writer.
I can find more ways to procrastinate about writing than there are words in a thesaurus. I clean my house, I putter with kitchen objects, I decide to repot plants, I do laundry, fer the love of Shakespeare.
I’m getting tired of myself. It’s time to get to work, get things done, move forward. Instead I find reasons to read books, watch tv, walk about, exercise…spend time with friends…
Yah, I know. Exercise is a good thing. Reading is a good thing. Friends are important.
But life passes on with very little to show for it, and it is getting to ridiculous times.
Today I am revising my novella or perishing in the attempt. It’s going to be hotter than stink today so I have no excuse or capability to do anything but sit and write.
Well, unless I hang out with my birdies and let them out for a play…
Dang.
I am so good at thinking of escapes. Now I need to be great at applying myself!

It’s almost National Crime Writing Month!

Now, finally, a blog topic that won’t involve endless self-examination and revelation and such. Phew.

Because I haven’t done any crimes.

Okay, I remember ONE TIME where I stole something. I was in grade 5. I STILL feel guilty about it. Ashamed, bad, totally awful. I’d make amends to the harmed party but I am too embarrassed to admit I did it.

So picture what would happen if I killed someone?

As it is, even a gentle thought crossing my mind about whether I’d like to kiss someone or potentially push them under a car – well, it’s all printed on my face. I’d never be able to lie about myself.

As a nurse and a writer, though, I can lie about other people. Thank heavens. Even if the lie is, ultimately, the truth – or at least it would be if I write as well as I hope.

In the meantime, head on over to the National Crime Writing Blog by the Crime Writers of Canada, and read how some pros handle criminous thinking/writing/acting. It’ll be worth your time…

And that’s no crime….

Time to get fierce with myself…

I’ve always believed in the clever Ashleigh Brilliant’s comment that “wasting time is an important part of living”.
Some would say I have taken this as my life credo.
However, I am usually too busy having fun to listen to these people. Doing what? Well, I’ve taught myself to knit, I can take a ball of wool,fluff and poke it with a needle until it resembles a smallish animal, I can hook rugs, bake ginger cookies, spend hours of time on Facebook (all for book promotion purposes, the Facebook stuff, which is why I play Criminal Case by the hour. I am practising for my mystery writing!) I practice ukulele like I am working towards a symphonic career.
I have a friend who needs a lift often to go places. On a day when I might be writing, I call her up, ask he how she’s doing, secretly hoping there’s a drive needed someplace, any place. Friendships are important, too, right?
And now I’ve decided to move, which has given me mountains of tasks to complete. “I need a move” I rationalize. “I need a new view, a better place, an office.”
The thing is, though, I have at least three writing projects that are in various stages of completion that I believe in, that need to be set out into the world. They are getting annoyed.
My muse is positively stomping around my apartment , knocking over packing boxes in fits of fury, and I’m starting to get that writing anxiety building up. You know the feeling, right? That gradually building bubble like a ball of gas that begs for release (though perhaps, as one author said, this is why no one should write in public). I know my fingers and brain are being primed by the need to pack and tidy but it’s almost been too long. I could explode with verbiage at any moment, start using words like verbiage, you know. Excrete words. It’s not pretty. People who have received my emails at such times are still recovering, writhing on the ground, clutching their eyes, moaning, “too many words, too many words,” like the actor in the Compleat Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. It’s a dangerous time.
But life and pseudo-connection calls. So I am being fierce with myself, booking two weeks in June in a cottage with a view of the sea and no Internet and just me and my writing and the blissful silence of life. I’ll probably go crazy and end up dusting the place or whatever, but it’ll be me and the muse, hanging out, working out a few things.
One of us will come back, emptied and with piles of pages.
I hope it’s me.