Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Creative Juices

I'm a night owl.  Always have been.  Before 10:00am I have been lovingly described as resembling the "ruler of the underworld and darkness."  Whatever.

Fortunately I have a job that allows me to set my own hours and is conducive to having afternoon/early evening clients.  One would THINK that being a night owl is perfect for one with writing aspirations.  And it is.

There's only one problem: creative juices.

Pre serious writing era this is not a problem that would have occurred to me.  I worried about writers block or running out of story ideas.  Things that I now realize are silly.  A writer writes.  Words go onto the page whether they're good or not and you can worry about all that other stuff later.

The thing is with creative juices is that it's not the same thing as creativity.  Writing takes a great deal of emotional effort.  Forming the correct words and phrases to make the scene in your head come out just right is almost akin to crying or deep conversation.  Every writer has their cut off point for when it happens but eventually every writer has to call it quits for the day before their brain turns to mush.  The creative juices have been spent.

And just like physical exercise, I find that my brain needs some down time before it can go at it again.  I may have the time to write and, if it's late at night my brain may be focused enough to write but if I already had a major writing session earlier in the day, that could be it.  I open up the work in progress, look at where I left off and my brain says, "nope, not gonna happen."

But in comes a fresh day along with a fresh pot of coffee and I'm right back in the saddle (read: office chair).  I'm excited to open up the work in progress and even though I might be distracted by emails my brain is more than ready for another creative expenditure.

As I become a more prolific writer I'm also hoping that my stores of creative juices will increase with time.  It seems a shame to have to waste all those wonderful night hours.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review of "Yellow Eyes," short story by Sayuri Yamada


**May contain spoilers**

This story is... odd.  Since there's no summary provided I will briefly recap.  It's from the viewpoint of a man suffering from depression.  His son died and the death caused him and his wife to drift apart.  Most of the story takes place during what appears to be some sort of party/convention for people with unusual eyes.  So the story switched back and forth between him talking to people at the party and flashbacks of the past.

It's odd for several reasons.  The first is the author's choice of second person tense.  Instead of saying "he did this" or "he did that" it was "you did this" or "you did that."  Personally, I found this made the story harder to get into.  Instead of the story coming across as me getting to know the characters as I would a friend it was it became "psychological."  The end result was that I felt more detached from the story than I probably would have had it been written in the third person.  The main character is a man leading a lifestyle totally different from mine.  As a woman, I found myself relating to very little of what was written.  I would have done none of that.

The next big thing for me was the ending.  Up until the last few paragraphs the story had a nice, albeit strange, flow to it.  Then the "twist" happens.  The entire story is all in the main character's head, including the party.  His pregnant wife died, the son was never born.  The implication is that it made the main character go insane?  I'm not really sure.  It's a little vague.

Honestly, I'm not really sure what to think about this story.  It was interesting, well-written and definitely made me think.  I think it was just a little too trippy for my taste, however I could definitely see this author forming a following for her work.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

50 Words at a Time

I have an hour set aside every day for writing and I have to fight to keep it free.  That's something that non-writers just don't get.  "Can't you just write for a half hour now, do this with me, and write for a half hour later?"  No, I can't.  I need uninterrupted writing time in order to get the brain flowing so that the resulting words are good, usable words.

It's like running.  You can't just get warmed up, jog for fifteen minutes and cool down two to three times a day and expect it to yield the same results as jogging for an hour straight.  You need to get in the groove and stay in the groove for a prolonged period of time.

So yes, my writing hour is an entire hour but it's also only an hour.  I might have some free time later in the day, I might not.  It doesn't matter so much to me so long as I get that scheduled hour in.  Later on I might fight the battle of how many writing sessions I get into one day.  But for now the hour seems to be enough to placate my inner, frustrated artist.

Which means that much of my writing challenges come from what I can do in that hour not the number of hours I type.  This has led to some interesting psychological battles with myself (split personality here I come).  At first when I tried the self-imposed writing hour I told myself I just had to get something down.

Then I realized I was being ridiculous.  With no word count looming over my head it meant I was giving myself permission to walk away after fifteen words.  In terms of writing output (the entire point of a schedule) I was better off doing what I was doing before the schedule.  At least when writing when the spirit moved I would have inspired sessions of writing 800+ words.

So I realized that I needed a word count minimum for said writing sessions.  It wasn't so much about the hour as it was getting words down on the page.  I could contemplate my story all I liked but if I didn't actually put something down to paper it was fruitless labor.

I started small.  I told myself that I had to write at least 300 words before my writing session was over and those 300 words needed to be finished within an hour.  It took me a surprisingly long time to really embrace these deadlines.  I would always get the 300 words down but sometimes it would take me the full hour to do so.  I'd check my email, check Facebook, check sales... check anything but my work in progress.  Training yourself to not only focus but be creative on demand is no easy task.

The word count minimum eventually had an effect, however.  It took months but I finally started to notice that I was not only reaching that goal more quickly but also going way past it on a regular basis.  So I upped the minimum by fifty words.  I figured 350 words shouldn't change all that much, right?


I was back to struggling with myself.  Most of the hour was wasted with various forms of procrastination.  My creative self in full rebellion against my business/publisher self.  It took awhile before I was back at a point where my minimum felt easily achievable.  But you know what's interesting?  It didn't take as long to get used to.

I'm now at a 450 word minimum.  Each time I raise my self imposed goal it takes less time for my brain to embrace the increased writing output.  I was seriously on 300 words for more than six months.  The 450 goal happened a few weeks ago and I could see myself easily going to 500 in the not-too-distant future.

I think the reason why it's working for me is because I've allowed myself to slowly adapt.  If I had set the standard too high right off the bat I would have probably frustrated myself.  Any enjoyment I glean from writing (oh yeah... this is supposed to be fun...) would have been sucked away by impossible standards.

My ultimate goal is to hit 800-1,000 words in my hour-long writing session.  Just seven more sets of fifty to go...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review of "War Memorial," short story by Elisabeth Grace Foley

At the bottom of an old trinket-box lies a misshapen bit of lead—a bullet from the Civil War, an old family keepsake preserved, but mostly forgotten, by later generations. And behind it lies a story—the story of a young girl's experiences in the days surrounding the fateful battle of Gettysburg, which force her to examine her own heart and show her the face of war in a way she could not have understood before.

I've always enjoyed Foley's stories.  She has such a simple and sweet way of putting together words.  War Memorial is yet another shining example of her style.

The actual storyline itself is not ground breaking.  It's the Civil War.  Soldiers are killing each other but every soldier is still a human being.  But it's the way Foley tells the story that makes you pause and reflect which, to me, is the sign of a good short story.  The lower word count means that you should want to take the time to the digest the words you've just read.  

As with most short stories it's hard to classify who they would appeal to other than those that just love "a short story."  War Memorial is kind of a war story, it's kind of a romance and it's also kind of a fable in that there's the hint of a morale at the end.  But it's really just a lovely read.  Worth picking up a copy to read with a coffee, you won't regret it.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez  

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.