So I was off work today for Confederate Memorial Day. I know, I know, nobody's heard of it outside those of us that work for SC State Government. I honestly can't explain it. Several years ago they took away Election Day and our optional holiday and gave us Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Confederate Memorial Day instead. Frankly, I'd rather have election day off but that's the way it rolls round these parts.
Our HVAC unit quit on us day before yesterday. Got home from work on Wednesday and it was a wee bit warm in here. Turns out the unit had a major freon leak and bad coils. They're getting us a new one and will install it tomorrow. Thanks God for His mercies, because the temperature dropped the past few days. Highs in the mid to upper 70's and lows in the 60's. It's gotten a bit above our preference range around mid day, but overall it hasn't been bad. We open the windows when we're home and that helps. The house is getting aired out and the birds seem to enjoy the open windows. They aren't bothered by this at all. In fact, I don't think they're phased a bit. But I thank the Lord over and over for the mild weather and the timing of this (specifically, that it didn't happen when highs are in the 80's and 90's because it has been in the 90's a few times recently). It's been a darned inconvenience, but not too bad. I pray things go as planned and we get the unit installed tomorrow. Rick can't get off work, so I'm the one on home duty for this one. Looks like tomorrow will be a good day to work on Move.
Speaking of Move, the ideas are really coming along. I pretty much have the whole novel mapped out. Of course, there's the issue that I've been sick the past 2 nights with a headache so bad I couldn't possibly look at a computer screen. And I have to work, and of course my poor hands and wrists need a break from typing every now and then. I tell you, I think that if I had a free week I could write the entire rough draft. But alas, I don't, and so I shall peck at it as I can. But that's ok. I don't want to rush this one. I made the mistake of rushing with Splinter to get it done for National Novel Writing Month and I don't want to do that again. I'm glad I entered that because it was one of those things I always eyed NaNo with great interest, but it's really not suitable for a person with a home, family nearby, and full time job - especially in November when Thanksgiving rolls around. But having to pound out 50,000 words in a month was just stressful. I'm not doing that again, at least not while I'm working full time. I really enjoyed writing Anywhere But Here and Blurry, and I believe it was because I took my time and that allowed me to enjoy the process of having the ideas develop and the story come to life. So I'm taking my time and so far I have been enjoyed working on Move.
Believe it or not, I already have an idea for my next book. I don't know if I've mentioned this (I don't think I have), but I've recently pondered a return to non-fiction. Well, today I was in Barnes & Noble and while walking past pet books I had the idea: Why don't I write a book about having birds as pets? I know I don't have a biology degree and I'm not a vet, but goodness, I've had 6 birds in my life. I think, at least from the petowner perspective, I'm certainly experienced. It's a general idea now, but it has me intrigued. I'll ponder this further and if I'm able to brainstorm some ideas then I'll take a shot at drafting this one after I get the rough draft of Move done.
And if that works it really will be interesting and a new experience, because I've always worked on one book at a time, from rough draft to final draft. I've just never had 2 book ideas at once. This is a new thing, and frankly I find it exciting! It's great to have the Spirit inspiring me so much again. I haven't really written much since Anywhere But Here, with personal life changes and then getting published - so it's great to be actually writing again and have the ideas coming. I say keep that inspiration flowing and keep the ideas coming, Lord!
I am feeling better with my sinus infection today. No more headache, sneezing or congestion. I still feel a bit feverish from time to time, and I'm slow and tire easily, but overall I'm much better. The antibiotic has worked quickly and I'm thankful for that too!
That's all for today. Take care all. I hope you have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a great weekend.
I wonder where inspiration comes from. It's a funny thing. For example, I haven't written a single new thing since November, yet I've done a lot with promotion of my work and a great deal of blogging. It's odd. It seems I'll go through these odd spells then all of a sudden I'll get hammered with more ideas than I can possibly keep up with.
Here's another puzzle: I've been agonizing over what to do with our front yard for a year. When you build on your own lot they don't do a thing for your yard - I mean nothing. Rick and I even had to plant grass, which we did, but we did little else because we were getting the inside of the house settled. Well, we finished that about a year and turned out attention outside, but came up blank. Then all of a sudden the entire vision of how to fix the front yard up came to me in Sunday School this morning. Just like that. I actually did a rough diagram of it while we were waiting to take communion on the back of my bulletin in church.
A lot of people have ideas of where it comes from. The most common that I hear is Holy intervention - the Spirit speaks and our mind moves. Some say it's how our experiences affect us. Some say it's where we are in life, or what we're going through - the situations we face and how they shape us. Others say it's more organic and inspiration comes through exercising regularly or eating right. Some say working your mind by doing puzzles. There are so many theories.
I believe they all have merit, but I think it's a more mysterious combination of it all. I sure do wish I could pinpoint what causes those flashes of inspiration that artist live for, though. I suspect I'd be a rich woman if I could find, bottle and sell that secret.
Unfortunately I don't have the answer, so I just have to work through it like everybody else. And hope that today's flash of inspiration for fixing up the yard will be the first of a wave that will inspire me in other areas of life. All I know is that my mind did start moving today, and I hope it's on a train that keeps on rolling.
Take care and I hope you have a great start to the week.
I've been reading a great deal lately where people say that writer's block is a myth. Our muse doesn't get blocked, they say. We're just making excuses to not writer.
To them I say that if this is true, then "burnout" is also a myth. Think about it - if you apply this logic to every other area of life, then it logically follows that you don't get burned out on work; you simply get lazy and don't want to work anymore.
Now how does that arguement sound? Extreme, right? Well, I'll go to the other extreme and say that if a writer hasn't experienced writer's block, then I wonder if they're really writers. Because frankly, there's a difference between crafting a piece that is truly researched and developed and pounding out whatever random crap runs through your brain. If you want your work to be published and well received by readers, then you must invest in it by putting the time, thought and effort into it to make it the best piece it can be. That doesn't happen overnight and frankly, it can be a daunting task.
I know I sound peevish, but I've been writing for nearly 11 years and it makes me angry for people to "assume" that I get writer's block occasionally because I'm lazy. First of all, you don't stick with something for this long if your lazy. Second, you won't survive in the writing world in you're lazy because you'll drown in the flood of others that are willing to work at it and put their best work forward to get a break.
Writer's block does exist, and it's not laziness. Rather, I return to my previous statement of comparing it to burnout. I believe it's a natural tendency for us to get stuck in ruts and to show us that we need to break out of the same old same old to refresh ourselves and feed our muse. It's a sign that we need to slow down, relax, and experience life in order to refresh our creativity. Tapping that same old well over and over again is only going to drain it dry. We need to replenish it in order to keep turning out fresh work. We need to look around and find new ideas instead of pounding the same old ones, over and over. We need to stretch, grow and learn. And yes, sometimes it means we do need to take a break and live a little. A writer without a life isn't much of a writer. You need to live your life and fully experience it in order to keep the creativity flowing.
So yes, writer's block is just as real as burnout. And if you don't believe me, I challenge you to cancel your vacations this year and don't take a day of leave for the next 365 days. Then tell me what's real.
That's all for today.
As we approach the holidays, I'm reminded of holidays past and the gifts I received. Some, obviously, were winners: Jewelry and electronics are always a hit for me, as I imagine they are for most women. But there were some other things I received that were also hits, and they weren't big or glamerous - just useful and beneficials. For example, Rick gave me a ruby ring two years ago and I loved it, but he also gave me a pair of bedroom booties that I wear every night during the winter. Yes, the ruby ring was the big hit of the holiday, but those booties - well, I'm wearing them now as I type this entry. Obviously a winner too, and they weren't that expensive.
There have been some other surprises under the tree that became staples in my life and my home, and I'd like to reflect on that now. I'm not talking about the big ticket items, but those little things that snuck into your everyday life. Maybe you'll get some ideas for last minute gift shopping, or perhaps remember some winners tucked away in your own home.
1. An electric razor. Oh wow, what a time saver this has turned out to be! Yes, you can spend some money on these, but there are also some inexpensive ones that work very well. I believe the one I have was under $20 at Walmart. It doesn't give as close a shave and you will still have to use a straight razor every few days, but if you're a woman that wears pants a lot (like I do), this is a great item to have.
2. A firesafe box. Actually, we've been given two of these. One is file size for important documents and the other is a smaller one that I store my valuable jewelry, external hard drive, and other small but important items in. A definite must have for everybody!
3. A crock pot. This is a working woman's best friend. There are so many recipes and it's great to have supper ready as soon as you come home from work. Clean up usually isn't hard, either.
4. Slipper socks. I must have given the former colleague that gave me these a look when she handed them to me because she laughed and said "try them out, I know you'll love them." She was right. They were warm and comfortable and I have several pair now. They were especially helpful when I sprained my ankle and it was so swollen that shoes (even my beloved bedroom booties) were a problem.
5. Christmas china. One of the schools Rick works at gave him a 4 piece place setting of china back in the days when the economy was better. At first I thought "what the heck are we gonna do with that?" until we hosted a few holidays and parties at our house. It was a hit, and nice to have too.
6. Picture frames. This is getting more rare as a gift with digital cameras, but they still make great gifts for people you know that do needlearts. That small collection of frames I collected in the early days of our marriage were used to frame many counted cross stitch projects.
7. Fleece blankets. This was another one of those gifts that raised eyebrows until I used them. Very good to have when the winter gets cold.
8. A flash drive. I know it doesn't sound like much of a gift, but it's so important to back up your data. Target has many brands with great storage capacity for reasonable prices. Great stocking stuffer!
9. A laptop case. I didn't understand why Rick made a big deal out of getting a good laptop case until he got me one for my first laptop. It didn't take long for me to realize how vitally important it is to have appropriate storage cases for not only your laptop, but all of your electronics that you plan to carry around. In fact, I used that old case so much that it's wearing out, and a new case that fits the laptop I got for my birthday is on my Christmas list this year. I know it doesn't sound great, but cases for laptops, tablets, e-readers, or cell phones make good and beneficial gifts for anybody.
10. Shower gel and moisturizer gift sets. I especially like rose and lavendar. Scented hand lotions are also a great idea.
There have been more, of course, but these are the top 10 winners for me. I know you can probably think of more, and hopefully you'll be giving some great surprises to friends and family this holiday season.
As we enter the frenzy of holiday shopping, I feel it’s necessary to address the ultimate gift giving debate that we face in trying to finish up that shopping list:
Gift cards – great gift idea or the ultimate cop out?
Opinions are widely divided on this issue. Personally, I love gift cards. I’m at the point in life where I have what I need, and my list of “wants” isn’t very long. Most of my needs are in the areas of replacing things that wear out or break (like clothes), and gift cards make this much easier. In fact, one of our favorite post-holiday traditions is taking a day after the family get togethers are over is taking advantage of great post-holiday sales with those gift cards.
My family agrees, and buying gift cards does make holiday shopping much easier. Ah, but herein lies the debate. The opposite end of this argument is that buying gift cards is too easy – that it’s not personal and shows no consideration for the recipient. I had a friend once that thought gift cards were not only a cop out, but insulting and rude as well, because “if you know someone well enough to buy them a gift, then you should know what they like and take time to select an appropriate present for them.”
I can see both ends of this debate. On the one hand, gift buying is tough when you buy gifts for the same people, year after year. After some time, you’ve given them everything you know to give, and finding unique gift ideas becomes impossible. I know that the last thing I need are more trinkets or nick-nacks to clutter up my home or work space and collect dust. Gift cards are a great way of acknowledging that you know what kinds of places they like, and giving them the gift of choosing a present that they want or need. Plus, it’s great if you have to ship gifts to people, because there are greeting cards with gift card slots, so you can send it to them with little (or no) additional postage.
On the other hand, there are some situations where giving gift cards is inappropriate. I’d never suggest giving it to a child that’s under about 10 years old, because they want to open presents and the concept of waiting even longer to get their gift is torture. Likewise, it’s also inappropriate for a person you’ve been in a romantic relationship with for less than two years. There are plenty of special, personal gifts you can give for these occasions. It’s also not practical for elderly people that have health issues that limit their mental function or mobility, as they simply can’t use them unless a caregiver takes them out or uses it on their behalf. The point of a gift is to give the recipient something they can use personally, and this point is moot if the person isn’t able to go out or use the Internet to cash in the card.
Then there are the people that just don’t like them. I guess they do have a point – gift giving is about considering the recipient. Perhaps they just don’t like going out much, or buying online. If that’s the case and you’re completely stumped on what to get them, well, these are the people they make the nick knacks for. Every store I’ve been so far has had gift racks of miscellaneous items and kits for use around the home. Charging stations and desk organizers seem to be very popular this year, as do flashlights, handkerchiefs, mini game sets, whistle key rings, make up sets, nail polish sets, lotions, holiday jewelry, and small cleaning kits. Some people appreciate these fun, whimsical items. I don’t. But somebody must because they’re on sale every year and seem to keep moving every holiday season.
In the end, I believe the safest course of action is to ask. It’s not insulting or rude, and I think it’s much easier to be honest than to guess and risk giving them a dud gift (which is something I’ll address in a future entry). After all, our time and energy are limited, and we are at a point where we simply don’t have time to play games or guess anymore.
And if all else fails and they really hate gift cards, suggest skipping the gift and going out for a meal or a movie together after the holidays are over. Because it really is the thought that counts – and in the end people care more about the thought behind the gift than the gift itself.
I am hoping that the "wow" factor is coming back into my life. After a year and a half of not finding it anywhere but in writing my own novels, it seems to be making a return. Bless it, and I hope it stays. It seems that the older I get, the harder it gets to, for lack of a better term, knock my socks off. I don't know if it's because I've been stressed out with so much change in my life lately, if life itself has jaded me into just not caring as much, or if the effort hasn't been put in by others to produce outstanding efforts.
I will admit that I have just started reading and watching new movies again, after quite a long hiatus. In fact, I've been to the movies three times in as many weeks, which must be a new record for me. "Thor" was the first movie that I saw since "The Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian." The reason for this is simple: Going to the movies is kind of expensive, so if I'm going to spend that money to sit in the same place for 2-3 hours, then it better captivate me. And you know me - I'm a plot junkie that loves movies that spend a ridiculous amount of money on special effects. "Thor" certainly met that criteria, and today we saw "X-Men: First Class." All I can say is that between the 2 movies, my eyes nearly popped out from all the outstanding effects - and they had great story lines too. They definitely had the wow factor going, and it was great to see it again. I'm glad to see more will be coming in the way of "The Green Lantern" and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." The summer of superheros is what I've heard it called, and it's right - but that's alright with me. I love this stuff.
I'll tell you what else is alright with me: I'm writing again! That's why I haven't blogged here in a while. I've been working on a short story, 2 flash fiction pieces, and yesterday I had an idea for another short story. One very common theme that seems to be running through them all is transitions - especially in the sense of endings and new beginnings. That's understandable, considering the events in my life over the past year. It concerned me a bit, but I decided to just roll with it and see if there are ways to package it differently in each piece. Why not? I've always written what was in me before, so why try to push myself to something I'm not feeling now? Reality inspires fiction, and frankly it's good to work on short stories after over 18 months of working on novels. Don't get me wrong; I love writing novels, but it's good to do something different every now and then. Novels are so intensive, and short stories are great because you can do a burst of work here and there and have something great.
So I have the "wow" factor going in entertainment and writing now, and I'm glad for it. Let's keep that train running for as long as we can! Now if only I could find more time to read. Well, as hot as it's getting outside already, I suspect I'll be doing more reading this summer since it's way to hot to be outside!
That's all for this time. I hope your summer is off to a great start. So far, I have to say I'm pretty happy with where this one is going. I pray it stays on this great track.