On Atwood and Writing

56th Trial: Happily I have little to report here, as the gift of gab has seemed to infuse my fingers of late. However, my dog Boo Radley persists in her state of distress with the fact that I am home more, writing at my table, and she is forced to lay toys at my feet that sit there, unobserved by me. She pretends to sit and wait patiently, but then her exhales narrow in her throat and come out as incessant whines. 

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 10-15hr/wk

Weekly Choice of Tea: Peppermint Coffee – I have set aside the power of tea and have continued the holiday-inspired flavor of peppermint coffee that I stocked up on, making the addiction REAL.

Biggest Success: I am in the Home Stretch. Its that exciting anticipation of being on third base, seeing the end with just one more bat at the metaphorical ball. I have not disappointed myself, and have left most things to catch fire on the back burner so that any and all free time have been filled with a hot cup of joe and my pencil. I have a tan notebook that has the black block letters “WRITE” on the front cover, and it is now more demanding than it was inspirational. 

The past few months have not been a struggle. I have felt more like a writer now than I ever have, and it is because I struggled over the past years to build the foundation and the story line, that now it is happily unfolding. I see the scenes play out before I can write them out, and the character’s have their own voice. I had not felt that till now, and realize the development of the story is likening to the development of my own, that both go through the awkward phases only to come out confident and certain, sort of! That in retrospect, something has been accomplished and created. This story is real, and the novel is nearly finished. I am on the last chapter, and my hands pause over this keyboard as I struggle to find the words to express what that even feels like.

It could be completed next week. I could spend the next month polishing it off before I print it out, wrap it in an outlandish bow, and submit it to my freelance editor (who I chose due to her deep affinity for Beyonce and Harry Potter). With the end so near, I hit a milestone that marks the beginning of the next mountain:  editing, agents, and publishing. That alone could take years, and on top of the many years it took me to get this far, I find myself only half way to the finishing line. But who knows, if it turns out to be a “success”, what time will open up for more stories to follow? But please, I get ahead of myself.

As introduced by my last post, I began Margaret Atwood’s book “On Writers and Writing” after reading the instructions of Edith Wharton. My education on the subject continues, and I continue feel the boundaries of a novel and a writer’s playful attention to them.

These are some of the most important take-aways that I marked in her novel “On Writers and Writing” :

  • “A lot of people do have a book in them – that is, they have had an experience that other people might want to read about. But this is not the same as ‘being a writer.’ Or, to put it in a more sinister way:  everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger.”
  • All writers have a diagnosed condition:  Duplicity. With a capitol “D.” While this could easily be understood in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reference, I enjoy Atwood’s explanation of it. “What disembodied hand or invisible monster just wrote that cold-blooded comment? Surely it wasn’t me; I am a nice, cosy sort of person, a bit absent-minded, a dab hand at cookies, beloved by domestic animals, and a knitter of sweaters with arms that are too long. Anyway, that cold-blooded comment was a couple lines ago. That was then, this is now, you never step twice into the same paragraph, and when I typed out that sentence I wasn’t myself.”
  • “The composition of a novel may be one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration, but that one part inspiration is essential if the work is to live as art.”
  • Writer: “Why this self-loathing? Perhaps it’s the gap between the image – inherited from the Romantics – and the reality. what will the glorious dead, the giants of literature, make of the ninety-pound-weakling descendants?”
  • “There is never any shortage of people who can think up good things for you to do which are not the same as the things you are good at.”
  • “Publishing a book is often very much like being put on trial, for some offense which is quite other than the one you know in your heart you’ve committed. They [critics] know there’s a body buried somewhere, and they’re keen to dig it up, and then to hunt you down. Trouble is, it’s not usually the right body.”
  • “It isn’t the writer who decides whether or not his work is relevant. Instead it’s the reader.”
  • Reader:  “A spy, a trespasser, someone in the habit of reading other people’s letters and diaries. As Northrop Frye has implied, the reader does not hear, he overhears.”
  • “How many writer have put on other faces, or had other faces thrust upon them, and then been unable to get them off?”
  • “The act of reading is just as singular – always – as the act of writing.”
  • “Going into a narrative – into the narrative process – is a dark road. You can’t see your way ahead. Poets know this too; they too travel the dark roads. The well of inspiration is a hole that leads downwards.”

 

As always, thank you Atwood for your friendly, and yet terrifying, mirror that you hold out for all writers (and society). I read this, warm with laughter at her mindset around the writer and the reader, and as I tucked it back into my bookshelf, I shuddered from the bitter cold this road may prove to be. Luckily, I am not far from the ocean should I need to warm my toes. Only this is laughable still, as it would be in Pacific waters.

XOXO

A Half-Priced Addiction

45th Trial: I sometimes think that if I surround myself with stacks of books, heaping amounts of tottering novels, words and sentences will flow out of me as Inspiration takes form. In other words, I cannot stop buying books. I have a problem.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:2hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Pumpkin Spice Tea

Biggest Success: This week I have began running and swimming again! If anything was neglected more than my writing, it was my exercise.

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I have plenty of inspiration. Sometimes I feel small next to it, like the redwoods that towered over me this past weekend. And most times, I feel amused by it. There are so many images and interactions that flow through my thoughts regularly, and I watch them as when I sit and ponder by a passing stream. Some ideas are great, and I throw my lure out to catch them. But like I do when I would sit and fish with my father, many rush on by or take my fishing pole with them! Inspiration should be an entity to any writer, a physical catch or tangible form.

Novels and books already written have always been my inspirational object, and as you read from my introduction, the British ones do it best. However, I am using this post to justify the fact that I cannot stop going to the nearby Half-Priced Books store, and purchase one to five novels. I hunch over the section of leather bound classics like a deformed addict, as if the act of bending over the shelves has bent my spine so that it has become perfectly normal for me to go there and do just that:  hunt for more books. I take them home with me and display them. And I am dazzled by that Inspiration. I see it nestle between the Dickens and the Brontes, or watch it stretch like a lush over the Melville and Hemingway. It jumps from Wilde to Twain, and tip-toes past Conrad. Yes, in just a week, I have managed to purchase books from all afore mentioned authors. I label it Inspiration, instead of addiction, thank you very much!

You Love to Write

44th Trial: A story is a part of you, like a cell maturing into an egg, that then grows in the womb (I understand I am skipping a few steps!). When you give birth to it, it becomes detached, in need for nurture and responsibility. This is a strange comparison, however I feel a bond with my novel, and yet a strange detachment. As if I neglected it, and I don’t know it as well as I did when it was only within me.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: Since it has been over 2 weeks since I last wrote to you all, I hate to admit that my writing hours amounted to a small, dismal, 30 minutes. Let me use the excuses of long weekends working, increase demand of attention elsewhere, and continue to justify my lack of progress.

Weekly Choice of Tea: Turmeric and Ginger, with the occasional Pumpkin Spice Latte (thank you Starbucks for now having almond milk)

Biggest Success: Finished reading the play, The Cursed Child. The magical world filled the empty pockets of my living room once again, and every time Time turned, I felt its rush! I look forward to seeing the play one day, happy to see the dynamics hold strong between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as I envisioned them to. I know the characters live always within Rowling’s mind, as she has stated, but in a way they never leave the reader’s thoughts or our hopes.

As I said before, I will no longer write of not finding time to write. Or that life gets busy, hectic, stressful, and long-winded. It will ALWAYS be ALL those things. It is a beautiful thing however, to understand that something you create comes from your love of doing so.  It may take daily attempts to see it this way. I love to read and to write, and that passion comes from nothing more complicated than my enjoyment of it. You always read the quotes that say “do more of what you love”, which means the majority of us do not. Though I will support that it is not without lack of trying for most. I never wonder why people do things they do not love doing, but it astonishes me when people ignore the things that they love. Be it the person you are married to, the purpose of your career, the pursuit of knowledge, or the beauty of art.

I sat down to write for the first time yesterday in a couple weeks. The story was extremely malnourished and frankly, I thought pitiful. I reread the paragraph I last wrote. The sentence structure was rudimentary and the language of my genius downright knickbockery. And yes, I just made that word up. Instead of letting self-hatred lead me to give up on my novel, I told myself this:  you love to write. And then I just picked up where I left off, knowing it is my own deficiency of character to NOT work for what I love.

Currently, I am reading Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaids Tale” as well as a children’s novel, “The One and Only Ivan”. And have not watched anything BBC in too long. It is time that I incorporated something more British into my routine.

Levity

43rd Trial:  Sometimes the world seems to squeeze around you, as if you were in the center of an overly packed elevator. Maybe it is because your career isn’t taking the bait you’re offering it. Or a loved one’s life has taken a turn, and as their heart breaks yours does too.  Or maybe you put distance between you and your passions, whatever the reason.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: Happily 2.5hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Chamomile and Lavender

Biggest Success: I have found that my friends are what make me most appreciative of this beautiful world, and some steal my heart with their own happiness

As you can see from my trials and my successes today, I am at two ends. There is hurt snuggling closely and confidently with happiness. As if divorce and marriage asked me to dance.  People that are close to me, influence me more than I could’ve thought, and I am thankful for that. As one’s world seems to change with hurt and sorrow, mine cannot help but feel and resent the darkness they sit in. Yet a phone call with a dear friend, who asked me to be a part of his special day, brings that balloon of excitement and anticipation back into my chest. The tug of war is worth it, because the light and the dark compliment us all. With the levity of love from friends and family, we can all escape that which seems to close around us and restrict our breathing.

This week I will write about loss and renewal, as I am inspired to do so. And as with all things, it appears that was where my story was headed anyways. For those that feel despair, inoculate yourself with time and meditation. Open your window and let the new light in, and love will follow. I will do it with you, as will all who care about you. The beautiful thing about our world, is that in no time in our lives, are we alone.

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Grounding Gravity

42nd Trial:  Keeping that which grounds me a part of my daily habits

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 1hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Lotus Tea from Vietnam

Biggest Success: Getting SH** done! At the speed of lights. I feel coasting speed up ahead

“Dark have been my dreams of late” -LOR

I dramatize, naturally. However, I feel the way one does when they lay on a exercise ball backwards. The chest expands and each breath has so much more space to fill. With working 60 hr/wk, taking certification tests, getting DMV-prepared, and getting my former life changed over to California (which if you didn’t know, is another country. I’m serious), I had found little time to actually write.

Luckily, with the new lung capacity, I dove in and was able to write for an hour today during my lunch break. Jamie sat beside me, and a warm chai tea latte set the mood. I met my second Camilla (though this one started with a “K”), the first being a travel companion in Malaysia and Indonesia. Camilla is my main character, and I find it absolutely serendipitous to meet this unknowning child on the day I begin writing after another month off.

Even describing this to you is so thrilling to me. Innately, my breathing follows the passions and inspirations that make me a chiropractor, an individual, and a writer. Universally, worlds revolve around gravitational pulls. My world is no different, and the positive energy I put into myself, the universe surrounds me with force, interaction, and grounding gravity.

Dark may have been what filled my hectic days, but knowing that light endlessly travels in a void puts me farther away from a universal enlightenment (metaphorically). Putting gravity back in my life, such as writing, family time, swimming, and positivity, give me back ME. And my revolving world.

I appreciate and love all you readers!

Dreaming in California – Not Yet the California Dream

40th Trial: Totally separate from my writing. San Francisco Housing. Enough said.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 1 hour for plot – you would think with a 5 day drive to California with nothing to do much change CDs and ignore strange sounds coming from tired tires, I would have more time to consider the project and product our leading lady will immerse herself in.

Weekly Choice of Tea: Peach Tranquility

Biggest Success: Making it to San Francisco. Through all of the chaos of moving to a new city, I have been able to save some energy to consider a schedule for writing, swimming, and travel planning.

All of it is true. Jamie and I packed our cars just two weeks ago and came to the west in the same desperate desire for a next adventure. In our own way we pioneered a new life;  passing through the green crops that filled the rolling hills of  Iowa, the snow capped mountain ranges and deep canyon lined roads of Colorado, the vast red desert lands of Utah, Las Vegas, and the immensity of Arizona canyons. The road to California was primarily heat, dust, and desert. There were exit signs that were nameless, as if the roads that came from it went nowhere. The stars at night were as impenetrable and clear as they were in Indonesia. America is no longer a land without differing landscapes and cultures to me, and is just as vibrant as the countries that make up many other continents. It takes a drive across country to see it as such!

The next three years in San Francisco will be the most momentous of my life. Here I will finish my novel, gain all the experience to create my own business, and discover further the west coast of our wonderful nation. Something More British will document the entire process, and in turn create a network of aspiring writers (and anyone else!), so that we may all continue to pursue what seems impossible to us. You always have time to pursue your dreams, no matter how hard driving 14 hours a day across the desert can be. Or finding a new place to live in a city filled of chaotic opportunities. Or even when we allow careers to exhaust us. You only thrive when you are being who you love. How we look at our circumstances make our reality what it is, and you can change your reality in the same regard. That is the true plot of my novel, and in its own way it will show that our reality can bend in the way we accept nature, self, and love.

The Air is Full of Spices…

37th Trial: Walking through Kuala Lumpur’s largest bookstore, and experiencing two trials:  what NOT to buy and the oppressive intimidation that my writing faces when I look onto these great writers.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 6 hours

Weekly Choice of Tea: Teh Tarik and Malaysian White Coffee

Biggest Success: Where to begin…FINISHING chapter SIX! Also, finishing the wonderful Alchemist while traveling through the beautiful countryside of Malaysia.

“The air is full of spices.”

One of my favorite lines in the movie Sense and Sensibility is by Colonel Brandon, the voice and beautiful performance by the beloved Alan Rickman. He is talking about his time in the East Indies to the little Margaret Dashwood. I love Rickman deeply in that role, and even more so, I hear his line as I travel through the same countries his character was likely referring to. If not, I will imagine otherwise. Especially in Malaysia, where the cuisine is greatly influenced by many cultures, Indian and Malay curries here can be smelt and tasted as you walk the streets lined with open shops and restaurants. My literary and movie enthusiasm seems to follow me through the country side, and that one line continues to sound in my head as if on replay. It is like the fly that keeps landing on my arm or shoulder blade, though without the nuisance.

Maybe Jane Austen heard of travel here, heard of the exotic cuisine and the boiling nature of the tropical sun. Her novel Sense and Sensibility has made its way to where her characters supposedly traveled, and where her admirers currently do. If only Austen could have traveled here, what wonderfully colorful stories would come from it! I look to my own novel, already having the plot within a much different country than I am currently in. I have wrote before about my struggles of not putting a looming volcano in the heart of North Carolina, or of an ancient Temple at a corner in Charlotte.  While Austen did not have such influence, I can say that I now do. What will I do with it all? What can I grab, transform, and steep in imagination?

Currently I am in Malaysia, and today I thought about all the places that I have sat down and wrote pieces of Chapter Six. Ristr8toLab in Chiang Mai. Atop the coarse sand of Koh Phangan, or the soft grainy beaches of Koh Phi Phi. From Thailand this chapter has extended into Malaysia, where it progressed surrounded by the tea plantations of BOH and Cameron Valley of Cameron Highlands. In the heart of Kuala Lumpur, I finally finished the chapter. I am getting to a point in the book where I need to do further brainstorming. I jumped into writing because waiting to write was, obviously, getting me nowhere. But introduction of what I hope to be my main road of the symbolism is about to begin, and I need to buckle down. Because writing is easy. Plot has always been my unformed and jeering companion.

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Heartache Motivates in the Land of Smiles

35th Trial: Wanting to go back and alter a past description or illustration, and realizing the manuscript is back home and I am across the world with only an empty notebook. Taking mental notes does not suffice anymore, and so I am making pages of things to remember to correct. I am finding it easy to change that which is already written, than brainstorming on that which needs to happen.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: Since last post, I would guess-timate around 2 hours

Weekly Choice of Tea: Chrysanthemum iced tea and Thai Milk Tea

Biggest Success: Visiting Angkor Wat temples and getting a spiritual Sak Yant Tattoo in Bangkok, Thailand! I am currently in Chiang Mai, and this backpacking trip has been the most thrilling, let-loose, connecting with humanity I’ve ever done.

My writing has been more in the forefront of my mind than I thought it would be. Grant it, I have not the time or energy to actually write–even more so than when I worked back home. My days have been filled with temples, site-seeing, and documenting through my notebook and travel blog. Facebook is getting its fill of pictures and videos on a daily basis. I am writing more than I ever have because the documentation portion of this trip has been the most consuming, and I find that it is still an exercise for my writing. I had not planned on writing any chapters while abroad, and yet I find I cannot detain myself! I love that I miss writing my novel, and I love that I miss Chiropractic. My life does not seem without or wanting, and seeing this new world in Southeast Asia strengthens my inner character rather than filling a void.

I have a stirring passion to pick up chapter six where I left off in January, primarily due to finishing the novel “Villette” two days ago. Charlotte Bronte is a mastermind. Her ability to grip the heart and tear apart one’s world is only paralleled by her sister’s ability. Whatever gene they have that makes them professors of unrequited love and debilitating despair sadly ended with their much too early deaths, and the world is at a loss without it. While I admire their ability to crush my soul into bits with loss of love, I have a cautious relationship with the Bronte girls. I can trust them only so far. I can rely on them heightening my spirits by connecting to my deepest desires, but am appalled that they could then treat me so brutally afterwards.

Regardless, I am so inspired by Charlotte. In regards to somethingmorebritish, it is ultimately authors like her that motivate me to write. I put down “Villette”, warming my sobbing heart with the thought of my own novel, and how I can end it however I wish. Love with always triumph–you’ve heard me say it before. However, I must learn from the Bronte’s how to pull at the heart stings a bit. Just a little.

Some Travel Photos for you 🙂 see more at http://www.blankpproject.com, my travel blog!

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In Time for a Watchman

32nd Trial: Grey VS Gray. Still clueless

Weekly hours writing or in the pursuit of plot: 6hr

Weekly choice of tea: Ginseng Tea from the Goad household

Biggest Success: Began Chapter 6 and finished Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’

I was apprehensive to begin reading Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ because, really, I felt the same way Scout did in the novel itself. Do not change Atticus. Do not alter the precious childhood memories produced on the streets of Maycomb County. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is in us all, with its innocence and its political strength. Lee’s newest release seemed to put us all in check, because Mockingbird left at least myself feeling strong in the ideas of right and wrong, of the ignorant and of the discriminated. And with that strength we could challenge all racial adversaries with the radical mindset of the now developed Jean Louise.

I bring this novel and my review of it to my blog because it harnesses the human power and ability. Watchman supported segregation and hope through slowly lessening prejudice and increasing one’s faith for the future. How can we have a fair and just world? By turning a light switch on and off? Or do we, as Atticus feels, keep our differences until all demographics are on an equal playing field when it comes to education and abilities? I take pride in my strong opinions, as does the family I grew up in, however the element of bigotry threatens my arguments. It threatened Jean Louise.

And yet in this world we need bigots to shout out Right, just as much as we need people like Atticus to keep balance and foster the strength to build. I liked both Jean Louise and Atticus in their opposition, however Jean Louise did annoy me. I find that I dislike extremists–there is nothing progressive about them really. Without a certain amount of balance, understanding, and give, proper change is impossible within a society. It is due time that we set out our watchman, know ourselves and know our environment. With consciousness comes intention, and with intention comes supportive action. Just like a wisp of smoke in the billiard room, politics fly from my mouth with littler substance than the falling snow.

“A man couldn’t vote simply because he was a man, in Jefferson’s eyes. He had to be a responsible man. A vote was, to Jefferson, a precious privilege a man attained for himself in a–a live-and-let-live economy.” Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

Next week I fly to Southeast Asia, where Jamie and I will discover new lands and the inevitable inspiration that comes with the beauty and power of the world. I have been familiarizing myself with as much of the culture as I can, reading their beliefs and customs. I am intrigued with the triad of the Hindu religion, the yantra-mantra-tantra triad. Yantra specifically, as it is one’s harness and guidance of their intention and will. I shall go to S.E. Asia, and with my literary inspiration, set my watchman!

 

The Effect of a Pause

25th Trial: CHANGE. I have decided on a change, personally and professionally! So much different weights are now placed on my shoulders. What is next? Where will I go? Will it all Succeed? Will I put aside my literary passions in a desperate pursuit of other future goals or will it be these passions in the end, that I have left to live on?

Weekly hours spent writing or in the pursuit of plot: 2.5 Hours

Weekly Choice of Tea: Sweet Tea. Tapping into the roots that I have developed here in the South

Biggest Success: Last weekend I spent a ridiculous amount of time watching Glee and The 100 episodes. I got so fed up with my addiction, that I have taken a 4 day break from them both.

A speaker came to Jamie’s work to discuss public speaking and self-presentation. Jamie then came home so animated from it, knowing well that I could benefit from the same information. As it happens, I come from a wonderful family-line that is popular for filling any silent space. A pause in conversation can only be wanting. And yet, is not a pause the most powerful thing in observation? In understanding? In absorption, healing, and dramatic effect? As a doctor, do I pause to make sure patients understand what I say, or understand myself what was just asked? Not only do I bring consideration of a pause to my professional life, but also in my methods of being a writer. How can you write of silence, inactivity, and the static background between sentences? I challenge myself today so create a pause in the next few pages.

But let me take this one step farther.  I do not pause enough to consider what will happen after the current chapter that I am on.  When I started writing I realized that I am going to take this chapter by chapter, however I can’t do that for the entirety of the novel. How choppy it could then turn out, and how easily I could lose the breath of certain morals that should flow throughout it. When I sit down to write, I must preserve an hour at least a week to consider the future of the storyline (I know, a simple concept that has sneakily evaded me until now).

Taking such a pause from the current chapter will satisfy novel planning, something I desperately need to work on. However, this does not mean to fill the writing hours with pauses filled with episode-watching on Netflix. I love watching episodes—a little too much! Lately it has been Glee that captivates me. No, I never watched it while it played on cable TV, and the fun high-school drama and breath-taking vocals give me a world to escape to. I have also been watching The 100, which is much different from the carefree world of Glee. It is a show that has recently proven to break my heart with abominable characters that do not act as I have trusted them to. I even went to bed crying after watching an episode, swearing never to watch it again! This series has recently taught me a valuable lesson:  do not escape the world you are in, nor are creating. Some storylines fail you. They cannot be trusted! I only want to be in the world before my eyes, and the world I intend to create. That, I can control.

I am reminded by Austen’s quote, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery”. Alas! WWAD (What Would Austen Do). Some pictures from my Inner Eye, developed during my Austen-days in the Lake District!

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