Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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(Some links or topics may not be completely kid-appropriate.)




Wed, May 21 2014

Keeping the fire going

Process is something that my engineering husband knows well. When he works, he sees the beginning step, the middle steps and the end step as a continuum of process. The axe has been sharpened, the wood has been cut and stacked, the work tools are laid out and the engineer can concentrate on the process. He knows that if he skips steps somewhere along the way he may risk reliability, quality and even safety. Integrity needs to be present through a whole project. Proper process leads to satisfaction.

Being a creative person, I love jumpstarting the beginnings, but I often bog down in process. Middles can become muddles and endings are just sad. What is a sense of accomplishment for an engineer can translate into a sad state of melancholy and grieving for a right-brain-dominant writer or artist.

I can understand why actors sometimes long to be directors and producers, particularly in the film industry. Actors are often thrust onto a set and told to present work that may be placed out of order, or even cut from the end product. Their sense of being finished may not come until the film has been released and they often have very little control when it comes to the overall presentation and the feel of a film. Writers do have to contend with editors and publishers, though there are increasing numbers of writers who bypass these now in favor of self-publishing.

Both process and creativity have to be involved in writing. I keep trying to remember that on days when my original idea has burned down a bit and I have to make myself get up and put another log on the fire.

posted at: 09:24 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Apr 28 2014

The boot and the basket, not to be confused with the pit and the pendelum

I've somehow injured my foot and have been told by the doctor that the chief remedy is rest, with minimal walking to be done only while wearing a rocker-bottomed, foam-lined, knee-high contraption full of hook-and-loop fasteners and metal bracing. The foot isn't broken, but the doctor tells me that I will end up with a stress fracture if I don't treat it seriously as an injury for several weeks.

The truth is that a lot of us think we're just waiting to be told to get off our feet and relax. We want it to be a prescription, imagining ourselves lounging around and finally writing that blockbuster novel. Instead, I found myself planning and taking longer to do the simplest of other tasks in order to make every step count and then get off my feet as much as possible. And then when I did sit down and command my brain to produce something worthwhile, I ended up unable to concentrate. That was the first two days

I decided that this was not going to work. I finally appealed to the lazier side of my nature and imagined how I could accomplish more with less effort. I grabbed a basket with a handle from storage and put into it the things I'm likely to carry with me from room to room. I've even wrapped and tucked my lunch nibbles into the basket as though I was going on a picnic. (It was actually fun, but I'm trying not to turn life into one big picnic right now because I can't burn off too many calories.)

The whole psychological notion of not moving around more than necessary surprised me by being less freeing and more stifling, so I've tried to work on adjusting my attitude to lean toward thinking of this time as a blessing. If I take an hour to eat my lunch, there's no harm. If I sit there and browse through a hefty stack of magazines and clip the best parts with plans to use ideas later, I've actually gained some control over clutter. If I stare out the living room window at the birds-of-paradise blooms in the sun, I'm building a descriptive scene for writing. As usual, it's not what happens that matters. It's what we do in response to what happens that matters. I do keep plenty of paper in the basket for making notes and rearranging words into poetry. It's a little tough to be so still when spring is full of activity and motion, but I intend to record and filter as much of the season's mood as I possibly can.

posted at: 17:44 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Mar 17 2014

A St. Patrick's Day rambling on memory and societal assumptions

I had a blog subject nicely tucked into my mind and then I put off writing down my thoughts. I had my hands full of items and had no pen, no paper and no device on which to put a voice reminder. Now I can only hope the thought returns to me in some idle moment.

I recall hearing tales of people using their own blood to sign correspondence or add their name to treaties or sworn oaths. These tales are often chilling and are filled with threats and dire consequences held over the heads of those who don't keep their word. There are times when I doubt that this was true and that the participating parties simply had no immediate access to ink and so were afraid of losing either the document or their nerve, so they seized the moment and cut open their arm or hand in order to seal the deal with a long-lasting, colored liquid.

I realize that last paragraph might be cringe-worthy and highly charged with religious and cultural taboo. I don't intend to offend. I simply take the opportunity to point out that a lot of our archeological and anthropoligical discoveries may mistakenly attribute items (or events) to some other-worldly influence or idol worship, when the truth of the matter might be that a preferred item or proper medium was simply not at hand at the perfect moment. People in snowy climates often grab a credit card to scrape frost off a car windshield in the driveway before they drive to work. Some discoverer could find this card centuries from now and might suppose that the plastic item held significance as a charm placed in front of homes to ward off evil spirits, when the truth is that the driver dropped the card in a snow bank beside the driveway, was in too much of a hurry to look for it and drove on to work. The temperature rose, the snow melted and the returning worker rolled over the card with the car and pushed the thing into the mud. He never remembered to look for it. It remained there for many generations near the crumbling remains of the home until any researcher finding it could only speculate on what purpose the little piece of rectangular plastic served in some distant past.

And then there's the other question. What will the researchers consider when they find an actual old, plastic and rusty-bladed ice scraper that bears the faded remains of a message that is actually an advertisement imprinted on its handle?

Brown Mortuary and Chapel: Professional End-of-life Assistance

posted at: 15:21 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Feb 19 2014

On the rails, between the rails, outside the rails, straight ahead

I've been occupying a vast space between the extremes of monkey-typing and overthinking each phrase of writing the last couple of weeks. I'm making better progress. I have increased freedom from my inner editor, but I'm also taking brief pauses to think about sentence structure a bit as I go. A train track of extremes might appeal to some, but getting real work done in my reality seems to require keeping watch on a bit of passing scenery on the way to my planned destination.

posted at: 11:40 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Feb 03 2014

Blithering now and editing later versus editing while write

I tried one of those little exercises that involves stream-of-consciousness writing for five minutes with disastrous results. I produced material that would have been worth editing only if I had been channeling the thoughts of a lower life form on crack. I rejected the process and went back to editing as I write. The problem is that I have trouble finishing a work in progress this way. There always seems to be a tension between the two extremes, so my latest tactic is to think a bit harder before I pound out a paragraph and then try to produce several paragraphs before I go back and edit. How is this working? We'll see in a few weeks, if I can last that long.

posted at: 09:53 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Tue, Jan 28 2014

What's really going on with the State of the Union

When writers listen to US presidents deliver their respective State of the Union addresses we tend to think of sentence structure and grammar. It might help to think of these speeches more the way we would think of a query to an editors or a pitch to a filmmaker.

Some of what we hear will be a series of statistics on how things have been going for the past year. Some of what we hear will be observation and an interpretation of what things are like now. Some of what we hear will be justification for whatever President Obama hopes to see happen in the next year or two. (This would be true of anyone holding the office.) Facts, interpretation of history and present conditions, idealism and thinking habits are interwoven into a speech that reflects the deliverer's social, political and personal background.

You could make the speech more interesting and personal this evening by imagining how you would deliver the review and projection, based on your own observations, or even from the point-of-view of your son, daughter, worst enemy or best friend. All these speeches are stories of a sort and each speech tells us something about who the speaker is. Our own filters, as we listen, tell us more about who we are. It's a good exercise in how speaker and listener, or author and reader, work together to make the speech into a dynamic piece of literature that will be catalogued as part of history.

posted at: 11:49 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Fri, Jan 10 2014

Flood, famine, pestilence and other party poopers

Stress can be a writer's best friend or worst enemy. It's easy for stress to distract us from the task at hand. But if it brings on deep emotion it can be a force to enhance a story in the same way that actors uses past personal experiences to drive a scene for maximum effect. We should't lose sight of our objectivity as we relate a character's experience, but we can certainly harness our own personal stress to the character's angst in a sort of orchestrated empathy.

If the stress is so great that we absolutely can't handle objectivity at that moment, it might be nest to set aside the fictional writing for a short time and describe in writing the way the stress is affecting us. We'll get a release by writing about what's bothering us. And we'll maintain a professional space between our immediate stress and our current characters' experience. This probably won't work for every situation, but it might be a viable solution when there are just too many distractions to make concentration possible. Even a neurosurgeon would have to take a pause if the medical building exploded. We just have to make certain we don't use every bump in our day as an excuse to wander away writing.


posted at: 14:19 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



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