Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tee-Hee, A Room of My Own!

So I've spent 28 of the last 36 hours cleaning my basement and... building myself a writing room! A room of my own! All for writing! Just writing and reading! And I can make charts and LEAVE THEM ON THE TABLE, out, in the open, without having to clean up before the students come!

It's mine. All mine. And I'm SO happy!

I jury-rigged it from this:

writingbefore writingbefore2

To this, with some old curtains and tablecloths. I did buy two 5 x 7 rugs, which was interesting because one was 5 x 8. The ball is my chair. It's actually quite comfy! It stretches out my back when I roll it while I'm sitting on it.

writingdesk  writingbookcases

There are no books on the bookshelf yet. I'm still finishing up. I'm getting rid of most of my books, actually. Six garbage bags full. (Donating them, not throwing them away!)

It looks a little silly with the fabric ceiling and the fabric walls, but I have an unfinished basement. This was the cheapest way to make it a room in it. It looks funny from the outside:

 CD2 234 CD2 236

I like it. It's like a Writing Lair. A cave. And I need caves. I need blinders. I need to close down the rest of the world when I write.

It kinda feels like when I used to build forts when I was little, out of blankets. I LOVED doing that. I used to make a little hideaway in the back of one of my closets, behind my clothes. I love little hide-outs.

Or like some exotic sultan's tent or something. My cat has commandeered my reading chair. Maybe he's the sultan!

writingseat

I'm on a cleaning FRENZY. I don't want things. Yeah, I'm still on that kick. It's like, the more I take to the Goodwill, the happier I get. But my writing room is quite bare. Look at all that table space! What would you put there? What do I really need in a writing room?

writingtables

I need some candles. I have a whole HUGE boxful upstairs. I'll finally get to use them!

I can feel that things are getting better and better. You know how when you struggle and struggle, then, through a Herculean effort you shift the energy, and then things just STEAMROLL with luck?

Pseudo got some good news today, but I'm not allowed to share. *pout* But it means I'm feeling like I need to be pouring some energy into that side of the world. And that side of the world is perking up!

So I might be an every other day sort of blogger for awhile. I'll still read your posts everyday, because I don't want to miss an instant of what's going on with you guys. (Yeah, I was one of those kids who couldn't go to sleep because she was afraid she'd miss something.)

Do you have a room of your own? What's it like? What's in it? If not, where do you write? And if you had a room of your own, what would be in it?

Read more...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where Do You Get Your Writing Kicks?

I just had an epiphany this morning. I love when the blogosphere has a conversation, and when different conversations intersect and cause me to think of things in a whole new way. And there's the magic: sometimes when I'm struggling with something, the blogosphere gives me the answer.

I've been feeling a little lost, motivation-wise, lately. I mean, I don't know which writing path to take two months from now, and I'm not feeling real fired up. (I think ahead, plus I'm booked for the next... oh wait, we're down to one month. Crap. My brain is usually six months to two years ahead!)

Anyway, Zoe is popping out great discussion after great discussion, a lot to think about as far as indie publishing goes. Mark added to it quite well with a bit about small publishers, and I sort of lamented that I felt a little lost. I kinda like where I am, kinda don't, kinda feel like I should be more fired up about NY, which doesn't seem to motivate me. Kinda feel like I should be thinking about the money of it more. I'd like to give NY a go, sure.

Then I popped by Jennifer Estep's post on Magical Musings, and she talked about motivation. She mentioned money, and I've said in the past that money and deadlines motivate me. They haven't been working too well, lately.

Really, I think they just pushed me to finish things. Finishing things is the hardest bit.

And then I went to Erica's blog on Aunt Mildred and crew, and like most of her posts, it got me thinking. She mentioned again about how she believes the traditional publishing route produces a better book.

And all that sort of coalesced into an epiphany when I wrote that I commented that I wanted to be a better writer. That seems simplistic, so I started to elaborate, but then five paragraphs in, I realized I should post it over here.

See, I love going to Borders and digging into the books, trying to figure out how they work, reading them backwards, upside down, trying to see patterns and make theories on why some books are bestsellers and others aren't. I study plot, paragraph size, pacing, character motivation, periods, punctuation, every single element I can find.

I spend hours in Borders. We're talking at least 20 - 40 hours a week doing that. I love every single second.

I love each time I discover new layers. Like... when I first started writing, I could only "see" very few (for lack of a better word) mistakes. One day, I realized that stories made me saddest when they didn't use the word sad, when they didn't name the emotion but said it all without saying it. COOL! Over the years, new layers unveil themselves, and each time, it's like a whole new world.

I love that discovery. When I realized all the bestsellers had impeccable rhythm like the best pianists? I'm still riding high. When I felt my mental image of a novel sort of flatten into ONE thing, rather than a sum of parts, I was beyond thrilled. I can never explain that, like the beginning was the end and the middle wasn't really the middle, but... more like the beginning and the end, too?

I'm still delighting in that.

I could go on forever. I LOVE deconstructing and constructing, I LOVE figuring out how to make myself a better writer. I LOVE reading a ton of books, analyzing them and digging into them, getting my hands messy. I love constantly trying push my mind to turn upside down and see stories and writing in a whole new way.

When you walk around and wonder what people are thinking and what their motivations are for you fiction, you start to do it with real people, too. And that always gets me into trouble.

I've said before that I don't want critique partners. I've had various excuses for this, but honestly, I didn't know why myself, not completely. I do love editors, but I don't want to send my stuff to them until I've pushed myself to discover every last thing myself. The thing is, I never really could put my finger on why I wasn't into all that.

To make matters worse, I actually love critiquing other people's stuff, because it's that whole deconstructing/analyzing thing, that discovery. I love that!

But I imagine that looks silly and hypocritical, like I think I'm better or whatever. Like I'm not willing to tit for tat. I worry they might feel insulted, because I would value their opinion, I really would. More than they could ever begin to imagine. I often imagine people think it's because I'm afraid to put my stuff out there. I imagine people think I'm making excuses for some fear or whatever.

Today, though, I realized, that's totally not it.

I totally get my writing kicks from the discovery, the analysis, the dissecting for myself what is missing in my work. Not to sound like a petulant child, but I want to do it myself. If someone else tells me my ending is weak or whatever (and while I definitely appreciate that from an editor before I make a fool of myself in the world, LOL), then I don't get to make that discovery myself.

It's true: I sell my stuff because I need the money. But I write it because I love words and I love story. I'm crazy about it. Head over heels.

I love improving myself and my writing. Love it. Every second. You've heard me agonize over endings, agonize over this or that as I'm writing, right? I even love the agonizing, swear to God, LOVE it. Revel in it. How crazy is that?

If someone told me I could fix it by doing X, I'd feel disappointed. I'd feel like I'd really wished I could have discovered that on my own, saw it for the first time myself, felt my mind flip perspectives all by itself.

Well, like I said, I could go on forever.

But I want to know: what does it for you? Where do you get your writing kicks? Casting aside ambition, casting aside career, casting aside all that sort of stuff. Day to day, what thrills you about being a writer?

Read more...

The Waiting Room

I haven't been talking about writing lately. I'm in the grinding stage: the end, where the words eke out one letter at a time. I'm just waiting to finish so I can move on to the next project. I'm even waiting for that and one more project to be finished, because I need a dose of Shiny New Idea Joy.

I'm in the waiting stage for DH to come home. And I've been making certain changes in my life, a ton of big changes and little changes, and I'm just waiting for those to blossom. I've made some big changes in my students' curriculum. Those changes won't blossom until May, at the earliest, and possibly later.

DH and I are both working toward some long-term, huge life-changing goals. So I'm waiting as patiently as I can for those.

I'm waiting for my foot to heal, I'm waiting to get back to TKD, and I'm waiting for the finances to work out the last kinks of a rough spot and realize they're in steady waters.

Every single minute of my day seems focused on a long term goal.

Which leaves me feeling like I'm sitting in one big waiting room.

Just waiting.

Ever feel like that?

Read more...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Should We Get Our Hopes Up?

Only six more weeks or so until DH comes home. I'm excited about that, big time. And I've got my hopes up again about my foot. I know I'll crash with a big bang if I don't get back to TKD, but I'm determined.

I'm fairly certain it'll get better. He fixed the bit so that I'm not causing the bones to grate against each other, so that's cool. Now that I know I'm not injuring my foot by doing the exercises, I can help make it better myself. I've been doing them about three hours a day (while doing other things). And icing it a lot so the swelling stays fairly under control.

But it all begs the question: is it wise to get one's hopes up?

Afterall, it hurts when our hopes are dashed. I think my first instinct is to hope less so that it hurts less if I fail. The past year, I could barely think about TKD because it would depress me. And so I stopped hoping, locked that part away from me.

After the roller coaster ride of last week, I'm back to hoping big time, but with a little knot of fear in my stomach. Doesn't matter. I'm going to work my foot a lot. Sometimes just being able to put one's energy in one direction helps a ton.

It would be SO cool if I could get back to TKD soon. He said maybe six weeks. Six weeks! Can you imagine? That would be AWESOME. I've already got TKD classes penned into my calendar.

Remember how when you were young, it wasn't "cool" to want something really bad? How even if you did, you "played it cool"?

Well, I don't mind falling flat on my face again. I mean, think about it: even if you're falling flat on your face, you're still going forward.

All this makes me think I should be feeling this passionately about getting published by New York. Shouldn't I be bawling my eyes out at times? Shouldn't I be riding a roller coaster?

I don't know.

Do you ride a roller coaster on your writing journey? Is it inspiring, or does it drain your hope and motivation away, little by little?

Anyway, I swear, just yesterday, I was thinking this was going to happen:

Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps' BUILT TO SUCCEED, promising to reveal the secrets of his success and go behind the scenes of his approach to training, competition, and winning, built around a narrative thread of the eight final swims of the 2008 Olympic games, with anecdotes about his family, his coach, his passion for the sport, and lessons learned from unexpected challenges and obstacles (he was raised by a single mother and overcame a diagnosis of ADHD), to Dominick Anfuso at Free Press, for publication in December 2008, by Scott Waxman and Farley Chase at the Waxman Literary Agency, in association with Peter Carlisle of Octagon.

Heck, I want to read it, can't wait to read it. Sheesh, and I'll get to read it in four months? Wow! Talk about turnaround. Here's an article on Michael Phelps' Gold Medal "Secrets."

It's a bit of a duh, but it's still interesting. Basically, it says that he hit success by doing what other people were unwilling to do.

Amen to that. That's one thing I think the chiro didn't get about me. He talked to me like I might not do the exercises, and I was trying to ask how long could I do the exercises. I don't think he was getting that I would do them for ten hours a day if it would make my foot better quicker, and that I needed to know when I should stop doing them.

I've already got the two hour walk penned in for this evening. If my foot doesn't get better, it certainly won't be for lack of effort on my part.

Read more...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just an Update

It's been a week, that's for sure. I'm a little embarrassed to have dragged you guys through it, too, but I'm SO THANKFUL you guys were around. Thanks, really. All of you.

So I went in to the doctor, laid down the law about stupid videos, and made him talk to me like I had a brain between my ears. He was cooler. I got to see the Xrays, and he showed me all about where the bones are misaligned. I still can't rattle off what's wrong with my foot (mostly because I don't remember the names of all those little bones), but at least I have a picture in my head and know what's wrong.

And he did fix stuff.

Constant pain on the side of my foot is gone. Shooting pains when I pull my toes up in the direction of my shin are gone. I even could get up on tiptoe, although he only allowed me once to check it, so we wouldn't undo his corrections.

He's going to fix things, but our main issue now is that he says unless I wear shoes with orthotics 24/7, I'm going to fall into little pieces.

First, I LOVE, love, LOVE the feel of my feet rooted into the ground when doing TKD and yoga. It's pretty much a spiritual connection to the Earth for me. Second, I'm not yet willing to accept that jail sentence without a second opinion.

So we'll see.

I'm a little overwhelmed with stuff to do and stuff to write. I really should take a couple weeks and be Ms. Focused Machine.

I'm addicted. I highly doubt I can stay away a day, let alone two weeks. If I happen to disappear, you know why. I have like 50,000 words to write in the next two weeks, plus get my students all orientated and lesson-planned and organized for the year. And get their websites up and everything else.

But hopefully I'll end up online anyway.

I mean, a regular schedule is coming up. I can't wait! You?

Read more...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

So Cool

Okay, I'm really not rubbing salt in the wound. Someone asked me if you kicked in TKD, and I got to YouTubing it, and this was really cool so I wanted to share. You have to fast forward just a tad past all the Korean. Unless you read Korean. This is the Korean National Taekwondo Demonstration Team.

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About Those Hopes...

Okay, so I've got a knot the size of a watermelon in my stomach. The chiropractor visit was... interesting. First of all, I spent $155 to fill out a form and watch a REALLY DUMB 14 minute video that TOTALLY insults your intelligence.

The video person spoke in a really slow voice, like you know how some adults talk down to kids like they're idiots and can't grasp which way is up or down? It was SO annoying. And the content that I HAD to see? (He FORCED me to watch this video.)

"At... your... first... chiropractic... visit... you... will... fill... out... a... form... with... your... past... medical... history... so... the... doctor... can... discuss... it... with... you.... This... is... what.. the... form... looks... like.  Then... the... doctor... will... do... a... full... body.... checkup..."

You get the idea. Since I had already spent 50 minutes sitting in the waiting room while he was picking his nose (he wasn't even with another patient!), I was really irritated to waste another 14 minutes, particularly because I was paying $155 for it.

Oh, and the waiting room. The waiting room. Oh. My. Gawd. I finally turned off the damn radio, because it was piping this IRRITATING Christian Rock. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm cool with Christianity. But shouldn't there be a separation of doctor and religion? And I'm sorry, on a purely musical level, Christian Rock sucks. I would rather listen to screaming rap full of obscenities.

And I'm fine with Christianity, truly. Even when I was a Christian I HATED Christian Rock. Despised it. YUCK! It is the most awful music I've ever heard in my life. (I think there are two Christian Rock artists I've liked, ever, and I can only take them in small doses.)

And 80% of the literature on the table had to do with being a Christian. I am there to get my foot fixed, NOT to be converted!!!!

It was to the point where I felt distinctly uncomfortable, like I shouldn't be there since I wasn't a Christian.

Then we added another $140 for X-rays, at which point I'm practically hyperventilating to myself, "Please don't let this money be going to waste, please don't let this money be going to waste, please don't let this money be going to waste."

So I go back tomorrow for another $100, but I'm in tears because he's going to do exactly what my stepbrother did. And that didn't work. So I don't know.

Um, what did I say about hopes?

Yeah, I let them get a little too high. I want this SO BAD I can't even tell you. In fact, I want this so bad that my blood pressure was 25 numbers higher than usual! (That could've been the video and the Christian rock.) I want my foot better so bad that as soon as DH called me to see how it went, I started crying.

And while I'm totally cool spending $500 to fix my foot, I am so not cool with WASTING another $500 after wasting six or seven thousand already. I mean, this $500 hurts going out.

But maybe tomorrow he can make it better. I don't know. Maybe, huh? Tomorrow at one. So I guess I just need to get my hopes up again.

I shoulda gone to my stepbrother. *sigh* I feel like throwing up. I did the wrong thing, I can feel it. I shoulda saved this money and gone to my stepbrother.

Fuck. Oh well. What can you do? I had the feeling as soon as I talked to him, you know? The gut feeling? And I IGNORED it. WHY, dear God, do I do that???? EVERY time I do that I regret it! Damn, damn, damn.

Is this why people try not to get their hopes up? What do you think? Am I being a complete idiot here? I am, you don't have to say it. Sheesh.

Read more...

How Do You Slow Down?

One of the dogs I'm housesitting has this wonderful enthusiasm. It's infectious. When she's let out of her crate in the morning, she can't control her excitement. As soon as I let him outside, she starts bounding around, jumping up and down like, "Ohmigod! Ohmigod! It's a new day! Do you see? Look at this! New sky! New sun! New dew! Ohmigod, ohmigod! Can you believe it!"

I wouldn't mind starting every day like that.

Wow, this is a great talk on how life is TOO fast, and how to slow down, how to live our lives instead of hurrying through our lives. I like his talk, LOL, but it cracks me up that he talks so quickly about slowing down. :-)

Here's a website on the Slow Movement. And here's the Harvard letter to students: Slow Down!

One of my New Year's goals was to do one thing at a time. I'm not doing so great on that front. For example, right now I am listening to music, listening to this video, writing this blog, and writing my WIP.

I think I need to get in touch with my "inner tortoise," too.

How do you slow down? Do you slow down? How do you focus? I have such trouble focusing on one thing.

Read more...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You're Sayin' I'm Not so Great?

My one little pub put our stuff on Fictionwise. I'm surprised it's on there, because I didn't think it would be out there in the mainstream. It seems to be doing okay.

But they have a rating system.

Great, Good, OK, Poor.

Someone gave me a poor! I have a Poor!

I have a Poor.

My Goods and Greats seem about tied, and I even have (*major cringe*) three OKs.

I must never go back there again. You know, I hate my old stuff. In fact, I tend to be afraid to read anything of mine in the past. I mean, gosh, it's terribly frightening, disconcerting, OHMIGAWD IT'S POOR?!

I will never go back there again. Not even for one peak. I swear! Really. I promise! I won't. I mean it. I really do.

I mean, in the last hour, it seems no one has reviewed my book. A whole hour and no one has bought and reviewed my book!

I seem to be motivated by negative reinforcement, because man, that single Poor has me writing like a fiend today. I AM GOING TO PROVE THAT POOR WRONG IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO!!!!

I guess one of my all-time top ten favorite books has a Poor, too. So at least I'm in good company.

Anyway, I was a little bit stupid today. My imagination had gotten so carried away with its hopes that I forgot I hadn't yet fixed my foot. So I did the leg portion of the yoga tape.

I'm really clueless as to what I was thinking, LOL, because my foot is all cagreaux now. (All messed up. Don't know how to spell that. But when I was looking that word up in the Cajun dictionary, I was alarmed to discover one of DH's pet names for me is an educated fool!!!!! Well, golly, it sounds so romantic and pretty when he says it. Huh! Let's see how romantic I get the next time he calls me that!)

But my body is SO happy to be working out. And tired, LOL. :-) Well, damnit, I don't care about my foot. I just want to do the things I love!

So how do you react when you get a Poor?

Read more...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Happy Music

Wow, I am a much happier person when working out. I was looking over my blog entries from the last few years, looking for trends, and I discovered that I am TONS happier when working out regularly.

This week, I feel like I'm high on workout endorphins. It's been awhile. I almost feel drugged!

Anyway, the UN Dispatch remembers Sergio Vieiro de Mello:

Chasing the Flame blog (which shares the title of Power's book) is written by Sergio's friends, admirers, and assorted foreign policy experts. Annick Stevenson, Sergio's former spokesperson, opens the blog:

Imagine a world in which everybody would speak to
his/her neighbor, would listen to his/her views and
would try to understand them, would, more generally,
always wish to know the will of others before deciding,
would negotiate before envisaging any military reaction,
would never ever view war as the solution to any
conflict whatever the reasons may be...A world in
which war would become impossible because it
would too difficult to think of killing someone you
share so much with. This world existed. It was in
the mind of Sergio Vieira de Mello. This is how he
conceived it and lived it, as much as he could, or
at least as a matter of principle.

And here's some more happy music. Fleet Foxes is newest discovery. They have such a happy sound I can't stop listening to them. And they don't activate the music-thinking-analyzing part of my brain, which is cool.

Got any more happy music suggestions for to share?

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Getting Your Hopes Up

I've heard and seen "Don't get your hopes up!" a lot. It's around all the time. Oftentimes, those who really want something will preface it by saying, "but I'm not getting my hopes up!" as if that would be a Bad Thing, as if that would be something to be embarrassed about.

It looks like I'm going to give my foot another go with another doctor in the next week or two. I've been telling myself I'm not getting my hopes up.

And yesterday, I realized, I'm totally deluding myself. I'm re-learning all my forms, I'm lifting weights, I'm doing yoga, and I'm doing this treadmill sort of thing where you don't have to actually walk. (I don't know what it's called.)

I also scheduled my lessons this year so that I can make TKD class three times a week.

If all that's not "hopes up," then I don't know what is.

I sat down with myself yesterday and tried to talk myself down, and realized this is the happiest I've been in a year. I might have a foot I can use in a couple weeks! Gosh, it would just mean the world to me.

Most of my loves have become my businesses. Which is fine. But TKD is the only "pure" fun hobby I've ever loved.

In fact, my hopes are so high, I haven't called the doctor yet. This is the best time I've had in ages. If I go to the doctor and he doesn't fix my foot, we'll be back to square one.

So why not enjoy the "hopes up" phase?

I will call the doctor tomorrow, truly. But still. I'm going to milk this hopes up phase for as long as it lasts.

Y'all wouldn't mind praying or sending healing thoughts or whatever that he can fix my foot easily and cheaply, would you? Gosh, it would make my decade if I could get back to Taekwondo. I don't care if it hurts a bit as long as it's not injuring or weakening my foot. I just want to get back to TKD really, really badly. Please, universe? Pretty please? With love and sugar on top?

While you're at it, you could pray that Melanie and her hubby get to move back to the States. And that Erica and her family stay healthy. Those fellow bloggers are always in my thoughts.

Hey, what about you?

What have you secretly gotten your hopes up about, lately? And do you sorta hide them, a little bit shy about sharing them? Or maybe afraid to break the spell? Do you keep your hopes a secret, sometimes?

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Gratitude

DH said the weirdest thing today, that his work buddies were jealous that he had a wife so supportive. Which is totally bizarre to me, because how can we be anything but missing them while they are away? I don't understand how anyone could not be supportive, when they're stuck away from home.

Anyway, if I am supportive--which, for the record, I don't think I am, I just miss him--then I learned it from him.

DH is amazing in that he's supportive of everything I want. Like writing, piano, taekwondo. Whatever I want, he'll do everything in his power to help. He would never stand in the way. In fact, he's supportive to a fault. I have to watch and make sure he hasn't put off everything he cares about, hopes for, and dreams of, so that he can support me.

So anyway. Just missing him tonight. And thinking that's the one trait I love most about him. What about you? What one thing do you love most about your partner?

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thoughts? What thoughts?

Oh, WOW! Did you hear the Orwell Trust is publishing George Orwell's diaries as a blog? How cool is that?

Other than that, I seem to have no thoughts this week. I am working out a lot: there's plenty of room in this house, plus a workout room that rocks. Not to mention the dogs need walked around the house about once every hour and a half, and then there's the morning long walk, where they go one at a time.

Suffice it to say, I'm spending five or more hours a day on the dogs.

I'm actually loving this. Every hour and a half, we walk around the house, smell the roses. Just stand in the grass and watch what the wind does with the plants and trees and grass.

I could live like that.

Working out a lot more means I am napping a lot more. Not my favorite thing, but these naps are not a request, LOL, they are a demand.

I could do coffee, but I'm feeling like I need to just let my body do its thing this week.

I am also reading a ton. I just finished Eat, Pray, Love, and I really want to read it again. But I brought a stack of eight books with me, and I'm really hoping to get through all of them. (Hah!)

My brain is blissfully blank. Relaxed. Except I'm not doing a great job on posts. Well, better luck tomorrow.

What are you reading?

And I'm curious: my thoughts tend to repeat themselves over and over ad nauseum. If I'm thinking about something, it's generally the same thought I've had a million times before, except I keep working through it, the same conversation. Generally, these are worries, or "fixes" of actual conversations. Since I repeat them so much, one would think I enjoy these mental conversations I have with myself.

I don't.

So I'll take blissfully blank for now.

Do you have worries or mental conversations that repeat themselves over and over in your head? Do you have a technique for getting rid of them?

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Do You Hear that Purr?

You do?

That's me.

I had a lovely evening, a lovely sleep by the dogs, a lovely morning, a lovely walk, a lovely workout in their exercise room, and now I'm having a lovely sit-out on the porch while writing.

In fact, I have no thoughts.

I'm so relaxed, I want a nap.

Even though it's 10 am.

They have bird feeders! Lots of pretty little birds flitting in front of me to peck at seed.

If this is how writing is going to go today, I may as well take that nap. I love the first day off. Especially in a new place.

Did you do vacation this year? Where'd you go? Was it a lively vacation, or a relaxing vacation? Do you ever get too relaxed?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Howdy...

I have nothing interesting to say today, so I'll just start writing and see what happens. I don't promise to make a point, though. I'm in the middle of my last twelve hour a day teaching week. It sorta wipes my brain of thoughts.

I have two in an intensive camp which is a blast, four hours a day. They pretty much learn more in this week than they learn in five months. One is going home and practicing five hours a night!

I have a new student, and it was really cute: her mom walked her into the waiting room, and the girl was all business and walked straight into my studio, as if thinking, "Finally! I've been waiting to take lessons for YEARS! Let's get going!"

Her mom's jaw seriously did drop, LOL.

She's very cute. It's funny to see a little one who just sorta starts so strong, as if she knows with certainty that this is her thing.

One of my adult students is going out of town next week, and since I have the week off, I offered to housesit. How cool is that? I will actually get to sit on a couch and have a living room for a week!  I'm so excited!

(My house is my piano studio, so I have no living room.)

And I'll get to play with two dogs. That will be fun. It'll feel SO relaxing to get away. Even though it's only a couple blocks away, it'll be nice to get out of the studio for a week. I'm going to read and write and that's it. I have about ten hours of studio stuff to squeeze in and a dental appointment.

Is it just me, or is the blogosphere really quiet? Either I'm so distracted I'm somehow missing the posts, or people are quiet. What's up?

Read more...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thinking Outside the Box

I consider myself very logical when it comes to teaching. I don't really consider myself creative or "progressive."

But, lordy, I've joined a piano teachers list. And it's completely shocking to me how far outside the box I teach. In fact, I'm so far out of the box, I'm standing in the next field, staring at them a bit stunned, wondering why in the heck they are way over there.

It's a little weird, because I just assumed everyone would be standing over here.

A whole lot of teachers dig through "methods," trying to figure out which ones get which results. I don't understand this. I have certain goals of understanding for my students, and... I just teach it to them. The thought of sitting around and waiting for a method book to present a principle or skill is completely beyond my comprehension.

You look at the student, where they are, and you figure out where they need to grow, and you teach what they need to learn.

What's even more bizarre, is someone will pop on the list, and say "Oh no! I have X problem!" And FLOODS of people will helpfully listen and suggest, "Switch to X method!"

Er... um, if you tell them how to fix the problem, they won't NEED a method. A method won't fix anything! It's just... silly! Tell them how to fix the problem!

But a method is very comforting. It promises that the student is getting a complete education (not that it always delivers). It promises that the teacher won't forget a skill. It promises that every skill will be sufficiently learned. It promises to do all the heavy lifting.

I think, sometimes, when we want to improve our writing or get published or get an agent or whatever, we seek the "method." After all, the method promises to get us to our goal without a single missed step.

In my experience, the "method" works with about 10% of students, if that.

Because what they need to review, what they need learn next, what they need for motivation, what they need to table for awhile, is not only different for every student, but different for every student every week.

I definitely think it's important to learn from other people. It's much wiser to learn from other people's mistakes. I think that's where the line stops. Learn from other's mistakes. But find your own way and keep your own counsel.

Sometimes the method will take you around the block, down a side street, over a hill, and around the town before you get what you wanted.

Just look at what you need, where you want to go, and you will see the direct line. And you'll be surprised, if you look around after you arrive at your destination, at the detours a "method" takes.

Have you ever "gone" somewhere in your own way, a way perfectly logical that worked, only to look around discover you're way outside the box?

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

A 4 a.m. Story

I haven't written more than a few hundred words here and there these past two weeks. I haven't even had time to think about my story. It's been 12 - 14 hours of non-stop studio work every day. One more week of it, too.

I can't WAIT for fall and a REGULAR SCHEDULE!

You?

Before these three weeks, I was waking up at 4:30 to write on my front porch. Heaven. Strangely, I can wake up at 4:30 somewhat easily, but getting me out of bed anywhere between 6-9 is pure torture.

But when I'm working from 8am - 9:15pm, the 4:30am wake-up to write just does not happen.

And I was thinking today, I want a 4am story, a story that so possesses me I want to jump out of bed at 4am to write, no matter how tired I am.

Ever have one of those?

I get to write this evening, thank goodness. I miss it! I haven't even had time to imagine my story, that's how busy it's been. A priest once said that fasting (food or sex, he said, LOL) helps us appreciate what we have more.

I think that's true.

So I'm on a quest for a 4am story.

Can't wait for the Gymnastics events in the Olympics? Check out this video (thanks, Dube!). I'm pretty sure even the gold medalists can't do this stuff. I mean, WOW! At the end, your jaw will drop.

I can't believe that's possible!

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Finger Organizers

I'm LOVING Eat, Pray, Love. Between Elizabeth Gilbert and Rumi, I have decided to start journaling to the Divine and the Beloved instead of praying. 

You see, my thoughts don't collect in my head. If you have a conversation with me, I'll speak in half-sentences, forget what we're talking about, and start going on and forget what point I'm making before I get there.

Even my thinking is severely disorganized.

How can I put this? This is SO silly I'm embarrassed to admit it. Part of the problem DH and I were having is he kept asking me what was in the package I was sending. Like, every single day.

I know you're looking at me like I have two heads.

You don't understand.

The process of trying to remember what's on my list and what's in the box is MONUMENTAL. It just won't happen. I do NOT have that type of memory. Just the thought of trying to remember all that sends me running under the covers with a Snickers bar.

I tell my students never to say I can't, so I guess I won't say I can't, but I will say that it would HURT MY BRAIN SEVERELY to try to recall what's in the box.

You know how I imagine my story before I write? Well, did I mention I imagine it out of order?

I'm fairly certain a large part of why I write is just to get the stories in my mind organized into chronological order. And you wonder why I use Mindola SuperNotecard. I see my story in snippets, then I organize it as I type.

Something magical happens when I type. I honestly don't think I'd be a writer if there were no computers. My brain is so disorganized, I need the computer like a backup brain, like an extra bit of RAM to get me through my daily processes.

This complicates the task of praying when under stress.

On a good day, my prayer sounds like this:

Dear God. No, Goddess. God, you don't mind if I pray to the Goddess, do you? I mean, I'll pray to  you, too. Can I pray to both of you at the same time? I know you're a jealous God. It's just I don't want to leave you out, even though I'm not willing to accept you're the only one.

Oh shit, have I just insulted you?

Anyway, life, well. You know.

Um, I'll feel really selfish if I ask for help.

But, um, shit. It's been one thing after another.

That's not to say, you know. I mean, geeze, what am I doing praying about this when there are children who haven't eaten in two weeks?

*silence*

*silence*

Well, um, okay. You know. It might be nice if you could make this just a little easier. If you wouldn't mind so much.

On a bad day, my prayers sound like this:

Oh, shit. Oh, fuck. Oh, sorry: I mean, uh-oh. Help!

So I got to thinking: I'm so accustomed to sounding like a bumbling idiot when I speak that it doesn't bother me, but I never feel like a bumbling idiot when I write. If you heard me teach you'd be shocked my students learn anything. I wave my arm around, sing a bit, and say, "you know?" I suspect we develop some sort of psychic connection because how else do they understand what I'm not even saying? It's bizarre.

I'm always sort of shocked that I write in full sentences and coherent paragraphs.

So why not type my prayers? So thanks to Stewart's suggestion, I downloaded the Star Message Diary (pretty!), and instead of writing Dear Diary, I'm going to write Dear Divine.

Do you still keep a diary? I mean, not a blog, but a diary, a private one? Who do you address it to? Did you find that blogging kinda stopped you from journaling, or not at all?

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

I Need Cookies.

imageWeird day. Just one of those days, you know? Where you're all stressed out and upset, and being upset makes little things more upsetting, so no matter how Zen you try to be, you end up with your stomach in knots, trying not to cry or get angry.

And when you fail at making yourself feel normal again, you add feeling like a failure to the whole emotional pot.

I miss DH, that's all. He's being a man and not thinking and not having any clue that he's stressing me out and hurting my feelings, like NONE at all. And you know those days when the dear men in our lives just can't stop saying the wrong things? And when you really, really, really wish that just this once they could read your mind? Just try to understand how you feel, try to put themselves in your shoes?

*sigh*

So on to better topics. In fact, Lainey and Melanie were asking for the link to Robin's blog and Robin's book. If you're in need of laugh, read the sample excerpt to Shrink Rap.

I've read a lot of books on child development and child psychology, but never a single one was entertaining. This is like relaxing reading. I'm ordering this book soon because I can't wait to read it because I know I'll laugh and have a good time, not because I try to keep myself informed about children for teaching.

It's like eating the above no-bake cookies. The oatmeal is healthy, but you don't know it because the cookie is oh-so-yummy. :-)

For Melanie, here's the recipe of my favorite cookies. (The timing is important; if you boil too long, they set too dry. Too short, and you end up with a pile of mush. Tasty mush, though!)

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
Pinch salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 stick butter
3 cups quick-cooking oats (The other kind work, but the cookie ends up a little chewier.)
1 tsp. vanilla

Bring sugar, cocoa, milk, butter and salt to a full boil, and boil for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and add peanut butter, oats and vanilla. Stir. Drop spoonfuls on waxed paper and let cool until set.

Finally, have you been to Hulu? It is the COOLEST! You can watch just about any show online now. With my computer, I have no need for cable! It's wonderful. Yes, there's commercials to pay for the shows being offered free, but they're only 15-30 seconds, and there's only four. Not like the 20 minutes of commercial you get on TV. Ick!

I love the internet.

All the networks have their shows for free online, too, but Hulu has them all in one place. Very cool. Have you tried watching shows online yet?

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lopsided Relationships

Isabel Swift asked Are you my friend? Like much writing, sometimes a blog post takes your mind far away from where the post meant you to go.

She was talking about how she's not using social networking for business, but to stay in contact with friends. She was complaining about strangers--going for quantity in friend numbers--asking for her to friend them without so much as a how do you do?

It got me to thinking about the lopsided nature of relationships online and of relationships between readers and authors.

I remember when I was in my twenties, I was sick for a long time, and most of my social time was spent in bed, or at least in front of the computer in my jammies. I lurked on two discussion groups, never commenting because I hadn't reached that stage of my online comfort level yet.

However, watching these people day in and day out, reading their hopes and dreams, their ups and downs, I grew to care about these people, these strangers. I'd even go so far as to say they were my "friends," even though they didn't even know I existed.

Year later, I did actually run into them again and was my more prolific commenting self. That group even had a big party offline a couple times!

But still, in the beginning, they were my friends even though I was a complete stranger to them.

This is like the relationship between readers and authors, between bloggers and those people who read your blog every day but never comment. They know you. They come back and read your stuff.

You might not know they exist, but you are part of their daily life! They know every last intimate detail you share, while you know nothing about them.

Same with readers. When you write, even fiction, you share some essence of yourself quite intimately. They go on an emotional journey with you.  They know some part of you that you might not even recognize.

So when they write you, if they write you, it always feels like I don't know them well enough. I love it when readers write and share bits about themselves and their lives, or how my story spoke to their life. Because sometimes, when they just write thank you! or Love this guy, I want him! or something like that not, I'm still in the dark; the relationship is still lopsided.

There are many blogs I read that I don't comment on. Sometimes because I just haven't been invited (isn't that silly?), sometimes because they write things that just make me nod my head, and there's not really room for me to add any thoughts. Sometimes for no explicable reason at all.

But I care about those bloggers. I care about many of the authors I've read that I've never written.

It's all very strange, the internet and writing. It does create lopsided relationships, where you can be someone's dear friend even though they're a stranger to you.

I think that's really cool. What about you?

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

How to Write a Bestseller, Returning Books, and Amy Tan on Creativity

Here's a not-to-be-missed article from Scientific American, called The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love A Good Yarn. The scientific deconstruction of why people love a story. Sounds to me like a surefire way to write a bestseller. (And I'm only 5% joking: it's a good article.)

Oh, man, I think this is a writer's nightmare. (Thanks, Angie!) It's mine, at least. I have, one time only, returned a book because it promised a great read (the beginning was), and then the ending was so ridiculously awful I was so mad I spent $28 dollars on it that I returned it. And I'm very forgiving.

Have you ever felt so jipped you returned a book?

A small part of me also wonders if it's our times. Frankly, how many of those people just couldn't afford a book, and returned it because that's the only way they could read it? Or maybe they were like me: when I returned that one book, I had sacrificed some tight money on it, which is a big part of the reason I'd been outraged. I sacrificed for that book because the beginning was SO spectacular, and I felt the author had jipped me in the end!

I admire Amy Tan. So here she is:

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Monday, August 04, 2008

JJ Abrams & His Mystery Box

Life has sort of swallowed me whole with busyness, I'm sorry! Here's a GREAT video from the creator of Lost and Alias.

Be back tonight or in a day or two, I promise! I hope to at least get to your blogs tonight!

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

My Heart Leapt

It's funny how cliches so diminish their truth, that when you do experience a cliche, you're surprised to find its truth. For example, my mouth does open in surprise. However, until I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter, I did not realize that my jaw could or would drop open. It literally dropped, and then when I read further, it dropped more, and I suddenly realized my mouth was as open as my widest yawn.

(I read the entire thing standing in the aisle; I literally couldn't move, I was that stunned.)

Have you seen the show? I keep meaning to try it.

Today, I was reading a book by someone who mentioned Rumi.

My heart actually leapt, really jerked upward in my chest. I felt it. It bounced at the mere mention of Rumi's name. I had no idea a heart could actually move inside a chest, let alone jerk with emotion so that my breath caught in my throat, stumbled as if it had tripped.

I love Rumi's poems. Not like I love Star Trek or I love flowers, but I love Rumi's poems like I love my husband or I love my cats. If you've been to my MySpace page, you've seen my favorite Rumi quote:

"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." ~Rumi

I don't think it's possible to read Rumi's poetry and not feel your heart open and flood with love. They are the most beautiful words written ever. They are spiritual, but it's a spirituality all about the love of the Beloved, the Friend, the Divine. Another of my favorite Rumi poems:

There is a candle in the heart of
man, waiting to be kindled.
In separation from the Friend,
there is a cut waiting to be
stitched.
O, you who are ignorant of
endurance and the burning
fire of love----
Love comes of its own free will,
it can't be learned
in any school.

Sufism fascinates me. I haven't read much on the subject: as much as it's always interested me, I've always turned away when I've read it was connected with Islam. (Nothing wrong with Islam. I just knew it wasn't the spiritual path for me.) But a little further reading showed that many Sufi believe Sufism is not constrained by any one religion: it is religion.

(I'm not trying to convert you, LOL. I'm just fascinated by different religions, and Sufism is one I don't know much about, so I thought I'd share some bits and pieces for their intellectual interest and beauty.)

"Sufism is a way of love, a way of devotion, and way of knowledge. Sufism is often described as a path, suggesting both an origin and destination. The aim of Sufism is the elimination of all veils between the individual and God."

"Sufism, which is without any religious obligations, regards spirituality as the religion of the heart. That religion is one wherein the unity of religious ideals is followed unconditionally in search of truth, without going astray in following the followers of the followers of the great religious reformers, whose messages have been altered beyond recognition through the centuries by those who confuse mysticism with fanaticism.

"Sufism is an attitude of inner sympathy towards all beliefs. All religions are Sufi religions as long as they recognize the limits inherent in any speculative interpretation of Truth. One might say that Sufism is a process leading to the widening of the horizon of the heart, so that Truth may shine within as a brilliant sun, illuminating all that is receptive of its rays of light."

"Some say to be pure means to be free from all evil thought, but in reality there is no evil thought; and if there is any such thought, which one could call evil or devilish, it is the thought of bitterness against another in his heart! If a drop of poison can cause the death of the body, it is equal to a thousand deaths when the heart retains the smallest thought of bitterness. In this legend the cutting open of the breast is the cutting open of the ego, which is like a shell over the heart. And the removing of that element means that every kind of thought or feeling against anyone in the world has been taken away, and the breast, which means the heart, is filled with love alone, which is the real life of God."

It seems to have quite a bit in common with Buddhism, (what do I know, though?). One site explained that while Zen meditation seeks to clear the mind, Sufi meditation seeks to clear the heart.

Fascinating stuff.

I think I am buying a book of Rumi poetry today. (*major cringe*)  And Eat, Pray Love (thank you, Melanie! I loved the beginning: I can't believe I've never read it! She's HILARIOUS and amazing!) Totally a guilty indulgence for me. But who needs food, when one can buy books instead? ;-)

What books have you bought, lately? Read any good poetry lately?

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Freedom and Niceness

Google locked my blog for what felt like ever (but was really a day or two), telling me I was spam. I was horrified! All the time, all the friends, and I'm merely putting spam out into the world?

Talk about demoralizing.

Today I finally got in, and what do I see? An APOLOGY! How nice is that? It seems like no company every apologizes anymore. So kind. I'm considering sticking with Blogger out of sheer loyalty, even though I've been considering a switch to WordPress for awhile now.

My Jeep is out of its winter garage (it's 145,000 miles old, and doesn't have rust-proofing), so today I perked it up with an oil change and other miscellaneous charges, and had a blast driving it around town with the top off.

Yesterday, one of my adult students was here and I was petting my Jeep and showing it off, when I realized he didn't have a red BMW for nothing. So I politely told him that he had a cool car, too. I'm not sure he bought it, which is kind of sad, because really: why do you buy a red BMW except for people to be impressed that you have a red BMW?

And there I was, fawning over my green, detailed 1995 Jeep Wrangler with 145,000 miles, as if his red BMW didn't exist.

image If I had enough money for a red BMW, I would instead buy a Tomb Raider Jeep. They came out in 2002. I wanted one REALLY BAD, but I thought it was frivolous just to buy it because I wanted it. I bent the frame on my Honda Civic only a year later, and hardly a day goes buy where I wish I could have a Tomb Raider Jeep.

Someday, I will have a Tomb Raider Jeep. If you still want one seven years later, I'm pretty sure that's a big enough want to justify buying one. Right? (Just nod, please.)

I love riding in my Jeep with the top down. I'm not very good at being cooped up. Even when I'm teaching, you'll often find me with my hands and nose pressed to the all-glass front door, all the shades in the room raised all the way up.

And guess what? It cost ONLY fifty dollars to fill my gas tank up!!! Since the Cherokee topped out at $75, I'm pleased. And I drove to Walmart, Trader Joe's, and Borders, and not only did it not use up a quarter tank of gas, but it's STILL ON FULL!!!!

I love my Jeep. :-)  I'm pretty sure 90% of why I want to live out West is so that I can drive the Jeep with the top off year-round.

I am, evidently, obsessed with freedom.

So have you ever lusted for a car? Just because?

How's your weekend? Anything interesting? Your writing? (Eek! I'm asking that question on a Saturday instead of a Sunday??? What is the world coming to?!)

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