Hell in a Starbucks Cup

It’s been a year since I’ve had caffeine – and it’s been HELL!

Specifically, my signature black tea, and more specifically, sometimes a half a gallon a day!

I was sitting back today, calm as a koala on eucalyptus, thinking I should be doing something – like writing. And it’s been a year since I’ve had real flow.

That flow where you sit back and the ideas come. That flow wherein you read the news and see how each story can become a hundred short stories, a disaster novel, and a rom-com.

I consider how I used to sit at the dining room table, hot cup of black tea mere millimeters from my fingertips, and type like a hamster on a wheel. Go. Go. Go!

It’s the lack of caffeine – of course- which has caused my caustic dry spell. I glance toward the kitchen, knowing, somewhere in there, lies a discarded tea bag at the bottom of an unused drawer.

Screw the doctors! To hell with anxiety! I shall abandon caution and dive over the cliffs of caffeine haven.

I hesitate, like I do now while strung out on herbal bounty, and consider, weigh the pros and cons, and question my decision. Damn chamomile.

A knock on the door steals my attention. (Caffeine improves focus – pro). I pop off the couch and spring toward the door. (No late afternoon caffeine drag – con). I throw open the door. There, on my patio, a tower of chocolates.

SALVATION!

Writing with Music

Some time during my teenage years, maybe I appreciated music so loud it pounded out reality and forced me to live in between the beats of the drum.

Mostly, however, I don’t want to live between those beats.

As much as I enjoy music, I enjoy the people around me just as much. When we are seeing a band or hearing a new song, it’s the conversation, ideas, opinions, and other things I want coming through just as evenly balanced.

Loud music subtracts – for me.

I know a number of artists, writers, and others who feel it is the very loud music that helps them escape and create.

But for me – the thrumping, bumping, strumming does not allow room for creation – or conversation.

I do enjoy the thick lovely tones of strong vocals belting out meaningful lyrics – but in moderation.

I’m a person who appreciates balance, creates within.

Life, however, can often be off balance – and I still must create. Maybe that’s why the things I can control – like volume – works around my creative efforts.

Blooming Ideas

I stumbled upon a video of Stephen King last night. In it he stated that he had the idea for The Dome in 1973, but he didn’t have the maturity to write it. The idea, he seems to indicate, needed to marinate.

I believe that. Some ideas need to marinate, form, develop. And sometimes we have to wait for more experience or more education to be able to make the story real, believable, and relatable.

Stephen King says he doesn’t keep a notebook (or at least in the short clip I watched), but that good ideas stick around. I, personally, keep a notebook. I also have sticky notes, journals, notes all around the house, in my desk, my nightstand, and occasionally in the kitchen recipe drawer (I don’t know how they got there!), and in different files on my computer. I like to refer back – and sometimes I find that an idea I had 5 or 10 years ago has come stuck around and developed into a story.

After my book Eddy was published, I found notes in files from long before that I’d completely forgotten about. Good ideas do stick around. But sometimes the memory plays tricks!

Eddy – on tshirts and mugs!

What Does Writing Mean to You?

It was suggested to me recently that I give up writing for awhile.

My mouth fell open and my eyes widened. “Give up writing?”

I was in shock. I jumped to defense, ready to tackle, grab the ball and run for the 50 yard line.

What would I do with all the voices in my head? All the characters who wrangle for a voice, the scenes that require breath to be brought to life? These are real things in writer’s heads. People, places, stories. Non-writers don’t readily understand that.

(I wonder what it’s like to live in a non-writer’s head? What goes on in there if there are no stories? Is there math? *Shudder).

Who in their write/right mind would “give up” their passion, their purpose.

She asked, “What does writing mean to you?”

I realize my defense is not really an answer. What does writing mean to me? I know what is used to mean – it was a survival mechanism. But it was more than that too.

I’m still working on it by the way – a current, present answer to what writing means to me. I just know I can’t not write.

Share with me please – what does writing mean to you?

The Ghost….

My short story, The Ghost in Her Room, has been published by Dreamers Writing.

The editors were very sweet. Kat mentioned in an email how much the story touched her.

Working with Dreamers Creative Writing has been an extremely pleasant experience.

Thank you!

So now I write….

This morning began as perfect set up for a good writing day. I walked the dogs in the cool air, rain dripped daintily from the sky, neighbors waved from their patios. I brewed a beach bellini tea and plucked a fig fresh from the tree. What could go wrong?

Life happened.

Paperwork of the financial type, grading essays, responding to emails.

Nails on a chalkboard.

The dream like setting beckons, the adoring characters wait. The world I was so lovingly creating has come to a standstill.

I am filled with liverwurst sandwiches.

This is why writers have phoneless, internet limited, no contact writing retreats – which are harder and harder to find.

Can you imagine even being disconnected these days? I used to say – “nothing is going to happen that you can’t hear about an hour later” – to my students to encourage them to put down their phones. But I, too, feel that same tug of addiction these days. The world moves fast. Don’t get back to someone and you lose an opportunity.

Our insta-world expects an insta-response or you’re history.

I just want to write. I want to sit down and not have to worry about anything else except the setting, timeline, character arc, beauty of language, reasoning of scene.

I’ll take the transitional cuppa, the stroll in the garden, anything to get back into my writing state…..

until the next interruption.

The Beauty of Forward Motion

At the beginning of the semester, there’s an effervescence in the air on campus. The air around us is charged with positive energy. Thousands of students are buzzing with dreams and goals. They are brimming with the excitement of forward motion, their brains producing dopamine, which seems to affect everyone around them.

The excitement of learning, of trying new things, of working toward something new is like a drug, makes one giddy.

Excitement is lost in routine. Some people go on about their lives, thinking they’ve done everything they need to do and they’ve reached a place of comfort. And they get lazy in that comfort, forget to be open to new adventures.

I asked someone recently about Geocaching. I think of it as finding a treasure, accomplishing mini goals; my brain already releasing happiness hormones in response to the thoughts of the challenge overcome!

His response: It sounds childish.

Yes. Maybe. And isn’t that exciting? The very beauty of youth is excitement at every new adventure, big or small! It’s an energy wrapped up in an overflow of snapping and bubbling. And it’s engaging and enigmatic!

Forward momentum – new challenges – it is what keeps us young.

Einstein was said to have been working on a new theory even on his deathbed. After he passed, his brain showed a lack of plaque. Plaque the normal brain develops with aging.

Writers are all about the new and exciting. The next scene, the next chapter, the next story!

Have fun, engage that childlike excitement, set new goals and accomplish them or fail them – it doesn’t matter – just as long as you keep moving forward!

Friday Motivation

Motivation has been hard to come by of late.

I’ve taking out my frustration in other ways – painting, drawing, and creating new and exciting things. But I am getting back to writing – I swear!

So – some updates:

I found this great review for Harvey Levin Can’t Die.

The story was originally titled, Harvey Levin Must Die, but I couldn’t get it published! Then someone mentioned the title was less than desirable. Ahhhh!!!

So.. presto, chango, accepted and published. And, although people like to email me their kudos and tell me their reviews, I have a hard time getting people to post them. Soooo… here’s one from a gentlemen in Germany. Whoever you are – thank you! I’m glad you liked it!

Other exciting new things is ReadLipsSwag.com – some of our titles and literary inspired shirts and accessories. I find this quite exciting.

It’s on sale too… through fathers’ day. Use code DAD101 if you find anything you like.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re read any of my work – please review, review, review. It helps – even with just my motivation!!

Do you write better during the good times or the bad times?

During bad times, some writers seem to pour out a more substantial amount of work. If the pain and heartache are authentically transformed on the page, the work touches readers.

Some writers in history seemed to have sought out heartache and drama through alcohol, affairs, or other. As if their creative bent fed off their self induced suffering.

But a writer needs to produce when things go well, don’t you think?

I’ve heard of many “one-hit wonders.” Their first novel, fraught with the strain of life’s challenges, zings. But then, sitting back with their big, fat check, they are unable to produce.

My hardest times are relieved through poetry. As if words are squeezed out in some sort of rhythm that requires the concise, mystical format of a poem.

But I recall good times, great times, when my writing poured out too – the excitement of new challenges on the horizon lit up the page.

What do you think? Do you write better in good times or bad times?