It Hurts!

yogaWriting hurts – no, seriously, sitting for long periods of time makes my back ache.

Now, we have standing desks, but studies show that’s only moving the pain around, not really as good for you as first thought.

My trainer recommends getting up every fifteen minutes to stretch and walk around. But, when I’m in the flow, three or four hours have gone by and I’ve even forgotten to eat!

Longfellow may have been the first yoga3to use a standing desk; he alternated between sitting and standing, which I think is a good idea.

Charles Dickens described his writing as “prowling rooms, sitting down, getting up….”; It’s purported he owned “all manner of comfortable easy chairs.”

It’s more about the way we sit and stand that is hurting us. Our shoulders coming forward and our heads hung puts far too much pressure on the back of our necks and can cause permanent damage.

Laptops don’t help. When we hadyoga4 our desktop computers, it was all about raising the screen to eye level, sitting in an ergonomic chair, with our arms at a comfortable angle. With laptops, either our head is tilted down or our forearms at a strange angle.

ChildsPoseNoBackground-300x165Yoga to the rescue! In order to keep our backs and legs healthy, there’s a few simple yoga poses (you could even do some of them at your desk!).

Spinx pose will help with those rounded shoulders and neck pressure.

Child’s pose and/or downward dog will also relieve some of the yoga2pressure.

Thread the Needle Pose is one of the best.

These are the easiest, but writers can benefit from a regular yoga class or a yoga routine.

 

 

I Am Not Necessarily Me

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I use first person narrator in many of my stories.  I find the level of intimacy I can connect with in the character makes the experience feel more authentic.

I also enjoy the unreliability of the first person narrator. Although I don’t intend to make my main characters questionable, all first person accounts must be met with skepticism.

There’s one possible downside to the first person narrator and I’m certain many writers have experienced the fan who believes they understand the author based on a story which utilized the “I”.

dadshiningOne reader contacted me convinced Dad Shining was about me. “This is a true story, I bet!” He wrote.

This is complimentary in the fact that the story must have been realistic enough for this reader to believe and enjoy it.

However, Dad Shining (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal) is written from a male point of view experiencing a life event incomparable to what a woman could experience.

There’s not much a writer can do about being mistaken for their narrator except to gently correct the reader without offending them or merely thank them. I said, “thank you for reading.”

My main character in West End is a young woman, and I did use an area close to where I grew up. A number of readers have attempted to call me out on that. One reader wrote, “I know most of this is you, except for the part of leaving the boy.” Another reader, convinced it was me believed I’d been married before and left them to change my name and start a new life incognito.

This did bother me to some extent; the woman in West End is in some ways stuck in west end coverlife, and while that might be my fear, it is not me.

Still others found the first person narrator unreliable enough to question her sanity and ask me if she was seeing spirits. These questions I rather enjoyed. One character I had intended to be questionable, but when asked about another – I don’t want to say as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone! – I was blown away!

And that is the benefit and, perhaps, curse of first person narrator. The connection is so authentically intimate that you might convince readers it’s you; And you might just convince them the narrator is a little off her rocker!

Readers make the best….

518680-book-1362931097-972-640x480Readers make the best writers….   I think almost every professional writer I know, heard, and read has repeated this.

People who read understand voice because they’ve heard a number of different writers use it.

Readers internalize pacing. The pacing of a story or poem is of the utmost importance.

People who read know more vocabulary. The thesaurus helps, but there’s nothing like knowing the perfect word in the necessary place.

Readers are not affected by others’ style but can recognize a need for individual style.

It’s important to read extensively in your own genre. In academia, we refer to it by “adding our voice to the conversation.” One must know what is being done in order to respond, in any number of ways, to it.

People who read are aware of the benefits that serve their writing.

Fear of …?

istock_000012625357xsmall1There’s a theory that we don’t fear failure, we fear success.

A researcher gave graduating students an impromptu essay prompt: “After finding out Joe/Jane aced their medical exams for graduation, he/she …..”

It’s reported that the vast majority of students set up a scenario in which Joe or Jane went out and partied, got in some sort of trouble, an accident, arrested, or in some cases just gave up and “decided to do something else with their lives.”

The researchers decided this was not an indication of the fear of failure, because they’d set up a scenario in which the person(Joe/Jane) had already succeeded, yet the students then wrecked the plan. Therefore, they surmised it a fear of success.fear

This possible fear of success comes from anxiety, which is rampant in society today. People stay where they are comfortable, where they are familiar, and their habits serve them. Moving on to the next level, success, will bring about different challenges, and the fear of the unknown wins out.

It occurs to me that this happens to writers. People write, and write, and write, but then don’t submit. Is it really the rejection they fear? or is it the success?  Think of all the anxiety that comes with the next level of publishing. You’ll be expected to do well, to do it again. And, what else might change?

What do you think? What do you fear?

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Writing Exercise

malcolm-gladwell.jpgI’m a big fan of Malcom Gladwell, writer for the New Yorker and author of The Turning Point, Outliers, and many others.

A writing exercise from Malcom Gladwell:

Begin a correspondence with another writer. Each of you take turns sending and responding – and respond immediately with something interesting or intriguing.

It’s a good way to practice intelligent conversations so you can learn to chat with just about anyone.

 

A Tribute to Poe on his Birthday

January 19th, is the 210th anniversary of Poe’s Birth.

poe4Although many people are content with the reason of Poe’s continued relevance in our society is the stereotypical tortured artist.  There is no doubt he was tortured, and for reasons of which we are all familiar; he was an orphan who lost every women he ever loved.

His battles with alcohol, I believe, are highly exaggerated. But it makes for a good story. I’m not saying he never drank – he drank to excess plenty of times, he may have officially been an alcoholic as we understand the word today; however, it was not a constant. There were many years through his marriage to Virginia that he did not drink or drink to excess. Before his death in 1849, he’d joined the Sons of Temperance Movement – to get people to stop drinking.

The reason Poe has remained relevant throughout the years is his work touchespoe our deepest fears and deepest desires. He has continued to inspire other writers

 

 

 

 

 

poe2and artists of all types.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He wrote far more than what we, today, consider horror. He wrote essays, literary analysis, investigative pieces. He wrote about street paving, Stonehenge, and he was inspired by what he read in newspapers.  Berenice and others were inspired by stories of grave robbers in local papers.

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The famed portrait of Edgar Allan Poe was taken three days after his suicide attempt in 1848.

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And, Eddy, my imaginative fiction, was inspired by that suicide attempt. He bought two bottles of laudanum on a cold winter night meaning to do himself in. He’d lost Virginia and felt he had no one. (Laudanum contained opium and derivatives of morphine and codeine.)

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For Poe’s Birthday, I offer an excerpt from the novella:

   He stumbles from the pub, slips, and falls on the iced over bricks of Boston’s November streets. Save for the muddled voices beyond the closed door, the street is quiet as his body thuds to the ground. His breath billows in front of him as he gasps and grumbles and struggles to his knees, then his feet, to regain his drunken balance.

   The gaslamp on the corner offers a wavering yellow glow for the struggling figure on the lonely winter night. Thin strands of hair blow in the chilled breeze; he runs his hands over his head, straightens himself before he pulls at the sagging overcoat and tugs it closed.

     Remembering the tinctures of laudanum pried from the chary pharmacist, he hurriedly shoves his hands in his pockets, retrieves the bottles.

   His heavy breath mounds in front of him and, for a moment, he can’t see; then the luminous cloud of brandy scented air dissipates. The medicines are intact. Relieved, he stuffs them back in his pocket and buttons his jacket.

   “Edgar,” someone calls from the corner; the noise from the pub trails the swarthy figure out until the door slams to a close behind him. “You alright?”

   Edgar waves him off without turning around.

   The thick shadow chuckles as he staggers in the opposite direction.

   The winter is freezing cold, but the snow hasn’t endured. Small white crystals pile in corners and fill the air. The icy rain soaks him before he reaches his chamber on the second floor of the boarding house. The room is small, impersonal, but warmer than the street. An unlit lantern shimmies on the desk as he unsteadily seats himself, glances out the window.

   A barely discernable outline disquiets the otherwise muted darkness on the corner of the street below. He knows it’s the black dog that’s stalked him his whole life. Suddenly angered, he shoves himself forward, pushes the unlit lamp aside and topples the ink jar.

   “Get outta here, you wretched creature.” The incensed command lost in the night.

      Recovering the secreted bottles of opium from his coat pocket, he sets them side by side in front of him. Unsteadily he tugs the lid from one and snorts in a single gulp.

For More Posts on Poe – click this link.

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Much love and luck.