Wow. It's gotten a little dusty around here. I have a tendency to go into hiding a bit whenever I go through transition periods and I'm afraid my internet presence has suffered a little bit in the last few weeks. Next time I'll hang a "Gone Fishin'" sign or something, so visitors know I intend to come back. At any rate, I am back after starting two new jobs and enjoying a short, but fun visit with Mom. Oh, I also crocheted a poncho for my niece and finally started watching Glee. So see, my time away was well spent. At any rate, I am back now in one of my coffee shops, sipping iced tea, and eager to log a high word count today. It has been too many weeks since I have done any kind of serious writing, not from lack of wanting, but simply a lack of time.
I often say that for me, writing is a need. It is right up there with sleeping, eating, and exercise. And like with the above three needs, my body finds ways of telling me when I am not writing enough. We are all familiar with the way we start to feel when we haven't been exercising enough, or when we go through those phases where we replace vegetables with sugar and/or grease in our diet. We start to feel run-down, lethargic, crabby. So we hit the gym and eat a nice, sensible dinner that involves salad or broccoli or something else with actual nutritional value and suddenly, we feel like a whole new person. When I go too long without writing, I experience something very similar.
My Common Symptoms of a Writing Deficiency:
1. Irritability -- Suddenly, everything/one gets on my nerves. This usually results in me snapping at some poor person in the customer service industry. Granted, usually there has been poor customer service involved, but the problem with calling up the phone company to yell about about poor service is that the person on the other end of the call usually isn't to blame for the poor service, and it is usually out of their power to do anything, making it all the more frustrating. I have gotten better about not letting symptoms progress to this stage. Yelling at customer service reps is a sign of a very severe writing deficiency. I am normally very nice and empathetic to these people because I know from experience, dealing with crabby people all the time is not fun and they are never getting paid nearly enough to compensate for the crap they have to deal with.
2. Absent-mindedness -- I have recently found myself up in front of the classroom, dry erase marker in hand, completely clueless about what I had just been teaching because I suddenly had an epiphany about my WIP.
3. Poor eating choices -- Chocolate is not actually a substitute for writing, but I have tried. . . I have really tried.
4. Tendency towards anti-socialness -- I actually turned down a spontaneous game night last night with one of my best friends. If you knew me, you would know this is pretty major. I'm always ready to get my game on.
4. More frequent dreams -- My theory is that because my brain is not getting enough creative stimulation, it just takes matters into its own. . . um. . . cells, I guess. Regardless, it seems the longer I go without writing, the more frequent and vivid my dreams get.
Illustration by Idea Go
This last symptom is actually pretty cool, and I would consider it to be the only perk to a writing dry spell. Over the years I have had a number of vivid dreams that have been added to my story idea folder, and I can still picture certain scenes as if they had actually happened to me. I can still picture the lush green rain forest I flew over in a dream that I had probably over twenty years ago. About ten years ago, I had a very detailed dream that involved a race of people that never died of natural causes, but lived on a island with limited resources. Their solution to this problem was disturbing to say the least. . . this one made it into my novel idea folder and I hope to someday write it. I've dreamed about the end of the world, and I've dreamed about dolphins on water slides laughing. The fact that my mind starts creating crazy stories while I'm asleep during those phases when I don't have the time to write while awake is proof enough for me that my claim that writing is a "need" is valid one.
I know I am not the only one that starts exhibiting symptoms of a writing deficiency. How do you know you haven't been writing enough?
So this post is a few days late, but I don't think I need to wait for a special occasion like Mother's Day to talk about one of the most influential people in my life. My paternal grandmother was a really amazing woman. She raised five kids during the Great Depression and was married for over 55 years to my grandfather. They got to enjoy 26 grandkids, with me being the youngest. I honestly have no idea how many great-grandkids there were, but I am pretty sure it was upwards of 40. The great-greats were starting to pop up by the time Grandma passed away in 2002.
I was extremely lucky to have a very special relationship with my grandmother. From the time that I was four years old through my middle school years, I spent almost every weekend at Grandma's house where she fed me homemade blueberry pancakes for breakfast, we played any board or card game I wanted, and reading was not just a hobby, it was about as optional as breathing.
Grandma was always very encouraging when it came to my education and my interests. She loved that I had inherited the writing bug from my grandfather and fed this secret desire to scribble down stories and poems. I found much inspiration from my weekends with her and have many stories I wrote late at night in the spare bedroom of her house.
Even now, years later, I still think of Grandma when I need a little writing inspiration, especially when it comes to character development. My grandma, in addition to being an amazingly strong woman, was full of quirks and thinking of her reminds me daily of all the little ways I can make my characters unique. With that thought in mind, a an abbrieviated list of things I loved about my grandma:
1. Her vast collection of salt and pepper shakers.
2. Her love of basset hounds.
3. Her homemade bread, baked fresh from scratch.
4. Her bright yellow house.
5. She played a mean game of Skip-Bo.
6. Her house full of wonderful, hidden treasures.
7. Her favorite flower: dandelions.
I can't see a dandelion without thinking of Grandma. And for that, I will forever be thankful. I look at the list above and remind myself that it is my job to create characters just an full of fun little traits as my grandmother was. I try to give them traits and quirks that make them just as memorable. I also enjoy slipping tributes to her in my work. In some ways, I think everything I write is for her. I always wanted to make her so proud of me, as I was so proud to have her as my grandmother.
Do you have a particular person who inspires you when it comes to character development? Is there someone in your life that keeps you writing?
Exciting news! My flash fiction "Bathroom Break", which appeared in Foliate Oak's online magazine last October, was selected for their "Best of" print anthology. You can read the PDF of the anthology by clicking on the cover pictured here. They are not selling the print copies, but the editor will be happy to send you one while supplies last as long as you provide a SASE. You can contact them via their website to find out where and how much postage.