The Joy of Writing – Finding Things That Don’t Exist

As a fiction writer, I am day-in and day-out creating new worlds for my characters to live in. While a lot of those worlds aren’t too different than the one we currently live in, any good story is going to have some twist and turns that define the construction of the place.

For instance, I’m currently writing a story that involves solving a mystery where people are dying from a poison. While all the symptoms of the deaths mimic a particular poison, it has been ruled out as the cause.

Since I’m a writer and not a chemist, I have no knowledge of what poisons do to a person who comes into contact with them. So I’m googling to find sources.

Today, I was trying to figure out how to re-engineer this particular poison … a process that seems massively complex and I came to assume couldn’t be done without a laboratory and twenty years of work. Of course that makes it a perfect candidate to use in a mystery. How would anyone be able to create a new form of it? And how would authorities then be able to trace it if they did? And it would never be suspected in the first place … the perfect crime …

So, why is my mind boggled that I can’t just do a search and have a website tell me what I want to know? In my mind it’s all completely real and it exists and it can be used and manipulated in the hands of people …

And that’s where the world-building starts. That’s the joy of being a fiction writer!

I Have a Problem

No, it’s not some addiction or other … well, then again, if writing can be an addiction then maybe it is.

My problem is that I can not stop thinking up new ideas for new stories. Everything I see leads me to create a world for it … sometimes several worlds even.

Like the other night, I was helping my daughter with her Chemistry and I happened to glance over at my dresser and think “What would I do if something was living in my top drawer?” and then I proceeded to imagine a small girl opening the dresser and 1) being sucked into it whole by something with a large flat mouth and dagger-like teeth, 2) reach in and bring out a gun and then shoot me while smiling, and 3) pull out a pair of socks and pretend to make sock puppets with them.

At that point my daughter tapped me on the shoulder and I resumed Chemistry, the ideas stuck floating in the haven of my room for another day.

The problem is, by the time “another day” arrives, I’ve had forty-seven more ideas at least that have joined those.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t complain. Some writers struggle to come up with an idea at all. But drawbacks abound in having too many ideas as well.

1) I don’t have enough time in the rest of my life to write all of these stories down.

2) By the time I settle on one thing to write and move forward with it, I’ve had so many other ideas that seem promising that I end up not finishing the first one.

3) Having so many ideas in my head all the time makes me feel frantic, which is not conducive to writing. It works for running but not writing.

I think I read or someone told me at some point that I should write all of my ideas down in a notebook and that way I wouldn’t have to remember them in my head. But my problem with that is I may not have my notebook when I get an idea or I may not be able to write anything down at the time. I have a terrible habit of composing poetry while I’m driving.

It’s kind of bad. Especially if it makes me start bawling. Driving and poetry writing at the same time should probably be banned.

Any other suggestions would be appreciated greatly!!

Have Your Candy and Eat It Too

A debate rages on, renewed by forces across the pond, where the celebration of Halloween has infiltrated the hearts of children far and wide. (and all those candy producers, as well …)

As a kid growing up in the American south, Halloween was a yearly celebration. We dressed up in costumes, decorated our homes with cobwebs and skeletons, carved wicked faces on pumpkins, wandered the neighborhood knocking on doors for candy, and hoped someone would scare the bejeebies out of us somewhere along the way. It was fun.

And …

We got loads and loads of candy to eat at will.

Then, somewhere, someone in some church decided that dressing up like evil spirits wasn’t Godly and began this long running debate on what is appropriate for children to dress up in at Halloween and whether or not it was even appropriate for children to celebrate Halloween.

Most people jumping into the debate have no idea how Halloween even came to be nor do they even understand their own arguments about the matter. But I’m not here to educate the masses on the history of Halloween. (if you want to read about the history link, here’s a good one http://blog.costumesupercenter.com/why-do-we-dress-up-and-get-candy-at-halloween/)

Instead, this debate comes down to one thing for me (and oddly enough was one of the roots of the celebration to begin with back in the Druid days), FEAR.

Christians are some of the most scared people I’ve ever met. For all of their supposed faith in the Lord, they fear everything that is different, odd, new, or even remotely mentions anything evil. As if they will be swept away in a tidal wave of evilness by merely watching a television show or eating some kind of food or allowing their children to wear a Halloween costume depicting something bad.

But the whole point of the New Testament is to celebrate Christ’s victory over evil. He conquered it. All of it. For everyone. Period.

It’s not our fight. So why do Christians keep trying to fight it?

Let your kids dress up how they want and eat all the candy they can stuff in their mouths. God will take care of them. He promised.

What Is It With These Creative Types?

One thing amuses me like nothing else. It is something so common and so endemic to being human that my amusement over it is lost on most people. But even in the glare of frowning faces, I still smile.

Boxes. Groups. Categories. Fields. Sets. Subjects. Labels.

They all make me smile. And the people who use them to organize every aspect of their world, make me smile even more.

People are organizers. They like to group things together that are similar, stick on a label, and feel satisfied at their accomplishment. And why shouldn’t they? Chaos goes against the order of things. Grouping things eliminates the chaos, right?

Wrong.

When I was a young child, my teachers and parents did what every normal teacher and parent do. They assessed my performance and stuck me in a category. They gave me tests to measure who I was, stood me a line, stuck on some clothes, and proceeded to treat me accordingly.

And they’ve been doing it ever since.

I’m 48 years old and people are still assessing me and sticking me in a pile of their determined choosing. “Oh, you said such-and-such, you belong in box A.” Plop. “Now be a good girl and stay put.”

The problem is, I’ve never been that good. Nor have I ever been interested in a label, title, box, group, category, or other restrictive mindless form to follow.

Truth is … I just don’t fit, and I’ve always known it.

When I was a kid, I just thought I was weird. Everyone else seemed to “get it” and there I was, puzzled by everything. I didn’t “get it” at all. And I never fit in anywhere.

But that didn’t stop people from trying.

Either luckily or unluckily, someone decided I was creative and  I was carted off to art camp and music lessons and drama rehearsals. I remember making collages out of tissue paper and annoying the snot out of my elderly piano teacher. Neither of which made me some kind of artistic genius. But at least being around creative people allowed me to just be who I was without anyone trying to stick me in a box.

That’s how creative people are. They take things as they come, unfiltered and naked, and combine them with other things that are unfiltered and naked to create something new. They don’t see an apple and think “fruit” or a dog and think “animal”.  They don’t look at people and think “fat” or “skinny” or “republican” or “redneck”.

They don’t categorize their world and it allows them to see new and amazing things that no one has ever quite seen before.

But … and this is a big BUT …

The very thing that makes them creative, is the thing that keeps them from belonging to society.

No matter how much we say we love the creative people in our lives, the artists, the actors, the comedians, the authors … No matter how much their work makes us think or laugh or cry or lose ourselves in another world … No matter how much we respect and adore and admire that genius in them …

They will never fit in.

And because they can “see” the world unfiltered, they know it.

The world wonders why Van Gogh cut off his ear or John Lennon spent a week naked in a hotel room in front of cameras or … Robin Williams took his own life.

But I don’t. I get those things. The act doesn’t create the man. The man creates the act. And yet, while the world is applauding at the act, they don’t see the man.

That’s just how it is. The world likes everything to fit in a box, to be labeled, to be nice and neat and compartmentalized, so it can be controlled. But the creative ones don’t control anything. It just happens. It is just what they see. And yet they know they have no control …

It’s the United States of America, They Can Do That, Too

Three posts popped up on my Facebook page this morning that renewed a thought I’ve had from time-to-time. I’ve never voiced the thought because I figured, like most things I say, I would subject myself to immediate discord and judgement. But the time has come for me to speak up.

One post was bashing the president. That’s the thing to do nowadays, right?

A second post was urging everyone they knew to boycott buying gas at a particular gas station because the middle eastern clerk supposedly wouldn’t serve someone in a military uniform … because everything people post on Facebook is true, right?

The third post complained about preppers and self-sufficiency people and how they would be better off expending their energies helping the world and contributing to the “higher” things in life instead of wasting all their time prepping and farming and etc. Preppers are all psycho anyway, right?

And it struck me when I read these posts that every one of these people, while supposedly defending and supporting the USA, has missed something vital about what it really means to be an American citizen.

Now none of these three people are morons or ignorant. They are all intelligent, well educated people who’ve worked their whole lives. One of them I consider a mentor, even. But somewhere in their thinking they’ve allowed popular culture to sweep them up and drag them along for the ride.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with that. It happens to the best of us at times. But it really annoys me when people claim to be defending the USA while negating the very freedoms that they demand for themselves.

#1 – The president is the president because he was elected by the majority of votes of the people of this nation. He has a job to do and it’s more important than the beliefs or wants or desires of any single one of us. He needs our support and encouragement day in and day out irregardless of whether we voted for him or not. He gets to see the big picture most of us can’t even fathom and his decisions have to be based upon that … not on the whims of an over dramatic media frenzied public.

Honestly, I’ve been the president of two different volunteer organizations. I wasn’t paid. And no one could pay me enough to even consider taking on either job again. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun. It’s mind numbingly difficult and at times impossible to do the right thing for everyone. Someone is always going to get their knickers in a knot irregardless of the decisions made. That’s just how it is. And to do even those little jobs I did with no support, would have been impossible.

As American citizens we have a vote. That is how we get to speak our mind in the political arena. And once our officials are elected, it is not our job to sit back and criticize their actions and decisions day in and day out without a full knowledge of why they are making the decisions they make.

We seem to think that we can read a newspaper article or listen to a two minute blurb on the evening news and somehow miraculously have complete and total understanding of a complex world issue and then, we believe we can pass judgement on how it was handled.

Newsflash, we can’t. And we shouldn’t. That’s not our job. Our job is to vote. That’s how we get to have our say. That is our voice.

#2 – In the USA private businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone they want for any reason they want. Period. You want to refuse service to a Muslim, don’t be surprised when they refuse service to you. They have that right, too. Feeling discriminated against? Go read the constitution. Just because you don’t like their actions, doesn’t make them wrong nor does it mean everyone else should jump on your wagon and join you.

In this case, how do you even know that event took place? Were you there? Did you see it with your own eyes? Did you hear it take place? If not, you don’t know what happened. Stop passing on the hate, for crying out loud.

#3 – Preppers/self-sufficiency gurus/modern homesteaders … everyone has the right to live the way they choose. If it is your idea that these people are not contributing to society in a meaningful way, maybe you need to rethink your definition of society … and read the constitution.

The USA was founded on the basis that everyone is equal and that we all have inalienable rights as citizens, as human beings. It was not founded on the basis that everyone should be pursuing the higher things in life, spending all their time working at a 9 -5 job so they can buy a three bedroom house in the suburbs and have their 2.3 kids and a dog, or be constantly contributing to your ideals of what society should be.

Newsflash, they have a definition of what society should be, too. And their definition is no more right nor wrong than yours. That’s America for you, babe. We rejected the class systems of the nations we came from for a reason. Why would we want to return to them? Remember, those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Don’t think because I’m commenting on this that I believe I’m perfect in any way. I’m not. I make mistakes. I say the wrong things. My own prejudices show from time to time. But I just get so sick of the hate that’s passed around over and over and over. And when it’s people that I care about, that are important to me, that are spreading the hate … it makes me sad.

Stop the hate. Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. That’s all it takes to make this little piece of the world better.

Common Sense is a Rare Commodity

When I lived in London, I was entertained on occasion by walking to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park and listening to people babble on about this and that while standing on their box. Since 1989 was a volatile year in world history, they had many topics to spout off on – Tieneman Square, the Berlin wall, Czechoslovakia, poll taxes, IRA bombings.

For most Americans, those things were millions of miles away. For me, they were in my back yard, part of everyday life.

The English are different than Americans when it comes to debating. Whether as part of their schooling or as a genetic mutation from all that “stiff upper lip” thing, they know how to debate a topic, no matter what the topic is, without getting all emotionally dramatic and losing their minds. In an odd way, participating in such discussions with them was very freeing in comparison to the norms of life in America.

When I came home from living abroad, I couldn’t watch the news any more. The broad claims and wild speculations with unsupported facts seemed like a joke, a farcical comedy aimed at indoctrinating a nation rather than informing them of the news.

Twenty-five years later, my viewpoint on it hasn’t changed. But escaping the farcical propaganda isn’t as easy as just turning off the tv any more because it has invaded Facebook, Google, and most topic boards on the internet.

The thing that bothers me the most about the mindless claims and dramatic positions people take up on topics ranging from gardening to police brutality to child rearing to the weather is that common sense seems to be lacking. And placing blame is somehow mandatory.

Yesterday, one such post and the comments on it finally made me speak up … a little. Someone was posting on “chem-trails” and how they were poisoning the earth and causing our home gardens to fail. They believe that the trails that airplanes leave in the sky are laced with pesticides and herbicides and chemical weapons that are raining down on us, slowly killing us and everything living on the planet.

I had to laugh. As a matter of fact, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.

Even when someone explained what really causes the trails in the sky behind an airplane, the poster began claiming that the explanation was just educated propaganda and went on to declare all educated people stupid for believing the lies of the government.

So, we’re supposed to believe their propaganda instead???

I don’t get it. Why can’t people think any more? What are they doing with all those brain cells? What is stopping them from looking at all the evidence they can find and then forming their own opinion on the matter?

Hundreds of web sites exist … and the library is still in operation … Both places have masses of information, some valid some not-so-much. It isn’t hard to find information on almost any topic you want.

So why is it so hard for people to find that information and use it?

This poster claimed that she could prove that these so called “chem trails” existed because she had a garden inside her greenhouse that was growing well and one outside that didn’t grow at all and therefore “chem trails” existed.

Um, what about weather? what about the water you used to grow both? what about the micro-environments that were formed? what about exposure to pests? or your neighbors lawn mower? was the greenhouse completely atmosphere proof so that nothing from the “outside” environment could get in? did they filter the air? did they not walk in and out the door or raise the sides on hot days?

It was like saying “two plus two equals five because I wrote it down on a piece of paper that way.”

And of course, then someone had to respond to the post with the argument about vaccines causing autism. I’m not sure what that had to do with heirloom and organic gardening, but every time a controversial subject comes up people lose their minds and start ranting on everything under the sun.

Common sense folks. Learn to use it. Ask questions. Be informed. Come to your own conclusions. And quit blaming. It’s not that hard.

Being Positive in this Demanding World

I was challenged this week to list three positive things each day for seven days in something called the “Positivity Challenge”. I should have known right away, with the word “challenge” in the title, that the world was going to cease upon this opportunity to throw monkey poo at me.

At first, it all seemed easy. Saturday was pretty good, Sunday was slow and restful, and Monday was full of accomplishments. No problem, I thought. I whipped out those three items without even thinking about it.

And then today reared its ugly little head, like a hyena waiting in the bushes for my complacency to set in good and firm.

Before I was even out of bed, I had a text message throwing my world for a spin. They didn’t know it was throwing me for a spin. To know that they would have had to pay attention to what was going on over the last eight months. But they haven’t. They’ve only been thinking about themselves.

When I informed them of what their decision meant to me, mainly that I wasn’t playing along, they got snotty and whiney and started playing the blame game with me. “If you don’t do this then everyone will lose out and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT.” and “I can’t help it that I haven’t had time to deal with this over the summer. I’ve been too busy.”

I nearly threw my cell phone out the window of the car. (I wasn’t driving …)

What do they think I’ve been doing all summer? Playing tiddly-winks? Lounging in a hammock?

Geesh, my summer has defined the word BUSY in a whole new way.

And the blame game … come on people. Really? Everyone? All my fault? Well, I’m sorry but you’ll have to stand in line with those complaints. I’ll get back to you … when I feel like it. And when is that? Probably never. The blame game falls on deaf ears with this chick. I’ve been abused in my life, I’ve been blown up in a car bombing, I’ve been kicked down when I didn’t even know there was anywhere “down” to go. You can’t saddle me with anything worse. So put on your big girl panties and shut up.

I’m sorry if that all sounds NEGATIVE since this is my week for POSITIVITY.

So where has all this left me?

right here … with more things that I am absolutely POSITIVE about.

I am positive

- no one will ever use me for a doormat again.

- I have the grit and will to live in a world that cares nothing about me.

- I will not compromise my beliefs to satisfy anyone else, no matter who they might be.

- my kids will always know that I love them and will do anything I have to for them.

- people are generally all the same the world over. They want to be loved and to give love and to be accepted just as they are.

- politics will never change and it is all driven by money, no matter what ideals anyone might hold otherwise.

- cats and dogs make life more bearable.

- sauerkraut and liver will never be in my top ten favorite food list.

- people die long before we want them to.

- most businesses don’t give a flip about their employees when the line is scratched in the dirt.

- terrorists are evil.

- the only absolute in this world is that God loves everyone equally.

Truth is – life sucks. It’s unfair, demanding, fickle, abusive, hateful, disrespectful, tiring, and just plain ol’ boring sometimes. It beats us up, tears us apart, throws us into the wall, and then leaves us to lick our own wounds alone.  And that’s not being negative. It’s being truthful.

Being positive isn’t always about smiley faces and appreciating what we have and cute kittens and puppies or flowers on a beautiful spring day. Being positive is about knowing who we are and what we believe in and being willing to stand up for that in the face of anything.

I should know.