I have taken to gardening. This is highly unusual for me. Being a “modern” woman, incapable of even cooking for the longest time, I have discovered that I can have plants and that they won’t die. That’s huge. In the past, I tried growing things. I couldn’t even coerce a plant to grow from a bulb. I killed a cactus. I took all of it as a sign that I am simply not a plant person and I shouldn’t be near them.
Then I got my current job and I inherited a scrappy-looking desk plant that I knew was destined to die. The first few times I watered it, I didn’t realize the stuff was laced with cleaner. Oops. The poor plant withered, but carried on. I gave it fresh water and it came back. And then I forgot to water it for a couple of months. It sits on my desk and I could not remember to bring in a cup even though I only live a building over. It started withering again. Then I remembered to bring it something to drink and like magic it came right back.
After that, we had a nice little relationship going. It had forgiven me for my mistreatment and was willing to continue living for me. The leaves spread out on my desk, reaching for the phone, the window, and my computer screen. I didn’t want to trim these beautiful new growths, so I’ve let them continue while keeping an eye on the thing so that they don’t go where they shouldn’t.
And then it bloomed! This particular plant is not a stunner usually, but when those strange little bell shaped flowers appeared all over the new growths, cascading down my desk, wow! I felt like I’d done something other than just remembering to water it and let it grow. Some of the tenants noticed too. “It must like you.” Personally, I’m pretty sure it’s just begging me not to feed it cleaner again.
Well, I felt so confident in my abilities to water something regularly, when my brother offered me a mini-rose someone had given him, I accepted. It bloomed and grew into a decent little bush. My niece and nephew asked for regular updates. “So is it still alive?” “Have you killed it yet?”
I have not! I was sure during the winter that I had, but my mom assured me that it was normal for a rose bush of any sort to hibernate so that look of death upon it was not my fault. And now it’s started sprouting again. I was so happy that I bought my first herb plant just two weeks ago. Because I’ve also started cooking at home this past year which is another thing I didn’t believe I could do. Or it was another thing I didn’t really care to learn to do. And yet here I am now happily cooking up concoctions with things lying around my kitchen that are actually edible.
There is only one problem so far with this little garden outside my apartment door– it’s a magnet for spiders.
Lately, I’ve been putting my everything into staying focused and actually writing. I’m determined to not let anything slow me down. Well, not too much anyway. But that’s where I’ve been while I’m staying quiet pretty much everywhere else. I’m writing, and then I just don’t have words left over.
Right now I’m in the midst of revisions. I just got back one story that’s mostly complete, but as one reader said it feels sparse, so I need to put some extra filling in there. This is a short story, but it’s been one difficult one to write due to the way the characters all connect in my head. How in a short story that takes course over one day was I to share everything I could see needed to be shared? There were no doubt going to be lots of questions.
I have two other stories I’m revising as well– my NaNo novel, which is still at about 50,000 words but I’m still just in the beginning, and another short story that I started last year and I feel needs to be told. Unfortunately, while I got the basic part of it down, it reads like I was distracted halfway through. (I was.)
Set on the back burner is my new story, mostly because I think it needs some time to percolate while I gather information and let the characters’ stories come to me. Sometimes I do have to just sit down and push them and see what I get so that I can mold it. That’s for fun though.
I’m on a writing schedule. I mentioned my three calendars. So far one calendar has helped me get to the DMV, get a hair cut, and remember to take my dad to the doctor. I also bought a planner that I can carry around with me. Mostly, I try to leave it on my desk and only carry it with me when I need to sit down and work out how I’m going to make it through revisions. My main plan, which has appeared to work so far, is to write down one scene a day that needs to be revised and then go to work on it. That way I’ll know what’s coming up, and I can gather or make notes on the scene the day before.
What I haven’t managed to do successfully is up my output, but that’s okay. I’m sort of in training right now. There are days where I manage to work on more than one story after focusing on one in particular and then moving forward.
Unfortunately, I’m also geeking out over my new PS Vita. I’ve played and completed three games already, and I’m working on a fourth which is actually a reissue of an old one I have in my closet but don’t want to take out and play on the TV. Portable games are so handy because I can play anywhere and stop any time. That’s also sort of the problem with them though.
Anyway, well, I’m still alive and writing! I have not disappeared completely into real life.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I’m only ten days late. Still counts, right? I figured I wouldn’t do a retrospective post (it was depressing) or tell you about my resolutions (I haven’t really spelled out any though I am clearly serious about this next year as I am utilizing multiple calendars!). Instead, I’m going to do a different type of reflective post. This is something I’ve been thinking about the past month or so as I’ve finally managed to get back into the swing of balancing writing and editing despite the shiny new WiiU that’s sitting in my living room.
I’ve been thinking about what I really bring to my writing. There are multiple ways to look at this. The first thing I thought about when this question popped into me head were the reoccurring themes I’ve seen even in my play writing. As with any writer, when I notice them, I get frustrated. I mean, can’t I write anything else? Why does it always come down to this? And why does it feel so good to give in to one of those typical themes? In my case, it’s usually about a person (okay, usually a girl) who has no control of the situation she’s in. To anyone who’s read Ruin, it must sound familiar.
This then got me to thinking about my life which I’ve been doing a lot of recently. To anyone who only hears the details of my life, I sound incredibly boring. I’m not clever enough to spice up the details of my life with a witty spin. Instead I’m dead honest about where I’m from and exactly how long I’ve lived here. (My entire life. In one little town. That seems to astound my boyfriend from time to time.) Sometimes I get self-conscious about it.
Confession time- when I went to the meet-up for NaNoWriMo, we had to do one of those icebreaker games. The head guy had us write down facts about ourselves on a card and then he collected them, shuffled them, and handed them out. We had to read the facts aloud and guess who they belonged to. I blanked. I couldn’t think of anything good to share AT ALL. Nothing about myself anyway. Later on I had plenty of stuff, but even then it was mostly about my family, not me. And my card went last. Ick. I had nothing good, no one was interested. After that, I couldn’t go back, so I just didn’t.
That experience is probably what originally brought up this question I think. What exactly am I bringing to my stories? What am I offering readers? Here is my answer:
Sincerity. I keep it close to the surface, riding a thin line with every story I write between straight fiction and some alternate reality for my life. In my personal life, I’m guided by obligations that I can’t shirk. Now even more so than ever before. I think it’s because I feel this way that it’s so good to let loose in a story even when the main character is trapped in a situation they can’t escape from.
What do you bring to your writing? Or even your regular job? (Because this is also something I bring to work with me which causes trouble as much as it helps.) And have you noticed how your life ties into the reoccurring themes of your stories?
Video games. In my mind, many video games are very much the same as books. I don’t just have to read to learn about a story and story structure– I’ve said this before, I’m sure. I have spent the last couple of months playing video games and become immersed in a grand amount of lore crafted for a series of video games that’s just amazing.
I’m talking Elder Scrolls. It took a bit for me to get into it. I’ve had a bias against first person games for a long time, and Elder Scrolls definitely has action elements. I’ve always said that I play Final Fantasy for the story, but for the past few years (since FFX) I haven’t wanted to play Final Fantasy at all. There were several reasons for it. 1. Each game was really a stand alone game with a new story which meant they couldn’t really get that in-depth. They created just the surface of a world and a story, more of a fairy tale really. After a while, that gets boring. 2. They started making sequels to sequels. Each game is a sequel already, and then they would make a part 2 which looked to just be the same game but with more story? I don’t know, but it certainly seemed money grubbing. Of course I haven’t laid my hands on any of those because I’m bored to death of Final Fantasy.
Elder Scrolls is a different. How different? You can read books in game. I started to get into reading and collecting books while out on my adventures. I became fascinated with the books on the Dwarven culture which disappeared way in the past, before the first game is even set. There are books to be found by scholars who’ve studied the ruins and put forth their own theories as to the culture. There are also books that collect dwarven folklore which is not meant to be trusted as a source. The more scolarly sources will tell you so. It feels quite real!
I came to find out that these books actually go back as far as the second installment of the series which was released around ’96. The Elder Scrolls actually builds their entire series up on the lore. You can read about Queen Barenziah in books in Skyrim and then play Daggerfall or Morrowind and actually meet her. It’s immersive, and not just through game play. It really shows the power of story to connect the different parts of this series and really bring it to life. People always have stories. They also always have opinions. They share what they think and over time, sources of information can become corrupted. Sometimes sources of information start out corrupt. I find that the Elder Scrolls series understands that, and it adds a serious level of realism to their entire world.
I walk my cat. On a leash.
That particular day, Danger must have sensed that I was more malleable to her charms than normal. I happened to mention “kitty walk” in the morning, so she was already gearing to go by the time I sat down on the bench to dig for her leash. When I get near that bench, she gets pretty excited, especially when she knows she’s going to go for a walk. (Of course, to be anti-climatic, she stops just outside the door. Normally she bolts out and won’t even let me lock the door. Also, I swear my voice is not that squeaky, the mic on the phone is just not great for video.)
Plenty of people have told me this is strange behavior for a cat, putting on a leash and walking. Personally, I don’t think it’s the behavior that’s strange. The problem is that expectations are limiting.
So what made me want to walk my cat on a leash? Why not just let her outside to roam free? I live in a one bedroom apartment. There’s plenty of room inside for all of us, but we live close to a large road and we’re right next to a parking lot. My horrible fear was that something terrible would happen to my cat. At first I thought she wasn’t too bright. That was wrong. The issue is she’s rather too bright and curious. She’s always getting into things she shouldn’t, and it worried me that she’d end up getting harmed in some way. I’d be gutted if something happened to her.
So, I decided that I’d take her on walks. Because she’s so curious about the world, the space in the apartment is not enough for her. She doesn’t play with cat toys like the other cat does. She needs mental stimulation, so the two of us go out and explore the world together.
(The baa-ing is my laughing. But my cat really does sound pretty squeaky. She has the cutest meow!)
Here’s the thing– when we go out walking, I don’t treat her like a dog I’m walking on a leash. We head out together on an adventure, and generally, she’s the one in the lead. When we get to a place that I don’t like her to go, like the parking lot, I would stop and go no further. I never, ever had to tug on her leash, and I would never ever do that to a cat. She learns best by thinking she’s the one who’s made the executive decision to change course. Now we don’t even walk past those areas that I don’t like anymore. The couple of times we’ve gone near them, she’s even on heightened guard now. And if we run across something she really doesn’t like, she runs home, dragging me behind her. That’s unusual behavior for this cat. Nothing scares her; she’s always thought she could take on anything.
So how did I get her walking with me? That was a three step process.
Step One: Introducing the leash to the environment. For about a month or two before I even tried putting the leash on her, I left it by the front door so both cats could play with it and become familiar with it. This was an important step. It took a while, but when they were starting to play with it, I knew it was time for the next step.
Step Two: Putting the harness on. The boy cat was scared of it, so I didn’t force him. Danger though, she stepped right up. It was a struggle to get her to hold still long enough to size and clasp it. If I couldn’t get it clasped because she was squirming too much, I’d take it off her and leave her alone to try again later. The first couple of times I got the harness on her, I let her roam around the house with it on for a while. When I could tell it wasn’t that big a deal to her anymore, I proceeded to the final step.
Step Three: Putting on the leash and going for a walk. The first time out, I actually had to pick her up and take her outside. I put her down, and then I let her lead. That was the most important part of the entire experience. It’s not about me taking her for a walk, it’s about her going for a walk with my guidance.
The thing about walking cats is that it takes time and patience and a new way of thinking. And cats can actually enjoy it! I found out recently that one of my good friends walks her cat on a leash around the neighborhood. This isn’t to say that every cat will love walking on a leash. Cats are as different as people are. Some cats will never like being put on a harness and having a human following them around. My hope is that more people will stop assuming that all cats will hate it and that they’ll give it a good try.
I’d like to add: Happy new year! May you find yourself trying new things this year that you wouldn’t have considered possible before. Don’t let your expectations hold you back this year, and don’t be afraid to fail.