Sunday, November 30, 2008

Decorating A Weird, Little Corner


One wall in our family room has three wicked corners. They are very, very wicked. And I was flummoxed.

First, I tried a cloverleaf table, art, and a lamp.

Next, I moved the chinoiserie secretary into this room; I added a floor lamp, hung a picture, and propped a mirror over the chest. I liked what the mirror reflected...but something was wrong. So I emailed pictures to my friend, Allison.

Allison took one look and suggested I remove the mirror and add art. However, I went hog wild. But I always go hog wild.

Allison said to remove one picture and to edit the accessories.

It looked so much better with the edits.
After a long while, I added two paintings: a fox and a chicken (based on a real adventure that happened on the farm--I like art--and rooms--to tell a story...and this art just happened to be in a dusty, old store at the right time). For Thanksgiving, I added two porcelain birds (this room has a major animal theme with lots of wire birdcages).

A close up of the birds.

The birds will be flying back to the hearth room this week. I love to move things around.

Corners can be a wicked challenge. But I learned to use the wickedness to my advantage--I learned to play up the corner, to create a mini-vignette that could stand alone and still work with other elements in the room. I have a friend who put a black chest in a corner (it was a corner chest), and then she hung bird prints on either side of the corner, with a tall, thin lamp in between: it was gorgeous.


Couldn't have done this in a million years without you, Allison. :-) Decorating is always better--and a thousand times more fun--with friends.


Hugs,

Gollum

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tablescape in Progress


This morning, Dr. Gollum stopped by the big, after Thanksgiving sale at the antique mall--and I am now the proud owner of twelve Spode turkey plates. I tried to upload more pictures, but Young Gollum is bellowing about bandwith or somesuch. I'm off to see a movie with friends, so maybe when I return, Young Gollum will be asleep.

Oh, I love the plates! Any tablescaping ideas? Maybe you all can give me some tips and exercises to break "tablescape block," which, I suspect, is a kissin' cousin to writer's block, only with china.

Hugs,
Gollum

Friday, November 28, 2008

Post-Holiday Feasting,Gollum's Rule # 52, & Creative Writing Exercises


The men made turkey gumbo--and cleaned the kitchen. The girls cooked rice.

A good time was had by all, even the doggies.

The holiday season is upon us--daylight isn't the only thing in short supply: Time is golden. Time is calorie-free chocolate. You need to blog, but you must cook/Christmas shop/clean house/etc. What to do? Use your secret blog to build ideas for your real blog. A creative writing exercise can unlock your right brain--plus, you are exercising your gray matter. Bodybuilders exercise--why not bloggers?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Idea 1. Write in a viewpoint, or "voice" that is different from your natural voice:

  • a 10-year old child
  • 80 year old woman
  • a mouse
  • a French/Spanish/Russian woman--and English is your second language
  • Two people in love (any age)
  • a kitchen sink

    • Idea 2. Build a metaphor:

      A. Think of a character (or characters) and put him/her/it/them in an emotional situation--and compare it to a (literal) STORM. It could be the STORM of Christmas shopping, for example, or an argument or....?

      B. Select a photograph:








      C. Find music to inspire you (skip this one if you need silence).
      Google "songs about storms." Or listen to Ella sing "Stormy Weather":





      Maybe you're in the mood for Julie London's "Cry Me A River"





      And for those who like alternative bands, here's Coldplay singing "Rainy Day"





      D. Words starting with "L" and "D" are "tooth" words. They add an "edge" to a sentence--and help build a mood (behind the scenes).
      Pick 5--or use your own):
    • dark
    • dirty
    • diffuse
    • dagger
    • damp
    • daylight
    • daze
    • deep
    • leaden
    • leak
    • lick
    • laughter
    • listen
    • lurched
    • long
    • Idea 3. "Free Write" about "Christmas Shopping" for one minute. Set your oven timer (or use an egg timer). Do not stop--write anything that pops into your mind. This is a "limbering" exercise. Tip: try this when you first wake up. Even before your morning coffee, write for one minute about anything. Your whole day will be different.

      Have fun! If it's not fun, don't do it. And if you are too busy to exercise, drink eggnog with bourbon and then put your feet up on a coffee table and deal with it after the holidays.

      Remember Gollum's Rule #52 :
      A tired/overburdened blogger is an unhappy blogger--always be kind to yourself.

      ((Hugs))

      Thursday, November 27, 2008

      A Gollumy Thanksgiving


      The day began with our "Thanksgiving" notebook. I wasn't sure how this would go over, but it was a huge hit. So was the cream sherry! Everyone had fun listing funny "thanks" and heartfelt ones.

      While the turkey roasted, the family chilled.
      My mother is on the right, my son on the left; the guy in the black shirt is my brother. (The dog, Jazzy, is my mother's Shih Tzu. Mister is mysteriously absent--he was right behind my brother.)

      Dr. Gollum with Cosette Belle Rouge (the poodle)

      Lynne, you'd asked about my shelf--it's here!

      Here is the dessert bar

      Meanwhile, the rolls were rising...

      We bought a fresh turkey this year (Publix--not from our farm! :0). My mother said, "It was the BEST turkey ever." But she always says that. :-)

      My niece's boyfriend, my brother, and my niece

      My baby son is on the far right

      Each plate had a present

      My niece fixed my mother's plate

      The side dishes were placed on a side table..

      cornbread dressing and green bean casserole

      Fruit salad (not pictured: sweet potato casserole, 7-layer salad, cranberry relish


      A close up view of the "treat" tower. I found these at K-Mart--three little boxes filled with candy. This is the Santa box:

      And the snowman


      So, how was your Thanksgiving? Any favorite dishes?

      Wednesday, November 26, 2008

      Part II: Taming Your Inner Critic


      Let's say that you started a notebook or a private Workshop Blog. You've banished the I.C--for the moment. Now, you sit down to write. Soon you fall through the page. The words are flowing.

      If your I.C. pops up and starts giving you lip, put the comments in RED. Then take the I.C. out of the box, tell it off, return it in the box.
      You will have zero tolerance for your I.C.
      Zero.
      When you return to your WIP (work-in-progress), please delete those red words. And move forward.

      It's important to give yourself permission to write what the heck you want. Misspell words with glee. Use all the damn adverbs you want. Tell, don't show. Violate every rule you can. As long as the story is flowing, let it flow. If your story begins to shift direction (a good sign for many writers), let it run. Let it fly. And don't look back. It's like climbing a mountain--keep looking straight ahead.

      If you look back, then YOU will be in the box, and the I.C. will be roaming free.


      If ideas pop up, make kinder, gentler notes to yourself in GREEN or GOLD or whatever color you want.

      Whether you create a private blog or not, when you are finished with your project, you will want to spell check--or even revise. Now is not the time to invite your I.C. for coffee. Not yet. Don't look at your creation for a few days. And for heaven's sake--don't throw it away! Put it in a drawer. Leave it on your blog. Stick it in the freezer (this is what I do, lol).

      After you've waited a few days or a week, you will return to your WIP with a clearer eye. By this time, you have achieved the necessary distance. Steve King says this is the time to "murder our darlings." He is right. But first, you need distance.

      Now: you are ready for your I.C. Invite it for coffee.

      First, print your WIP. Correcting a WIP on a computer screen is very, very different from correcting a hard copy (with an old fashioned pen).
      >

      Grab your pen of choice and start reading. You are wearing a different hat, so to speak--an editor's hat. (Some people even put on a stern, 50's hat when they are in self-edit mode.)

      When the I.C. shows up, smile. Offer cake.

      Just don't let the I.C. get too comfy. Lay down the law. Be specific. Do not let your I.C. be a "free range" critic. The I.C. can't pass judgment about anything you've written/decorated/baked/painted. The I.C. isn't allowed to say, "This stinks!" No eye-rolling, either.

      The I.C. can point out spelling errors. You might even let it circle adverbs .

      The revision process is eerily similar to decorating--editing a tablescape or items on a shelf. Sometimes you can get too close -- and you need to step back, listen to your intuition.

      Later, as you become more comfortable with your I.C. (and when you learn to trust your intuition), you can let your I.C. answer specific questions. Your questions will be different from my questions (because writing is deeply personal).

      My I.C. sits on my shoulder. It might say, "Wait, go back to that sentence. Yes, that one. Gee, it's kinda clunky, isn't it?"
      I ball up my fists, ready to pounce. "Why, you little--"
      The I.C. sighs. "Sorry, Gollum. That was harsh. I just meant you've got a lot of words in that sentence."

      At this point, you and the I.C. are in sync. Just to be sure, though, read the sentence out loud.

      When you read out loud, you are using a different part of your brain than when you read silently--and you will hear things that your eye would skip. (This is similar to taking digital photographs of a room--and you see what's wrong.)

      Ask yourself:



    • If I cut a word from this sentence, will the sentence be stronger? Or will I sacrifice clarity? Not all sentences need cutting (but most do). How many words can I cut from the paragraph? The page? (A good rule of thumb is to cut about 10% . )



    • Have I used all 5 senses?



    • Have I been too vague or too specific? (We'll get into the show/tell dilemma another time.)

    • Here's an example:
      The car sped down the street is a perfectly okay sentence.
      But...
      The red BMW sped down the street is much more visual.

      You can even say, The red BMW sped through downtown Savannah and you've got a completely different scenario.
      Make a note on your draft. Then keep reading. Don't dither. If you can't think of the perfect word, make a notation. And move on.

      When you slow down, you are letting the I.C. get the upper hand. But if you write "as fast as the Gingerbread Man runs" (Steve King, again), then you are outrunning the I.C.

      And you are listening to your intuition.

      Here's another example:
      She ate pie is a competent sentence, but it's a little vague.

      This is better:
      Casey lifted her fork and cut into a thick slice of apple pie. (Vanilla ice cream is optional. :-) )

      Here's another thing your Intuition might flag:
      The diner was empty except for a child with a dirty face.

      Your pen might hover over this sentence. Something just feels...wrong, your Intuition says. Well, not wrong. But off kilter.

      Give your I.C. a crack at this:
      Your I.C. says, "Hey, I know--it's too vague. You need MORE words! Ha!"

      So you jot down a few experimental words:
      The diner was empty except for a little blonde girl with cake crumbs on her mouth.

      Better?
      Yes, says my Intuition.
      But my I.C. says, Not so fast, Gollum. See, "diner was empty" is the passive voice.

      True, I say. But I need that "quiet" before the Reader gets to the little blonde girl.

      My I.C. wanted to know what kind of cake the girl was eating. I'm leaving that for the Reader to fill in. That's part of the fun of reading--filling in details the way you see them.

      But I listened to my I.C. and started scribbling. Adding words. (I have a tendency to do this with tablescapes, too.)

      The Drive Bayou Diner was empty except for a short, blonde girl with strawberry cake crumbs on her left cheek.)

      My Intuition tells me that I've goofed. But how? It's specific, yes. But do we really need to know that the cake crumbs are on her left cheek?
      No.
      On the other hand, don't tell us the girl is short. Show it.
      The girl jumped off the stool. Her eyes peered over the counter.

      (My I.C. heehawed at this one--"Her EYES PEERED?" Next you'll be telling me that her eyes dropped or somesuch!)

      Oh, SHUT UP, you vile, filthy, stinky....
      But the I.C. does have a point. Okay, let me amend that to: She peered over the counter.

      This is where the notebook/secret blog is helpful. But try to practice every day. Even if it's just a sentence. You will need to write big, hairy things in order to write toned, buff things. But the big, hairy things will always creep out. Always. If you live to be 150, they will be there. I've been writing for decades, and hairy things pop up like weeds.

      But you need them...just like you need the I.C. Hairy words have a function. They keep us on our toes, keep us from being lazy, keep us pushing forward up that mountain.

      Writing is a lot like cooking--and decorating. Knowing what to leave out. Knowing what to add. Just like with decorating--don't "over polish." Don't edit the life out of your WIP. Just study your WIP the way you would a tablescape, and you will be fine.

      Happy Thanksgiving

      Tuesday, November 25, 2008

      Part I: A Space Of Your Own


      A long time ago, I believed that I needed a room of my own--a place to think and create, with time and silence blowing around me in wispy sheets. But I quickly learned that I could write anywhere, and under many conditions. I took yellow legal pads to football/baseball/basketball practice. I was the mother in the car, the mother with pencils stuck in her crazy hair. I also wrote in McDonald's and in coffee shops.

      In a way, it's like socializing a dog? You know? You take the dog to Kroger and let people pet the dog. You take the dog on errands. And hopefully, the dog will not bite your guests. Or each other (if you have more than one dog.)

      A writer isn't like a dog (although I know people who disagree). But it's wise to "socialize" yourself. In the case of the writer, socialization means learning how to write under all kinds of conditions.


      That said, most writers write at home. Writing can be messy. It's just easier if you have a spot for your junk. A place to pile your papers, your Thesaurus, your totems, your ink pens.



      I write in the corner of a room

      ..and when I sit down, my mind shifts gears. Because I have come to associate this place with writing. I don't do another blessed thing in this corner. It's just for writing.


      While a "space" is important for practical reasons, it's more important to know your interior landscape. When you are working on a blog entry, do you need noise or quiet? How do you react to interruptions? In order to write creatively, what is your bottom line? What disrupts your creative bubble?
      My ideal bottom line looks like this:
      • Dogs
      • An empty room
      • Music
      • A fresh pot of coffee
      • No TV
      • No phone calls
      • No major conversations going on (in the same room)
      • No one sneaking up behind me and shaking me--"Hey, did you wash my underwear? Well, I'm out!"
      Okay. This is my "in a perfect world" bottom line. But I can't have all of these things. So I must edit this list. What do I really, really need in order to "fall through the page?"

      I can work without coffee. I can work if others are watching TV. I can even work if people startle me. But I can't be around talkative people.

      Or ringing phones


      It's important to define your real bottom line--and shrink it to its lowest denominator. Then try to make it happen. This isn't a piece of cake. Sometimes your bottom line is perfect for you but terrible for others. One time my mother sent the police to my house because I didn't answer the phone. (If you want a mental image of my mother, think of the mother in Terms of Endearment.)


      But I digress. When it comes to blocks and bottom lines, you just have to experiment. I've read that Agatha Christie ate apples in the bathtub. The poet, Schiller, kept rotten apples in his desk drawer.

      Me, I can't unplug the phone. So I use an IPod to create invisible doors.
      >
      I have also used "Playlist" (http://www.playlist.com/, a free music feature for bloggers), too. I just added earphones, and within minutes, I was in my own, little space.

      After you've defined your bottom line, you need to think about "must have" tools.

      If you are serious about blogging, then you need some type of notebook--a place where you can play with words and ideas.

      In the old days, paper was cheap. But the cost is rising all the time. Each time I change the cartridge on my printer, I have to get all Zen and breathe. An excellent, zero cost alternative is to create a private blog--just for your writing.

      My I.C. tells me that you are prolly thinking, What??!!She wants me to create another blog? what? Is she out of her head?


      Crazy? Mmmhum, yes. But it's a lot cheaper than buying reams of paper and pens. Not only that, it's a lot less messy. You don't have to find a place to stash your papers.
      But what about photos and prompts?
      Instead of stuffing a 3-ring binder with ideas, you stuff things into the Workshop Blog. Inspirational photos, ideas, notes--all go into the blog.

      And you can use the italics and the color feature to your best advantage. (I'll talk about this in detail another time...but let me just say that while italics and colors are distracting for Readers, these "tools" are indispensable for drafts--and for dealing with the Inner Critic).


      Whether you create blog-space or not, you still must learn to deal with your inner critic--it's not the bugaboo that I painted it to be. Not really. In fact, it is a necessary part of the creative process....but I'm getting ahead of myself.

      Part II, "Taming the Inner Critic," will continue tomorrow.

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