Writing Prompt: Describe Being a Writer

To dream about what isn’t and make it real; to see what is through a lens of what should be, or perhaps what should never be. To paint an image in your mind and weave invisible threads into your feelings to tug and tease at will.

To be blindness to the sighted, poverty to the rich, womanhood to the man; to impart an experience through a commonality which diverges and takes you with it to places you never thought possible. To make sacred the mundane and make known the hidden. To whisper in your ear of how good a sunset tastes at dawn and breathe in the waters of life and death and see which one I become. To be a bridge, to bear your weight as you tread across my back and see what I’ve carved into my hands for you.

And at the last to bare my soul and let you step inside me for just a moment to see the world through my eyes, and in doing so, to see the world through another’s eyes as well.

Love Is Dope

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Writer’s Relief posted the above picture on Facebook with the following caption: “Describe being a ‪#‎writer‬ without using the words ‘writer,’ ‘write,’ or ‘words.’ ‪#‎writingprompt‬ ‪#‎writinglife‬.” I’m always down for a good writing prompt, so I decided to share my (short) response here.

A somber-looking stranger on the train. The bewitching pre-dawn hours while alone at my desk. A long-abandoned building with “beautiful bones”  observed during a walk in the neighborhood. Any and all of these things could be the catalyst for my muse to alight upon my shoulder and whisper into my ear.  My mind starts churning, thoughts fill my head beyond capacity and I must (no, I really must) transfer those thoughts to page or screen. Sometimes those penned or keyboarded thoughts make it to a wider audience than my own two eyes.  In some bizarre corner of the universe, a company or a person…

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Not Like A Bicycle. Well, kind of…

Writing is not like a bicycle.  You do forget how.  You think “I totally know how to do this” and you get on and crash miserably and then kick it and go sit in the corner with a scotch.  Then you forget to pick it up for a while and it gets very rusty.  It takes time to oil the chains and make sure it isn’t going to fall apart on you the second you push it out of the garage.  Or that the seat isn’t going to fall out from underneath you.  Or the tires aren’t flat.

Okay, so writing is a little bit like a bicycle.  Maybe you don’t forget how, but you forget how to do it *well* and you get very rusty, and the rustier you get the harder it is to get going again.  Or keep going, sometimes.  Sometimes writing will rust right out from underneath you or the seat will twist or the tire will go flat and you’re all ‘WTH writing, we were doing so well, what happened?’ and all the writing can do is shrug and go sit in the corner with a scotch.

Until a prompt comes along that reminds writing why it likes you, and it’ll come over and tap your shoulder and whisper in your ear and say, “Hey… that prompt looks easy.  No steep slopes or weird turns.  And the weather is nice today.  Maybe we should take that prompt out for a ride and see where it goes.”  And you think to yourself, “It does look nice… and I haven’t written in a while.”

So you try it, and at first you aren’t too hopeful because it didn’t work out so well last time you tried.  Or the time before that. Or the three times before that.  But you’re a writer, it’s what you do, and you’re also a bit fatalistic, so you figure if it isn’t meant to be it won’t happen, but somewhere in that jaded little heart of yours you’re also just a touch optimistic which is why you keep trying anyway.

Yesterday was the result.  It was small.  It was simple.  But I liked it, and I *finished* it.  Because it was small.  But it oiled the chain and re-inflated the tires and did a little basic maintenance and off I went for an easy little ride.  That whet my taste for a bit longer ride today.  To wit:

Līgo Haibun Challenge – Picture Week

Another Life

Red clay encased hair ropes down her back, conjure images of roots deepening through the red clay to anchor the spirit to the land.  This is her land, thick with the blood of her foremothers, the dreams of her children’s future.  The ornaments at her throat were not assembled in a factory for ten cents a day.  This is a life not marred by forty hours of overtime in a race to get the next big screen TV to hang in the mortgage you can’t afford.  But don’t confuse content for simple, simple for ignorant.  A bright mind lays behind those bright eyes, filled with wisdom and hope.  Elsewhere, not erstwhile.   Mukuru bless those who dwell in the between, praised by the joyful clap of work-worn hands beneath the sun.  Ochred black, beautiful.

African mother
First child at her breast nourished
Like the summer lambs

And as an aside:

I’ve always loved African hair.  Ever since I was a child.  I think it started with my love of Ancient Egypt (because really, any culture which worships cats is right up my alley) and just went from there.  The beauty of it always made me just a little jealous.  The hairstyles, the braids, the volume… hair that could do beautiful and amazing things, while mine just hung there all limp and straight.  Of course, then I grew up and realized that I was not only unusual in this, that American society actively punishes African women for how they look, even for just wearing their hair in their traditional and natural styles, from being told it’s unprofessional, to assuming it must be a political statement, to calling it ghetto.   Which is just… really tragic and horrible.

I’ve always found African aesthetics – their hair, their skin color, their smiles – to be absolutely beautiful.  The woman in the picture above?  She could be a model in my eyes.  (Not that she’d want to be, from what I hear of the industry…)

Unspoken Things

© Eliza Murdock 2013

© Eliza Murdock 2013

 

First attempt to create a piece of art out of a poem already written.  (yep, just burned a hole in a piece of paper on my front porch.  woo!)

This is written in Tanka form, which is similar to the Haiku syllable system, but consists of five lines of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables.  This poem truncates that to 5/7/5/7/6, leaving the poem perpetually unfinished.

Which sort of brings me into what I’ve been thinking of recently, writing a poetry chapbook but with a very different focus.  Rather than just filling it with my poems, I want to put in poetry, art (whether inspired by, or inspiration for) for each piece, a description of the poetry style it is written in, and a brief explanation of where the poem came from, what it means to me.

It seems there are enough people out there who say they don’t understand poetry that I want to write a book specifically for people who don’t know a whole lot about poetry.

Thoughts?

Something Old

we drink because we’re poets Weekly Photo Challenge – 3: Old

“something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue…”

And there it was…something old!

In a world that exalts novelty…get this brand-new giggling joppity great new fantastically never seen before variation of our dish soap… where youth is the by-word and be all of our age…I propose that we look for the venerable!

My “something old” is this gorgeous, vintage sewing machine, lovingly donated to me when my old machine broke down by my dear friend.  It has since been again retired, but the beauty and power of this old machine can’t be matched.

Could we but mend our torn lives,
Patch the holes in our spirits,
Rethread our dreams
With such elegance as this.

Why I really like NaNoWriMo…. and why I really hate it.

A few weeks ago I was reading someone’s entry about writer’s block being not the inability to write but hating everything written. (Was that you, Dean?)

I get both, really.  Sometimes I just can’t think of *anything* to write, and usually that’s when I’m mentally/emotionally exhausted by something or other.

Then there are phases where I get the “everything I’m writing is utter crap, drivel, tripe, cliched, flat, boring, lame…” you get the idea.   That’s what I’ve got right now.

What I really love about NaNoWriMo is it gives me permission to hate everything I’m writing, and still keep going.  The most important thing anyone can do in any kind of effort is to just keep going.  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming… and eventually whatever it is that is ‘wrong’ will sort itself out and you’ll get back to a place where you’re in the groove, the muse is happy, the words are flowing.

Trying to write every day can be very hard when you hate what you’re writing.  Forcing yourself to keep pushing through this kind of block is very exhausting because you’re not getting the same kind of payoff that you normally get from the hard work.

NaNo gives you permission to write utter crap, to hate it all, to detest ever word that falls from your fingers… and just keep going.  Something I really hate doing.

This is why I really hate NaNoWriMo, because I want to ‘win’, I mean most people do have some urge to hit the finish line, especially when the only person you’re really competing against is yourself.  But I never do.  I never get to 50,000 words.  I always get hung-up somewhere, either I can’t seem to get over the fact I hate what I’ve written so I keep trying to go back and edit and revise and change things instead of just keeping on, or because I have less and less time as work picks up because we’re getting closer to the end of the year and there’s a big push to get so much done, or because I just can’t seem to get the full 1,667 words out, and as each day goes by I fall a bit further behind that 50,000 word goal…

So it’s a little hard on the psyche to watch yourself get further behind, and it’s a little harder on the psyche to bash out any old jumble of words that you hate, and it’s even harder to know that because it’s so bad you’re never going to show anyone so what’s the point anyway!?

Yeah… I definitely have a love-hate relationship with NaNo.  But it isn’t really NaNo that I hate… it’s editing.  It’s revising.  I honestly have no idea how to do it, not really.

No one writes a perfect first draft.  But I’ve never figured out how to move beyond one!  I mean yes, I do revise *a little*… change a word, maybe rearrange a paragraph, but I’ve never really grasped the idea of how to really go through and revise a story or a novel.  It’s one of those utterly foreign and really a little terrifying concepts that just sort of hangs out there, threateningly on the horizon of writing.

So I love NaNo for giving me leave to write with wild abandon, and I hate NaNo for constantly reminding me what I *lack* as a writer.

And I thought up an idea.  And I’m already 1,000 words behind.

/sigh/

But I’ll do it again anyway.  I might not post it, though.  That remains to be seen.

 

What about you guys?  What’s the hardest part of what you love doing?  What’s the one thing you struggle with in your own endeavors?  What’s something you feel you just never got the hang of?

NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again, when I decide between participating in NaNoWriMo or maintaining my sanity.

For those who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  It is a fabulous organization which seeks to promote writing by any means possible.  That is, just write.  Don’t try to come up with the next great novel, don’t worry about spelling, don’t edit, leave characters flat, threads dangling and plots filled with holes if you have to, just write.

The goal of NaNo is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  That breaks down to an average of 1,667 words per day.  But that is only how you “win” NaNo.  The other goal is just to get people writing, for all those who have ever had the slightest inkling that they might want to write a story but always have some reason why they don’t.

This urges you to cast off any inhibitions and ignore any rules you’ve ever heard for the sake of getting words on paper.  As a friend of mine says, you can edit crap, you can’t edit nothing, so get something on the page, even if it’s crap, because then at least you have something to work with.

From NaNo’s About page:

The rules state that, to be an official NaNoWriMo winner, you must…

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works).
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
  • Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
  • Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.

So that’s it, that’s NaNoWriMo.  Write a novel, do it in a month.

I’ve participated in NaNo for several years.  It’s always a good excuse to really push myself, but I can never quite stick to the principle of write freely with wild abandon and care not how bad it is.  I edit as I go, something you’re urged not to do.  I just can’t help it.  It’s how I write.  As a result, I’ve never actually ‘won’.  I’ve gotten close two years, but never hit 50,000.

This year, with my already failing goal to do something creative every day (which as always, started out really strong but has faltered as my life has gotten busier and busier) I feel like this would be yet another year where I see my word count fall pitifully behind daily goals until November 30th rolls around and I’m 20,000 words shy (but if you’re smart, you’ll look at it as 30,000 words further than I was November 1st!).

 

Sigh.  I’m going to torture myself with this again, aren’t I?

Alright.  I’ll do NaNo again.

And as always, November 1st and I don’t know what I’m going to write yet.  I *knew* I should have written down that idea last night when I had it…

Losing Weight

This is not what you think it’s going to be about.

This weekend, I read an article about San Fransisco considering a drop in the minimum square footage for apartment units to 220.  No, not a drop *of* 220 square feet.  A drop *to* 220 square feet.

Now, most of you here have no idea that I had my blossoming architecture career smashed under the housing market crash.  Alas, I had to move on, but my love of house design never left me.  Going nostalgic for a moment, I knew I was in the right line of work when after an 8 hour day at the office drawing house plans, I’d come home and play Sims.  Only I wouldn’t actually play the Sims, I just designed neighborhoods of houses.  Yep, I’d design houses at work, then come home and design them for fun.  Some people called me sick, but I just liked to think of myself in my perfect career.

Okay so obviously I’m not getting paid for it anymore, but I still love designing houses!  (and ooh look, I have AutoCAD on my computer now. mwahaha!)

One thing I love about small house designs (or apartment, or whatever.  Small *living* space designs) is it requires so much more creative use of space.  The article shows a very narrow apartment with a wall bed that converts to the dining area when not being slept in.

It also makes me think about my mom who, to this day, insists she loves Japanese design.  Because it’s so uncluttered.  (Mom, it’s uncluttered because they have *less stuff* not because they were just *that good* at design.)  But it is interesting how much even house designs can vary between cultures, and what’s considered normal.

I saw another house design where the bedroom was really just an enclosed bed with a sliding door.  There wasn’t any ‘floor’ area, just the bed (looked to be on a platform but not what you’d consider a typical western bed frame).

Got me really thinking about small house plans and reduced floor spaces.  There have been many books written about small houses, lots of people blogging about small houses, much building of small houses, and now tiny apartments are the latest place we’re cutting space and living smaller here in the US.

My house is 1,800 square feet, if memory serves.  That means if we’re talking about apartments being 220 sf, I could fit just over 8 apartments in my house.  Since my house is 4 bedroom, and if you assume parents and three children, my house could (and has) uncomfortably fit 5 people (the discomfort chiefly caused by there being but a single bathroom).  Compare that with the same square footage could comfortably fit 8 people, even if in a very tiny space.

It also made me realize there was no way I could ever fit all my ‘stuff’ into 220 square feet.  I probably couldn’t fit it into 440 square feet.  I might have a hard time squeezing down into 900 square feet – half the size of my house.

Maybe this shouldn’t bug me, but it does.  Terribly.  Welcome to America: our people are fat, our houses are fat, our closets are fat, our heads are empty, and our wallets are dry.

Yes, I have my crafts and fabric and paints and the like, but really, even with hobbies, I shouldn’t be incapable of living at half my square footage if people can live in 1/8th of it.

So part of the weekend was spent on thinking about the fact I need to do a major ‘stuff’ purge in my life, both for my sanity and for the general tidiness of my house, but part of the weekend was also spent on designing very small houses.

220 sq. ft. single bedroom floor plan by Eliza Murdock

440 sq. ft. two bedroom floor plan by Eliza Murdock

I remember several  years ago sitting down to design 1,000 sq. ft. houses and thinking how difficult it was.  I don’t deny these plans offer very little in the way of indoor space, but that will hopefully help get people outdoors more often.

Now, if I was a college student or recent grad and was looking to move into my own place, I’d have been delighted with either of these options (especially since I’d have turned the second bedroom into an office or craft room).  However, being well established in my house, I think I’d find it very hard to squeeze back into such a small floor plan.

But I am going to embark onto an epic purge and get rid of all the stuff I haven’t seen for years, clothes I haven’t worn for years, furniture whose only use is to hold stuff I don’t use… it’s time to lose weight! – haul it to Goodwill, maybe hold a big garage sale, or throw stuff on ebay and see what happens.  Maybe I can purge my life and grow my wallet a tad?

Also, if anyone wants a very small house designed for them… 😉