Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Back in January, when I announced that I was finally going to put the neverending-saga-that-is-finishing-my-first-draft out of its misery by the end of the year, I also promised to provide regular updates here on Challenging the Gnome to keep myself honest.
Well my fellow Gnome Slayers, we are now at the end of March, and I am nothing if not honest. So here's how it goes thus far:
Soon after my announcement, I fired one of my three main characters. Yep, that's right. I cut her loose, just like that. Then about a day later . . . I hired her back. But only on the condition that she step up and start being interesting, gosh darnit, because that is her job as the heroine and moral center of the story. Around this time, I was lamenting to Janiel about my frustration with this particular character. She pointed out that said character isn't boring, she's the lone straight man in a cast of nutjobs. And perhaps maybe, I was being a little too critical of her. Me? The perfectionist? Critical?!? No!
At the beginning of the year, I had roughly 45K written. Now I have roughly . . . 50K. I know. 5000 words over 3 months is pretty pathetic. But the difference this time is rather than getting stuck in that Dark Pit of Despair and Frustration, where I'm convinced I'll never, ever finish and I'm not a writer and I'm a failure and it was stupid to ever try in the first place (and that all sounds very silly when I see it written out like that), now it's more like, life happens. You get bored. You get busy. You need a break sometimes. But I'll get back to the book, because I know I'll start missing the story if I stay away from it long enough.
Final thoughts: I'm still slow. Maybe a little lazy. But still marching ahead, at my own leisurely pace. Never fear - I'm still planning to git 'er done.
Thus ends Quarterly Report the First.
Monday, March 28, 2011
"But Maegan," you say, "why is zumba a Gnome? It's fun! It burns calories! It's Latin-based!"
Well, because I've always been coordinationally-challenged. I like exercise, but just the repetitive stuff: treadmill, stationary bike, the elliptical if I'm feeling wild and crazy. Anything that requires the upper half of my body to communicate with my lower half, that calls for my legs to move in sync while my arms do something totally different - that's a whole new bag of snitches.
But you know what? Once I stopped worrying about me and how silly I looked (luckily the studio was mirror-less), it was fun! The important thing is to just keep moving, kind of like if you're in a choir and you lose your place so you start singing "watermelon" instead. It doesn't hurt to have an instructor like Jan, either: always smiling and exclaiming how good we were doing even as we tried to swing our hips, pop our shoulders and twirl our wrists all at once. To steal a quote from Janiel, she ought to be bottled and sold.
So, I can't shimmy quite as well as Jan does. Nor is my writing as pretty as Maggie Stiefvater's or Robin McKinley's. But it's all good, because it will be someday, hopefully. As long as I keep trying, keep moving, even if I have to sing "watermelon" sometimes (or is that way too many metaphors to cram into one sentence?).
Friday, March 25, 2011
Yeah. Darkspume. Gnome of Despair (who plays the bagpipes of Dooooooom). He's my personal gnome. I spend my life trying to slay him. Maegan's got Fangxiety. Russo's got BadKarma (dudette REALLY has bad karma, bless her). I've got Darkspume.
Self-doubt (which I believe is one place from which despair comes) is a bugger. It creeps in, sometimes silently, sometimes screaming and screeching its bagpipes so loudly you can't hear yourself think, and you freeze up, completely unable to produce.
I've spent the last three months like that with my book. Stupid little Scottish gnome keeps whispering in my ear "Ye're goin' to fail, lassie. Look at that weak plot. Look at your wee protagonist; couldn't lift a haggis and throw it if her life depended on it. And yer pacing? Sorry. Fell asleep. Wha' were we talkin' abou'?"
And then I realized something: A) I am not a goddess. I'm just a regular person. I don't have to be perfect and it's okay for me to make mistakes. If my book is great, WOOHOO! But if not, WOOHOO! I WROTE A WHOLE BOOK ALL BY MYSELF.
2) It ain't all about me. No seriously. It ain't. I know. Shocking. But it really isn't. ain't. I noticed that when I'm freaking out and feeling all despair-y and lack of self-esteem-y, that the main person I'm focusing on is . . . me. Whereas, the minute I take my focus off of me and think about my reader, my husband, my children, my friends, voilá! Scary despairy feelings magically disappear.
To put a finer point on it: when I perform--whether it's singing or acting--if I panic over my mistakes, or worry I won't do well enough, my audience feels it and starts getting nervous for me. Then we're ALL stressed-out, and can't pull out of it. (I have a story to tell you about this. Next time.)
However, if I totally remember that I am up there for them, that I am not performing so my audience can look at me and say: "O Great Goddess Janiel, Queen of the Chords and Tremulous Warblings. We are Unworthy! You are a Marvel!"--but rather to bring happiness, or relief, or diversion to them, that's when despair and self-doubt fly. And my mistakes don't matter. I can joke, and my audience laughs, and we're all friends, and everyone is happy. It's the THEM that matters in all that I do. And that's what makes Darkspume pack up his sad, worn out little bagpipes and leave.
So, stomp your feet, little Darkspume-y man. I ain't listening. I'm going to go have fun with my friends, and not worry about a thing.
Just like John Legend. This is for you, my peeps--
Monday, March 21, 2011
Was it Michaelangelo who said that when he sculpted from marble, the finished statue was already there, he just had to remove the superfluous pieces? I think it's the same with writing. Stephen King described stories as "found things." (Not that I'm comparing myself to Stephen King. Or Michaelangelo.) The story is there, somewhere. We, the writers, just have to find it, catch it, and then write it down; chip away all that extra marble, as it were. (Chipping marble is hard work, by the way. Maybe that's why it's taking me so long to write my book.)
Every now and then, I hear voices: sentence snippets, a character talking. But when that happens, it's like it didn't even come from my own brain, more like someone else put it there. It's pretty weird and a little freaky, in a good way. This doesn't mean writing is a passive process. No story would ever get done if it were. When I do get those rare flashes of brilliant inspiration (which I don't take credit for, since they don't come from my own brain), I think maybe that's the story nudging me along, reminding me that it's still alive.
But those long, desert stretches in between - that's all me, baby. For better or worse, that's me doing my darndest to chip away the marble and write down what I find underneath. Because as Jack London so wisely and brutally pointed out, "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
Not that I'm comparing myself to Jack London.
Friday, March 18, 2011
A commenter on the interview post said, Omigosh! She must be completely delusional to think her characters can come to life and tell her what to do, the woman is crazy!
I realized that when I read what Ms. Meyer had said, I hadn't thought a thing of it. It made perfect sense to me that the author's creation seemed to have a mind, a voice, opinion, and direction of it's own. Whereas to someone else--maybe someone who has never written or created--that just sounds coo-coo for coco-puffs.
But I know it is true. Whenever I create anything, I can tell when it wants to go in a certain direction. With the jewelry I make, for example, I will have a specific design in my head. About eighty percent of the time what I end up with has the elements I started with, but has gone somewhere different. I get the same thing when I'm writing--the story or article comes to life--sometimes to the point that I have to rein it in a bit.
I think that when we create, we create something with real force and energy--not to the point that our creations are alive, like Edward physically walking in and telling Stephenie Meyer how to end her story. But something does happen. And I think we have a responsibility to make sure what we are doing with that force is true to it, and true to us. And hopefully, true to our audience as well.
The next time you get deeply involved in creating, take a moment to see if you don't feel what I'm talking about: something nudging you in a specific direction. And then see what happens if you follow it; release yourself to it. Bet you end up with something fabulous.
Just don't go all Pygmalion on it. Have you heard of him? He's a character in Greek mythology (upon which George Bernard Shaw based a play that was later turned into the musical My Fair Lady). Pygmalion was a sculptor who had become disenchanted with the local women. So he sculpted a woman of ivory who was so beautiful and realistic that he fell in love with her.
It's probably better if we don't get so caught up in what we are doing that we fall in love with it. I've done that. Usually what happens is I get some objectivity when someone starts snorting at it. Yeah. Fall in love, lose objectivity.
But that's a topic for another post.
So go, my children! Go create, feel, and be free!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Forget Facebook and the iPad. Remember the time that Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio was the shiznit? And the buzz all over VH1 was the tragic end of Kurt Cobain? All right, now you're ready for Russo's diary. *Please note nothing has been changed, I'm typing this as is-
"Peter and Jenn got married on Days of Our Lives. I want a love like they share. I want a nice sweet man like Peter. Nah, I think I want a guy like Stone on General Hospital. He's like, leather-jacket-hottness but Stone dies. Yeah, I'll stick with Peter. I wanna nice sweet guy like Peter."
First off, what the freak. When was I such a ditzy girl? Let's be honest, I have had a few Peter's . And they are remarkable. The kind of love that sticks with you forever because they changed you for the better. I could never bag on the sweet guys in my life.
So, let's talk about the Stone's instead. First, there was the drug dealer who's feet smelled like formeldahyde, (he worked at a mortuary.) Lovely choice-yeah, right.
And then there was the painter who had a badger taxidermy mounted on his kitchen wall. Lemme tell you, there was no way I was going to makeout with him. The dude was hott but not hott enough to own taxidermy and get away with it.
Yep, I seemed to gravate toward men with power. Must be why I am have a mad-crush on Mr. Donald Trump. Hey, don't knock it, the Trump-ster is a divine kisser (in my dreams)
Let's face it, sometimes life doesn't go as we planned. The dreams that you had as a 15 year old shift. And that's okay because what if we have something even better. And I'm not talking about relationships.
The Peter's, Stone's or even Mr. Trump's are fantastic but they aren't what's important. What matters is you. The fantastic future that awaits you because you are taking a chance on your dream.
No matter what life throws at you, don't ever give up on what you want.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Video Courtesy of KSL.com
Friday, March 11, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Okay, so first off, I am not a fan of my hair. Seriously, when wet my hair resembles a poodle on steroids. It's frizzy bad. So, I elect to wear extensions-pays to have a hair stylist as a friend.Today, I tried something new-I decided to wear my hairpiece to the gym. Not smart, at all. I bet you're wondering how I am going to tie this story in with chasing your dream- Just wait. I have to admit my uber embarrassing moment first.
Okay, on a day that is colder than a penguins arm pit, I strolled into the gym and play a wicked game of tennis. Next stop, the sauna where Mr. Hott Stuff tennis instructor sits down across from me. We banter for a minute. I fluff my hair piece, all is good in the hood.
I stroll out to the parking lot- Mr. Hott Stuff is glancing at me on a treadmill. I wave (stupid, I know, but who said I'm couth) I feel a cool breeze on my head. My hair piece has fallen from my tight bun and on to the concrete. The ball of hair is lying on the ground, like a dead animal
By this time, Mr. Hott Stuff is doubling over with laughter. No joke, he has to stop working out on the treadmill because tears are rolling down his cheeks
I glance down once again at the hair piece and curse. I have two choices.
Number One- keep walking. Pretend like the hair piece really isn't mine. In doing so, keep the phone number of the Mr. Hott Stuff with dimples.
Number Two-bend down and pick up the hair piece. Thus admitting that I am imperfect and in need of fake hair. Which Mr. Hott Stuff, so can't deal with.
I stare at the guys abs, knowing full and well, a guy who looks like Conan the Barbarian is rare but a hair piece is super expensive. So, I sacrificed my pride and bent down to snag the hair piece. Never heard from dude. Nor did I call him.
Lesson learned, fake hair while working out is never good. Neither is trying to accomplish a dream without knowing the industry.
I should have taken the time to research synthetic hair but instead, I just went for it. And the cost was a super hott guy (with probably, a small . . . ego to match his steroid use)
Even so, my lack of research halted my progression. Don't let that happen when chasing a dream or a hottie.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Maybe it's because I grew up in the desert, but when I think green, I think Vermont. The funny thing is, I never thought of the western United States as a desert until I went to Vermont the first time. The sight of those endless, rolling green hills was a bit of a shock for me. (Vermont is known as the "Green Mountain State," but don't even get me started. Living by the Rockies has made me a bit of a mountain snob.) It was an alien world, or the closest I'd been to a rain forest at that point in my life. There's plenty of green out here too, but most of it is man-enabled. Vermont is pure, unadulterated green, the way Mother Nature intended. Unless you're a leaf peeper, then Vermont is red, orange, yellow, gold, brown, and every variation in between. Here's a few other things I think of when I think of Vermont:
1. Horses. Vermont is home to the UVM Morgan Horse Farm, where I did an apprenticeship that involved nothing but living, breathing, eating, and sleeping all things equine for a year.
2. Beauty by Robin McKinley. My favorite book EVER. I read it during my first trip to Vermont when I was twelve. Whenever I think of Beauty's cottage on the edge of the forest, I always picture my relative's summer cabin in Vermont. I've read the book at least half a dozen times since.
3. The Great Valentine's Day Blizzard of '07, oddly enough, the subject of another Challenge of the Month.
4. Maple creamees. "Creamee" does not have the same definition in Vermont as it does out west. Out here, a creamee is kind of like a frozen-yogurt popsicle you buy in boxes of 12 at the grocery store. In Vermont, creamees are what they call soft-serve ice cream. I did not know this until someone explained it to me. Anway, there's an excellent creamee place in Vergennes with like, two hundred flavors. Maybe not that many, but a lot. Maple's the best though.
5. My cousin Jack. He lives in Vermont. He tried to teach me how to play chess once, and he wiped the floor with me. I was 24 at the time. He was 7. I have not tried to play chess since.
Friday, March 4, 2011
I am having a time coming up with something to write about this month. I've never burned my initials into anyone's grass (see Wednesday's post). I've got no money. I'm not even sure what leafy hash is--although I suspect it has something to do with what the Irish make out of their left-over corned-beef.
I am definitely boring.
Green is my favorite color. I should be able to come up with something. Hmmm. Let's see. Peas are green. Nope. Nothing there. Leaves are green. Boring. Bread turns green in my bread box. Nah. Frogs . . . Frogs!
I can remember the look on the man's face the day we walked in and found him sitting behind the large plastic container, his little round glasses perched on his potato-nose, secretive grin on his face. The three hairs on his head waved as he rocked back and forth in his small spring-loaded chair.
We were going to dissect.
Now, understand, I don't DO dissection. I don't do anything to animals, vegetables, or minerals that involves a knife and their innards. I am squeamish. Überly-so. Also ridiculously soft-hearted. I once ran over a mouse--a MOUSE--and cried for half an hour because I'd seen it's upper body in my rear-view mirror waving futilely about before it expired. Like my twelve year-old self was going to be able to have-at a frog.
But then something happened. I don't know if I was influenced by the mystical power of the color Green on that little frog-body, or if the formaldehyde had managed to penetrate my brain. But after forcing myself to cut my frog open, and watching its little ribs pop up to reveal the heart and stomach and other digestive bits, I was fascinated.
"Dude! That was cool! Did you see how that sternum just popped right up there? And look at that! That's the liver. I know! Awesome, right? Yeah, I'll do yours. There, see? Easy. Yours? Sure. You too? I got that. Wait, wait, get in line. I can only do one at a time. Yep. Put your frog right here, annnnnnd, snip-aroonie! Check it out! The awesomeness of nature. Oh yeah." Snip. SnipSnip.
So. I don't know what that was. I did not grow up and become a veterinarian. I don't even own a pet (Maegan forgive me)--although since my children feel that pet-less-ness amounts to child abuse, I am sure I will be acquiring one in the near future.
I guess I had a moment where something riveted me so much, grabbed me so completely by the curiosity-lobes, that I forgot everything else and became totally absorbed. There was no squeamishness, no fear, no anything. Just absolute commitment to what I was doing.
I wonder if I could do that on purpose? (The commitment, not the dissection.) It would sure help my writing. And a whole lot of other things too. Because, dudes. That was one cool class. Maybe it's a matter of just forgetting the fear and diving into the moment. Question is, how the heck did I do that?
Well, to begin with, I took one step. Just one little step. Then everything else followed. One step isn't so bad.
It probably also helped that the frog was green.
(And speaking of green, if y'all want a fabu recipe for Irish Soda Bread, check it out on my personal blog: janielmiller.com. Okay, the bread isn't green . . . )
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
What a vast subject. I could really take the topic of green anywhere. Money, leafy hash. Nah, those are obvious choices. How about we go backward in time to a spot in my life where I was clearly a wreck.
Lets talk about grass and my revenge.
Back story: I had 2 surgeries in a 9 month period. This moment in time was my downfall. I was a depressed, angry lil tart. I had met the hunkiest fireman. This dude's biceps were bigger than my head. We had a torrid relationship. I mean that much passion is bound to make anyone combust.
And boy, did we ever combust. Here's the dirt, I found out hunky fireman was cheating on me. A normal person would've moved on with their life. At the time, I wasn't normal. For the 4 months we dated, I was in the worst pain ever. No joke, I was immobilized. Every day I cried and took lortab. Dark doesn't even describe that time period.
So, upon hearing that the fireman cheated on me, I decided to write my initials on his lawn . . . with gasoline.
I'm sure you know where this is heading. You better believe I struck a match and let the front yard burn. Like I said, I was an angry lil tart.
Nowadays, I am subdued. I have learned to manage the pain-it's always there. An ever-present reminder of where my life can head if I lose track of my goals.
So, you see, dear reader, life isn't always going to go as planned. There will be sorrow beyond that which you can ever imagine. Nonetheless, there will also be an immense amount of joy.
I am on this path all because of the darkest time in my life. If I hadn't gone through the worst pain ever, I wouldn't have this journey of pursuing my dream. I wouldn't know my writer friends. And I most certainly would not know you, our brave readers/friends.
P.S.- Funny enough, Mr. Fireman is now one of my closest friends. He constantly gives me crap about burning down his lawn.
P.P.S-Since we're discussing green this month check out my garden class project. The bud of my Amarlyis is beginning to bloom.