The Bog of Lost Scholars

October 22, 2011

Morning Pages Revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — castiron @ 6:09 pm

Back around 2000, I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and decided to try the exercises she recommended for clearing creative blocks, particularly the morning pages — three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand writing, first thing in the morning.

As far as helping me write went, it was a dismal failure. When I started doing morning pages, I was still writing, just not as much or as easily as I had in the past. After several weeks of morning pages, my writing had dried up almost completely, and it stayed dried up for years; some years, the only writing I managed was 1500 words for a Yuletide Exchange fanfic.

In retrospect, there were two reasons for this.

First was the reason that should have made me veto this practice: early mornings were my only reliable writing time. Instead of getting up and working on my stories for an hour, I got up and wrote morning pages, with the result that I wasn’t doing my real writing at all. By the time I gave up on morning pages, I was out of the habit of working on stories, and after a while I no longer had a regular time for writing.

Second, when you do a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise at a time when a lot of things bother you about your life, those things will tend to show up in the writing. I have occasionally joked that morning pages killed my first marriage; that’s not actually true, but over time the morning pages made it impossible for me to ignore the problems we were having. Awareness of the problems led to more time and energy spent, first on trying to resolve them and later on ending the marriage — which also left less time and energy for writing.

In short, morning pages were a bad idea for me.

So why on earth, you might ask, have I started doing them again?

Because circumstances change. Because I have a pile of blank books I want to actually use. Because this time, I actually wanted to do them. My writing time is in the evening now, so morning pages don’t interfere with that. I’m using them differently now; I’m still writing about random things on my mind, but I’m also using the morning pages to noodle story ideas and to write really stupid stuff that won’t go in the real story. (Surprise — sometimes I look back at it and find that actually, it’s not that stupid and a revised version does belong in the real story.)

And this time, they seem to be working.

Since starting morning pages, I’ve written three stories totalling 33K words. Not a novel, granted, and unpublishable because it’s fanfic, but this is the most writing I’ve completed since 2000.

I don’t know whether this is a temporary upsurge or a long-term change. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to transfer the developing writing habits to original fiction. But I’m delighted to have these characters and scenes coming out of my head and onto the page again.

January 1, 2011

A New Year’s Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — castiron @ 1:31 am

On New Year’s Eve, just before midnight, someone comes to every house.

Maybe it’s an angel, a messenger of God. Maybe it’s a brownie, or another one of the Fair Folk. Maybe it’s the old woman from countless tales who judges the young traveller. Maybe it’s a sentient being arising from radio waves. Maybe it’s the ghost of one of your ancestors — a woman who learned in a hard school and later became its teacher.

Whoever it is, someone comes to every house and inspects.

Under the chests and behind the television. In the drawers and in your hard drives. On the top shelf of the closet and in the bottom drawer of the desk. In that corner of the fridge where leftovers go to die. Over the toilet and in front of the stove.

That shelf in the utilities room that holds carpet left by the house’s previous owners and the eggshells from seventy-two baby lizards. That box in the closet that holds the present you forgot to give to one of your friends. That pile behind the sofa where your missing library book is. Someone looks at all of it.

Now, some people say that the visitor expects a perfect house before they’ll bestow their blessings on the next year. If the past year’s dirt is under the rug, or the past year’s dishes on the counter, or the past year’s laundry mildewing in the washing machine, or the past year’s bills sitting unpaid, then someone will bring you more dirt, more mess, more trouble.

But if someone sees a perfect house, everything in order, everything clean, everything incapable of improvement, why should someone bestow a blessing where it’s clearly not needed?

No, someone isn’t looking for perfection. Someone is looking for good.

The dishes are piled by the sink, but the guests are enjoying food and drink.

The bathroom tiles need scrubbing, but there is a full roll of toilet paper.

The files are full of old papers, but the shelves are full of beloved books.

The checking account is near empty, but it is balanced.

The laundry is piled up, but the baby creating the laundry is being rocked and sung to.

And someone looks at what has been done out of what could be done, and someone smiles, and someone leaves a blessing.

November 6, 2010

Craft Update: Why This Project Gets Buried

Filed under: Uncategorized — castiron @ 6:50 pm

Apropros of yesterday’s post, my projects in process and why they get buried under other projects.

  • Swan Dishcloth. Might actually be done by time this post goes up; this is a dishcloth project I started yesterday and am 80% done on.
  • Bear Rug. Crocheting with two strands of yarn, one that’s fuzzy and makes the fabric hard to see to crochet into, gets boring. My incentive to finish is that it’s a pattern with no photo in Ravelry, and I think my younger son will like it.
  • Regia Monet Mosaic Socks. So far, staying unburied. Pretty yarn, mindless knitting.
  • Al-Araaf Sweater. My tolerance for the p2tbl is low. A couple rows at a time seem to be about what I can handle.
  • Hexaflexagon. Great bus project, but I haven’t ridden the bus lately.
  • Sherwood. I’m not enthused by ribbing, and that’s pretty much what this sweater is — uneven ribbing at that, so I can’t go too mindless.
  • Copper Penny Socks. One pattern row annoys me a bit. It works fast, though, so when it’s on my radar I can get a couple pattern repeats at a sitting.
  • Sydney Spice Socks. Got buried by the Mosaic socks. Plain stockinette, gorgeous colors, over half finished. They just need some time on the front burner to be done.
  • Linen Bag. Takes some attention to keep up with where I am, though now that I’ve done a pattern repeat it’s easier to read my knitting.
  • Japanese Vest. Still figuring out what one pattern stitch is supposed to be. Knitting in one piece rather than back and two fronts, so a row is really long. But I like the yarn, and the pattern’s starting to move along faster.
  • Loud Escher Socks. Five rows of mindless ribbing that’s no big deal to do, followed by one row of cabling that’s tedious.
  • Portland Sweater. Relatively mindless knitting and purling. I’m finding I can get a three-row ridge done easily at a sitting, so it just needs to be on the front burner more often.
  • Annemor #8 Gloves. I hate stranded glove fingers. When I’m actually working on them and in the rythym, they move along well, but the coefficient of static friction is through the roof. Also, I made one of the fingers too narrow, so I’ll have to rip and redo.
  • Shall We Dance Doily. #30 cotton that twists on itself. Doily is nifty, and I’ll love it when it’s done; process is aggravating.
  • Medallion Travel Bag. Nifty but complicated. Not a mindless project.
  • Spot Check Socks. I don’t know why I’m finding these so tedious. But they’re past the halfway point, at least.
  • Arietta. Love the colors, enjoying the pattern; not sure why this one keeps getting buried now that it’s on the good part.
  • Oblique. Not getting buried too much. It’s 75% done, and if all goes well I’ll have it done to wear sometime this winter.
  • Heere Be Dragone. Complicated, and takes 20 minutes to knit a row. Gorgeous yarn and fascinating pattern, but not a speedy project.
  • Flutter Cardigan. I’m still debating whether to rip out the body and start over with fewer stitches. It’s huge, but it’s hard to tell whether that’s because I’m stretching the pattern too much or because it’s genuinely huge.
  • Microsock. Perle cotton on 6-0 needles. I’ll probably never use them again once this ornament’s done, but until then, it’s nifty.
  • Neon Turkish Sweater. When I work on it, it’s fun, but the prospect of several hundred ends to weave in is daunting.
  • Aran sweater. A self-designed project; I stall on it because I’m not sure what to do next.
  • Fair Isle Swatch Cap. The fact that this project hasn’t been thrown out is testimony to my determination, given that it got eaten by moths once. I do a row every couple months, and in time it’ll be done.
  • Cross-stitch pieces (pentacle, Fantasy Sampler, Ruby, dance apron, Flanders map). When I’ve only got a couple minutes, it’s easier to pick up a sock and knit than to pick up the cross-stitch, adjust the fabric tension, pull the thread color needed, start the thread, check where I am, park the thread and needle where it won’t rust on the fabric….
  • Weaving: I’ve got a warp that’s been ready to go on the loom for months; I haven’t had a solid block of time to put it on the loom. (Once it’s on the loom, the weaving will go fast; it’s just getting it there.)
  • Sewing: We’re not going to even think about it. If I can make progress on the yarny stuff, I’ll be satisfied.

November 7, 2009

Movie Watching: Kuch Na Kaho

Filed under: Uncategorized — castiron @ 1:12 am

In Kuch Na Kaho, Raj, who’s returned to India to attend his cousin’s engagement and wedding ceremonies, meets Namrata, an employee of his uncle. Trying to foil his uncle’s attempts to set him up with a nice young woman, Raj ends up falling in love with Namrata — and then he discovers her history.

It’s a very enjoyable movie, and the last hour was especially gripping. If I hadn’t read the description on the box, I wouldn’t have any idea how it was going to end (and even having read the description, I thought “did the blurber actually watch this movie?” until the very end).

Two particular things that struck me about it:

The comic relief Sikh couple were funny but made me a little uncomfortable; it reminded me too much of American films I’ve seen where the minority character does dumb things for comic relief. I haven’t seen nearly enough Indian film to judge whether this is a regional stereotype or whether it’s just that the comic relief happens to be from this culture and I’m projecting my own cultural issues.

By the time the climactic scene rolled around, I was expecting at least a fist fight between the men involved, and in an American film, that’s probably how it would’ve been resolved. Not here; the resolution comes from a dramatic impassioned speech made by the heroine. That caught my attention and made me realize how accustomed I am to the former.

Overall verdict: well worth watching.

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