A Creativity Ritual

I need something to slap my imagination into working.

Life has been pretty staid lately. I’ve already complained about it — the lack of scenery, the lack of creative forces, etc. Time to not complain.

When my editing is over (at least on the current novel, which is three out of four), it’s time to spend some time in creative freefall.

This will involve some sort of ritual — A bubble bath, some rose-scented spray, a candle burning, some fresh paper and fountain pens. Free writing, possibly based on one of the novel ideas (pun intended) I have sitting in a drawer that I haven’t felt passionate about). Possibly based on short story ideas.

I need to do something besides edit, I think. Although I have another novel that needs a rewrite. Maybe I should go there. But I am so, so bored of editing that I think I need a recharge.

But First, Coffee

My summer class (the one I’m taking) hasn’t started yet, and the summer class (the one I’m teaching) is chugging along, so I have time to revise. I’m still working on Apocalypse, and it’s not been very systematic, because I’m almost to the end and I’m thinking of what I should have done Back There. I figure I will finish and go back, making for a long process.

But first, coffee.

Our local coffeehouse (Oh, how I miss the Game Cafe!) delivered two pounds of Oddly Correct’s “Meat and Potatoes”, which is a solid yet somewhat esoteric brew. I have a cup right now, and it’s a blessing during quarantine when we’ve run out of our roasting beans for a few days.

So I will work today, caffeinated, hoping my inspirations will catch hold and I can make Apocalypse even better than it was. 

Really fluffy towels

This is the Grotto (spa) at The Elms in Excelsior Springs, MO.
I wish I was there right now.

Editing Apocalypse (for the fortieth time) is a real bear.

One moment I think it’s looking good, the next I know I’m feeling discouraged. I feel I have it all together, and then I think it’s missing something. I forget I’m reading for character and start changing grammar in sentences.

It’s a frustrating time.

I think it may be time to go on to something else. I need to make a poster of my latest research for an online convention poster session. Great idea, I think. My mind is tired of six hours of reading a day. Of course, it will take me at least six hours to do this poster, so …

Sigh. I need to take a break. One that involves a spa and really fluffy towels. 

A Slap

So these last few weeks have been a great growth time for my writing. I have revised two out of my four novels (Whose Hearts are Mountains and Prodigies) to give more of a development of character at the beginning instead of barreling into the plot immediately. I am working on a third, Apocalypse for the same, and the fourth, Gaia’s Hands, is going to require a lot of work, especially now that I know it’s a romance novel. 

And I would never have known to do this without rejections from agents sending me to developmental editors and beta readers and books about writing. I haven’t been revising just to pay my dues; I really feel like I have a better product because of it. 

My mother once told me it took two people to paint a picture: the artist and the person who slaps the artist when they’re done. At this point, I feel like I need a slap. I need someone to read something and tell me if I’m done. 

And then, in my next set of queries, what if I don’t get accepted by an agent? What’s next? I have really no idea to be honest. I suspect it will feel like a slap in the face.

Wishing for a Thunderstorm

I was hoping for a thunderstorm today.

I love thunderstorms, with their gushing rain and big booming thunder. If I weren’t so aware of my mortality, I would stand in the thunderstorm and scream with the lightning.

Thunderstorms are cathartic, clearing the air of heat and dust, clearing my mind of stagnation. Changing the topic from waiting to doing. 

The color of the dewy grass after the storm cheers my heart. It makes me feel like rebirth is possible.

I will have to wait till tomorrow, apparently, and even then the forecast might be gentle rain or misty drizzle. I’ll accept those, even knowing I will miss the more dramatic storm.

Heaven and a Cup of Coffee

“I feel like I’ve died and gone to Heaven.”

I thought about the phrase this morning while drinking the best cup of coffee my husband’s ever made, and I wondered what that would actually be like. I know that different people’s notions of heaven differ, but many of them seem to look like life on Earth except, maybe, with less material goods, more leisure, and more happiness*.

If this is Heaven, I can’t help but think I will have feelings other than joy and a deep contentment. I’ll have left all these people I know and a life I’ve stated as “pretty darn good”. Won’t I mourn my lost life? Won’t that perfect cup of coffee make a poignant reminder of my mornings on Earth? 

Wouldn’t I get tired of my perfect coffee every day? Part of what I love about our coffee in the morning is the fact that my husband and I order the varieties we want to try, Richard (husband) roasts the beans, and we critique the resulting brew. Wouldn’t we lose something if the coffee wasn’t of our production? 

So I think of Heaven, and I worry a bit. Because if Heaven is that perfect cup of coffee, I’m afraid I would be bored before long.


* Less materialism seems to be a predictor of happiness on Earth as well, so there might be something to this vision.

**My notion of Heaven is that I will become a traveling soul with consciousness that can zip across Heaven and Earth at the speed of a thought. As I travel,  I will quickly lose more and more memory of the material of Earth, and I will only be a force for good.

A Pretty Good Life

So today is my one day of summer break. My online class (the one I’m taking) starts tomorrow while the internship I’m teaching starts Tuesday. But those classes will still give me plenty of time for writing because I’m stuck here anyhow. 

So what am I doing for summer break? Baking some bread. Editing some writing. Making my own personal recipe of thousand-year-sauce chicken. Planting some lamb’s ear and garlic chives. Drinking more coffee. Petting the cats. In other words, business as usual because, frankly, I have a pretty good life.

Girlie-Girl working hard on a Sunday.

Richard is making more coffee while I type this. The cats are lounging in various areas of the house. Eric Satie’s Gnossiene No. 2 is playing on the stereo. It’s chilly outside, but it will warm up by the time I’m ready to plant new plants. 

There’s a new, beat-up spider plant in the window. I’m going to try to give it a good life, too. I mean it’s really beat up to the point where I think I need to remove most of the biggest leaves. But it will survive and so will we. 

Daydreaming a Summer Break

Sorry to keep you all waiting, but I had to finish grading final exams for my last class. I’m officially done with my semester, which if you read yesterday’s post, doesn’t feel like an ending at all. I’m wondering if going tent camping in my backyard would feel like a vacation. At my age, it would probably feel like torture.

Honestly, if I could afford a travel trailer, I’d park it out at the nearby park for the summer just to feel like I’d gotten away from people. I like that idea — it would make a perfect writing retreat. Home away from home, and even wifi (not excellent wifi, but passable). 

A cabin out in the woods would be nice. If it had wifi. I need to have my internet to monitor students and the like. 

I’m just not ready to break the shelter-in-place and be in space with lots of people. I’m certainly not going to take the face mask off the few times I’m anywhere near people. 

It just doesn’t feel like summer without my little writing retreat.

The Seasonless Year under COVID-19

I can’t tell what season it is.

In academia, we have a defined year with three seasons. It starts in fall with the first day of classes, and fall semester ends with Christmas. In January, the spring semester rolls around, and it’s of slightly different character than fall semester, lacking the tinsel and greens of December and adding the bacchanalia of Spring Break. The school year ends at the beginning of May, and even though I supervise internships and take an online course for my Disaster Mental Health certification, the change in routines — no faculty meetings, flexible schedule, time to take a vacation — marks that a season has passed. Until the end of summer, when we start preparing our classes for the school year.

I have no such thing this year.

We started online classes in March, which made the school year feel like an endless prep period, typing on our computers and missing the face-to-face interaction. I’m answering emails from students at 9 PM and at 5 AM, so I feel like I’m always working. We’re going from that to summer — but the freedom of travel has evaporated with COVID-19’s sequestering.  So I’ll spend the summer working with my interns online using Zoom, and the flexibility of my time will not matter. Days are melting into a sameness, and that sameness is work without any defined boundaries. 

I admit that I’m getting a decent amount of writing done because I have to do something with the time I’m not working on student stuff. And I’m grateful that I can shelter in place, as my age and weight makes me at risk for a more severe infection. But I find my rejoicing at summer terribly muted, because there is no summer. I wonder when there will be a summer again.

A reading that seems to corroborate my current feelings: