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Is it Monday again? It seems as though a great deal of time has passed. For one thing, you may have noticed the format has changed somewhat in the last week. Today we bid farewell to ‘Manic Monday’, ushering in a new future for the beginning of your week. Stay tuned! But today, the topic is change, primarily that of scenery.
There are many kinds of change, but one of the most dramatic is a change of location. We, as human beings, have an evolutionary imperative to associate shelter and the home front with security and comfort. As even a migrating tribe would build camp during pauses in exodus, today we exhibit similar habits and traditions on a modern day scale. People tell you, “Home is where the heart is.” I suppose that means the first thing you have to find is your heart. If you are a writer, your heart may be in your work. It follows logically that home is actually where you feel safest to write.
If your heart is in your writing, then home is anywhere your computer (or other writing tool) is. What surrounds and lies beyond your computer is the other story. Beyond the desk and the chair and the temperature of the room, what defines the comfort and security of the home for your heart, for your craft? And what of the writer who never writes in the same room, or has no room at all? Every person, and so every writer, draws their peace from a different source or combination of sources.
Most of us are taught and socialized to accept that home is where you pay your rent, wash your own dishes, and keep your own shoes next to the door. There is a reason we use a general term like ‘homeless’ to describe anyone who does not live inside. A simple Pinterest search proves that many writers swear by the importance of a well-designed writing space. If it takes a collection of colors, angles, and textures brought together in specific syncopation to maintain the stability needed to write, then change of scenery is only rendered irrelevant when that small corner of one’s environment is reclaimed and set back into stone. Every new apartment, house, or otherwise has potential. After all, what are walls and floors and ceilings except another blank page? But the life one lives with pre=printed address labels is not always freedom — for many others, it is prison.
Consider the life of a traveling writer. From whence does a wandering scribe draw harmony? For a traveling writer, the bread and butter is the constant change of one’s scenery, and the adventures that develop as a result. Surely, a different constant tethers a traveler to the center of their own sense of zen. When every hotel room, foreign hostel, camp tent, and blanket beneath the stars must serve as home one day at a time, how does one collect from fountain of stability? Yours truly believes it is the glorious lack of tomorrow’s itinerary that drives a wandering salmon upstream. If upon the rise of every sun the same day lies before you, how then can you paint the picture of a different possibility? Similarly, it is a brave soul that writes only from experience, and it is upon the winding road of adventure that one lives more than the one life each of us is guaranteed.
What role does scenery, characterized here as where one might call ‘home’, shape your writing and your identity as a writer? Is there a part of you that hungers for the traveler’s life, or do you seek the homestead? It is arguable that one can write most clearly from what one has truly experienced — do you agree, or can the talented artist work from fresh, unblemished clay?
The June contest marches on with its chosen theme, Lost & Found. Follow the link to play along, or to support your fellows. In addition to writing games hosted throughout the month, you are also invited to attend a Google Hangouts session on June 14th, an official Flamestorming meet-up for any and all to attend!
“Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth.”
“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”
“My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”
“Sometimes I can't figure designers out. It's as if they flunked human anatomy.”
“All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.”
Did everyone sign up for June? If not, we welcome and encourage you to follow the action, read, vote, and support your community mates! Remember, growth is sponsored by encouragement and feedback. At the Flame, we burn brightest together.
I’ve always been a writer in my heart. Since I was old enough to translate my thoughts into written words, I was telling stories. I’ve also always been an insufferable extrovert, despite all odds, so the storytelling didn’t stop at pen and paper. Growing up, I turned to every outlet possible to let it all out. At my best, I was joining clubs and taking part in activities. At my worst, I was making up tall tales and lying because I wanted something new to say. Kids, right?
As an adult, I’m still exploring. The next thing I really want to try is vlogging. For those of you who don’t spend your entire lives glued to your cell phones and computers, vlogging is a short term for “video blogging”. YouTube is crawling with talented vloggers with genuinely wonderful, funny, or insightful things to say. With enough searching, anyone can find their vlogger soul mate. In fact, I suggest you go try that. Anyway, I really want to try it. I’m always being told I have something to say. People have told me to do stand up comedy or public speaking or just basically anything that involves voicing my opinions or experiences to an audience. I don’t disagree, I think I’d probably be great at it.
So that’s my next journey — lights, camera, YouTube. But what to to vlog? Well, literally anything. I’m ridiculous enough, I could talk about anything. Food, makeup (fails, I’m amateur as heck), pets, single life (in the sense of being unmarried and on my own), feminism/humanism, city life, cycling, economics… That’s the thing about being a writer. We don’t even have to be ourselves all the time. We can be whomever we need to be, just to have something new to say.
How do you, as a writer, transform? How do you channel what you can already do, into something new you haven’t done yet? Do you find art is fluid, or can trying something new be difficult? Alternately, do you have a favorite vlogger to turn us onto?
For example -
When leaving a job interview the other day, I found myself in the elevator lobby with a young man wearing a backpack sporting the company logo. He was also sipping from a large plastic cup with the logo and holding a paper gift bag in company colors with the three letter acronym emblazoned on the side. I’m not one for small talk, but I’d just left a very chatty meeting I was nervous about. Before I’d really considered my no talking to strangers Suburb Girl rule, my mouth started up and I found myself awkwardly saying,
“Soooo you got all the swag…”
Young man sips something like lemonade, then looks up at me with a question in his eyebrow. I sort of flap my hand around to draw a vague circle around his logo-ed stuff. He shifts his shoulder to look at his backpack in the elevator door reflection.
“I’m leaving the company,” he says. “Today is my last day.”
“Was the backpack not big enough?” I ask with a silly smirk.
Quite obviously, it was a joke. Yet he seemed annoyed like I was prying and explained, “I found a better position.”
Good morning! For those of us in the States, today is observed as Memorial Day, a 24-hour block once a year that we are meant to pause and show respect and gratitude for the men and women who have served our country's military. Understandably, not all people have clear feelings about military service, so today's chatter is not about service in general. It's about the difficulty of grasping something one has not experienced.
Appropriately, this month's theme is reality, and the question of its nature. Because every perception of reality is different, it is a dangerously fluid concept. The good news about that is, one hundred people could write about the same subject and we'd get one hundred very unique glimpses into the world. Some would even be so far a deviation from our own understanding that we may be forced to question our own perceptions altogether. I open up with the topic of military service simply because, even though I was raised by ex-military parents, I have never served and I know myself well enough to say I never will. It isn't a lack of patriotism, it's more a matter of knowing exactly how capable one's self is of accomplishing certain tasks. I was not built for service, so I know confidently that I will never serve. Because of that, I will never have the hands-on experience needed to truly understand what it means to be a soldier.
For me, not being able to experience something does not always mean I can't or won't write about it. Surely those of us who've written science fiction do not expect readers to believe we've flown in starships or had tea with alien life. I write about werewolves. I don't expect you to believe I've met any. But that's the double edge on imagination, isn't it? With the one blade, one can imagine into existence any and every world and situation possible. Yet, we turn the blade over and discover the opposite edge is a bit duller than we'd hoped, and we know it is from lack of use and care. The imagination can take us many places, but there are some experiences (like those of enlistment, as exampled above) that cannot be replicated without having lived it, or without a very intense course of research.
How do you approach topics you know you do not fully understand? How are you able to lend reality to a life you've never lived?
Remember to delve into your own answers to the question, What Is Reality?
Good weekend, all? I hope so. I spent part of my Sunday sprinting on Google Hangouts with Tami, Cedar, and Kathy. This month’s contest will play host to a few different sprint events for those of you who need the exercise, or just thrive on prompt writing. Conveniently enough, it’s prompt writing I’d like to discuss.
Here at the Flame, we’re more than familiar with the idea of prompts and topics. We literally live off of them. Over the years, we’ve seen the gamut of prompt possibilities, ranging from open-ended one word prompts like “fire” and “fate”, to the challenge to begin all entries with a particular phrase. The Mod Hydra continues to strive to deliver the best variety we can provide, aiming to target each and every member of our diverse writing family.
I, personally, am easily prompted. I’ve learned this about myself over my years here at the Flame, both as a player and an administrator. The first prompt for which I ever wrote was “reap” back in 2009. My first mini-contest was a personalized four-part prompt provided to me by random selection: “cattle prod, dungeon, deus ex machina, written as a mystery”. It is worth noting that we also had a limit of 3k words, that mine reached 2,998, and I chose to be complete buffoon and add “the end”. I won. ;-) And my favorite “begin your entry with this sentence” prompt? “There it goes…” I didn’t win, but the entries were so diverse, it truly proved the myriad potential of even the most specific prompt.
I think the prompts to which we respond well say a lot about us as writers. Those of us who respond best to one word at a time need freedom and room to move. Those of us who thrive on selective challenges like the aforementioned mini-contest are thirsty for challenge and creative adversity. Those of us who can pull something from nothing regardless of topic? Well, I guess we’re just the floozies of the writing c0mmunity.
By what brand of prompt are you most easily inspired? Do you need to roam wild, unbound by bullet points and specifics, or do you need to be pushed to find a way to put a square peg through a round hole? What sort of insight to gain into yourself, as a writer, when you consider this question?
Click here to learn more about May’s prompt, and refer to paragraph one for links to information on sprints and more about Google+ Hangouts, a free service for all GMail users.
Good morning! Did everyone enjoy the sprint this weekend? I was otherwise engaged, unfortunately, but I am looking forward to being able to participate in another. So, let’s talk about sprints.
Where I come from (NaNoWriMo Land), a sprint is a pre-arranged span of time during which a group of writers joins to write furiously until the clock runs out, and then they compare notes and horror stories about word choice and panics over whether to use a colon or a semi-colon and really who even knows? Sprints can be hell. Really, they’re probably one of the Seven Circles. You’re just always caught in a sprint with no access to a Thesaurus so you just stare blankly at one sentence for the rest of eternity. Ouch.
I have a love/hate relationship with writing sprints. On the one hand, it’s easy enough to use a quick fifteen-minute window to test out a scene you’ve had churning in your head. On the other hand, if you’ve come unprepared, it becomes a uniquely trivial pursuit. I’ve found myself, on more than one occasion, filling the remaining time by very literally typing whatever comes into my head. The end result is typically terrifying and completely off-topic. I come into the sprint writing about soldiers in a foxhole and by the end they’ve adopted a gorilla and they’re bickering over whether to dress it in “people clothes”. It harkens me back to the days when my classmates would occupy the middle portions of ten-page essay reports by copying and pasting song lyrics and famous speeches into the body of the paper just to fill space. Their theory was, “The teacher doesn’t read them all the way through anyway.” I never tried that. I preferred borderline delirious rambling.
Are you a natural sprinter, or do your prefer the low-pressure marathon?
The May contest is a unique departure from our familiar form, and can be perused here for those of you who need reminding, or who would like to watch the fun.
The current sprint is up and accessible — come play!
This month, we plunge deep into the concept of reality, and what it means to each of us. So many factors in an individual can influence their perception of reality. We know this much to be true, but how much of it do we truly understand? A notorious BLUE AND BLACK dress (dang it) recently tore the internet to shreds, proving rather frustratingly that a literal reality can be influenced by light, angle, and the actual shape of one’s eye. If something literal and physical can be so fluid, can potential does the figurative hold?
The concept of reality actually haunts me. I don’t know if it’s mental illness or disability or if it’s just me, but there are frequent moments in which I question whether I am on the same page as the rest of the world. This month, I will be using these jarring experiences to create my vision of the prompt. I will parlay my phantoms into something I feel safe to share with others, and hopefully it will be relatable enough to quell my concerns that I am alone. (Now imagine how silly I’m gonna look if I don’t finish?)
In one thing, I know I am not alone. I am joined by hundreds of thousands of other writers who must wonder, at least on occasion, if a mental defect or simple difference is what makes them what they are, as an artist. The track record for mental illness is impressive through the ages of famous artists. We don’t all cut off our ears, but that doesn’t mean we’re hiding our demons as well as we think we are. Mental and spiritual disturbance shape our realities, and our realities shape our work. Unfortunately, there is no escaping this.
Even if you consider yourself completely mentally sound, how do you think the opposite affects talent? Would you argue that mental disease, defect, or glitch enhances the creative edge, or hinders it? Can there be brilliance without madness?
Keep an eye out for the Epilogue reading list, and click here to learn more about the May prompt!
First thing’s first, Week Three is underway! Draw us toward your epic conclusion in ACT III.
April’s collection of poetry is still growing. Check it out here.
I consider myself a gifted writer. I have to, or I’d never share anything with anyone and you’d be reading a Chatter hosted by some other weirdo with a silly nickname. I like to think my strong point is short fiction, but I’m working on novel projects, so I’m hoping to hone that skill. I specify “fiction” because I’m not a non-fiction writer. I mean, I can write about myself in the sense of a blog entry, but to write a true memoir? I don’t know. I think my tendency toward makin’ stuff up would interfere at some point, such that the lines between fact and fairy tale would blur pretty dishonestly. My mother tells me it’s because we’re Irish. “We’re just full of blarney. We really can’t help it.”
So, alright then. I’m full of blarney. You’d think a person so full of blarney could put a talent like that to good use whenever the fancy strikes. After all, isn’t it the same drill, just applied to different subject matters or goals? Let me stop beating around the bush. See, there’s a new position open in my office and I’m trying t0 go for it. The application process requires a cover letter, and so I set about writing one. I didn’t even manage the first paragraph before I realized I was only spinning bull-spit and just barely representing myself truthfully. So, I tried again. On the second draft, there were more hard facts, but entirely too many superfluous words (kind of like the word superfluous, am I right?), and a lot of flowery language. It didn’t take me long to get frustrated.
Dry, straightforward reality just doesn’t appeal to me. It never has, and maybe that’s why I’m a writer. “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” Why? Because my version of events is far more colorful and interesting. Problem is, no prospective employer is going to use my walking-talking-human-Thesaurus skills to evaluate my eligibility for a desk job that requires, at best, only the ability to use spell check. Alas… the artist sabotages herself by doing the only thing she knows she’s good at.
Does your talent or style as a writer ever bleed into other parts of your life, with unwanted consequences? Does a tendency toward verboseness ever muddy the waters when all you need is to be blunt? Are they little inconveniences like an overly poetic cover letter, or truly disruptive complications?
Welcome to Week Three, my budding playwrights! Remember, April is a themed month, so if you need help understanding the goal, visit this link to read the preamble I presented before the prompt for Week One. We can also address questions in the comments, if you need a little clarification. To put it basically, we are dividing up the four weeks of April into four parts of a “play” (the entries do not have to be plays): ACT I, ACT II, ACT III, and Epilogue. Visit the aforementioned link for specifics!
Week Three: ACT III – “The Devil can cite scripture for his purpose.”
I should like to think I have not yet reached the third act of my life, but that I should be prepared for the idea that it is nearer than I anticipate. Time passes so quickly, and what seems suspended in poetic action today may come to swift and dramatic conclusion tomorrow. I hope the opening act and rising (but perhaps not thrilling) action of my life will lead to great purpose. The worst and most volatile part of standing upon the brink of my own unfolding destiny is having no clairvoyance for the details of its unfolding. So many dangerous and enticing traps lay before me, baited with whistles and siren songs. That I may be unable to resist sends a delightful tremble of terror up my spine. By what deceptions shall I be seduced? How will the lessons I learned in the Spring of my life armor me in the Fall? The blackened, blurry future is the proof that the trials we have faced until now have not been for empty value. It is by the scars of a life thus far that we can endure the new lashes of a life still to come. Or, is it bright unknown that softens us anew and keeps us blind, despite our journeys through the undergrounds of adversity and toil?
The tradition of act three is to move down through the falling action and arrive at the conclusion. I challenge you to imply the end is near, but hold me waiting another week to know for sure. Are you already a master of cliffhangers? Ensnare us so cruelly that our comments are devoted to begging for Week Four spoilers. The end draws nigh!
Remember that entries are meant to complement one another as a series, and that the concepts of “Act III” and the Shakespearean quote provided are for inspiration and do not necessarily represent a requirement for content or word use.
The poll is below. Week Three closes at 2345EDT on Sunday, April 26th (my birthday!) -- make me proud!