Writing Rituals and Totems

One thing I noticed during my time spent in and out of the NaNo forums was a few threads talking about writing rituals and writing totems. Now usually when I write, its in my favorite black chair with Smudge, the black Macbook, perched atop a laptop cart while my feet rest on a soft square meditation chair. I've surrounded myself with a few post-it notes stuck to the writing board regarding a few miscellaneous game ideas. A stack of books sit in the table portion of the tray waiting for me to read or grab one to search for a spark of inspiration. When I am at home, my hipsterPDA also sits up on that shelf, with a trusty pen so I can capture thoughts about my projects or other To-Dos that hit me at the random moments. This setting feeds the ritual that is my writing life.

Loosening the Grip

First off, I wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends out there in the USA. Here's hoping you count your blessings and give thanks for all the wonderful things that have happened to you over the past year.

I finished NaNoWriMo 2006 with 50037 words and 11 days to spare. On schedule and before Thanksgiving. Huzzah! Go Team NaNo. However I noticed something interesting happening in my writing style this year. And it distresses me a bit. My writing has gotten much more rigid and focused. I try and keep a certain pace, making sure I hit every "plot" point in my outline or... create a new point that sounds and works better than the old. Unlike past years where I had an idea for a story and a start and an end in mind and then tried to meander through some world to tie the two ends together so they became a novel.

Review : Wabi Sabi for Writers

I was at one of my favorite book stores which also catered to the new age crowd a week ago. My friend, corie was in town and wanted me to drag her to all the hot-spots in Portland. She's also a book freak and she must have purchased about 10 books on a shoe string budget during her stay here. We wandered in and out of the aisles looking at all the books, and knick-knacks when my eyes ran across Wabi Sabi for Writers, by Richard Powell. I also have on my shelf (and started to read a long time ago, but never finished) his other book, Wabi Sabi Simple. I was amused and amazed that here was a book on a subject that I am growing more and more interested in, encapsulated inside a well written, personal account on writing.

According to Powell, writing lends itself well to the ways of wabi sabi. For it is through exploration, simple natural elements, connecting and sharing with others the passion for writing, and the test of time that turns an item into something wabi sabi. The same can be said about writing. Good writing, has to have certain universal elements, explore some "element of nature" (natural or humankind), and withstand the test of time. Writers also need a reader, for without the act of sharing, the story cannot be complete. The rest of the book, then, uses inner dialog with the haiku poet, Basho; personal tales of experience that help to illustrate how one achieves points while being on the path of wabi sabi; and examples of writing, contemporary and canonical, that he considers wabi sabi to show writers how to apply this to their own works.

Review: Levenger Bomber Jacket International Pocket Briefcase

Levenger Bomber International Pocket BriefcaseIt's fair to say that I've tried a few dozen alternatives over the past year for carrying index cards, from the expensive and slickly-produced to the cheap and home-grown, and everything in between. To tell the truth, I haven't had much luck with many of them. Either it takes too much time to find my "primary" cards (e.g., Combined Actions, monthly calendar), or the writing service is not conducive to note-taking, or the form proves ill-fitting to my carrying options, or the feel of the case is not to my taste (the latter being quite subjective). Of course, anyone familiar with paper-based planning products is quite familiar with Levenger, a company with beautiful and thoughtfully constructed products for even the most discerning among us. It was therefore with some cautious optimism that I embarked on a week-long test-drive of their new Bomber Jacket International Pocket Briefcase.

Can There Ever Be Too Much?

So, I had lofty goals this week of getting my nightly 2,000 words written and a thoughtful review of some book for you all to read here. However, between writing all day at my dayjob (I wrote a 52-page manual from scratch, of which I am now just beginning the long editing and layout process by myself.) and having a long battle to force 2,000 plus words from my mind and into Ulysses, the program I use for all my creative writing, I failed to get the article done today.

Review : No Plot? No Problem!

Before any of you can ask me, yes I finished today's NaNoWriMo word count with 2502. Which leaves me with a perfect segue-way into my first review for November is D*I*Y Planner Review Month or DIYPlaRevMo. *ahem* Okay, sorry... I'll try and refrain from the jokes. But it should come as no surprise that the first book I'm reviewing this month is Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem!. Not only is the book a wonderful companion to this month's NaNoWriMo excursion but it's also a great stand alone writing book.

For those of you who want to try the NaNo experience but have way too much going on in November, I whole heartedly suggest that you get this book. It's jam packed with the same sass, intensity, whimsical prose and gentle prodding that makes participating in this event fun. Baty doesn't really help you write better prose, per se. Instead he focuses on the culture, the things that help you produce writing, give you time and help you turn off your inner editor and write uninhibited prose. Fast and uncensored. His goal, and it works as I can attest to this, is to help you write a full first draft of a novel, in little time. No Plot? No Problem! contains lots of suggestions, pep-talks, exercises and humor to help you get off your butt, silence the inner editor and learn to love counting words.

For the Love of LaTeX

LaTeX LionBy coming the words love and latex in the same breath, I suspect that many of you will run away in abject horror, lest you hear me reveal some personal (and quite uninvited) revelation about my sex life. Fear not, gentle reader. I'm not discussing intimate matters, nor even the rubbery glove substance beloved by home lobotomists. Moreover, the LaTeX of which I refer is even pronounced differently: lay'-tech. I'm talking about a mark-up language with a long and proud heritage.

Now, I don't generally discuss technical matters very much in this venue. Many visitors come here to get away from such things. But there's something pure, something back-to-basics, about this for which certain among you (who have not already used it) might find an appreciation.

The Authentic Voice

I just started reading a book on wabi sabi and how writers can use it to uncover authenticity and truth and make their writing better. I'll review this book here later, when I'm finished with it. This idea of an authentic voice appeals to me. I see the authentic voice, as it relates to writing as being the one voice that speaks harmony and truth about the topic you're writing about. It doesn't have to polished or perfect to the standards of the English language, but rather it should be a reflection of yourself and how you see the topic. You want to connect to your readers on a deep intrinsic level and want them to walk away with the feeling that they learned something about themselves, the world or you. Whew, what a mouthful, eh?

We Can Be Heroes, Just for One Day

Errol Flynn as Robin HoodThere's a section of my planner that I reserve for idea generation. There's the usual fodder --mindmaps, random word lists, flow charts, and so forth-- but lately there seems to be one sheet I turn to more than others: I call it my "Heroes List."

The premise is a simple one. First, get a sheet of regular note paper and create a list of those people who interest you in a positive way, whether real or fictional. Now, I don't mean just those people who are flawless supermen or superwomen, but those people who are known for their creativity, their problem solving skills, or even for the force of their personalities. And the list can include villains as well, if they have redeeming qualities.