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Archive for February, 2013

It lurked under the table, skittering about to avoid each swipe of the broom. A malevolent little bugger despite it’s fluffy, soft exterior, and completely disregarding any sense of order or cleanliness. Who knows how long it had hidden there. Weeks, perhaps, or even months. Time has no meaning to such evils.

It’s dexterity allowed a deft avoidance of any direct attack. It could bounce out of the way as if lifted on the very winds produced by any movement around it. It left no tracks and seemed to grow with each passing day, sucking up insect and crumb alike into its insatiable maw. And its intelligence, oh, it’s cunning little intellect, could drive the best of us mad with frustration. Like it knew exactly where you must look to see it, and then glommed on to a chair leg or darted under the refrigerator to avoid you. Wiley little bastard.

There is no greater foe, of course, for those of us who guard our homes against the crimes and pestilence of the outside world. While the hunt can be arduous, and the risk great, the reward for finally capturing such a deadly adversary is beyond the riches of the Tzars.

You must know it, too, friend. It tasks us all at one point or another. If not under the table, then under the couch, the bed, the nightstand, even behind the toilet. We all suffer its attacks. You know of which I speak, that dreaded beast, the bane of all domestic goddesses everywhere: the Dust Bunny.

Yes, I was cleaning this weekend. Okay, not really a thorough wash-the-walls spring-cleaning kind of thing, but enough to (hopefully) not drive away the people scheduled to come for a visit. With the whole money situation these last few years (read: we’re broke as hell), we haven’t been able to do some basic upkeep on our house like we should. Even something as simple as putting on a fresh coat of paint in a room has been beyond us, let alone new carpets, exterior paint and repair, or finishing the bathroom that got tore up for plumbing repairs (mumbly) years ago. Add that to the fact I’m lousy at serious cleaning, the house looks (and smells), well, let’s just say tired.

I’m good at keeping things tidy. I organize. I file, sort, stack, alphabetize, order, and store things. I do dishes and vacuum and even clean the toilet, but usually under threat of embarrassing myself in front of friends that are going to visit. If they could see what this place looked like under normal circumstances, they’d probably never play with me again.

I can find anything of mine in this house in short order, usually often in just seconds, even under complete darkness while hampered by a cat in desperate need of attention RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND!!! It’s one of those OCD things I have, which I think probably develops from the fact I’m extremely near sighted and hard of hearing. I have to be in control of my immediate environment under even the worse case scenarios, because, Goddess knows, I don’t have control of anything else.

This is in stark contrast to my beloved husband, who seems to think the chair next to the bed is a closet, and the floor next to his desk is a filing cabinet. He has a finely tuned ability to put things right in front of other things I need, or right in the middle of a walk way. It’s like he’s psychic or something. He, needless to say, doesn’t have the same issues with our house and its cleanliness (or lack thereof) that I do. But I think that’s part of that being a guy thing. It’s okay to eat leftovers cold, sheets only need to be changed once or twice a year, and farts are funny.

But what the house really needs, and what would help a lot, is a deep cleaning. One of those top-to-bottom-sort-through-every-nook-and-cranny-scrub-with-a-toothbrush kind of cleanings. I keep telling myself that I just need to pick one task to start off with, just one thing in one room, and then slowly work myself through the house until it sparkles. Unfortunately, trying to figure out the starting point just overwhelms me with all that needs to be done. And then there’s the whole laziness issue. Not to mention that fact that cleaning my own house doesn’t make me any money, whereas my weaving and needlework (and hopefully one day soon, my writing) do, so I stay focused on those things and leave the real cleaning (or, rather, the tidying) for those angst-ridden days right before friends come over.

So there I was, chasing dust bunnies around the kitchen, wondering how the hell the laws of physics aren’t broken by their teleportation away from my broom, and then equally stumped when all of a sudden they adhered themselves to the bristles and wouldn’t let go until the downward application of about 5,000 pounds of force, at which point they stuck to my hands like vampires just woken from a 1,000 year sleep. The theory is if I clean more often those vicious little fur balls wouldn’t get so big, but I’m not buying it. That’s a lie “They” tell you to keep you in line, to be a good little housewife and not make trouble. The truth is, dust bunnies are really from a parallel dimension and are launched into ours through microscopic unstable wormholes built by their evil overlords. They are the first wave of an alien attack and nothing we can do will stop them. Just when you think you have them cleared out of the kitchen, they show up in the living room, the bedroom, the bathroom. And since we’re all doomed anyway, what’s the point in cleaning?

Well, the point is, we mustn’t give up! There’s always hope, a silver lining in every cloud, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or, at the very least, take as many of them down with you as you can. Put on your Elmer Fudd hat, grab your shotgun broom and get hunting. The life you save may be a friend’s.

And just because your life is boring, doesn’t mean your writing has to be.

 

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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I’m not known for my patience. The people who watch as I spend hours on end weaving or doing needlework may think otherwise, but handwork allows me to go into another realm where time doesn’t exist, so patience isn’t really needed. It’s the same when I’m writing – I’m lost somewhere/when else and so caught up with the story being told to me I have no need to exercise anything remotely close to patience. But it’s a whole ‘nother matter when it comes to this place around us we call the real world.

As a perfectionist sufferer of OCD, I find the inefficiency rife in our modern society to be a tremendous annoyance. I’m constantly having to wait longer than I think necessary. There’s the clerk who didn’t bother paying attention when (supposedly) trained on the new equipment and therefore takes forever to attempt even the most basic of tasks. Or the elderly gentleman who has no idea what prescriptions he has and/or which one he needed renewed and complicates issues by refusing to listen to the pharmacist trying to help him. Then there’s the Gen Y’er at the gas station with the car radio at 900 decibels and her fueling done who can’t seem to understand why the line behind her is honking as she chats on her cell phone.

You might be thinking those examples are more about the (bad) behaviors of individuals than efficiency, but let me set you straight here. Bad behavior happens because the perpetrators don’t care to be efficient. Being efficient is about paying attention and taking the most direct path to the end result. If you’re a clerk at a store, the end result is to give your customers the correct information and get them out quickly. Futzing around trying to figure out how to access the right code because you didn’t bother to pay attention in training doesn’t do that. Just because you’re in a low-paying dead-end job doesn’t mean you have to be a low-paid dead-end worker. Don’t live the stereotype.

When I go to the pharmacy, I know exactly what I’m there to pick up. I know the brand and generic names of my prescriptions and I know their exact dosages and what they look like. This makes questions and transactions all that much faster, and by keeping track of all that I can catch any mistakes. At the gas station, I don’t blare the radio or talk on the phone and make sure I get out of the way as soon as I’m done fueling. What you might call common courtesy, I call efficiency. I don’t want to spend any more time there than absolutely necessary and neither should you. Get off the fucking phone, pay attention and drive.

If only it were so easy in the writing world. No matter how efficient you might be, waiting seems to be the only thing a writing career can guarantee you. Waiting to hear back on a query. Waiting to hear how you did in a contest. Waiting for some sort of feedback on a submission. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Usually weeks, and sometimes months. I entered a short story contest in April of 2012 that still has yet – as of this writing – to finish judging and announce its results. So I wait, wondering if I will ever find out how I placed, if at all, and frustrated that there’s nothing I can do to speed up the process.

Instead of just waiting, and stewing, and wondering, writers need to develop a selective sort of amnesia. Once whatever you’re sending is out of your hands, you should just “forget” it and move on to the next thing[1]. This is where short-form writers may have it easier than long-form writers. Lots of different projects, for lots of different markets might go a long way to keeping someone busy enough to not obsess on that latest submission. I’m primarily a novelist so that makes things a little tougher to put out of my mind (though out of my mind is what some people might think of me…). I have one novel in submission with a major publisher, two short stories out to a couple of magazines, and the aforementioned contest entry. So, even as I slog through the new novel, those few submissions aren’t far from my thoughts. Tick tock goes the clock…

So here I wait, trying to keep myself busy while my writing fate is in someone else’s hands. A frustrating position for a control-freak like me. A real lesson in patience, someone might say. And just the way it is in this business.

Sure beats the hell out of asking someone if they want fries with that…


[1] But keep a log! I have an Excel spreadsheet set up with pertinent info, such as the project, the date submitted, to whom, any notes, etc. I also will set up calendar reminders based on the guidelines of the recipient. Whatever works for you, but definitely keep track of what you sent where and when!

 

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

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I spend my days with constant company, even when I’m alone. And I don’t mean the dog or cat. I mean the ever-flowing conversations, complaints, descriptions, fights, flights of fancy and sometimes dastardly evil thoughts that occupy my head every moment, waking or sleeping, of my day. But let me explain before you go calling the guys in the white coats.

That cacophony in my head is how my writing process works. Something sparks, somewhere, somehow and I’m still at a loss to explain where most of them come from. Then that something kind of wanders around in the darkness of my mind for a while. It acts like Velcro, snagging other pieces – a character here, a setting there, a dilemma or two – and then it starts rolling down the Plinco slope of my brain, bouncing from one peg to another, gathering momentum, until it finally hits bottom and I have no other choice but to write it down.

Usually it’s a main character that comes to me first, someone demanding to tell his or her story. If I were to try and be purely scientific about it, the likely explanation is that these characters are just pieces of me, anthropomorphized and fictionalized, bringing out things that my subconscious is trying to work on. Most writers put a piece of themselves in their writing somewhere. That’s how we get tone and style and we really can’t keep that from happening.

But the truth is that I’ve tapped into some version of an intracranial Netflix, with multiple movies running at the same time. Sometimes I catch a scene from the middle of something, and it intrigues me so I just have to see more, so I focus and try to rewind it and pull out something resembling continuity, only to watch it fade away under the onslaught of a screaming maniac demanding retribution, or two lovers trying to figure out their relationship, or the heroic sacrifice of a soldier in deep space. At any one point there are multiple stories, dozens of people, and untold multitudes of problems that need fixing, a jumbled kaleidoscope of madness running around my head.

That’s one reason I find it hard to be around large groups of people. I already have a crowd demanding my attention, and adding to that miasma only puts my system into overload. It’s also why I find it so difficult to work from an outline when writing. Invariably the outline is tossed out after the first chapter. Not because I decided it just wasn’t good enough, but because the characters had other ideas in mind.

I never get told the whole story up front. I get pieces here and there, usually not in any particular order. Sometimes I’m given the details and sometimes I’m allowed to fill in the blanks myself, but the characters themselves generate the main plot lines and the primary points of view. I see their stories like you might watch a movie, except somebody mixed the reels up so it’s not in order. That’s where my skill as a writer comes to bare – it’s my job to make sense of the mess. Maybe that’s why I’m so slow at writing, too. It takes time to sort through all that and come up with something coherent, something readable.

On my first draft I write things down as they come to me. I might have some very basic character descriptions, but only the vaguest notion of where it might all be going. If little factoids come out in the writing process, such as one character revealing he’s allergic to chocolate, or the disposition of the earliest colonists on a planet, those get put into notes I keep on the side. Sometimes they show up again later, sometimes it’s just more depth to make a particular scene more real, but if it sticks out to me, it gets noted. By the time I’m done with that first draft I have almost as much in my notes as in the novel itself. That makes fact-checking myself between drafts much easier, and it’s an awesome foundation should I want to do more than one book in the same universe.

I know it seems like my creative process sounds particularly schizophrenic, but it works for me. In my early days, when I took writing classes and tried to follow the “rules” of writing, I was never very successful, becoming frustrated easily because my stories never followed the outline, no matter how hard I tried. They would always find a tangent to go running down, someplace that turned out to be more interesting than what I had initially devised.

I was one of those kids that would write the English paper first, and then draft the outline, because I just couldn’t get it to work the other way. Most of the time when my teachers found out, I would be scolded for lacking discipline and told that I would never be a “good” writer if I didn’t learn the basic rules. It wasn’t until I reached graduate school at the American Film Institute when I finally had a teacher that just smiled and told me to write the way I wanted to write, because the final product was just fine, and that’s all that mattered.

So I guess the gist of all this nattering is you have to make your own way. It doesn’t matter if you have chaotic voices demanding you tell their story first – fed to you in bits and pieces – or if you can carefully map out your entire 23 book series before you’ve even completed your first one and still be on track 13 books later, the end result is what everybody notices, not how you got there. Whatever works for you is whatever gets you to the final product you want.

It’s pretty amazing when you finally stop fighting and just go with the flow. Even if it means occasionally breaking up a fight in your head.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley.   All Rights Reserved.

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