The Lamp of the Body

I am nearsighted.
Beyond that, one of my eyes sees farther than the other.

I’m still not convinced which eye sees the most.

When I close my eyes and drift, I’m inclined to believe one sees farther on the astral plane. If I could calibrate it perfectly, I could see spiral galaxies whirling like grains of sand on the shores of deep waters. I could see life arising from primordial darkness.

I could see stars.

As I finish writing this novel, I see these wonders, I hear the music of the spheres, and I cannot stop smiling. There are tears also; this is a human story.

They say you write best when you write what you know. For me, joy comes most oft when mixed with pain. The gift of life tinctured with mortality.

I can’t help but wonder. Do these interesting side effects — these coincidences — both inconvenience and define us?

~Jessica

Run On

So. I beat NANO.

YAY!

I could excuse the lack of posts by saying I don’t have the time to do this.
The truth is, I’m more comfortable with the silence.

It’s comforting to think you can’t do something. You feel neither guilt nor shame; no doubts burn behind your eyes.

image from unipus

image from unipus

You stop wondering how much distance lies between the road you currently walk and the path to your dreams.

If you’re even walking. You might by lying among the lotus, wondering when the road will find you. Someday, you tell yourself. Someday your chance will come. You tell yourself you’ll be ready when it comes

Someday.
Bullshit. I’m sick of someday.

Writing a blog is not my dream at the moment. More of a way to keep my sorry ass in line when I start to procrastinate instead of doing what I know I should.

unipus_unearthly_tb

images via unipus

It’s more painful to see my mistakes writ large. Makes for better motivation.

As for lounging about rather than chasing my dream, well…
I could say my eyes aren’t strong enough, that my hands hurt, that my body is weak. Who allowed this weakness? More to the point, who gave this weakness permission to stop me?

I know I’m not alone in this fight. I’ve seen countless brave souls illuminating the pages of history like stars. So many have struggled to overcome greater challenges than I will ever face. I’m not the first to run this race.

So, rather than inventorying my obstacles, I’ll skip to a vow to overcome them.

I want to know what I’m capable of, instead of wishing, hoping dreaming. I’d like to see what forces come to my aid.

images via unipus

images via unipus

Free yourself. Make light your burden.
So you can run the race set before you.
For all our pretty words, none of us can cheat time.

So in the words of the immortal Wireman
“Do the day, and let the day do you.”

Here’s to burning down the dawn,

~ Jessica

NANOWRIMO: Tips for Hitting 50,000

I have to say, NANOWRIMO members are some of the most generous, encouraging artists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Continuing the spirit of generosity, I’m writing up a list of tips from NANOWRIMO veterans.

Skyla generously shared her tips for hitting 50,000:

One trick I use to make sure I finish is that I wear my word count on my shirt each day. I pick up a bunch of smallish computer lables – they work really well.

People ask about why I have random numbers on my shirt so I tell them.

People get interested (and maybe even join themselves!). My guess is that if I randomly stopped or had a lame word count for three days in a row they’d get on my back about it.

One thing that really helps me finish is that I stick to the daily word count goal. I usually shoot for 2,000 instead of 1667 since it’s an easier number to count and it gives me extra words for those days when I just can’t write anymore.

Never ever skip a day.

If you can’t write enough one day, try to make it up the next. For me, if I got too far behind, it’d be really easy to quit, so it’s good to stay on track or ahead.

Atalanta took the leap last year, and got the support she needed

Hello and welcome! I did the same thing in my first year: I made a very public announcement that I was participating because I knew if I didn’t it would be all too easy to quit.

It definitely helped because I did try to quit — on day one! 😛 But I let everyone know I was thinking of ditching the whole thing and I got a lot of support, especially from one friend who said that if I quit, he’d quit.

Guilt is a powerful motivator!

I also stumbled on this brilliant tipsheet from Atalanta. A fount of wisdom, that woman is!

Quantity, not quality.
NaNoWriMo isn’t about crafting perfect prose — it’s not even about crafting readable prose. It’s about pushing through everything that holds you back (self doubt, busy schedule, perfectionism, inexperience, etc.) and pounding out a first draft. Yes, much of it will be awful — but you’ll also be surprised at the gems in the rough.

DO NOT EDIT DURING NOVEMBER
Giving in to your “internal editor” is a sure-fire strategy for disaster. Trust me, I know this from experience. Learn to ignore it all, from the clunky sentence structure and typos, to the plot holes and bad dialog. Just keep writing! One of the things that helped me in my first year was to keep telling myself that NaNo was “just a writing exercise” and didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I was right — and I won.

You aren’t writing 50k, you’re writing 1667 a day.
Don’t think about the distant, intimidating goal of getting 50,000 words written in 30 days. Every morning your goal is at least 1667 words for that 24-hour period. In fact, make it a nice round 2000 words and build up a comfort zone as you go along.

Word Wars
Make the Word Wars, Prompts, & Sprints Forum your new best friend during November, especially if you have a tight schedule. I guarantee: word-wars will increase your writing speed. I don’t fully understand the psychology behind it, but it works.

Dares
A dare is a challenge to include something silly in your novel. Find a dare thread (they’re all over the place; take this one for instance) and then pick out at least 5-10 dares to use during the month. Not only will they be available to lean on if you run out of ideas, but they’re a wonderful antidote to perfectionism!

Rewards
Whether it’s a piece of chocolate for every 2k, a new book for every 10k, or a single big reward at the end of the month, if you can find a tempting tidbit to dangle in front of your nose, you’ll find it much easier to stay focused on your word count.

NaNoWriMo Resources
The forums aren’t just for socializing. Are you panicking because your protagonist just bailed out on your plot? Ask for help in Plot Doctoring. Do you suddenly need to know the loading capacity of a wall-mounted ballista? Try Character & Plot Realism. Does a spontaneous walk-on character need a name appropriate for your setting? Check out your genre forum.

Faith and good habits will take you places that talent alone never will.

Have faith in your ability to accomplish your ultimate goal
(50,000 words) …

…and establish good habits (1667 words a day) to get you there.

sushimustwrite had some great advice as well…

First, write every day.

Even if you can’t hit the recommended and magical 1667 words every single day, try to write something down every day, even if it’s just a small scene or a conversation.

Skipping one day makes it so much to skip another day, and another, and another, and next thing you know you’ll just want to quit altogether.

While we’re on the topic of writing every day, try to leave yourself a small cushion every day.

Sure, the recommended daily word count is 1667 words, but some days you may not hit that many words. Other days, however, you’ll find yourself feeling especially prolific and going over (sometimes far over) the daily word count.

If you know you won’t have much time to write at some point in the month, schedule more time to write when you do have time so you’re not panicking and writing the last half of your novel during the last few days. It can be done (I did it my first year, and many others have too), but for reasons to be explained later, this is an experience to be avoided if you can help it.

* Rewards. Finished that tricky scene? Have a cookie. Finished a chapter? Stand up, stretch, walk around the room, go to the bathroom if you need to.

Make sure to sit back down and get back to writing, though!

Actually, making yourself finish that scene or chapter before you do any of these things can be enough motivation to keep you going.

I keep candy in front of me while I was writing and told myself I couldn’t have any until I hit my word count goal for the day. Reward yourself well when you finish–you deserve it!

* Word wars. Anyone who knows me knows I love this way of writing. This idea behind it is that you set a timer for some short period of time between ten and thirty minutes (my favorite is 15) and write as much as you can during that time. You can compete against yourself, or you can find chat rooms where NaNo novelists are word warring together.

* Write whatever you want. Don’t want to write the next scene? Don’t do it. Write the one after that, or the awesome fight scene, or the scene after the awesome fight scene that you’ve been plotting in your head. Just because you’re stuck in one place doesn’t mean you have to be stuck everywhere.

Still hungry? Check the NANO Forums!

Have good advice? Catch me on Twitter

And above all, keep writing.

~Jessica

It’s clever, but is it Art?

The Conundrum of the Workshops
Rudyard Kipling

The tale is as old as the Eden Tree–
and new as the new-cut tooth–
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows
he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears,
to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane:
“You did it, but was it Art?”

We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree
to the shape of a surplice-peg
We have learned to bottle our parents twain
in the yelk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog,
for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old:
“It’s clever, but is it Art?”

A very good question for artists. One I’ve pondered myself of late.
As NANOWRIMO approaches, I find myself… enjoying life.

No frenzied scribbling.
No pens flipping in time with an overclocked mind.
No rush to capture and pin down every thought.

I find myself free.
Thanks to my mate who urged me to seek
The gifts of silence.

I now hear music
In my blood,
In the wind,
In the rain,
Magic sings.

Every rock, every tree, every creature
Will speak
If you can still yourself enough to listen.

That’s the theory… we’ll see how it plays out on the page.

Best of luck to all NAOWRIMO writers!
Especially first-timers, as this is my first time as well ;-).
I’m excited, impatient, and still searching for peace.

What’s that they say about the journey?
How you get there is the worthier part.

~ Jessica

Kenley Collins – Project Runway Finale

Kenley’s personality frustrates me. She’s arrogant, and I think she should should be ashamed of the way she reacts to Tim’s constructive criticism. The man is trying to help!

I hear she grew up hard, so you’d expect a few thorns.

But there are roses as well.

I hated to admit it, but she pulled off a fantastic look this week.
She deserves to go. And I’ll be interested to watch! The girl could use some therapy, but she has talent running out her ears.

NANOWRIMO

So! I’m doing NANOWRIMO (however you spell it) next month.
For fellow artists and students who wander across this blog, I’d like to share something with you. I think it would’ve helped me to hear this:

You will not magically find the time to write after college.

Time will fly as never before in your life when you leave this campus. Looking back, you will wonder how you ever had this much free time… when whole hours seemed to drift like lazy summer days. Cherish this gift, and use the days well. You will not see their like again.

You will never be more free than you are right now.

As graduation looms, you will see the corridors of commerce open to you. You may find yourself in a dark suit, winding clockwork patterns beneath marble pillars. Or you may drift into chaotic markets, where life’s rhythms shift endlessly in a whirlwind of color and sound.

I’m sure you remember how it began.

One day, you started to hear music over the noise of the crowd. You looked up and saw leaves dancing on every tree. Stars wheeled overhead, and you realized there are other worlds than these.

And you began to write.

This month, I invite you to join me in finishing something.

To call it into existence. Because the thought of silencing that beautiful song becomes a act of criminal negligence. Because you cannot bear the shame of leaving a blank page when you have seen masterpieces of beauty and truth.

Those of you truly dedicated to their art will make that decision today.

Those of you who wish to succeed, will not stop until the work is done.

I thought of cheating with this – not sending it till after I finished NANOWRIMO.
It’s probably more advisable to succeed first before boldly painting myself into a corner like I’ve just done.

I guess that’s why the crazy heroes always make a speech.
For that extra boost of motivation; knowing they’ll be laughed out of town if they fail. It will mean they conned someone into believing in them and let that person down.

I don’t intend to do that.

I’m writing with a buddy, and we intend to kick each other’s ass if we don’t write. (Michelle, take notes) I think it’s better this way. I can imagine ahead of time the sting of becoming a hypocrite should I fail. It’s on the page in black and white. I have someone to remind me if I fail. I need that.

Join me: let someone know you’re doing NANOWRIMO this month.

Let your classmates or your writing group know you’re serious. Let yourself know you’re serious. Let them kick your ass if you start to decide otherwise. ;-). Because if you’re not serious, what are you doing here? You want a vacation, visit Tahiti. You’re want to write, then write, dammit.

Ps. For those of you lucky enough to be attending Category Fiction, Novel, or any other classes at the University of Oklahoma with Deborah Chester

— READ the books Chester assigns.

Books assigned in Chester’s classes are the exception to the rule you became familiar with after several semesters in college:

“Will there be a test on it?”

“Well, no”

“Then I don’t need to read it, do I?”

Normally higher education involves somebody you do not know, teaching you about something you do not want to know. Instead, you have the privilege of studying under a woman who imparts secrets of the most ancient magic known to man.

You’ve done well by choosing Chester’s class. Do yourself another favor and listen.

Listen and write.

Today.

Two trees in the storm

I have a theory: Plants (and people) who survive rough times come back a bit hardier than the rest.

An old legend speaks of two priests, each planting trees on opposite sides of the temple. As the saplings grew, both priests petitioned heaven on their behalf.

The young priest prayed for soft sun to warm the branches, soft winds to caress the leaves, and gentle rains, that the roots would never know thirst.

The elder prayed for frost to harden the branches, rough winds to teach it to bow instead of break, and times of drought so the roots would twine deep into the earth.

Both prayers were granted.

The tree of the younger priest knew a life of ease, weaving a delicate lace-work of branches against the temple walls. Times of hardship left their mark on the elder’s tree, yet the gnarled trunk threw a shower of blossoms into the sky each spring.

Two years later, a monsoon swept through the region.

As the sky grew dark, harsh rains stripped the leaves from the younger priest’s tree. The fragile branches snapped under the lash of the wind. By morning light, every branch lay twisted on the ground.

The elder’s tree survived. Legends say it still dances in the lightning and the wind.

(image source: Weekend with Kusabe-san from Swan Ceramics)