Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas comes early this year?

Well, I've made my decision. And so here's a little present for you, dear reader: The Book Trailer.




Monday, December 16, 2013

An update - What to do next?

Well, Christmas break is almost here. In seven days we'll be heading east for some fam jams and I'll be internet AWOL. AND shopping delinquent that I've become, I haven't even bought any presents yet. But I'm not worried about that.

What I am worried about is disappearing for a couple weeks without any word to my blog readers. I just wanted to round out this year of blog posts with a follow-up to the question I asked a little while ago: now that NANOWRIMO and my writing course are over, what should I do with myself next?

I found an answer: Scribophile. I wrote in that past post that I wanted to find a way to have some continuing writing critique in my life. If I were not about to move, I'd probably organize a writing group and host it in my own home. I'd hand pick the participants and then simultaneously indulge my love for writing and my love for hosting social events. But that's not exactly realistic -- at least not until March or April. And so in the meantime I've been on the hunt for online critique groups that could travel with me. And it didn't take me long until I read about one on the Nanowrimo "now what?" blog posts.

This next bit is going to read like a plug. The website, Scribophile, is actually perfect for me. It's just what I need. I've only just started using it, but I think it's great. They have this points system which they call "Karma", for which you have to actually post helpful critiques of other people's writing before you can actually post your own writing. This means that I can't just sign up and post, then abuse the system by being a wimp about offering critiques of other folks' writing. It is daunting for me to get into critiquing. I've never been very good at putting myself out there. It's hard enough to share my writing, even harder for me to assume the role of expert and critique someone else's writing without hurting their feelings. But Scribophile takes away all those misgivings.

And just like Nanowrimo, the points system can be a little bit video-game addicting. All they need now is to add 'achievement badges' and I'll probably be hooked for life. :P

Monday, December 9, 2013

Self-Published versus Traditional Publishing: The Debate Reaches a Fever Pitch

Traditional?
Personal Journey

Of course, it won't come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog that I am referring to my own internal debate. I've done lots of research on the topic. I've read the blogs and the articles. Basically, for me the main crux of the debate boils down to the following: On the one hand, I could self-publish. I could take my little nest egg and invest it up front. It is a high risk venture, with a possible high rate of return. Higher, possibly, than traditional publishing. However, I would have to work a lot on marketing and invest a lot -- in terms of time -- in networking, in publicity, et cetera. I would have a lot of control over what I publish and when. I would have a feeling of accomplishment that would surpass what I would get from handing my hard work over to a faceless, soulless corporation. And releasing ebooks and limited amounts of physical copies on demand is not extremely expensive, in the end.


Or indie?
On the other hand, I could put minimal money into the work and go the traditional publishing route. I would have no control over the timeline. I would have to wait for the slow grinding wheels of  the publishing industry to turn. I may not have the public see my work for upwards of two years. I would also have changes made to my work by agency and editors all on the basis of market demands. And at every stage of the process, my returns would be diminished by the myriad corporate employees who need to take their cut. However, I would be freed from many of the less appealing publishing tasks and could focus solely on writing. I mean, sure, nowadays even the biggest publishing companies with the most massive marketing budgets offload much of the marketing work to their authors, but at least I wouldn't have to worry about book design, would I? Of course traditional publishers release ebooks as well as physical ones. And then there is always the fact that, like it or not, traditional publishing is still more "legitimized" than self-publishing. At least at this moment in time.

So what's a budding (not exactly) young author to do? I thought I had put the debate to bed. I thought I had decided on traditional publishing since I do not exactly have financial largess and I yearn to see a book with my name on it sitting on the shelves of the local bookstore. Never mind that it is a saturated market. Never mind that it is very possible that a large publishing house might decide not to put much money into marketing my book. That's what I wanted, that's what I was going to go for. Find an agent and let the process begin.

But then this happened:


The wave that I spotted far out on the ocean back in April 2011, when the idea for this manuscript first came to me, is cresting. Or perhaps, if it is not yet cresting, it's grown into a Tidal Wave. When I first had that idea and began to write sketches and scenes for the novel, I set up some Google Alerts. Robots, artificial intelligence, automation. Every day for almost three years I have scanned those alerts. And in three years, they have changed a lot. What was once the dominion of  engineering websites and robot nerd blogs is now in local daily papers and on national news networks. And then Amazon released this video.

Whether or not it is a publicity stunt is not relevant for this discussion. What is relevant is the reaction to it. People started to take note. People started to talk about this form of automation as if it were possible, as if it were imminent, as if it were real. The number of "what if robots take all our jobs?" articles multiple and even my love and his friends discuss the potential scenarios this innovation suggests.

This is when my novel should be released. This is when the world should have my story. At this moment in history, my manuscript, RoboNomics, is smack dab in the middle of the zeitgeist. Am I afraid of missing that opportunity? Yes. Am I afraid that the world will catch up to the fictional near future I have constructed? You betcha. I don't want to miss this opportunity. I am afraid that if I don't tell this story now, it will expire.

Hybrid Author

I think I have a solution, however. Lately I have been reading about a new phenomenon, wherein an author is a little bit indie, a little bit corporate: The hybrid author. There is nothing stopping me from publishing RoboNomics by myself while sending off another manuscript -- that thing I call "Otherworldly" which is not time sensitive at all -- to literary agents, is there? Agents want new, fresh material that has not been published elsewhere. They want marketable authors who have show that they have readership. So much the better.

Of course, there is always the problem of editing. I am in the throes of my last manuscript edit of RoboNomics. But that could take an untold amount of time. Two months? Three? I have no idea. It is best if I get the thing out now.

Luckily, there is a solution to that problem as well: Wattpad. I heard about Wattpad ages ago, but I didn't give it much serious thought. It had to do with serialization, and seemed to be filled with teen series written by teens. But lately I have been looking at it again, since I do have a teen series up my sleeve. But it struck me the other day as the perfect solution: I can release RoboNomics chapter by chapter. I can build a readership, work out the kinks in the chapters as I go along, and at the same time save up money for editors and book cover designers, et cetera, in anticipation of binding the whole thing together as a self-published novel. But the real upshot is that this story about automation and its possible effects on the world can be in the public eye. Sure, it will be for free. But at some point the story takes on a life of its own. It becomes more important that it exist in the world than my making money off of it.

So what do you think? Self-publishing or traditional? Which is best? Should self-publishing be legitimized already or is it just a bunch of amateurs fooling around? And what do you think about my serialization scheme?

It's actually helped me a lot to think this out by writing it out. But I am asking because I do indeed need a little input. I keep going back and forth, doubting myself. What would you do in my situation?



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

As of November 30th, my writing course is at an end. As of November 30th, NaNoWriMo for 2013 is also at an end. So what's next?

I guess a lot of folks ask themselves this question at the end of November's writing marathon, if the blogosphere is to be relied on. In years past, when I finished up a draft of a novel on November 30th, I would already know the answer: I would put the draft away for the month of December, tending to pre-Christmas ridiculousness and then enjoying the holidays before coming back to it in January with fresh eyes and a willingness to edit and revise.

But this year, things are a little different. I am not giving myself a month off. Because besides drafting a novel, I spent the month of November in editing and revising a completely separate project. But I didn't finish it. So here's my next steps:

1. Making a study of setting and character description. I need to learn how to enrich a story with specific, concrete detail without sacrificing pace. As I've mentioned before, this seems to be my biggest current hurdle in writing. And while I am getting better at chiseling out specific details in terms of setting and character, I do not yet have the instinct for when it is not enough and when it is enough. I am trying to learn, right now, how to strike that precious balance. My earlier drafts have an exciting, quick pace that is becoming lost in my POV character looking around scenes and describing them at length. Yeesh.

2. Finding a Mentor. Now, at the end of the course, I am feeling a little lost. I'm not afraid to admit it. The massive benefit of the course was having an experienced, professional, published author off of whom to bounce ideas and get some great advice and sometimes tough love when it came to the work. But the time is up and now I am going to be without that voice of experience. When I think about the revision work that I did before I took this course, I can't help but think that I was floundering. Major big time.

So what to do to ensure that I continue in a progression towards better writing? Here I am a tad bit stumped. An unpublished author like me can't exactly just approach an established, popular author of my genre and ask for mentorship, can she? No matter how much promise I might have or how amazing my work ethic, writers always have their own work to think of. Plus, I'm positive some of the more prolific and popular writers of my genre get such amateurish requests daily. I imagine they have an email folder filled with such silly requests. And so...

3. Finding a Community. This is more like it. What I could do, online or in 'real' life, is to seek out a writing group that I trust. This is a difficult prospect in either sphere. Finding a group of strangers with whom to share a safe space in which constructive criticism is separated from bitterness, professional jealousy and rank amateurish writing is a daunting task. In 'real life' it is made a little more difficult by the fact that my love and I will be moving again before the snow melts and I currently have no idea where we'll end up next. (Did I mention my life is an ever-changing adventure?) So it seems that online is key. Like most things in my life, it has to be portable. It has to be in the cloud. "Life in the Cloud". That sounds like a great title for a memoir, doesn't it?

I suppose I'll have to take this advice to figure out where to start! No matter what I decide, I do think that other writers are required in order for the work to move forward in a productive manner.

4. Reading, reading, reading. I have tons of reading to do, as always. Not only of novels that are in my genre and those whose style I can learn from, but of instructables and how-to books on the craft. Reading is key to becoming a better writing and I intend to do a lot of it.

All right, now that I've come up with some next steps, I feel a little better. I don't feel like I'm panicking at the shear amount of work to be done and the various myriad ways in which it can get done. These endings mean, at least, that the work is progressing and that I am one step closer to a career!


photo credits: Raphael Pinto, Justyna Furmanczyk

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Winningest


Yay! Another draft done! Now for the usual celebration song:
 
 
So corny. Loving it. I don't think I'll ever get sick of that song!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Delusional

Best Rejection Ever

I've never been so happy to receive a rejection. And I've received tons of them, trust me. When the thin envelope from the literary magazine arrived in the mail today, I was at first disheartened. I didn't have to even open it to know what it said. It would be a single page: a form rejection. Or so I thought.

But for the first time in my life, it was not. Sure, it was a rejection. But it was an encouraging rejection. The gist of it was that my Chapter One of RoboNomics 'has merit' but is 'not suitable' for that particular publication (which I read as my chapter is a little more sci fi, a little less literary). If that was all, it would have been little better than a form letter. But that wasn't it.

Also included were some of the comments that one of their reviewers had of the chapter. I won't quote it word for word here. But I will tell you that the reviewer liked it. Good set up, strong voice, compelling setting and characters. And to top it off, they would love to read more from me! SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I might have actually made that noise when I read the letter. I took the thing, highlighted all the awesome comments quoted of my writing, and stuck it on my fridge.

Delusions of Grandeur

I think I've mentioned on this blog that in my early life, I didn't have any appropriate role models or mentors. Eventually, I took a couple poetry courses. During those times I had poetry instructors. But until this year, I didn't have an instructor, mentor or role model in the realm of fiction writing at all. Although I've been writing stories since I was nine years old, all I had was a beat up copy of "Emily of New Moon" and the feeling, deep down and unshakeable, that I have talent for my chosen vocation. That writing fiction is what I was made for, was my destiny, was (and is) the reason I am alive.

So it was and is, even now, still so easy for me to believe the doubters in my life. And it's not exactly easy to put my butt in the chair every day and do what I love with no external recognition or reward whatsoever. But I've come up with my own cure for the doubts or rather, my own elixir against self-doubt: delusion. I tell myself that I can do it. I tell myself that I have talent. I convince myself that I am a professional, published author already and that I am already in the midst of an established career. I listen to my motivational songs over and over again until I think that I am the most talented sci fi/fantasy writer the world has ever known. And it works. It's a strange little trick of the imagination but it gives me the strength to keep going without anyone having to tell me that what I am doing is worthwhile.

And so it's been a bit overwhelming for me over the past seven months or so. First, with the constant stream of comments from my writing instructor about how I have talent -- I'm not actually delusional about that -- and now this: the nicest, happiest, most encouraging rejection letter I've ever received. I knew I wasn't wrong, I knew I wasn't just some silly amateur who one day randomly turned her mind to writing a sci fi novel. I knew all along that this manuscript is something that people would actually want to read. It is a small thing. It is such a tiny, minuscule professional accomplishment. But to me, it feels giant. To come out of this lonesome state of being the only one who knows that I have talent for this into the company of a few others who agree with me. To know that I am not wrong about it all. :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Compiling My List

Soooo....I may have jumped the gun a little bit with this whole "time to look for a literary agent" thing. Not to worry too much. It'll definitely be happening within the next few months. But just not right this second.

See, like a good little girl I decided to follow the advice in this article: specifically, step #10. I opened up a fresh new spread sheet and labeled the columns appropriately. Then I got out my copy of Writer's Market Guide to Literary Agents and supplemented that with a Publishers Marketplace search for literary agents and an Agent Query search. Specifically, I started looking for agents who were on the lookout for fresh sci fi with an interesting, unique main character. Someone who would be as intrigued by a sci fi novel as they are by mainstream or women's literature. And so I began to fill in my fields.


But something began to happen along the way. I looked up agents websites and read them carefully. And I realized that this couldn't happen yet. Sure, I could send off my first 10, 25, 50, even 100 pages to a prospective agent. But then what if they love that polished work and reply in a month or less that they want to read the rest?

The problem is, in the course of my writing work with Humber College, my instructor and I didn't quite make it to the end of my novel. We went far enough for me to know exactly what I need to do in order to make the ending pop. But I am going to be an amateur about this. I am not about to send off any of my work until the entire manuscript is perfectly polished. And so.

And so the work continues. If I had to make a projection, I'd say that I would be ready to send out queries to agents by the time the winter is over. So....let's say by March. I'll write it here, dear blog reader, so that you can hold me to it. No being lazy for me. Lots to do. At least in this city, where they don't plow the roads properly and it's damn cold, there isn't much else to do but work. And work. And work some more. All right, then. Let's go.

photo credits: SalFalko via photopin cc, brewbooks via photopin cc

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pre-Christmas Rant

Who doesn't love Christmas, right? It's fun, there's music and presents and Christmas baking and you get to see all those loved folks you haven't seen in a dog's age, right? Yup, that's what I get told every year. And yet every year I have less and less of a desire to celebrate this nonsense holiday. Bah. Humbug.

Okay, so that last statement was a bit of a joke. It's not that I'm a scrooge, I swear. But every year seems to be getting worse. Walking through the grocery store trying to pick up the few items of food I need for the week while all along inane jingles piped through the speaker system on repeat. Or not realizing that it's Black Friday and having to stand in an insanely long line for a half hour just to get hubby's coffee before he comes home for the weekend. Did someone forget to tell these people that it's still November???!!

This all has to do with me. I can see that my need to be a speculative novelist no matter what comes is behind this Holiday Season ennui. It seems like a stretch but hear me out.

A while back, after a long time of cogs turning in my brain (sometimes it takes me a long time to come to conclusions about my life), I decided that if I really want to become a novelist -- and I do -- then I can't just be in. I have to be all in. I have to commit to it and to myself in a way that I never have before. And so I decided, with my RoboNomics manuscript as the object, that if I could not get a literary agent interested in it then I would publish the book myself. It had to be published.

I've done tons of research in regards to self-publishing ebooks. And from what I gather, self-publishing takes some cash layout on things like book covers, et cetera, if it's going to be done right. Call it a ROI system -- return on (initial) investment. So if it comes to that, I've been working away for the past few months on collecting a little nest egg: an investment in my future. Trying hard not to spend any more money than I absolutely have to.

So it's frustrating for me to go pick up necessities and see tons of people who presumably have much, much better paying day jobs than I do standing in line like so many cattle to the slaughter (though for them it is the slaughter of their bank accounts) in order to buy some ornaments for their lawn. Really? Do you seriously not have enough Christmas ornaments at home?

No doubt I'll buy a pack of Christmas cards to send to family and friends. I'll make up my little list of special friends and family members who I want to buy gifts for. But isn't Christmas supposed to be about sharing time off of work with loved ones? Since when is it about what your house looks like or mountains of crap no one needs? For me, this year and every year, I want to have a restrained Christmas. I don't want to go crazy buying stuff. I don't want to break the bank on stuff to keep the darkness away -- if you know I mean.

Again, it's a side effect of my growing ambition. When I see people in line buying tons of gifts or worse yet tons of decorations that in ten years they'll probably have long forgotten they even own, I see a sad cycle of consumption. Get a job you hate to pay for crap you don't need. Repeat. I think I'd just rather save what tiny bits of money I have so that I can carve out a path for a future vocation and use my free time on that avocation in the meantime.

It's the same lesson I've learnt while I work on my art. I don't need expensive paper, notebooks, or pens to create an amazing novel. Similarly, I don't need all those decorations and gifts to have an amazing time over the Christmas holidays. It's not the appearance that makes it great. It's what you do with what you already have! :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Overcoming Resistance


Yesterday, I submitted my last package of writing for my fiction course. The official end date is November 29, but yesterday was the deadline for submitting writing. Man, did it ever speed by like crazy!

And so I've been thinking about all that I've learned during these past seven months. Overall, I learned how to edit a piece of my writing honesty and openly.

You see, when I first entered this course I was extremely resistant to editing my work in any way that "disrupted its integrity." Which, for a beginning fiction writer, can have a broad definition. So before I had any professional input, I had a tendency to think of 'editing' as copy/line editing: correcting the typos and grammatical errors.

Perhaps some of this also had to do with laziness. Having spend so long in school, writing essay after essay and editing them, I suppose it was a chore that I was not prepared to do. But the consequence of my resistance is that work on the manuscript ground nearly to a halt. I didn't want to edit and I didn't even realize what it was to edit, really.

During this course, the lessons I learned were related mainly to revision. The two things that helped the most were the fact that I worked on packets of 25 pages at a time thereby greatly reducing the anxiety I had when I looked at the shear amount of words there were to be dealt with. There was also the fact that I had someone else -- a professional set of eyes who would be looking at the work in short order. Knowing that helped me strive for perfection. Or, at least, the version of perfection as I knew it.

To break down the major lessons I learned about writing through this course:

1. You don't have to make one sentence do everything. Pretty basic stuff, I know. But I now realize that long sentences do not necessarily good writing make. I've learned the value of sentence length and structure variety.

2. Don't forget your setting. As I've discussed here in the past, I learned a lot about the about the value of setting description. I've learned that I don't always need to rush forward to the next plot point. That it's okay to enjoy describing small details and that such details enhance story rather than slow it down.

3. But you don't have to describe everything. I also had the opposite problem: when trying to infuse my manuscript with setting details, I would go overboard. I would describe everything about a certain setting. In that case, description actually does slow story. I've learned the value of a single, well-chosen metaphor.

4. I don't need fancy diction to be an author. Words like 'amongst', as much as I am in the habit of using them, have no place in modern writing. Perhaps this is not an axiom that any other author needs, but I sure do. I had the bad habit of using this weirdly old-fashioned diction in all my writing since I thought it would make the work more high-brow, or something. Now I am developing the habit of dropping all that window-dressing. It's like when you visit a house and it has those newsprint-stuffed puffs at the top of the curtains. Yeesh!

Well, I actually think that's it. The next steps for this manuscript are the final edit, and then pitching to agents. Am I there already?! Excitement! :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

If I can Make it Through this, I Can do Anything


So here we are, smack dab in the middle of my busiest month of the year. And what do I go and do? Why, start another blog, that's what!

But not to fear, dear Readers. (It seems there's more than one of you now! How splendid!) I will not be neglecting this -- my first and most important blog. Would never do that. Blog #2 -- Inspirational Music for Writers -- is going to be more of a weekly endeavour while this blog will continue to be chatty and journaly and sometimes offer something of substance, if my brain tends that way.

In the meantime I wanted to share with you another one of the random wisdom nuggets that periodically come to me. In particular, I remember when I gave my Master's defense. At least with a master's defense -- at least in education at that particular institution -- the defense was closed door. Lucky for me it wasn't open door as Ph.D. defenses tend to be, since facing three professors: my thesis advisor and two others on my defense panel, was nearly enough for me to lose my lunch. It was after the term was over, and so I took a room at a hotel.

That morning my stomach was in complete turmoil. I can remember going down to the hotel restaurant and ordering just like a soup and a bun for lunch. I couldn't think of stomaching anything else. I was just that nervous.

The defense itself was a bit of a blur, to be honest. I had power point slides, I gave my presentation. I answered a barrage of questions and then I waited outside the room while they debated the decision. And then my advisor emerged from the classroom we had occupied and told me the news: I had done it! I had successful defended my Master's thesis and it was going to be published.

Afterwards, there was a fluffy of activity as I rushed around campus, tending to the last of the paperwork associated with taking my project from a thing on sheets of printer paper to an actual bound book that would be forever stored in the University's library. By the time I had time to sit down, it was on the train across Ontario that would carry me to my hometown. I felt exhausted, but strangely exhilarated. And as the train pulled into Union Station in Toronto, the site of what would be my next (mis)adventure, I looked up at that spike of a building called the CN Tower and I felt like I had really accomplished something. I had done something that not everyone gets to do in their lives and it made me feel as if I could do anything.

The day job plods on, as boring as ever. I wake up at 6 a.m. and have to find snippets of ten or fifteen minutes to actually work on my novel. But, you know, it's an important lesson for me to remember from time to time: the one big thing that I learnt from completing a Master's degree in Curriculum Studies. I have been tested by fire. Like the intellectual equivalent of walking over hot coals, if I can do that, I can do anything I set my mind to. Including making myself into a novelist.




 

Friday, November 1, 2013

And We're Off!


Yay! Halloween is now actually over and it's time for NaNoWriMo! I'm super pumped! Time for another Draft I!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A System for Getting Description and Setting Right

http://www.amazon.ca/Write-Great-Fiction-Description-Setting-ebook/dp/B003YJEYCY
Great Book for Beginners
So my writer instructor pointed out a little while ago that I am having some troubles with description of settings in the second half of my RoboNomics manuscript. And so I pulled out the first book I read on the topic: "Description & Setting" by Ron Rozelle. It's part of the "Write Great Fiction" series that I am always banging on about, since it's those books that really got me kick started when it comes to this whole novel writing business.

It's funny. I spent a lot of my writing time in university -- those snatches of time between classes and exams -- describing things. Tiny details of setting and atmosphere that I scribbled into notebooks. I sketched out short stories that revolved around incidents that could not really be call plot but were rather long descriptions of landscape with a few events, barely related to each other, in between. So when I started on the manuscript for RoboNomics, I figured that description was not my weakness. I poured all of my efforts instead into understanding the fundamentals of a good plot. But lately, because it's been pointed out to me that my settings are generic and lacking in detail, I begin to remember my first 'novel'.

My first novel, written when I was in the fifth grade, was 37 pages long. And it was more of a plot synopsis or outline than it was an actual novel. It was all story. First, this happened. Then, that happened. Then something else happened. Et cetera right up until I wrote 'The End'. Thinking back to that, it seems that my natural state is storytelling. It's a relief to realize that I have what it takes when it comes to the meat of a novel. But now I really do have to work on getting the potatoes just right.

As you may have cottoned on already, when I write I am all about systems. I have a tendency towards absentmindness and forgetfulness which can be disastrous when writing. Especially when focusing on description since it's all in the details. So I need to rely on a system.

Dollar Store Beauties
The System

Part I: The first part of the system involves carrying around tiny notebooks and pens wherever I go. This is very important. And it involves paying attention. I have to admit that I've got out of this dual habit in the past five years or so and it's contributed to my settings being vague and wishy-washy. But it is a habit I had earlier in life, when I was a little less cynical. The good thing about always being on the lookout for interesting details and then figuring out how to describe them is that you'll never be bored.

Part 2: Next I use a system that I read about in the book "Description & Setting." What you
do is make a chart with seven columns. The first column will be the name of the place in the story where some action takes place. And then onto the next six:

1. Sight: Visual details, obviously. This comes first since humans are primarily visual. Duh.

2. Smell: Scents add quite a bit to a scene. Strongly tied to memory for us and thus extremely evocative. I think that if nothing else, you should describe setting using this first two categories. But that's still pretty bare bones, isn't it?
Setting Chart



3. Taste: I guess taste is next because it is tied to smell. Sometimes when I'm describing a place in which no eating will take place, I fill this column with the 'taste' associated with the way the place smells. Does that make sense?

4. Hearing: Apparently not as important as Sight and Smell -- but this is, I have to admit, my favorite column. Adding description of sounds makes a scene three dimensional for me.

5. Touch: I always have trouble with this sense. I have to really stretch myself to imagine what walking on certain surfaces feels like, what the wind is like that day or whatever. Because what if my characters never touch anything in the scene?

6. Intuition: This is an interesting one that the book recommends, and a challenge. That sixth sense -- as in -- you're not going to feel the same in a sunny park as in a dark house, right?

Anyways, so that's what I'm working through now. Some of my scenes are places I've actually been to and some are imaginary places. I have more trouble in writing about places I've been to. That's actually when I need this chart the most. Thank god for Google Maps and Google Earth, reminding me of little details that I've forgotten. And YouTube, which is helpful in looking up what certain things in the world actually sound like. I'd say too bad we don't have Smellovision, but it's pretty damn easy to remember what things smell like (brain structure being what it is). The challenge with scents is trying to describe them adequately and poetically.

The Point

The point in making these charts is not to use every detail in the descriptions of a setting. The charts are time consuming, yes, but very important. In jotting down details, I can not only more fully imagine my story world but while I am getting those details on paper a lot of times passages of description will suggest themselves to me.

What do you think? Do you have a system for description like mine? Or do you just use notebooks as a repositories of detail that you can always return to?

Ok, bye. P.S. Two days until NaNoWriMo 2013! Excitement! :)


Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween is Already Over

I love Halloween. On Saturday my love and I went to a Halloween party. I worked on our costumes between day job assignments last week. They weren't very elaborate, just a cutesy clever couple's costume the idea for which I found on this website. But, as you can see, we made PB&J our own. Some cheap t-shirts, felt and fabric glue and we had a costume! I also made a knife as a prop but that was lost at the party. Not that it matters, what with being made out of cardboard, tin foil and left over felt and everything.

The party itself was pretty fun. As with all these institutional shin digs that we've been to together, it started with an early dinner at 6 p.m. and probably didn't end until 3 in the morning. We've yet to make it to the end, however. We had a bit too much fun and didn't stay too, too late.

Some of the costumes were really elaborate. For some odd reason, it seems like Bo Peep was super popular this year. There were three at our party, and it wasn't as if 500 people showed up. There was also minions from Despicable Me, (which I have yet to see) and folks from Breaking Bad and Duck Dynasty. Nothing from Game of Thrones, oddly enough. Mummies and zombies and vampires, the usual. One of these years I will actually convince him to come to a Halloween party in an elaborate costume. I'm just not sure how much time I'll need to persuade him that it's a good idea to dress up as Beauty and the Beast, or something.


So that's Halloween for the year. It's weird how this year the partying aspect of Halloween is so far from the actual day. I suppose some people might have parties next weekend? But that would be weird, right, celebrating it in November? For me, the lid is on it for another year. I'd like to tell you that I'll be handing out candy on the 31st, but after last year's turnout of two children, I think I might just turn out the lights and not bother. And to think, our first year here I bought something like two 50 piece boxes and was terrified I would run out! It does mean that the only Halloween candy I've had this year was rockets (yeesh) but it also means that I'm saving myself from having to eat 98 pieces of miniature junk food on my own... :P

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Daily Writing Goal


It's often heard in writerly circles that writers should aim to pound out at least 1,000 words a day. If you are working on a project, if you expect to lead a writing life, this is a good place to start producing material. It's good advice that has been mocked: write 1,000 words a day and then stop, no matter how you're feeling. But I take a different approach to that perhaps worn-out advice. On the days when it feels like pulling teeth to get something on the page, I tell myself to write at least 1,000 words. And yes, as soon as I finish a sentence that passes that arbitrary mark I just stop. Because some days are like that.

But the point of the exercise is not just to write 1,000 words. If I'm on a roll I could pass that easily and write until I'm not feeling it anymore. It's just that my cycle of inspiration is changeable and 1,000 words is a good start when I feel I'm just not up to the task of writing something original. And even if the work is crap, it's the work of it that counts. Writing, like many things worth doing in life, is a practice.

to facilitate this activity, I've recently come across a program called "Omm Writer". I find it is a sublime little tool for fulfilling the daily writing goal. It blocks out everything else going on in computer town and fills the screen with a simple white background. A nice blank slate with no internets. It also comes with music. Two tracks that are very empty and ambient, one a little more upbeat than the other. There's a third track that's essentially a rhythmic crunching that eventually sounds a bit like a train. Actually that third one is my favourite, having helped me write a very harrowing scene involving something like a robot army.

I've come across a lot of little apps and things that help one focus on writing alone, but I really like Omm Writer for little extras. What do you use to write out 1,000 words a day? Do you use an application or do you prefer the old-fashioned pen and paper route?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

S.A. Wilson's Blog - A Warning

That title sounds soooo serious. Seriously, everybody, seriously.

I just wanted to drop a little note today to discuss what is upcoming: Day Job Peak Season. For the next month or so I will be publishing far less on this blog than I would like, thanks to lovely 12 hour days for three to four straight weeks. I am looking forward to this even less than you are, Dear Reader. During any free time (weekends) I can scrap out I will try to write two or three posts at a time and post them during the weekdays. But honestly, I can promise that -- or anything, really. The job I have doesn't take a lot of brainpower but it does take presence. And sitting like a zombie at a desk for that long a stretch each day can be super, super draining.

On top of all this, once November hits NaNoWriMo begins and adds another demand on my time. But NaNoWriMo is something I will not give up, as it will provide me with a lot of new fictional material to work with.

I'll do my best -- if not, I'll see you on the other side!!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Colourful Edit


I'm working through the next 25 page section of my manuscript. Specifically, I'm working through a process I'll refer to as 'deep editing' before it is in good enough shape to be sent off to my writing instructor.

I've decided to use colored pens because when I first began this writing course, I was extremely worried about one of my personal editing foibles. That is, whenever I am editing for multiple reasons: i.e. vagueness, continuity, et cetera, I lose track of everything I am correcting except for one thing. And who wants to go through a manuscript multiple times, looking for different types of errors? If I do that I get distracted on the first read-through and start fixing multiple things. No, what I needed was a system.

I also remembered when a friend I had in grad school raved about the use of coloured Staedtler pens in heavy, intellectual pursuits. The idea is that the pens make the work a little more fun. And so, although I am a firm believer that you really don't need to shell out money to get the 'gear' (I'm working at you, Moleskin) to write, I found a pack of 12 fineliner for $7.

Then I made up a color coded editing system based on the feedback my instructor had given me on my reoccurring faults:

Purple = not important to describe
Green = convoluted sentences
Orange = vague descriptions (otherwise known as slow down and look around)
Pink = diction: tell it like you're telling a friend

...et cetera. The deep edit consists of corrected all these mistakes as well as copyediting.

The result, as pictured above, looks more than a little chaotic. But I'm actually finding it extremely useful. It is focused my editing and revision efforts in a way that has never happened to me before and I don't think I'm likely to change the process now, or ever! Plus, my friend was right: colours make it fun. :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning my Art

My writing course instructor mentioned, a little while back, that I should read the book, "The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner, to supplement my course readings. And so I bought a copy and started reading.

In the beginning of the book, Gardner points out that a firm grasp of the rules of grammar are necessary in order for the student of writing to become a great writer. Fair enough. He then goes on to point out that an education in canonical literature is also essential.

This latter point may be debatable, sure. But while (as I have pointed out before) I have spend most of my reading life between the pages of the Western classics of English literature, I don't know that my art has exactly been bettered for it. I don't have a literary education. I spend my schooling years learning far too much about Epistemology, Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science, the schooling of four years and Curriculum Studies instead.

So what is a new (old) writer to do? I have taken a big step by enrolling in Humber College to learn the art of fiction. But I considered in reading the above points that in order to enrich my art, I need to take it a step further.

Because I am not where I would like to be. Ever since I was a young girl, I just assumed that at the end of my life I would be remembered as among the greats. A Tolstoy, a Faulkner, a Kerouac, a Hemingway, a Bronte. Something like that. But when I read my current work, it's not up to par. Sure, it's a first serious work and it's not like it's Twilight bad. But it doesn't really rise above about a Dan Brown level. Is this something to complain about? Maybe not -- but I think I can at least do something about it.

I'm not about to go back to school. Accumulating degrees has been proven futile and I could not handle more student debt than I already have. But I can do something: I can turn to the thing that has emerged in the past few years -- just when I need it most: iTunesU.


So I've made up a course of study for myself from some English universities. From Open University I have an introduction to interpreting literature. I have a survey of English and Western literature. Stanford and Yale will guide me through some of the earliest of Greek and Roman works. Oxford will help me understand Shakespeare, and later George Eliot and D.H. Lawrence. And then back to Yale to study the American novel in depth.

So much for the fiction canon -- that's as much as I could find. But then I will move on to more specific matters: studies of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. And then if I haven't tired out completely, I will move on to studying a bit of poetry with Cambridge. Finally I'll "Challenge the Canon" at Oxford. And I'll accomplish all of this, I've decided, during my little trips to the coffee shop. It's a perfect way to do it: take a couple hours and my iPad mini, sit with a coffee and a snack and learn what I need to learn.

So, what do you think of my little course of study? Do you think it's a good idea, or even remotely like an actual university English Lit degree? Do you think authors really need such a background in order to become great? Is it a case of 'knowing the rules before you can break them?' Or should I just be able to come to greatness without such an education?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Around the Corner to the Coffee Shop

So I've decided to incorporate a routine into my work days: going to the coffee shop. Around 2 or 3 p.m., I've decided that at least once a week I need to get out and treat myself to a coffee break. This accomplishes a bunch of stuff:

1. Exercise: It's only a ten minute walk to two coffee shops: Timothy's and Starbucks. If I convince myself to do this throughout the winter, I think I'll be a lot closer to healthy than I am now.

2. Eluding the Lull. As I've written here before, my afternoons are often laggy write-offs since I am a morning person to the extreme. If I take a little walk and consume a little caffeine, it might be enough to get me through that awful time of day.

3. Inspiration. I figure that if I get out of the house and into the world, I can do some people watching and get some fodder for future storytelling.

4. Lonesomeness Busting. Writing is a lonely pursuit, especially when one sits at home in front of a computer screen all day, every day. I think going out for a coffee break might assuage that feeling of loneliness or at least make me feel as if I am a bit more a part of the world.

Today I did it! I went and had a little latte. As a first step I only had my phone with me, since I still get this feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about bringing a laptop or a how-to writing book along. Imposter Symdrone: I got it bad. But baby steps, baby steps.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Movie Montage

The other day I was thinking about my life as if it were a biopic that someone had created. I posted something on Twitter to the effect of, if my life were a biopic, the time I am currently living through would be represented by a musical montage. You know -- that mid-movie creative shortcut when the story speeds through the dull bits of life with at least some entertainment value.

Two examples:

 
 

 The thing that these two montage clips have in common are their emphasis on training. So in my life right now, it's as if the clip started with my inwardly declaring, "I'm finally going to do it! I'm going to write a novel and get it published." And then the music began.

But it's not as though I think of this as a bad thing. I don't mean to say that my life right now is dull -- that's not exactly the point. It's just that the nature of my work makes it unpresentable. The repetitiveness of my days means that this era of my life is not marked by any stellar event. The whole of my time in Winnipeg has been unchanged. There are social outings indeed, but nothing life-changing. It is all very routine. And I am okay with that. I can see the life changing events on the horizon, and right now is marked by working towards those events tiny step by tiny step.

It took me a long time to come to the conclusion that a routine like mine is okay. Because my early life was marked by almost a complete lack of appropriate mentors, (i.e. fiction authors) I didn't realize what the work of writing novels actually entailed. And now that I know, I am content with it. So, anyone who is contemplating writing a novel and how great that will be, let me disabuse you of romantic notions:

1. Writing a novel is much like writing a Master's or Ph.D. thesis. I did complete a Master's thesis, and that experience taught be a lot about thorough research, patience and avoiding shortcuts. And mostly about self-motivation. Which, if you're going to write a novel, you'll need in spades.

2. Writing a novel requires a lot of sitting. When I was younger, I was prone to romanticizing the writing life. I thought I'd live in a trendy walk-up or loft. I thought I'd bike around, mostly to intelligentsia parties and coffee shops. Actually I'd call them caf├ęs. But the reality of a writer's life is that it requires more sitting than otherwise. Sitting alone in a room, imagining, drafting, or mostly editing and revising. So much editing.

3. Writing requires balance. I used to fall prey to this thought that I have to put every moment into writing. That I had to sit at my computer for 16 hours a day or else I would fail. But I am finding more and more that better writing comes when I take breaks. When I go out with friends to yoga class. When I take a coffee break. When I do the dishes. Because it is during those times that my brain laboratory goes to work on sticky writing problems. Of course, none of this makes for entertaining footage.

4. Writing requires that you get up every day with the desire to write. It may not look like an exciting life from the outside, and it's certainly not what I expected. But being able to fall into a routine of creativity is very rewarding. And for the first time in my life a routine feels good and comfortable.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Night at the Symphony

Now that I've devoted a post to bashing Winnipeg, I'm going to take it all back. Well, maybe some of it.

I have to say, this city does do a few things really well. It does have a really great symphony. It also has a stellar ballet. And I guess sports teams, if you care about those sorts of things. These items are not unique but they are done well.

On the weekend we went to the WSO's performance of "Sci Fi Spectacular," a pops show that has been making the rounds in North American symphonies for at least five years. George Takei's epic voice and Jack Everly, possibly the world's most charismatic conductor, made it super fun.


It was my love's birthday present/event, in response to my wanting to go to the ballet for my birthday six months ago. We also bought half-price 'flex pack' tickets for three more shows the rest of the season. I am super excited about it! WSO is awesome!



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nuit Blanche WPG

Back in 2008, I attended my first Nuit Blanche in Toronto. It was amazing. The streets were packed with people of all ages, and every corner had a different exhibit. It helped, I suppose, that the neighbourhood I lived in at the time was close to OCAD, so a lot of art students were participating.

Unfortunately, it was an unseasonably cold night and I was not dressed warmly enough. So I turned in early. I wish I hadn't. Because I didn't realize that not all Nuit Blanches are created equal.

Saturday Night

This past Saturday evening and into the night, I went with a small group to check out Nuit Blanche Winnipeg. My love and I had an engagement earlier in the evening, so by the time we met up with our group it was nearly 11:30 p.m. But that's okay, right? Nuit Blanche is all night! Wrong.

Apparently, what we didn't realize and what I should have researched before was the fact that in Winnipeg, where most of everything shuts down at 6 p.m. on any old regular day, most of the exhibits shut down at midnight. Balls. We did see a tiny handful of art installations, but because most of the evening was already over, the crowd that was attracted by the post-midnight fare consisted of a bunch of 22-year-old hipsters rather than actual artists.

Highlights

It wasn't all bad. The best was the Costume Museum of Canada's exhibit, "From Bloomers to Bikinis." It was really cool to see Victoria biking outfits, 50s ball gowns and 80s workout thongs. And for free. I'm not sure whether it was the best of the entire night, but definitely the best opened after midnight.

There was also something called "the Alley" off of Market Square where a light installation was set up. It was nice to look up while walking in the space, seeing little blobs of white and red and blue like colorful stars above. In spite of the fact that I stepped in something ominously slimy and one of the group stepped on something else that cracked underfoot.

Lowlights

The Market Square in the Exchange District itself was a stupid hipster party during which the DJs sang bad covers of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones over dance beats. Contemporary art. Yeah, okay.

Then there was a Tale for Two, which although it was a neat concept (music played on headphones while you look down into a light box to see a photo of arranged clay miniatures) didn't make sense. It was a story, I supposed, and so tried to attach a narrative structure to it. But I couldn't. Maybe that was the point? Either way I felt quite disturbed my it. Surrounding that exhibit was another massive crowd of young hipster, milling and getting high. Sigh.

There was a Mad Men party. There was a bike along that ended in a party. That was part of the problem, wasn't it? The night was more about parties that ended at midnight or 2 a.m. than it was about exhibits that presented until 6 a.m. I suppose a lot of folks in this city wouldn't stay up until 6 a.m.?

The worst thing that happened that night, however, was when we went into a building that was actually an art space during daylight hours. We walked in and were met by a trio of high, giggling hipster girls who told us there was nothing to see in there. After we were turned away, I looked at my Nuit Blanche flyer. There was supposed to be something in that building. There was meant to be an art exhibit that lasted all night long.

Conclusion

Maybe it's not fair to judge the event of one city of approximately 750,000 people to the same event of a city of 5 million people. After all, Toronto's Nuit Blanche has a corporate sponsor. As much as I'd hate to admit it, that helps. Toronto is, (whether we want to agree to the fact or not) the nation's centre of arts and culture -- arguably one of the most artsy and most culturey cities on the continent. Whereas Winnipeg is just -- well, not much. But coming from 'out east' to this city, I suppose I did expect more. Perhaps it's just my eastern go-getter attitude grinding up against this prairie town's love of comfort and the status quo. Not sure. Either way, experiencing Winnipeg's Nuit Blanche, for me, represents a microcosm of my Winnipeg experience in total: limitless possibilities for awesome, lost opportunity to be awesome.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Another okay Monday

Having kicked the bum of my writing goals today, I would like to have an itsy bitsy little celebration:



Fun! :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mondays Can be Okay, too

Hey everyone! How are you this fine Monday morning sliding into afternoon? I'm actually doing really great.

Today I am thinking about Mondays. I have always been one to hate Mondays. When I had an office job back in the day, I used to get that awful Sunday-evening feeling in the pit of my stomach. The weekend was ending. It was time to re-chain myself to my work desk for another five days. It was a draining feeling.

Nowadays, Mondays aren't exactly better. Sundays my love goes back to the flight school, which means yet another in a long, long line of goodbyes. And it means going back to the day job, which isn't exactly enjoyable.

But it's not all bad anymore. This morning I had this strange feeling about Mondays. I got up and did some morning wake-up yoga, and then while I was preparing breakfast I realized that every Monday is a chance at newness. Every Monday, a new habit can be formed. A new routine can be established. A new outlook on life can be adopted.

What is it that makes Monday so special? It feels like a mini New Year every week. Sometimes, however, I get the corresponding Sunday evening blahs: what not do something that's bad for me, body or soul? Why not just waste time in front of the TV eating crap?

Here's the thing: Mondays are completely arbitrary. A new outlook on one's life can be adopted any day of the week. A Wednesday morning can be a chance to start afresh. And while we're at it, why stop there: in each hour there is newness; any moment can be a moment to start again. I guess that's the thing about life, right? There's always time, right now, to do what feels right; to do whatever is best for you.

Gleaming optimism on a Monday morning! What a rare occasion. I guess it doesn`t hurt that I have a Monday-morning breakfast playlist like this one.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Thing that Winter is Missing

New Boots

After the epicness of cleaning out my closet, I discovered that a small number of articles needed replacing. Chief among them are my winter boots.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about 'fashion boots.' Those vile, ridiculous, usually fake leather or real leather knee or thigh-high contraptions. No, I gave up on those last year when I realized that the space between summer and winter in this city and thus the time during which I can wear 'fashion boots' is approximately one week. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an over-exaggeration. Two weeks.

That's riiiiiiight....the temperature goes from about 30 degrees Celsius to about -15 in that short span. The leaves don't really change colors slowly so much as they all drop off the trees at once. In a single day.

So, with that in mind, I figured the task would be simple. A wedged-heeled boot so that I don't look like I'm standing in a hole. With trends on the rubber sole so I don't slip on the inevitable ice. And a cozy lining (like shearling or something similarly thick and warm) that extends all of the way down to the footbed and wraps around the top of my toes. Fashionable, knee-high, waterproofed leather or suede on the outside. And, of course, affordable. If I'm feeling greedy maybe a little arch support thrown in for my flat feet. What could be easier?

Apparently sending humans to Mars and back. The massive problems:

Inexpensive boots are crap

They are paper thin, they are completely unlined, they hurt my feet. :(
"Fashion" boots! Insane inventions of people who live in cities where winter means a little rain. I shake my fist at you.

Serious winter boots are butt-ugly

Okay, listen. I'm not going on an Arctic trek. I'm not using these particular boots for snow sports. I just want my toes to not freeze when I go out on the town in the middle of February (seriously, it could happen here). But I also want to still looking cute. Is that so hard? Does comfort really have to mean wearing the cobbled equivalent of grannies panties? To illustrate:


Hey, good-looking! Not. Or, you know, there's always Uggs. I mean, forget not only trying to look elegant but even respectable with all those damn salt stains. I guess they don't have to use salt on their roads in Australia. But at least they have a complete liner. Too bad that won't help me out when the snow has soaked through to my toes and they've turned black from frostbite.

Even "serious" winter boots have crap liners

I mean, really, this is a problem. You research the boots above and find out that they have a 9 mm removable liner made from some space aged material. Good to minus one million degree temperatures. Great! Give me some of those liners. But as soon as you move to look at cute winter boots made by the same company, you have to buy the liners separately. What a load. Seriously. Frustrated. Why is this such a problem?

(the cute boots in question. They might as well cost $500,000 for how much I can afford them. Then add to that another $10,000 for the liners. And -- oh wait! Those liners aren`t even for the wedge version! Whhheeeeeeeeee!)
 
 
 
Other boots that were considered and rejected because of no liner, not enough liner, or ugly:
 
1. Sorel, as above.
2. Uggs, as above.
3. Emu. Same problem as Ugg. As in, you're really going to charge me that much money for shearling that stops just when I need it most? (at the footbed) Or for - gasp - non-waterproof boots?
4. La Canadienne. For pete's sake, you'd think a company out of Montreal would be able to get it right. But no, not a decent liner in sight. Waterproof, sure, but winterproof? And what's with the millions of models with no wedge or heel higher than a half inch? Just smack some treds on that sucker and we're good to go.
 
(I suppose this is close to what I mean. But, again, might as well be $500,000. Plus there's no way to know from the website whether the lining extends all the way to the toes)
 
 

 
5. Manitobah Mukluks. All right. So, being pretty local, these boots might be as good as it gets. They cost slightly less millions than Sorel or La Canadienne both do. But I'm still not sure whether they'd stand up to melting snow and salt stains (yes, I know we used sand on the roads here, but I am eventually going to head back east. Plus, which is worse: salt stains or snow + sand = mud stains?).
 
 
The big advantages are the shearling footbed (where it is actually needed) and the rubber sole. The other disadvantage is that pesky no-heel business. But for some reason I am willing to make an exception for mukluks. Probably because to put a heel on a Mukluk would be an abomination.
 
Well, that's all I can really find at the moment. Does anyone else know of amazing winter boots that don't cost an arm and a leg? Maybe I'll just have to save my pennies for the next...month and a half before the snow comes and get myself a super expensive pair. Although seriously, for that amount of money, I think I deserve a more substantial but attractive winter boot than the available options.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Consciousness

So I'm sitting here today working on the next section of my manuscript: pounding out new scenes that need to be inserted so that the draft actually makes sense. Writing about robots, automation, and artificial intelligence. And it's got me thinking about artificial consciousness.

It seems to me that each and every piece of robotic sci fi of this century and the last (at least any that I've been exposed to, I've recently found out that Douglas Adams did a little robot something that was not The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! and featured a humanoid robot) presupposes that artificial intelligence -- in particular, The Singularity, encompasses by necessity artificial consciousness. This is a very self-serving presupposition for authors and movie makers, since it allows for the exploration of that scary concept named after the Frankenstein monster. But I think it's been done to death. Fear of our own creation? Haven't we had that before? Frankenstein has been beaten to death -- so many, many times.

No, my manuscript does not make such a presupposition. Instead, I begin with the more realistic stance that artificial intelligence, and by extension computers and robotics equipped with A.I., can become 'more intelligent' than humans without the need for sentience. In fact, in the real world, they kinda already have. Think about it: why would something that we created be endowed with consciousness when we, as yet, don't even understand how our own conscious awareness comes about? Fearing SkyNet is all well and good for sci fi action flicks but there's only one real monster in the universe capable of eradicating the human species. What's that, you ask? Look in the mirror. A.I. is a tool of humans. And like all tools, from ploughs to knives, is completely morally neutral when out of human hands.

The point of all this is that I don't want to explore the threadbare idea that artificial intelligence will one day 'wake up' to the world and immediately concluded that humans are reckless and all need to be destroyed. Yawn. What I want to explore is what happens when reckless humans wield powerful intellectual tools. Much more interesting I think.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Saying Goodbye to the Past

Change of the Season

Harhar. That title sounds so much more deep than the topic of this blog post will turn out to be. I have plenty of stuff rolling around in my head about my trip home, but maybe I'll work backwards through it. In the meantime, I give you: my closet.

With the change in the weather from sweltering to early-autumn-ish, I figured it was time again for that most annoying, time consuming and frustrating activity: the bi-yearly closet turnover.

It's not all bad. I get to peel back the layers of the stuff that I own and unearth little gems that I haven't worn for many a year.

Or is that bad?

I was kinda inspired by the spring challenges to purge one's closet taken on by Uncommon Wealth (+Anna Wilson)  and Sarcastic Bystander (+Michelle Brynkus). But I was also driven to get off my butt my InStyle Magazine.

Whipping that Closet into Shape

So, I know I stated in a previous blog post that I wanted to stay away from glossy women's magazines and all the brain rot that they encompass. Hey, a memory just rolled out of my head. Once, as a teenager, I filled a notebook page or two with the idea for a 'smart' women's (or girls') magazine that was filled with like, I dunno, philosophical essays and literary criticism. Stuff that actually matters. I wanted to call it 'Elizabeth'. (Can you guess why a 15-year-old bookish girl would want to call an intelligent magazine Elizabeth? Bonus Points!)

Anyways, despite my vow to end all association with women's general interest or fashion magazines, I still have three issues coming to me of a year's subscription to InStyle. So I was flipping through the pages of the September issue, loathing the shear amount of ads and pictures of fashion "It Girls" who I've never heard of, have absolutely no bearing on my life and who all look like skeletons (or apples on a toothpick -- just because you starve yourself into a size zero doesn't mean your head shrinks) when I came across a recurring article about organizing one's closet. Fall 2013 edition.

This is one of the few articles that I like in InStyle. It actually lays out step-by-step instructions for how to transition the closet from season to season. And while some points are misguided (like how to 'archive' designer pieces -- as if we all have those), there is lots to follow and appreciate.

Like this little flow chart: should a piece of clothing stay, or should it go? It was ruthless. I have never, ever been so ruthless with my collection of clothes. Because it is a collection. I am a clothes horse.


In the Past

This is how my usual closet organization session goes: I haul out plastic buckets from the basement that hold all my off-season clothing. I lay it all out in sorted piles. I put a few items aside for donation, usually those that I don't like anymore. Then I try to make outfits out of the rest. I don't try anything on. I just take it for granted that everything still fits. And up until recently, I could take that for granted. And then I end by trying desperately to fit every last item of clothing that I've owned since I was probably around 20 years old back into my closet. Never works.

But this past spring I was a little more honest with myself. I actually tried on clothes -- those I wasn't sure about: clothes on the size borderline. And then I took the massive amount of stuff that didn't fit me and packed it away in the basement for some mythical time when it will fit me again. So while I had a neat and trim closet for once in my adult life, I still was holding onto all that past.

That's where the ruthless flow chart came in.

Time to be Ruthless

According to said flow chart, I am to donate a piece of clothing if it doesn't fit. If it isn't flattering. If I don't love it. There are other criteria but those three, right there, eliminated about 90% -- maybe more like 95% -- of the 'skinny one day' clothes that I have been hoarding. Hoarding and moving around with me.

At first, this made me sad. Won't I one day fit into those clothes again? Won't I someday stop shaking my head around, find a physical activity I enjoy and be a size 4 again? But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When I looked at some of those 'skinny' clothes, I realized that many of them are faded. And the rest -- well, even if I dropped the weight tomorrow they'd not only be hopelessly out of style but would no longer suit me.

Because I'm a 32 woman. I am no longer a 25 year old girl. And as much as I'd like to picture myself with washboard abs peaking through I don't know -- a crop top, it's just not elegant. It's just not me. Not anymore.

You remember how in this blog I mentioned that the time in my adult life when I was my smallest was also the worse era of adulthood to date? So a lot of my 'skinny' clothes were worn at bad times in my life and are associated with bad memories. Why am I holding on to this crap? Mentally and physically! Ruthlessly I decided to shed all those old memories along with the clothes. Haha. New Age. Anyways the memories persist but at least now if my size changes in a downward motion, I won't have to wear living reminders of crappy times.

So now I have a tidy little closet and a half box of summer clothes for the basement. It actually feels really great! Weeeeee! :)