Thursday, December 31, 2015

Going Too Far (Creative Diary Part 5)

I rarely get the opportunity to paint, and when I do, the results are hit and miss. So when I do get the chance, and things are going well, I find it hard to stop. I become so caught up in the enjoyment and excitement of the progress, that I barely notice my back aching, my fingers cramping, and my eyes going blurry. I just keep going. 

It isn't until I make a mistake, largely undoing a substantial chunk of my fabulous progress, that I realize I've gone too far. By this point, it is too late, the damage is done. The joy I felt seeing my painting take the shape I wanted it to, has been replaced with annoyance and disappointment. I feel stupid and angry with myself for not stopping before I went too far. This is when it normally gets worse. My stubbornness usually kicks into overdrive and I try to fix it right there on the spot. Of course the paint is still wet and it all mixes together and looks like mud. I fixed nothing. I have a bigger mess and am more upset. 

Knowing my opportunities to paint are few, and far in-between, I try and cram too much in. The result of this behavior often sets me back further than when I started, as I now have more to fix. Try though I may, I repeat this pattern far too often. 

Tonight, I had a very successful painting session. As usual, I went past to point of sore, tired, and exhausted. And yes... I made a mistake. Not a horrible one, but poor placement of an object, that will most certainly bother me. I came very close to trying to paint over it and start that section again, but for once, I paused and took a breath. I took time to stand back and observe all the things I had achieved on the painting tonight. I acknowledged all the parts I was happy with, and I took time to seriously evaluate how tired and achy I was feeling. Tonight, I turned away from my painting, washed my brushes and put away my paints. Tonight, I stopped myself before I turned a small annoyance into a big problem. 

Ten minutes later, cup of coffee in hand, I started to wonder just how often we all do this in other aspects of our lives? How many times do we push too far? How many times do we undo our good works because we were too busy trying to achieve more? How often do we then allow our resulting disappointment and overall grumpy demeanor impact those around us? 

Tonight, I went too far and made a mistake, but at least I stopped before making it worse. With 2015 drawing to a close in a matter of minutes, maybe I can start 2016 with a little balance. Perhaps in 2016, I will be able to stop going too far, and will be more successful at recognizing the tipping point in my activities, and stop BEFORE I undo my good works!

Happy New Year folks!
I'm ending the night the same way I do every night... Taking a moment to reflect on what I'm most grateful for. For me, that's family, faith, freedom, friends, and much more. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Context Switching (Creative Diary - Part 4)

My friends in the Performance sector of the IT industry will understand... A system basically grinds to a halt when it spends its time context switching, paging, and constantly searching, loading, and reloading memory. Nothing gets done. 

For my non-IT savvy friends... Imagine having 10 tasks to achieve in one hour. Instead of doing them one at a time, or grouping them together and doing meaningful chunks of related tasks together. Assume instead, that you were forced to spend one minute on each task. Regardless of your progress, being forced to switch task at the end of that minute. You'd soon realize that more time is spent setting up, cleaning up, and moving between tasks, than actually spent working on a task. All overhead - No results. 

Why am I telling you this? It basically sums up my writing efforts over the last month. My day-to-day family life has been so busy of late, that there have been very few opportunities to write. Those opportunities that did present themselves were usually so short in duration, and spaced so far apart, that I'd forget where I was up to. I'd have to reread my entire current chapter (effectively loading the chapter into short-term memory), to get my mind in the right place to proceed. By the time I reread all that was necessary, my writing window would come to an end and I'd barely make any progress at all. 

I did this so many times that I then became overly critical of the beginning of the chapter and spent what precious time I did have, rewording and modifying what I'd already written. Even the best of paragraphs can become somewhat dull after the 10th reading.

There is joy to behold. Tonight I broke the cycle!

Whilst a long way from completion, Chapter 8 of J159 now consists of 16 pages, with a good helping of notes for much more. Only time will tell if this winning trend continues. For the sake of my test readers... I hope it does. 

Happy Reading & Writing Folks!
Renee 😀

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Emotional Revolving Door of Writing (Creative Diary - Part 3)

To say my mood impacts my writing is an understatement of gargantuan proportion. Yes, I have figured out the entire plot and main components of the storyline and characters in my upcoming book "J159", but some things are apparently fluid. 

I'm in the middle of writing chapter 8. A lot has happened so far. Looking back, I can definitely see how my mood and surroundings have impacted the chapters already written. As my loyal test readers can already tell, I often have good food on my mind too. Each of them telling me that they are hungry after reading another chapter. Thankfully, they also seem hungry for the next chapter of my book. So who am I to question the fact that reading my book has sent them to the refrigerator in the middle of the night? Writing it has sent me to the refrigerator, so I'm in good company. 😀

I've also discovered that the impact on mood swings both ways. When my main character is particularly upset or facing struggles, writing about it tends to take its toll on my own demeanor. I can start an evening of writing in a lovely, happy, and content mood, yet end the writing stint feeling deflated and upset, even if the writing has been a complete success. My main character is definitely getting to me. 

I've even found myself watching a short sitcom before bed in hopes of lifting my mood and getting my mind off of my character's situation. I don't need those nightmares! 

As chapter 8 continues to chug along, my mind and emotions are definitely tethered to that locomotive. I hope you enjoy the ride too (when you finally get a chance to read it). 

Happy Reading folks!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Creative Diary - Part 2

Plans and good intentions are great, but they are by no means results. The last two weeks have certainly been proof of that!

While on family vacation in the mountains in Tennessee, I powered through writing Chapter 6 of J159. It  was exhilarating. We had fun, family times, I wrote in the evenings, and life was calm. It was sad to see our vacation come to an end, as all four of us wanted to stay longer. However, armed with the boost of enthusiasm from our vacation, we embraced our return home to normal life. 

With Chapter 6 well and truly written, my head was swarming with ideas for the following chapters. Great details popping in throughout the day, anxiously awaiting committing to the page once my little treasures went to sleep at night. Well that was the plan anyway...

As with most of us, life happened. We had health issues, doctors visits, shopping, chores, cleaning, gardening, cooking, play times, temper tantrums, sibling rivalry, my husband's business trip, volunteer work for our church, and everything else that families do. Then there was that other lingering thing - our house is on the market and up for sale. So there is the constant pressure to keep everything tidy and shiny just in case people want to come see it at a moments notice. Not as easy a task as one may think when two rambunctious boys (ages 4 and 1) have other plans. 

By the time the boys were asleep, and I would sit down to write, my brain was a muddled mess. I was exhausted. I was also nursing a broken nose and a sinus infection, but that's another story involving my 1 year old, my face, and an iPad with a military grade case. Let's just say "Ouch" and acknowledge that pain was also a distraction. 

As day after day of no writing continued, I found myself lost in my own story. I had to spend time rereading where I was up to in order to string my thoughts together. Throbbing head pain and too many cups of coffee proved that effort to be futile. So I sat and played my book out in my head as if I were watching a movie. The details were flooding in, but unfortunately, not the parts I was looking for. Detail upon detail of dialog and actions for chapters 8 and 9 and even part of 10, came crashing down all at once, but chapter 7, not so much. 

So here I am, two weeks after vacation and having written less than a tenth of chapter 7. I'm a little behind my previous schedule, and my plans aren't exactly coming to fruition as envisaged, but hey, I've got great ideas and details for most of the rest of my book, and I've allowed family life to come first as it should. 

Life is great. Embrace it!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Creative Diary - Part 1

I'm currently writing Chapter 6 of my upcoming novel "J159". 

I have two people reading along with me as I write the first draft. Whilst I'd say it falls into the category of General Fiction, my draft readers (currently only privy to chapters 1-5), have suggested that it reads like a suspense, a thriller, or several other genres that they mentioned. I wouldn't argue with them either, as I agree that it belongs in many categories. The fact that neither I, nor they, can narrow it down at this point, is why I'm sticking with General Fiction for now. A few more months, and maybe you can judge for yourself. 

Right now, I'm enjoying writing Chapter 6, but it is taking quite a bit longer to write than chapters 1-5. I'm not sure if it is the abundance of detail and intrigue that is slowing me down in this chapter, or the plethora of delightful distractions. You see, I'm blessed to be spending a short vacation with my beautiful family up in the mountains in Tennessee. 

Between the cuddles and giggles with my children, the relaxed rambling conversations with my husband, and the captivating views of the Smoky Mountains, it's a little hard to pay attention to a screen and keyboard. In fact, it is more than a little difficult to even want to try. 

I'm not sure when "J159" will be ready for release. The story is written in my head, I just need to find the time to type it. So, I will continue, little-by-little each day, until you too can share the story currently in my head. Untill that day, I will continue to journal my progress right here. 

Happy Reading!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Weekend Priorities

Do you plan your weekends, or do you just let them happen? Are they your time to relax and unwind, or do they have a sense of purpose?

We all need a chance to recover from what can often be overwhelmingly exhausting weekdays, but there must be more to a weekend than that. Does the weekend present you with the opportunity to do a few things that you want to do, rather than just what you have to do? If so, what makes the list? How do you set your priorities?

I'd suggest that if the things you choose to do on your weekend do not enrich your life and the lives of those you care about, then you probably should rethink your choices. Are you choosing to spend your time with the people that matter most in your life, or are you filling your circles with those who are convenient or socially popular?  

Do you go out of your way to do what is right, or are you more concerned with being seen to do what is the social norm according to celebrities, the media, and advertising?

If your weekends aren't filled with the people you love, and your activities don't better the health, safety, happiness, and prosperity of yourself, your family, and those around you, then what can possibly be motivating your choices? Selfishness? Greed? Depravity? 

If you live to the age of 90, you will have a mere 3,588 weekends between the ages of 21 and 90. That's not as many as it sounds, they are fleeting. Use them wisely. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Lost Art of Reading

When was the last time you read a book to a child? Wholeheartedly immersing yourself in the story, making up silly voices, interacting, and discussing what you've read? I fear this "art" of storytelling is slowly vanishing from the skill sets of an overwhelmingly large portion of the population. 

Are we too busy? Surely not. Captivating the hearts and minds of our little ones, must always be a priority. 

Are we too lazy? Perhaps. Shall we read our children a book? Nah, there is an app for that. Just because there is an easier way to achieve a somewhat similar result, doesn't mean it is the best way. It is by far, a poor substitute for family interaction. 

If we wait too long to develop this crucial interaction, our children will no longer be interested. You'll have a much more difficult time getting their attention and keeping it. After all, they are becoming increasingly technologically driven and expect just about everything they see and touch to interact right back. Their attention spans are diminishing, and the humble story is having more and more trouble holding their focus. 

Make reading with your kids an important part of your day as much as theirs. Imagine for a moment just how much their concentration and oral comprehension skills will improve, if you are able to captivate them with little more than the written word, the sound of your voice, and a picture now and then. 

Those precious memories you generate will be long lasting, and the skills you help them develop, will benefit them a life time. 

Buy a book, borrow one, or make up your own tale. What's important is that YOU take part, and not a machine. 

Happy Reading Folks!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Paying Twice for Exercise

In the not too distant past, people were active. People worked physically hard, both in and outside their homes, and often at work too. 

Folks cooked their meals from raw ingredients. They didn't reheat them or cook from frozen. They rarely ate out or purchased take-out, and they certainly didn't have food delivery services on speed dial. Many families even grew much of what they ate, in their own back yards.

People cleaned their own houses. They did their own chores, washed their own cars, did their own laundry, and even mowed their own lawn. Yes... It was a time of true DIY. 

But what do we have now?

So many people do so precious little of their own physically demanding work. They hire cleaners for their homes. Have other people do their laundry. Pay a regular service to cut the grass, pull the weeds and tidy the garden.  They rarely cook, and when they do, it's more appropriately described as reheating. 

Then there is work. Oh yes... Those long days of sitting down behind a desk. Sure it is draining and damaging to posture, eye sight, and a whole pile of other parts of the body, but it can hardly be described as calorie burning. 

So when it comes to calorie burning manual labor, we as a society, do less at home and work. And then what?

After spending all our hard earned money, paying other people to do things we really ought to do for ourselves, we worry we aren't getting enough exercise. So we pay even more money to a gym or personal trainer to help us burn calories. 

We work longer hours, to make more money, to pay other people to do our physically demanding chores. Only to bemoan our lack of time to get to the gym to burn those calories and make use of those expensive gym memberships. 

Here's a thought folks...
Why don't we spend more time with our families, and do these chores together.  Make them fun. Pass on valuable, practical life skills from generation to generation. Generate a sense of pride in a job well done, and an appreciation for the effort required to complete the task. You'll soon find people being able to relate to each other and enjoy each other's company, without having to be "entertained" while doing so. 

You will burn more calories, develop better relationships, save money, and gain skills that are slowly slipping away from the average family. 

What's not to like?  

It works for my family. Maybe it will work for yours too?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Why I Mow the Lawn

My husband is a wonderful gentleman, who always looks out for my best interests. He is also much larger than I am, so when it comes to matters of perceived heavy lifting or strenuous chores, he can not fathom why I would want to do them, when he is able. In the case of most such activities, I gladly leave matters to him, but mowing the lawn is different.  

I actually want to mow the lawn. Most people think I'm odd and don't understand (especially the neighbours that have witnessed me cut the grass pregnant, wearing a dress, and in heels), but there are many reasons why it sounds like a good idea to me: 

• We have a small yard and a very light-weight, battery operated mower (easier to push than a laden stroller), so the matter of physical difficulty is certainly a perception and not reality.  

• If I can afford my boys some dedicated "Daddy time" playing basketball, then I'm delighted to do so. If I can be outside gardening and sneaking a peek at their delight, without intruding on their fun, then all the better. Our family is together and that makes me happy.  

• It's fresh air and exercise.  

• We seem to spend so much of our modern lives seemingly spinning our wheels, that it's nice to do a simple, fast, task that yields a clearly visible result.  

Most people can understand or possibly even relate to many of the reasons I've listed above, but now is where I usually tend to lose most folks... 

• It's relaxing!  

I'm a person who doesn't relax easily. My mind is almost constantly racing and juggling many topics at once. Telling me to "relax" is like putting someone afraid of heights, at the top of a cliff, and telling them not to look down. Sure, my mind will still juggle dozens of topics at once while mowing the lawn, but at least it does so quite a bit slower while mowing the lawn.  

Perhaps it is the glorious monotony of the task, or the patterns that begin to emerge in the grass with every pass. Maybe it's the fresh air and exercise. Maybe it's hearing my boys giggle while playing with Daddy just a few steps away. These things make me calmer, dare I say it... perhaps even slightly "relaxed"? 

I like to mow the lawn. I know that makes me a little odd, but I'm ok with that.