Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Slowing Down for Snow Days


Time, it seems, has sped faster with each year of my life. Most days are so stuffed that at the end, I fall onto the sofa feeling like I've been run over. It gets to me after a while, even when the things my day is stuffed with are all pleasant and fun. 

I get frazzled and grumpy if I don't get to slow down, appreciate, and reflect often enough. 

Writing is good for that. It's a quiet, solo activity, reflective and thoughtful. But there are times when even that is not enough to reset my equilibrium. 

But, as I write this, I'm on my second snow day, with the possibility of yet another one coming. The timing couldn't be better. Thank you, Mother Nature! 

My house was well stocked with yummy things thanks to our Chanukah preparations. Our power
stayed on, so we could enjoy the full gamut of entertainment options we've gathered over the years. We had enough wood for fires and all four Bryants were already at home when the weather hit. 

As a group, the Bryants finished some lingering projects for school, cleaned up, caught up on laundry, baked, slept extra, played games, read, played in the snow, petted the dog and told him he's pretty, and just sat and talked beside a fire with cocoa. 

Even the husband who still had to work, because his work can be done from home, got to sleep later, avoid driving, eat warm food prepared with love, and enjoy better breaks during his day. 

We didn't run any errands, do any shopping (except maybe the clicky kind: online), visit anyone outside of walking distance, or attend any events. 

I'm glad the weather forced us into a little quiet time just as we needed it. All of us are the better for the lull. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

IWSG: Five Objects in Your Writing Space


It's the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the December 5 posting of the IWSG are J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker , Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey! Be sure to check out what they have to say, too!

December 5 question - What are five objects we'd find in your writing space?

So, I had to laugh when I saw the question this month because I literally just posted about making a writing space for myself LAST WEEK. I'm so excited about having a "room of my own" at long last! I totally don't mind talking about this some more.

Our house didn't really have an available space that I could claim solely for writing until the beginning of this school year, when the eldest left for college. Since then, I've been transforming the room that had been the youngest child's bedroom into an office for me.

It'll be a slow go. Remodeling takes time and money, two things I am perennially short on, since the two things I do for a living (teaching and writing) both pay rather poorly, at least in dollars.

But I am already using the space in its transitional phase and am thrilled to show you five objects from my writing space.

First, there are plants. I've never been particularly good at raising house plants, but I love having pieces of nature around me, so I'm trying to raise some house plants in my new space. I can breathe better when I'm among plants (literally and figuratively). They calm me with their silent beauty.

The room has a large window with good light and so far my three botanical guests are thriving. I have some purple Wandering Jew transplanted from my outdoor plant before the frost killed it. Since I'm vaguely Jewish myself, and a bit of a wanderer, this purple leaved beauty seemed a natural choice.

On her last visit, my mom got me a Christmas cactus. It's beautiful! And hard to kill, or so I'm told.

Lastly, I have a red begonia purchased from the kids in the gardening club at my middle school. Our science teacher is a wonder with plants and I get the benefit of that with inexpensive plants that our shared students have had a hand in. 

The view out the window right now is of a back yard full of fallen and falling leaves and winter-baring branches, so I've got a taste of Mother Nature out there, too. Sitting in here the other night when it was raining was an absolute joy.

Second, is Franklin. He's my compart-amus: a hippopotamus foot stool, with a hidden compartment.

He holds my tea on his flat back, my post-it notes and pens inside, and sometimes my poor achy feet at the end of the work day.

Occasionally my dog has been known to cuddle up to him, too.

I spotted him online and knew he was the right blend of useful and whimsical to make my office feel like my own space. Isn't he cute?

Next is my Irish shawl. I'm at that phase of life where my temperature gauge is unreliable. I go from hot to cold and back again in endless cycles that can make it hard to stay physically comfortable and focused on my words.

I'm a fan of shawls rather than jackets or sweaters. They are flexible, letting me cover whatever part of me might need covering at any given moment. They're beautiful and soft, making me feel feminine and glamorous even if I'm wearing my Punisher tee shirt and holey sweatpants underneath.

When I was earning my Master's from Bread Loaf School of English, I was fortunate in that I was able to spend a summer semester at Oxford. I admired shawls like this one, but didn't have the budget to buy one.

But my mom--champion of thrift and yard sale shopping--found one for me at an estate sale, which I have treasured and cuddled ever since. 

Fourth is my planning chart. After reading parts of the DIY-MFA book by Gabriela Pereira earlier this year, this lifelong pantser decided to try a kind of outlining.  (Gasp! Shock!)

Ms. Pereira calls this technique "scene cards." For each scene, you make a card (I used color coded post-it notes: orange for Kye'luh; green for Jason; and gold for Malcolm, my three POV characters; and pink ones for revision or other random thoughts I don't want to lose) and record four pieces of information for each scene/chapter:

  • a title for the scene
  • the major players
  • the action
  • the purpose (structurally)
I gave this a go at a summer writing retreat, making a descriptive outline of what I had already written by the seat of my pants, and using it to identify holes and make plans for the rest of the book. I was stuck big time, and I figured it couldn't hurt. 

It's really helping me visualize the work. And finally having a wall of my own that's not in the middle of family traffic is a delight because I can hang my chicken-scratch mess up and not feel bad about leaving an eyesore for others. 

Lastly:  my lamp. 

Another great thing about having my own writing space is having control over the light. 

I like soft, warm light, generally not blaring down on me from above. I get enough bright, painful lighting at school, thanks. 

This lamp is a creation of my Mom and Dad's. He wired the metal tropical fern sculpture for electricity and she affixed the Tiffany-esque light fixture atop, combining several of my favorite things into one unique piece to light my writing space and remind me of the love and support my family gives me in these endeavors.

So even though I still have remnants of the Disney princess border, an odd pink stripe that was left when I removed the moulding, ugly carpet that came with the house, and cutesy flowered wallpaper, the room already feels welcoming and right. I've found renewed productivity having my own space. 

What's in the space where you create? What do you wish you could have? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.