American Gods and Neil Gaiman

I finished American Gods and penned this little review on Goodreads

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Loved it, for many reasons. The history, the mythology, the taking of something familiar and putting it on its' head and looking at it in a different way. There is a lot going on in this book, but not too much to keep up with. I was there, with Shadow, every step of the way. I didn't want to guess at the end, but, as with all well-done stories, the seeds were there early on. This book is satisfying to me, like a good, rich meal, taken in slowly, paired with the right wines for each course. Take your time with this one, it's a good one! Neil Gaiman, at present, remains my current favorite author."

Neil Gaiman.  I love his writing because he works across so many genres: film, graphic novels, comic books, tv, children's books, young adult books and probably some I'm missing.  He takes the notion of fantasy and sci-fi and horror and mashes them up and turns them on their heads and does it in a big way.  I saw "American Gods" first on Starz, then had to wait a loooonngggg time to get the book from the library.  Let me tell you, worth the wait.  So, check it out.  It is a bit of a longer book and so worth reading.  It has won many awards and I am looking forward to moving on to reading "Anansi Boys", I think.  

And, when things get tough, I remember this quote, always, and it gives me inspiration:

BestThings: Thursday Edition

It's Thursday at the houseboat.  From my perch at the dining table, I can hear the birds and the river lapping gently against the deck, as the houseboat ever so gently moves with the current.  Out the door rests the front edge of a wooden boat, moored at the nearest slip.  At the moment, the birds are the only ones active, the humans have mostly come and gone already.  Here I sit writing, staring at pale blue walls, the table littered with tools of my trade.  My camera, a hat, several notebooks, pens, a blue pottery mug, sunglasses, my phone.  An airplane flies over head, announcing it's going somewhere.  The sun hides behind the clouds.  The air flows cool and sweet, in and out, from back to front, a welcome relief from the wicked temperatures of the last weeks.  

Writing.  There.  That was a writing exercise for me, just describing my surroundings.  Writing is consistently one of the best things in my life.  It keeps me grounded, keeps me sane, and it is my passion.  I'm always scribbling.  I don't feel right if I don't have a pen and notebook with me.  And when I sit down to fill my three morning pages, I now do it with ease.  And if I don't do morning pages, don't blog, my world is not right until I do.  It runs off my excess creative energy, so to speak.  I intend for writing to support me full-time.  Right now I'm building a bridge across the chasm from here to there, to being a full-time paid writer.  My bridge is about 1/3 of the way done, as I see it.  My next huge piece will be to complete my copywriting class I've been putting off, and to get working on my book again.  

Blue Heron.  Yesterday as I headed up the ramp to go for a walk to Oaks Park, a blue heron flew across my path and landed on one of the poles at the end of the dock.  Sometimes I think animals cross our paths to send us messages.  Yea, maybe it's a little weird, but so what.  Here's what a heron might represent: 

It is time to look deeper into aspects of your life that will bring out innate wisdom and show you how to become self-reliant. Are you grounding yourself regularly? Heron teaches that grounding yourself in the earth and your spiritual beliefs will help you discover emotional insights more clearly and more quickly. Alternatively he could be teaching you how how to become comfortable in uncertain situations and to be watchful of opportunities to arise so that you can quickly grasp them and move on.

I'll take it, sounds about exactly right.  I love these majestic birds.


Reading.  I have a ton of books I have not read yet.  I get rid of them and then I buy more, so I might as well simply give in, realize I will probably always have more books than I can read, and just get after reading them.  One of the hallmarks of a writer is that you read.  A lot.  I think of it like the yin/yang, the give and take. Reading is input, writing is output.  Everything you read comes out in your writing in some way or another.  I've been a reader my whole life.  This week, I started reading another Julia Cameron book, "The Right to Write".  I'm also reading Steven King's "On Writing", a book by Neil Gaiman called "Neverwhere" and one by Agatha Christie called "And Then There Were None".  I'm also in process of reading "True Irish Ghost Stories" and "Grimm's Fairy Tales" at home, but I don't have them with me here.  As they are both a collection of short stories, I can start and stop them as I want.  I seem to have to read more than one book at a time, so I don't get bored.  And honestly, I do finish most books I start.  Unless they are books I don't care for, and then I don't waste my time.  One book I recently tried to read was "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon.  I just couldn't seem to get into it.  So I quit trying.  I know tons of people love it, but, not me.  I kind of feel about this book like I did about "50 Shades of Grey".  Maybe some day I'll go back to it, but not right now.

Friends.  Last night I got to spend some time with very good friends of mine.  I had not seen them in almost a month and it was so good to catch up and hang out at their house.  They are not far from the houseboat so it was an easy drive.  I know I say this often, but seriously, I am so blessed with all the relationships I have in my life.

Yoga, Walking and Meditation.  I wrapped these all into one because to me, they seem to represent almost different sides of the same thing.  They give me time to power down, take care of me, get in touch with myself and see what I'm thinking about things.  And they center me.  They work better than almost anything at taking the edge off.  Yesterday I walked down to Oaks Park via the Springwater Trail and Oaks Bottom.  Today maybe I'll walk up to the Puppet Museum and take a look.  For me, these things simply work, so I do my best to incorporate them into my every day routine. 

Today begins my "work week".  I'll login this afternoon to Lyft and see what kind of rides there are to be had.  I do know that I need to add some additional streams of income, so I'll be looking into that.  Maybe Instacart, maybe Wingz, maybe professional housesitting and a freelance copywriting business.  So many things to think about.  Until next time, happy adventuring!  





This Shit Is Working

I'm not sure how this happens to me, but time seems to slip away.  I haven't written a blog post in 2 weeks.  Eeek!!!! I am doing other writing, but sheesh.  Ridiculous.  You would think not working would lend itself to developing a better schedule.  Not always true.  Because I have so much time, then I tend to waste it.  But I am tweaking it, always adjusting to find the balance.

I figured something out today.  Sometimes it takes me awhile.  I've been job searching and worried about what skills I don't have or if I can get a job that makes more than minimum wage, wishing I had a better career path, a profession.  All those nasty little thoughts that come up when you are actively making things happen.  

And then I realized something.  I am a writer.  It is the thing I live for, the thing that sometimes keeps me up at night and the thing I must do lest I go crazy.  So, everything in my life is in support of that.  Even my job.  If I end up working part-time to pay my bills, so I can write in the other part-time, then so be it.  

I have been playing small.  Pretending I'm not something I am.  I have stories burning inside me and I have to get them out.  I have things to say that people need to hear.  And no one can write the stories that I can.  As Neil Gaiman says, (loosely paraphrased), "there are better, smarter writers out there, but none that can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can".  I love that.  No one can write the stories I need to write.  So I continue on.  

A few weeks ago my brother "encouraged" me to spend 15 minutes a day working on my novel.  That's it. Not 4 hours, not even 2 hours.  Though I haven't spent 15 minutes every day, I have been doing this more often than not.  Guess what?  I now have 5,300 words towards my book I did not have two weeks ago.  My target word count is 80,000, so I still have a journey ahead of me.  But that's okay.

I most often write this story at night.  It seems to be appropriate as I want it to be scary.  I like to sit down and see what the story wants to tell me.  And, in that 15 minutes, I almost always come up with 500-700 words to keep the story going.  Are they good words, perfect words?  Nope.  Will I have to edit?  Oh yea.  But all the best writers, at least the ones I love the most, say it comes down to this: getting your ass in the chair and writing.  Every day.  Inspiration or not.  

1 Thing That is Really Helping Me Get My Writing Shit Straight.

My brother, Benj Curtis, challenged me to simply work on one of my books for 15 minutes a day.  That's it.  This was on Sunday.  

I'd been fairly stuck in my book writing process.  I had one book with a partially finished first draft, limping along.  A second book had been burning inside me but I told myself I needed to put this one off until I finished the first one.  Talk about a subtle form of self-sabotage.  This way, neither book ever gets written and I can say I am a writer who is writing nothing but morning pages.  Not that there is no value in morning pages.  They simply are not a book.  

It's this little thing called performance anxiety.  "What if it's crap?", "What if it's terrible?", "What if no one likes it?", "What if I can't actually write, but just think I can?", "Why would I write a book, let alone two or more, when there are already so many?".  And on and on it goes.  I have had to learn to tell my inner critic to shut up and go to the corner, tying her into a chair if I have to.  Her name is Edna.  I say, "Edna, go to the corner and be quiet."  And sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't.  

I get overwhelmed when I think of writing for a four-hour block of time.  Even a two-hour block of time.  But, for whatever reason, this 15-minute thing seems to work for me.  So, for the last two nights, after getting ready for bed but before reading and going to sleep, I set my phone timer for 15 minutes and write.  Guess what happened?  In two sessions, I have almost 1500 words.  

Sometimes I hate admitting this, but my brother was absolutely right.  It's easy for me to do 15-minutes.   And I have found there is something magical about writing when the world is quiet.  Plus, I'm writing kind of a creepy tale so the darkness is a good place to do it.  I write my story out long hand, using a pen or pencil, on good old-fashioned notebook paper.  I date it, number the pages (back and front) and then put it in a plain white binder when I'm done.  

I type the words into my laptop the next day, so I can keep track of word count and don't get overwhelmed by having to type the whole thing in all at once.  I do teeny, tiny edits when I am typing, but for the most part, keep it as raw as I can.  For me, there is something so important about touching pen or pencil to paper.  This is exactly how I write songs.  Chicken scratch on paper, and then I copy it to a computer or somewhere else once it's finished.  Poetry and short stories too. I write them out by hand, messy, scribbled and very rough.  And then I refine them, after I have birthed the initial idea.  

And then I came across this video by Neil Gaiman in one of my emails.  This is why I write.  Not because I am better or smarter, but because no one else can tell the stories I must tell.  Cheers!