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Eating an Elephant

eat an elephant

I’m sure most of you know the old adage, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. ” Well, my next step in my writing rehab program, as outlined in my Overcoming Writing Blocks book, was just that.

Having dealt with the distractions in my environment, I moved on last week to the writing project itself.  First up was to break the task into “bite-sized units.”  For a novel,  that would be chapters or possibly “Parts,” though so far I have not been thinking of this book in  terms of “Parts.” For now I took the average of the number of chapters in each of my six books — 42 — as the number of chapters in Sky.

I’ve already written six of them, which  leaves 36. At a rate of 2 chapters per 3 weeks,  with time out here and there for holidays and trips, I would be done with a first draft around May 1 of next year.

Whether that has any tie to reality or not, I have no idea. But it’s a start.

Next was to come up with a “Purpose Statement.” For fiction writing that would be one’s main story question for the tale. In working through developing this,  many things came to light about the world I’m building and this plus the next step “research reading and taking notes” (which I take to also include work in developing the parameters of one’s make-believe world) sent me off for most of last week gathering all my scattered notes and ideas into folders with the intention of going through the collected material and deciding what I want to keep and what I want to toss.

In the process of all this I realized that I am no longer interested in the linear set-up of a single empire beneath my fictional planet’s surface with the heavenly city floating above as I had originally envisioned. There have to be various nations to carry out what I’m wanting to do,  and in fact in the chapters I’ve already written there are already at least two other national entities mentioned. So I see that this concept was there all along, despite my initial plans.

I’ve been taking all my note cards and entering the notes on them into one of my many world building documents, or if I’ve decided not to use that material, simply throwing it away. It’s been very productive work. Not when it comes to chapters written, but as regards the fundamental shift the story is now taking. Once an optimum number of the world building questions have been answered, I’ll be able to turn my attention to the plot…

The fact that I’m making this fairly major change, in addition to much new material I’ve gathered from miscellaneous reading, news events and my own increasing understanding of some of the spiritual issues I was wanting to deal with, I’m beginning to see there might have been a reason for my stall over the last few months… years? … that goes beyond mere burn out, life distractions, or lack of self-discipline…

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Shingles is Back

Sort of. I guess the virus isn’t active but something is happening in my eye — it’s been increasingly irritated — painful and this morning, very red. So I went to the eye doctor and am back to the eye drops again. This is just one among a series of minor ailments that have beset me in the last week or so. Hopefully now that I know that “dry eyes” is not the problem, and have begun some treatment that will help, I can get back to the computer for longer than half an hour again.

Creativity: Two Modes of Thinking

Well, this morning I decided that I am definitely suffering from a serious and major writing block, so I started researching that subject on the Internet. In the process I came across a 1991 video of John Cleese giving a talk about Creativity’s origin and how creativity is not a matter of talent or IQ but really a matter of how one thinks. And there are two modes of thinking that impact it: Closed and Open

It was exactly what I needed, because as soon as he began describing the Closed mode, I saw myself in his words:

This is the mode we’re in most of the time when we’re at work. WE have a feeling that there’s lots to be done and we have to get on with it if we’re going to get to it all. It’s an active, probably slightly anxious mode, a mode where we’re probably a little impatient, if only with ourselves. It has a little tension in it. Not much humor. It’s a mode in which we’re very purposeful and one in which we can get very stressed and even a bit manic, but NOT creative!

Lots to be done, have to get going, slightly anxious, impatient, stressed… oh yeah. Mostly in regards to everything else in my life, but also the writing itself, seeing as the story has been stalled in the same spot for several months at least.

Yes, I know I’ve had these stalls before, but this is definitely the worst and longest I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been thinking lately that I seem to have forgotten how to do it. But when I heard Cleese’s words, and recognized myself in them, I realized that it connected in a way to the Flylady stuff.

Not so much the daily routines… those work well… but the other stuff. The lists of all the things to do around the house and yard, the way of getting it all organized so you can be sure and get it all in. Except I haven’t gotten it all in, and have the lists but they serve only to condemn me for failing to get everything done.

If I determine I AM going to get it done, then I don’t write. It seems often that whatever I decide to do in the morning is the thing that gets done. By midday I seem to have run out of energy, whether to do the actual thing in question or to make myself decide to do it. In any event it doesn’t happen. Of course, I do have to walk the dog most afternoons and do Bible class, so it’s not like I have all that much time after lunch. Especially if I have doctor’s appointments or errands… or don’t get enough sleep the night before.

Anyway, back to the video and the other mode, the one that IS associated with creativity: the Open Mode:

(This) mode is relaxed, expansive, less purposeful. It’s the mode in which we’re probably more contemplative, more inclined to humor, which always accompanies a wider perspective and consequently more playful. It’s a mode in which curiosity for its own sake can operate. Because we’re not under pressure to get a specific thing done quickly, we can play. And that’s what allows oiur natural creativity to surface.

I’ve experienced the above, as well, just not recently. I’ve been too “You must get with the program” to be playing around, or allow myself to relax and think “unproductive” thoughts. I don’t have time for that. I simply have to decide what I’m going to do about this world… will it be the small, limited empire I started with, or the larger, multinational planet I’ve been thinking about for some time but am afraid will make for too big of a story?

I haven’t allowed myself to simply ponder the matter with an attitude of patience, but instead have demanded results and conclusions, almost from the moment I begin thinking about it.

Anyway, I found the entire video to be very informative and inspiring, so I’m linking to it in case any of my readers want to sample it as well. It’s about 30 minutes long. I listened (and took notes) in two sessions

I Love This Video and Song

Recently my pastor’s daughter sang this song at the end of service. I loved it, but missed some of the words so I looked up the lyrics and came across the music video below. I’ve since learned that this song, Blessings, written and performed by Laura Story, received the GMA Dove Award for Song of the Year in 2012. The video, uploaded by LoveOneAnother March 4, 2011, has been viewed by 5 million people.

Here are the lyrics. The video follows. ENJOY.

Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

I’m Back

Quigley wearing free dog antlers from PetCo

Quigley wearing free dog antlers from PetCo

Hi everyone!  And a happy 2013 to you all!

Yes, I’m back. Not necessarily back from physical travels, though we did get over to Southern California to visit the kids and grand-daughter, as well as my 92-year-old stepmother. I am back from that, and also, apparently, from my recent and unexpected blogging silence.

I have no explanation, other than that I had neither  motivation nor words with which to generate a blog post for almost a month now. I haven’t even kept up on my emails. In fact, I’ve done very little on the computer since last I posted, except for Bible Class.

Part of that was the shingles and the fact that it was hard to even look at the screen for a while. Plus I had a regimen of eye drops and pills to take there at first, and kept going back to the doctor for them to gauge my progress. This, added to Christmas preps, demolished my normal routine, which had been suffering anyway. I was also consciously trying to avoid the computer, not only to rest my eyes but in hopes of getting a handle on my addiction to reading blogs and news articles.

Pastor John spoke about this awhile back, how reading the things on the web — things invariably from the world — mess up your mental attitude and make it harder to go back to your work — in his case, studying the Word and preparing his lessons, in mine, working on the book. I had already noticed that effect on my own, but didn’t really give it the attention it deserved. I thought it was just me having no discipline as opposed to information and enticements from the world registering with my sin nature, which in turn agitated for “No More Struggling With that Lame Book! Who’s going to like it anyway? It’s not going to be any good, and you have no discipline…” or…. “You’re just not into it today. Tomorrow will be better. Why not take a break now and go do something else?”  To which I answered “Okay” far too often.

Or… “But I really want to find out what happened/why he did it/more on this subject! I’ll work on the book later…”

On another day, in another lesson, he talked about how sometimes God will shut us down in the operation of our spiritual gift in order for us to realize that it’s His power that’s doing it, not ours. That really resonated as well, but I haven’t really been able to get my arms around it all enough to write about it in any way that makes sense.

A third concept that keeps floating through my awareness is the fact that all this with the blog… specifically the call to do a post 5 days a week, was really more than I could handle and actually write a book, too. Add to that the notion that since this was supposed to build my readership I should be trying to do posts that people would like, and keep track of the numbers and all that… and it only piled on more pressure. And, I see in retrospect, drained energy away from whatever it is in me that comes up with my stories.

Long ago I had determined that God was not calling me to be a marketer — He would do the marketing, and the promoting and publicizing, and my job was to concentrate on writing the book (which He would also do, but that was where I was to focus my attention, not the other stuff).  He told me that in a very vivid and compelling way, and I immediately obeyed and stopped thinking about the marketing.

But the world is relentless in promoting its positions, and after ten years, I became infected with it again. Maybe I had grown enough, I thought arrogantly, that I could handle it now. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to at least try it out, see if it was what I was to do. After all, everyone else is doing it.

No. Not what I’m to do. All the things they suggest one do to build a readership distracts me from my calling. It takes away my time, changes my mental attitude and focus, really seems to mess me up when it comes to my primary calling, which is to write my novels. I learned that once, but as with so many things, forgot the lesson and went back to try it again.

If I’m honest, I have to admit I like the idea of me doing stuff to get folks to read my blog and books. Well, no, actually I don’t like it at all, at least not the actual doing of it. I just like the idea of having some control over it and that’s probably the main issue right there. That I’m going to control things, when God’s the one in control.

Anyway, I’m not going to be doing five posts a week, but 4, and that may not be all the time. I’m not going to be trolling about various strangers’ blogs to see if I might “like” them. I might like them, but I don’t have time to read them. I’m not going to be going out to comment on other folks’ blogs, like they tell me to, in hopes they’ll visit my blog and like it. I’m not going to be trolling about on the internet looking for good ideas for content that will bring in a lot of readers.

I’m going to go back to what this all started out as: me writing my book, posting thoughts that spring primarily out of that and my life and lessons and research. The book comes first. The blog second.

And if the world thinks that’s dumb, I’m okay with that. If I only have six readers, I’m okay with that, too. As our recent lessons on spiritual gifts have taught me, God is the one in charge of the results of my gift, not me.

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised (or unknown), God has chosen, the things that are not (ie, humble) that He might nullify the things that are (ie, proud), that no man should boast before God.”   ~ 1 Co 1:26 – 29

The Eye Saga Continues

Well, I’m sorry to say that my eye saga continues. Last evening before I went to bed I inspected my problem eye and discovered that for the first time there is a patch of pink now on the white below my iris.  Well, that’s one of the symptoms that’s supposed to send you to the phone to call the ophthalmologist.  So I told myself that if it wasn’t gone the next morning, I’d call.

Then, during the night, I woke up to find my eye running with some kind of discharge. It felt like I’d just put eye drops in but I hadn’t. I also had these mysterious bumps showing up on my forehead in a vertical line starting at the eyebrow of my affected eye. They didn’t hurt, weren’t red, but they were weird… Were they related? I was somewhat alarmed…

Discharge from the eye is another reason to call the doctors.

So the next morning (ie, this morning) I got the phone numbers for three eye clinics and set to calling. One didn’t open until 8, the second didn’t open until 8:30 but the third had someone who actually answered the phone. I told her my situation, but she had no openings with the ophthalmologists, only the  optometrist at 10am. “An optometrist,” she said, “can do anything an ophthalmologist can do except surgery.” I grabbed it to hold as a last resort, but told her I was going to try to get in to see an ophthalmologist somewhere else first if possible.

A few minutes after 8am I called Eye Clinic #1 . Its answering machine told me that if I was calling during office hours I should leave a voice mail message and someone would return my call before the end of the day. Not what I had in mind, but I left a message. Then I waited a bit, tried again and got an actual person that time, but as soon as I said what I wanted she connected me to the voice mail thing again. 😦

By then I could call Clinic #2. They had actual receptionists, but the receptionist could do nothing. She told me that she would have one of the doctor’s technicians call me sometime to find out the story on my eye, and that person would decide if I should see a doctor or tell me what to do.

Meanwhile, my hubby, who really thought I should see an ophthalmologist and not an optometrist, had done a bit of online research and come up with a list of places, one of which was Eye Clinic #4.  I called them, gave the receptionist my spiel and midway through she said I could have a 3:30pm appt with one of their newbie doctors. (Well, she didn’t say “newbie,” I just looked her up afterward and discovered that she was). As the receptionist was taking my info, I heard her asking someone else if they were scheduling the 3:30 slot and moments later she asked me if I could come in at 4 instead of 3:30.  Well, that would screw a lot of things up with my day, but okay. I wanted to see an ophthalmologist, and at least it was an appointment.

I then called Eye Clinic #3 back, and canceled my 10 o’clock appt with the optometrist.

Not long after that, the technician from Eye Clinic #2 called — while I was outside hanging up the laundry, of course. So I had to call him back. I was expecting another message left and a return call, but he came on the line immediately. After listening to my probably way-too-detailed recitation of what all had gone on with my eye and also the weird bumps on my forehead, he told me… ahem… that it sounded like dry eyes.

Again? That’s what I’d been told last week.

Apparently it’s “endemic” here in Southern Arizona this time of year, and he said lots of people are suffering from dry eyes. He himself had to use eye drops constantly throughout the day. Every one of my symptoms were consistent with dry eyes, he said. The pain and scratchiness, the pink area (a sign of irritation) and the tears that had suddenly run out of my eye in the night (also a sign of irritation). Nor did he think it an infection from my having contaminated the tip of the bottle of eyedrops once when trying to administer them. He recommended I just start using the drops as needed — all day long.

What he was more concerned about were the mysterious bumps on my forehead. He thought they were shingles.

WHAT?!!!  Shingles????

He thought I should see my primary care ASAP.  That I should cancel the 4pm ophthalmologist appt in favor of a primary care visit. “You have bigger fish to fry right now” he said when I asked if I should do just that. Then he went on about shingles and how they could appear one day and suddenly cover your whole forehead the next and hurt really bad and if you don’t deal with them right away… you could have them for a loooong time.  Gulp.

Soooo. I called may PCP, talked to his nurse who said he was out of town today, and fully booked tomorrow. But she would talk to him when he called in that afternoon and get back to me.

And around 2 she did. She asked me if the bumps hurt. I said no. She told me that if they were shingles they would hurt. The doc doesn’t think they’re shingles, but something else.

Something else? Like what?

“Some sort of skin infection.”

Eeuw.

So of course now my mind is going every which way:  what sort of skin infection? Where would I have gotten it? What is it going to do? What will they treat it with? Will I be allergic to it? (I am allergic to three major antibiotics already)

But I have an appointment to see my PCP on Friday, now. So I’ll find out then. And once again I have to wait. The Lord loves to make me wait. Probably because I dislike it so much. I like things resolved. I want to know what’s going on and to take action. I don’t like to have to trust…  Which is surely why He gives me so many opportunities to do so.

Needless to say, I didn’t get any writing done today.

Attack of the Cloud of Mosquitos (Updated)

Well, today I changed the font and icon size on my computer just to see if it would help with my eyestrain (I keep overdoing it) and now I can’t get it to go back. I’ve clicked the little button for it to go back to the lowerr setting, and it tells me my changes won’t happen until I’ve restarted the computer. Well, I’ve now restarted it three times and the change has not yet happened.

Grumble. Growl…

With everything so big, WordPress is all bizarre. Half the time I can’t see what I’m typing, because there’s a side panel over top of the window. I have no idea how to change it.

I read all about the Pilgrims today and made my eye sore again. 😦

But I did get some information on the persecution they suffered while in England that’s been helpful on Sky. In that vein, I am still simmering things, but they are slowly coming together. Even though it’s not linear or clear yet, I can just sense that they are. For one thing, I’m not panicking when my thought trains run out or go crashing into each other.

Come to think of it, I’m not having that many that are crashing any more and that’s always nice. Okay, enough of this weirdness.

I’m going to save this and then turn off the computer altogether and see if that helps. If not…

Update: I fixed the font and icon size!  The problem was that the menu that opened to change it was so large the bottom was off the screen and the botton was where the “Okay” and “Apply” buttons were. I had to change my toolbar setting to get it to be visible. And then it was only the barest upper edge of the buttons that showed. Whew!


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