In Defense of Daydreaming

People often ask writers where they get their ideas, a question I’ve always found interesting. What do you mean where do I get them? I don’t get them anywhere. They come to me. This isn’t to say they’re all generated by my mind from thin air. They’re a mix of day-to-day observations, knowledge gained from researching an interesting subject, and my own internal angst about something. But it usually starts with daydreaming.

As I was thinking about this post my mind began to wander. I went from daydreaming about being a bestselling author, to thinking about being Ernest Hemingway, to his quote about writing the truest sentence you know, to writing my own truest sentence in my head, to giving that sentence to a character. And now I have a book idea about a villainous puppeteer.

I wasn’t purposely looking for a new novel idea. It just came to me as I let my mind wander.

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And it’s not just about coming up with book ideas. Here are some of my recent daydreams:

-Create YouTube channel with as many followers as John Green. Then sell as many books as him. Then be famous.

-Not only make a book trailer for my book, but also create a music video where I dance with the very famous actors who will star in the movie based on my book. (Don’t worry. I’ve got the choreography all figured out.)

-Open my own animal sanctuary and have hundreds of cats, squirrels, or whatever animal crawls/flies/swims its way into my heart.

-Learn to sail and then sail around the world. I’ve already envisioned what our boat will look like and what I’ll be wearing.

-Make dioramas of Chapstick tubes dressed to look like characters from movies and TV shows. This project is thoroughly sketched out, complete with caption ideas and props. I’ve got Jaws, The Breakfast Club, Poltergeist, Dexter, The Vampire Diaries… It’s going to be epic.

In some cases, I’ve taken the daydreaming a step further to actual planning and goal setting. But if we’re being honest, it’s likely I won’t actually accomplish all of these things.

So I think the next logical question is:

Well, if I’m not actually going to do all of these things, is it a waste of time to daydream about them?

I say no.

I believe daydreams help to shape my present and future. Maybe they provide me with tools I’ll use in the future, allow me to practice possible scenarios in my head, and identify possible tactics and solutions. They help me define my goals and figure out who I want to be in the future.

And for every handful of daydreams, I know I will make some of them come true:

-One day, I woke up and decided to write a book. I daydreamed about it, came up with a plan, and I actually did it.

-Logan realized that he loved woodworking. He daydreamed about it. I daydreamed about it for him (because I’m really good at it), and we decided he should quit his job and we should move to Maine so he could attend furniture-making school. We daydreamed, we planned, we moved. And here we are.

maine freeway sign

It was much warmer when we arrived…

And I know that while some daydreams won’t come true, they might lead to something else.

-Perhaps I never find the time to make my Chapstick dioramas, but maybe a character in one of my books does.

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I’ve already begun to collect them!

-Maybe I never have a hit music video with my famous actor friends, but I create a video of well choreographed dancing cats that I post to YouTube and use the proceeds to start that animal sanctuary.

cats sleeping

You guys better put your dancing shoes on.

So I say indulge in your daydreams–you never know what might come of it. And to the people who say daydreaming is a waste of time, I say pfft… where’s your story idea for a villainous puppeteer? Or more importantly, where’s your dancing cat video?

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It’s Not the Getting, It’s the Returning

I love to get things. I’ll happily go to the store and purchase a pair of fuzzy pajama bottoms or a new bathroom organizer that will do nothing but sit on the wall taunting me with its messy shelves and utter lack of organization.

The problem comes when something has to be returned. See. The getting is so easy, but the returning is soooo hard.

Overboard DVD

A DVD that was “borrowed” and never returned.

clothes

Clothes ordered online that didn’t quite fit right, but were never returned.

oil can

The oil can we borrowed from our landlord and have yet to return. She lives downstairs.

shower rod

The shower rod we bought for … I can’t remember why … and still haven’t returned.

Fault in Our Stars Book

The library book I’ve yet to return.

So what is it? Why am I so bad at returning things?

My best guess – The thrill of getting is way more powerful than my desire to sit on the couch. And there is no thrill in returning.

Cue the awkward segue: Is there anything else more powerful than my desire to sit on the couch?

Yes! NaNoWriMo.

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I’m joining the band of crazy people who have decided it’s a good idea to write a novel in a month. That’s 50,000 words in 30 days folks. At the end of November I’ll have 50,000 words added to my novel. It will be glorious. And you know what else is glorious? I can do it while sitting on the couch!

If anyone wants to be writing buddies, let me know 🙂

How I Conquered My Book Eating Pigeons (or writing conferences are awesome)

A car crashes into a writer’s bedroom. The final line of her manuscript (the only manuscript that can save the world from fictitious book eating pigeons) is left unwritten. Will anyone ever read it? Will her story ever be told?

Pigeon flying

A book eating pigeon poised to attack.  (Pigeon in Flight. Image courtesy of quinet via  Flickr CC Lic. 2.0)

A young woman leaves her “day job” to write insanely humorous urban fantasy. Follow her as she skyrockets to the top of the industry and remodels her house to include a dark, but well lit library.

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My dark, but well lit future library complete with magical potions, because writing is magical. (Study. Image courtesy of CodyR via Flickr CC 2.0)

These aren’t the plots of Hollywood movies. These are the types of thoughts that run through my mind at night. And by night I mean while in bed desperately trying to fall asleep.

These thoughts can usually be divided into two very distinct categories: Fortune and Fame or Doom and Gloom. Examples:

Fortune and Fame – I can’t wait to sell the first million copies of my book!

Doom and Gloom – What if I never finish the book? What if something happens to me, and my manuscript remains the gooey, messy, but delightful draft that only I’ve read?

Fortune and Fame  – This trip will be amazing! Our Mardi Gras costumes will be the best anyone has ever seen and we’ll be on the front page of every newspaper and meet Angelina and Brad.

Doom and Gloom – Unless our plane crashes into an alligator infested swamp.

Yeah, I might have a little anxiety … countered by delusions of grandeur.

I don’t know why my brain does this. Someone please explain to me the evolutionary advantage of keeping myself up all night worrying about book eating pigeons or fantasizing about my Oscar speech for a book that doesn’t even have a title yet.

But I digress.

This weekend I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) in Colorado Springs, CO and guess what? I learned things. I learned new ways to think about things. I learned that “things” isn’t a very strong word. Well, I already knew that, but I liked the use of anaphora.

Crows reading

Me looking up the word anaphora. What? You didn’t know I was a crow, with other crow friends? (Reader. Image courtesy of h.koppdelaney via Flickr CC 2.0)

When I sunk into my couch yesterday afternoon, I was filled with a range of emotions, the best being exhilaration. Although, you couldn’t tell from my slack jaw and glazed over eyes.

The conference was three days of workshops, pitch sessions, critique sessions and writerly fun. At times it was overwhelming, and the realities of the writing life can be daunting.

While I was splayed on the couch, my husband asked if I felt discouraged. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. No, I wasn’t discouraged. In fact, I have never felt more encouraged, supported and empowered. I’ve never loved being a writer more.

When 8:00 p.m. rolled around, I was semi-conscious and drooling on a throw pillow. So, I decided to go to bed. And then it happened – I couldn’t sleep. I was up for hours. I reworked my first two chapters in my mind, pondered marketing strategies and, of course, pictured myself walking down the red carpet. There was no worrying, no negative thoughts. Only the positive flowed through my mind.

So, goodbye Doom and Gloom. From here on out, I’m focusing on Fortune and Fame.

Thank you PPWC!

Public Speaking: Practice Makes Perfect (or at least slightly less scary)

It’s feared more than spiders, heights, and Jello molds. Some would actually rather be dead than do it.

Amazingly, public speaking is more frightening to people than going an entire night without cable TV.

And that’s what I was doing last week. I rarely talk about my “other” job, but after eight months of being self-employed, I think it’s time.

I used to work for the state government as a nurse surveyor. This meant that I got to visit home health agencies, hospices and even a few hospitals to evaluate their compliance with state and federal regulations. We’ll just say nobody was happy when I walked through the front door.

Now, I help the same companies that I used to scrutinize. I provide training and education on how to interpret and comply with all those federal and state requirements. This means that on a monthly basis I give presentations. In front of people. For like hours.

This is how I felt about public speaking in college:

Public Speaking Socially Awkward penguin

Um, I may have done this once. Or twice.

Socially awkward penguin public speaking

Yes, socially awkward penguin, I understand. I contemplated doing this.

public speaking anxiety cat

Luckily, I never had to resort to this. I found a loophole 🙂

And that feeling stayed with me into adulthood, although it lessened over time. Soon, I was able to verbalize my thoughts in front of a group of five or ten people without this happening:

Public speaking brain

But a four hour presentation in front of twenty or so strangers? Hmmm…. Maybe that coffin doesn’t look so bad.

My first presentation brought on some nerves. To help, my body decided to recruit my sympathetic nervous system, which resulted in:

Nausea – I knew those three bites of toast would come back to haunt me

Tachycardia – The fancy word for a fast heart rate

Cotton mouth – I had no idea my tongue could be this dry

Trembling hands – We’ll just forget about using the laser pointer

The need to pee every five minutes – Now I know what it’s like to be my mom

And pretty much the overall sensation that I was going to die.

Thanks, body. That really helped create the illusion that I was confident and composed.

Now, eight months later, I am more confident and composed.

sponge bob public speaking

Just like Sponge Bob

I still get a little jittery before each presentation, but instead of feeling like my heart might explode for the full four hours, I go through the following:

-It’s almost time to start the presentation. Everyone is looking at me. Wow, my heart really can beat 200 times per minute. Maybe I should go throw up really quick. Or just pee. I think I have to pee again.

-Wow, I’m already 30 minutes in. And I’m rockin’ it. Look they’re laughing at my jokes. They’re asking questions. They’re nodding like they understand. I’m awesome!

-Ugh. We’re only two hours into this thing. Is that person sleeping? Yes, I think they’re sleeping. I’m boring them. Better say something funny.

-Says something funny. Everyone laughs. They all go back to sleep. And I don’t take it personally.

-We only have a half hour left. I can do this. Maybe I need some caffeine? Where’s that racing heart beat? I think I need that again. A little shot of adrenaline just might spruce up the last bit of this presentation. Ugh. Body, come on. You were so generous with it earlier.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is this public speaking thing does get better. The more I do it, the easier it becomes. I almost even like it sometimes. Crazy, huh?

As a side note: My cousin and I are attending our first writing conference this weekend and we’re planning to read the first page of our novels. Out loud. To an agent. And an audience. I have a feeling that pesky sympathetic nervous system will be kicking in again.

As another side note: My cat was sitting on my mouse the whole time I was writing this and she bit my hand every time I tried to use it. But don’t worry – she hardly has any teeth left.

Giving my Resolutions a Little Wiggle Room

So the new year is almost upon us and I thought I would get in on the resolution-making that is happening out there. But instead of setting myself up for failure, I gave myself some wiggle room.

1. Exercise 1 hour every day. Does repeatedly walking from the desk to the fridge count? No? Okay, then scratch that. How about exercise more? Doable right? No rules about type, frequency or duration. Just more. Considering I was a sloth from August to December of last year, this should be easy.

2. Read a book a week. Now I know there are people out there who consume a book a day, but that’s just not me. A couple of years ago, I’d completely fallen out of the habit of reading. Sure I flipped through a couple of Better Homes and Gardens magazines here and there, but I never touched a full-length novel.  Now I’m back in the game and loving it. And I’m ready to do more. Maybe a book a week, we’ll see, but I just want to do better than last year.

3. Write a thousand words a day. Ha! Even when I spend a full day writing, this just isn’t my style. There are days I reach over a thousand and then days I only hit 500. And (gasp) there are days I don’t write at all. Sometimes I just have to step away, take a break, maybe have a few wacky life experiences to fuel my creativity. So, instead of forcing myself to write a certain number of words a day, my goal is to have my second novel finished (and by finished, I mean fully edited, revised and proofread) by the end of the year.

And for those of you who recall the challenge I placed before myself at the November, I have an update. My goal was to have the first draft of my current WIP revised and ready to be chewed apart by beta readers at the end of the month. This month. Well, I failed. And here is my excuse: the holidays. See, this is what I was doing instead:

Making chocolate. It was really easy. I found the recipe on Oh She Glows and just had to try it myself–only 4 ingredients, about 5 minutes for melting/combing, and then a little freezer time. They were super yummy.

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Homemade chocolate!

I saw this snowman on Pinterest and just had to do it. Here is the blog link.

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We made these wreath ornaments to hand out as gifts. They were really easy once you find the mini wreath forms. The tutorial is here.

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This is one my husband made. He’s so crafty 🙂

Lastly, I made this woodland scene advent calendar for my husband. Under each item was a treat or an activity to do together. The blog link for this is here.

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Check out the narwhal in the lake. They really live in the ocean, but I was taking creative liberties.

Now, I did get some work done on the novel and it’s going a little more quickly than I first imagined. So, my new goal is to have it ready mid-January.

4. Journal every day. I tried this last year, even giving the two-sentence journal a shot. I think my last entry was in the end of March. So, I saw this on Pinterest and decided to make one. Here is the link to the tutorial.

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It’s a calendar, with an index card for every day of the year. You pull out the card for the current day, write the year and then a sentence or two about what happened. My husband and I started the day after Christmas, sharing the responsibility for jotting down something witty and memorable. As the years go by, the cards will fill up and you get to reminisce while you journal. I this will be more doable since it is a shared duty and it’s on the coffee table staring at me every night, making me feel guilty.

So that’s it. I could resolve to eat better, but my husband would probably die from laughter. I just discovered you can wrap almost anything in moist bread and deep fry it–no batter required. The possibilities are endless…

UPDATE:

I know it sounds weird. I found a recipe for Indian Bread Rolls stuffed with potatoes on Veg Recipes of India and it was amazing. Then I started thinking of all the other mixtures that could be wrapped in bread and fried. Here are a couple of pics from the Veg Recipes of India website showing the bread rolls being made and what they look like after being fried.

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Image courtesy Veg Recipes of India.

bread-rolls

Image courtesy Veg Recipes of India.

 

Happy New Year everyone!!

I was going to write this post a week ago, but…

You’re given a month’s notice of the impending deadline. A week goes by, then two. Soon, the day arrives. It’s time for your four-hour presentation. Or your in-laws are about to knock on your front door. Or it’s your uncle’s pet iguana’s birthday.

iguana

Igor at his birthday party.
(Image courtesy Patrick Buechner via Flickr)

But you’ve only rehearsed half your presentation,  you haven’t made the guest room bed and you have no present for Igor, the Iguana. Not even a card. You scramble to throw something together. Perhaps a handmade card, with a narwhal on it. Not your proudest moment, but for some of us it happens all too often.

norwal card

Image courtesy Laine Trees via Flickr.

Procrastination. We’re all guilty. I’m procrastinating right now. There are a few things I should be doing instead of writing this post: bathing my cats (Ha! Have you ever seen a wet cat??), researching the origins of the Snuggie, or actually working on my novel.

black wet cat

Image courtesy WATERBOYsh via Flickr.

gray wet cat

Image courtesy Julie Manzerova via Flickr.

annoyed wet cat

Image courtesy Belal Khan via Flickr.

happy wet cat

Weird–this cat actually looks happy.
(Image courtesy Felicity Rainnie via Flickr)

And the farther away the deadline, the more you procrastinate. Well, you tell yourself, you have days, weeks, or months to complete the task. Why worry about it now? There are so many cute cat pictures on Pinterest that need pinning. Then, depending on the size and scope of the project, panic sets in as the deadline approaches. Instead of working on the project little by little, you slam it all out in one caffeine fueled frenzy.

Unfortunately, this process works well for me. I become focused and feverish. And I always get the job done. Except when it comes to my book.

It’s funny. The thing that is most important to me, is the thing I procrastinate finishing the most. Maybe I think I don’t have enough time to dedicate to the project, or I tell myself that I should just get these two things done first, then I’ll edit. I want an uninterrupted block of time to work, and by the time I get those two other tasks done it’s time to watch Sleepy Hollow, and I can’t miss an episode of Sleepy Hollow.

sleepy hollow

Image courtesy Loren Javier via Flickr.

The real problem, though, is that I don’t have a deadline. There is no due date for my project and all these other tasks are time sensitive. The presentation is already scheduled, the in-laws have purchased their plane tickets, and Igor was born on November 28th.

So, I’ve decided to give myself a deadline: December 31st. I will have my entire manuscript edited and in the hands of my beta readers by the end of the year.

deadline

Image courtesy Kalexander2010 via flickr.

I’ll keep you posted throughout the month on my progress. My hope is that it will keep me motivated. Knowing that I will have to announce my progress to the world, or my lovely little group of followers, should be the push I need to disable my Netflix account and edit.