Imagination, Reflections, Writing

Sanctioned Daydreaming

Whether you’re reading fiction or writing it, what you’re actually doing is daydreaming. I’ve always been a daydreamer. Fortunately, I was smart in school and very competitive, so I got my work done fast before letting my mind wander. I also had artistic talent, so I was allowed extra time to create. And though neither of my parents was a reader, they usually allowed me plenty of time for that–except at the dinner table.

girl_daydrmThen, from the ages of twelve to fourteen, I was sick and spent loads and loads of time alone—ideal daydream time. In fact, I suspect that isolation changed my personality from medium to deep introversion.

I’ve begun reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. It’s a book that Michelle D. Argyle brought to my attention in a blog post. I’m only a couple of chapters into the book, so I haven’t discovered what “power” I have, but I’m hoping to learn ways to make my introversion work for me.

Actually, I do know one advantage: the ability to go quiet, to go deep inside and create story.

I love being quiet. And to keep my energy level up, I require a lot of time alone. Alone and quiet is good for writing, but only if you don’t care to share your work with more than a few people. Like family and friends. If you have them. And if they happen to like reading the stuff you write. After all, no stranger is going to knock on my door and ask to read what I’ve written.

So I know a bit about the disadvantages of being an introvert in the writing and publishing world.

Yet, I’m obsessed with putting my daydreams down on paper. Maybe I’m doing it for myself. For when I lose my short-term memory and can pick up one of my own books and find it’s a brand new story to me. Or if dementia robs me of the ability to daydream, hopefully I will retain my ability to read the daydreams preserved in writing by myself and others.

May we daydream forever, one way or the other.

 

Linda

Imagination, Memory, Reflections, Writing

Childhood of a Fiction Writer

girlpeekIn my earliest memory, I am lying on my stomach in the kitchen looking through the square holes in a grate. I am eighteen months old. My parents and I live in the upstairs apartment of an old house converted into a duplex. Our kitchen lies above the kitchen of the downstairs apartment. Our only heat source is radiant, meaning the heat from downstairs rises into our apartment through open grates in our floor. My mother warns me not to drop anything through the holes, but that was never my intention. The family who lives downstairs is eating dinner, their table is directly below the grate, and I am watching them and listening to their conversation. That’s the extent of that memory, but I now see it as an early indication of my interest in observing people, what they do, what they say, how they act and react.

Yesterday, I followed a link to a video interview with John Irving. In one segment1, he mentioned an early indication he knew he could be a writer: he desired and needed a lot of alone time. Aha!, I thought. Sometimes, when I look back on my childhood, it seems sort of like those Charlie Brown cartoons where adults are unseen, their voices muted. I had parents, two sisters, and a fair amount of friends, but I preferred to spend a lot of time alone with my imagination.

At this point, I can’t say if that choice was strictly my nature or if circumstances enhanced the tendency. Early in my school career, teachers labeled me one of the “smart kids.” That designation sets you apart in ways both good and bad. You may have free time while other students work on a subject that you breezed through. You may also be assigned extra work. In both cases, you’re alone.

childreadingIf you’re a writer, then you are a reader. And I presume, like me, as a child you gobbled up books like candy. I don’t know about you, but reading time was alone time for me. And then, inspired by what I read, I wanted to act out my own stories in the backyard with my baby dolls in my “covered wagon” or behind the living room sofa where I sat up an “apartment” for my Barbies. Alone. Whole conversations carried on in my head.

Of course, I played games with other children, but I preferred make believe to sports or most physical activity. I would try to act out some of my stories with friends, but it was frustrating for us all. I always wanted to be the star and director—“now you say this and then you do that and then I say …” It was just easier to play alone.

sickgirlWhen I got a little older, the ultimate isolator struck—illness. I spent only nine months of my seventh, eighth, and ninth grades actually in school. The rest of that time I was either bedridden, in the hospital, or recovering from surgery. Except for three months with a visiting teacher, I taught myself and took tests by phone. Needless to say, I didn’t fare well in the social skills usually developed during this period of life. But I can remember only a few times feeling lonely. And never was I bored. I had my imagination.

In light of all this, do I mind that writing requires me to spend a lot of time alone? Of course not. I think I was cultivated for this life. Only now, I don’t lay on my stomach peeping at the neighbors. I just close my eyes to watch and listen for the story to unfold.

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1 The whole interview is here: http://bigthink.com/johnirving  If you want to hear just the portion I referenced, click the segment titled: How to Tell if You’re a Writer

Originally published 7 Nov, 2009

Author, Family, Fiction, Imagination, Inspiration, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Promotion, Publish, Real Life, Short story, Writing

Bluegrass, Super Secret, and Select

I’m happy to report that I haven’t posted since Thursday because I’ve been writing fiction. If you follow my Facebook Author Page you know that I was working on one of my “down home” stories, with a bluegrass accompaniment to set the mood.

That story is one I’ll include in my story collection (yes, that project is back on the table) and eventually will be part of a larger work, probably a novel in the form of connected stories. The house pictured here inspired the concept. My great-great-grandfather, or maybe his father, built that house. It grew from the original settlement, a log cabin in a little holler beside a crick. I’m imagining the stories of some of the people who called that place home.

A couple of other writing-related projects occupied me. One is Super Secret … and Super Cool. Yes, I know that’s a tease. 🙂 You’ll hear all about it in time, but I’ll give you a hint: it involves a new face … of a sort.

The third writing-related project was researching the KDP Select program recently implemented by Amazon. In short, authors can enroll one, some, or all of their e-books in the program to have them included in the Amazon lending program. In that program, Prime Members can borrow the book to read on their Kindle. Also, through the KDP Select program, the author can mark a book FREE for a limited time.

I think the real benefit of that option is potential sales of an author’s other books after someone downloads their free book and likes it. Since I have only one book published, this program would not benefit me now, but I’m watching how it’s working for others. So far, I’m definitely undecided whether I should take part in the future.

The downside to the program is exclusivity. While your e-book is enrolled in KDP Select, it can’t be available anywhere else—not for sale, not for free. (This refers to e-book only.) So, each author has to consider how this might affect their sales. In my case, so far, 85% of my e-book sales have come through Amazon. Since the free Kindle app is available for PC, Mac, most Smartphones, and the iPad, the KDP Select exclusivity eliminates mostly those who own the Nook reader.

So there you go, my essay on how I spent the last five days. What have you been up to?

Family, Fiction, Imagination, Memory, Musings, Real Life, Tuesday Topic, Writing

Do you believe in make believe?

The Christmas Eve I was five, I woke my little sister, took her by the hand, and made her sit at the top of the stairs to watch our parents take our Christmas gifts out of the closet below the staircase. My objective? To prove to her that Santa wasn’t real. Why I don’t know. I don’t think I was a particularly mean sister. I can’t even remember how I knew Santa was make believe.

My  parents didn’t discover us peeking, and my sister didn’t rat me out, so I went along with the Santa story for years after that night. Why? Because I believe in make believe.

Science can’t explain everything. Religion tries. Children simply believe. As we get older, we lose some of that capacity for hope against all odds, the certainty that, if we wish hard enough, it will be so. Star light, star bright …

I reserve room in my imagination for the magic of fairies, and elves, and unicorns, of ghosts, and Nessie, and Bigfoot. As a fiction writer, I think that’s only fair. When I offer you my writing, I ask you to enter a world of imaginary people, in imaginary places, doing imaginary things. I ask you to believe in my make believe.

And I’ll do my best to write it well, so no big sister will whisper in your ear and destroy the illusion.


Endnote: If you read this post and took any comment as a slight to your religious beliefs, please know that I had no such intent.

Imagination, Memory, Real Life, Writing

No matter what your age, it’s back to school time!

Where I live, the school year has just started. My children are grown, so I’m a bit removed from that event nowadays, but still it stirs the memory pot. During my school days the year started after Labor Day, so the real memory kickoff will come a couple of weeks from now, on the first morning with just the right slant of light and crispness to the air. Soon after, the leaves will turn and begin to fall.

There’s nothing stronger than the scent of autumn leaves crushed underfoot to take me back to the Octobers of my youth. I’m instantly transported back, scuffing my shoes through the red, gold, and brown strewn across the sidewalks on my way home from school. It’s always a sunny afternoon and I take my time, as though I’m trying to hold on to every ray before the gray days of winter set in.

Scientists say scent is the strongest link to memory, and I believe it. With one whiff of a crayon box, I’m six-years-old again. I’m wielding a fat orange crayon and trying my best to stay insides the lines of the duck’s beak. It’s lunchtime, Friday, and with the odor of fish sandwiches drifting from the cafeteria, we line up, but first stop is the restroom, where I’m greeted with the combined smells of castile soap and wet brown paper towels. Ah, sweet memories.

I associate more than smells with school, of course. The faint peppermint taste of white paste, the murmur of students shuffling though polished hallways, and the tap, scratch, and squeak of chalk on the blackboard. Speaking of blackboards—the old-fashioned slate kind—does anyone else remember the man who came around to refresh the lines? Do you remember the paint smelling like bananas? I know. I’m old, but every year around this time, it’s easy to recall the child again.

Do you have a fond school memory to share?