Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thousand-page journey, meet your new first step

So you wanna be a writer? (This also applies to painters, photographers, musicians…)

“There are three rules for writing the novel,” said Somerset Maughm. “Unfortunately no-one knows what they are.”

In fact, though, we all know the first one: put your fanny in a chair, your fingers on a keyboard, and words on the page (or insert your art of choice here).

But it turns out that was the Old Wisdom; now scientists think there might be more to it than just, well, writing.

Along with helping your heart, muscles, and skin tone, exercise is now the front-running domestique in the marathon to a three-book contract.

Experiments over the past couple of decades have found that aerobic activity – either a short burst like dancing around the house for 20 minutes or long-term fitness from a regular program – actually boosts creativity.

One study used measures like colorful and rich imagery, unusual visualization, extending or breaking boundaries, and storytelling articulateness.

So “storytelling articulateness” is not how the average (or even bad) novelist would express it, but the message is clear: move that tush before you settle it in front of the computer. You’ll have more fun and a better tale.

And ultimately, you’ll have a trimmer tail too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

I’m not generally interested in doing much math, but there are times when those arithmetic lessons come in handy.

Out of curiosity recently, I totted up how many kilometers I walked or cycled for meetings or errands in the month leading up to Earth Day.

Then I did a little Googlesearch, hauled out my solar-powered calculator and waited for a sunny day.
Counting only trips that had a specific destination, I discovered that me, my muscles, and Miss Jean Brodie (my bike, also in her prime) kept 40 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere. In a month.

If I keep it up all year, that could add up (if I’ve done the math right) to almost half a metric tonne of greenhouse gases that me and my car didn’t send skyward.

I know I’m not saving the world but I’m also not making things worse, and that feels good.

And the fact that all that activity – which I enjoy, by the way – keeps a cupcake or three off my tail? Well, I call that travel bonus points.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Heeding the call – of Twitter

For a few months I’ve been paying lip service to Twitter but a couple of weeks ago I converted for real.
The command didn’t come down from on high. There were no angels involved unless you count Toni McGee Causey, which I sort of do.

Toni (if I may be so familiar) is a wonderful author and a great blogger. I share her post “Dear God the stick turned blue” in the humour class I teach to journalism students. More recently, her post on home towns had me weeping on my iMac.

Then she announced that she was going to sacrifice her Murderati blogs on the altar of Getting More Done in the rest of her life. I’m delighted that I can look forward to More Toni Stories, but I love her Murderati posts. They’re the reason I turn on the computer every second Sunday.

I was happy for her but sad for me, so I checked Twitter. And there was a little beacon of a TMC mini-post. That’s when I realized I could still get an occasional fix while I wait for her next book. That’s when I truly saw the light.

I can Follow (this is different from Stalking) people who entertain and enlighten me and they will entertain and enlighten me at intervals that range from hourly to daily or weekly. I’ll get the laughs I crave without having to go on my own quest; I’ll find delightful quotes without reading erudite books or even trolling quotation sites for hours; I’ll learn about the world while I remain hunched safely in my cave.

The corollary is, of course, that in turn I must create funny mini-posts, jot marvelous quotes from the books I read, and adventure out of the bat cave so I can share the fun with the people who have shown enough interest in me to click Follow.

Looking for the up-side…still looking…ah!

Create an image, be funny, impart an insight – basically tell a story in 140 characters. This is, like, the ultimate writing test: How much can you show with how few words?

And there’s the irony of writing, encapsulated in, well, 140 characters – I lovelovelove words, and I spend most of my time trying to pare them away.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Proud Dotter

I posted several of Fodder's pen-and-watercolour sketches of France over on Calorie Neutral yesterday, and thought I'd share another couple here.

Beynac by Ray Goldsworthy

Because I think they're simply gorgeous.

Bicycle at La Borie des Combes by Ray Goldsworthy

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The best gift

"Watch out for Nana's flowers!"
Every spring, that's what I used to call after the kids running around in the undergrowth at my parents' cabin, where my mother's treasured white fawn lilies unfurled their petals, trilliums showed their tripartite faces, and Easter-tinted ladyslippers nodded in the wake of little sneakers.
Those kids don't charge around outside much any more. Instead, they slump on chairs inside the tiny cabin, their long legs and enormous shoes taking up most of the floor space, but the flowers, Nana's flowers as I will always think of them, are getting ready to pretty up the outdoors again.
So you can imagine how thrilled  I was when my cousin Bee gave me a little volume she found at her favourite thrift store.
Wild Flowers of America, it's called. Jane Harvey wrote it, Irving Lawson illustrated it, and the Whitman Publishing Company printed it in 1932.
The book is small in every way: 3 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches; includes perhaps 100 flowers; and Jane's America extends only as far west as Minnesota.
It's charming. The illustrations are lovely and now that I think about it, its scope is big enough to beam some spring sunshine on some of my treasures – memories.
Two more of Nana's Flowers, a la Wild Flowers of America