Art in the time of Covid

This topic was presented to me the other day. If I’m honest, this topic has been tossed my way on more than one occasion since March of 2020. How do you create when the world feels as if it’s crumbling around you? So, I thought I’d write about it.


The real question is: How do you do anything outside of running the motions of day to day survival?


If you do a google search, myriad posts with resources, tips, and tricks to get you back at it, bullet points on what to write about, and on and on will pop up. But do they actually provide answers? I guess. They say something — I didn’t find any of them helpful. Mostly I found them to create more anxiety.
So I ignored them.


For me, these last eight months have been an emotional roller coaster in every aspect of my life. Like so many others, I lost my job. For the first time in all of my years of working, I applied for unemployment. My son no longer goes to school. His last year of fifth grade was meant to end in fanfare with a send-off celebration and a special yearbook (that he never received); instead, it ended in tears. My husband has been working from home. Gone are the days of teaching yoga. Gone are the days of writing at 5am Writers Clubs — because I can’t get out of bed. Gone are my morning/afternoons of writing, plotting, editing, researching — basically being a writer.


The life I had was lost.


Then all the internal changes began. Did I even want the life I had? Did that life make me happy? Was I running through the motions back then, or am I now — or am I running through the motions of my life in general?


It was a real-time Waking Life — Existential — I got drunk/high for the first time and saw god in the broken tail light of my best friends Buick — crisis; but now, I was having it as an adult, sober, while doing a YouTube HIIT class in the small space between the end of my bed and the wall.

Do I really miss the students who go above and beyond to correct me while I’m teaching? Nope. Do I miss being in traffic? Nope. Do I miss carving up my writing time to construct classes? Nope. Do I miss my seniors? Yes. Because they’re fun. 80-year-olds are fun. If you disagree, you need to talk to more 80-year-olds.


My exercise routine went from 2-3 times a week to 2-3 times a day. My best days are a solid 1.5-2 hours stretches. This is when I have my most significant “moments.” This is when I can think without interruptions.


This was when I had my “how to create art during a pandemic” moment. It went a little like this:


I’ve been writing for my whole life — but I have always found a reason not to write. Pre-child, it was because I was socializing too much. Post child it was because of the child — and I still was socializing too much. Then we moved to Los Angeles, and my first round of isolation began. 2011.


This was my first time genuinely dealing with isolation — the only human contact I had for more than a couple hours at the beginning and end of the day was my 3-year-old. This isolation lasted nearly three years until he started Kindergarten. Then, his isolation ended. Mine lingered.
Because after three years of living inside your own head — it’s really, really hard to get out. (I learned to hate myself on levels I didn’t know existed. I was never good enough. I was never smart enough. I was never skinny enough. Fun enough. Witty enough. Never watched the right shows/tv. Never read the right books/poems/essays. Never.)

Most of 2018 & 2019 were spent fixing all of those Nevers. Then Covid hit — but Now I knew better.


Those three+ years are what I reference as an emotional gauge during this time of Covid. I watched myself shrivel into prune of my old self the last time around — as I lost total confidence in who I was and what I wanted — I kept a journal (mental and physical) documenting this dive into the underworld of my brain. Now, I refer back to those moments so I don’t do that again. Now, I know there is another end of the tunnel — because I walked through it before.

These bits of knowledge have kept me from totally drowning this time around. Also, one thing that is majorly different during this period of isolation is, I know I’m not alone in it. It’s more challenging to accept isolation when others are so free and moving around. During Covid I know in my cells we’re all in this shit-show together.


I am not alone.
You are not alone.


But how does any of that help you create? It doesn’t.
Are there ways to help you create? I’ve found two:

1 – You must grieve. All of the steps. You need to cry. You need to get angry. You need to accept you can’t change things. You have to let go. You have to move on. Until you can move on – you need to repeat the steps. You need to GRIEVE. Completely. Totally. 100%. Cry. Cry until you can’t any more. Then cry again.

2 – You need to accept that without control — all you can do is be. Be in this moment. Think about the things you would normally not think about. How things piss you off. What things trigger you. When do you do your best creating?

There is no contest or competition. The only person you’re competing against is yourself. And, this is a big one, if you still can’t create — it doesn’t matter. You’re still an artist. You’re still a creator. You’re still you. We all have our own process at writing, creating, living, being — honor it. Embrace it.

So, back to the top: How do you do anything outside of running the motions of day to day survival? You breathe. You live in this moment, not one from last year, not one that might be in your future–you embrace the heck of RIGHT NOW. And if you end up writing — good job you!! And if you don’t — good job you! Because you’ve made it this far. You’ll make it farther. I promise. You’re not alone.

xo-AS

Crows

crows

Once, many centuries ago, there were no crows. The world was void of the oil soaked feather birds–nothing but doves and canaries to stare at.

The branches of the golden curls willow swayed in a breeze scented by jasmine and honeysuckle–empty as a baby-less pram. No caws. No taunts. Nothing but coo’s and tweets.

What an empty world it must have been without their wit and charm. I am happy I will never know that world. For the crow–and all it’s murderous charm, is the hope I need.

A scavenger.

A humorist.

A hero.

 

 

What’ll I do?

There’s a song by Irving Berlin. It opened The Great Gatsby (1974). It plays though the opening credits–setting up the story. You see many the small luxuries that fill Gatsby’s life, including numerous photos of Mia Farrow portraying Daisy Buchanan. The song is titled, What’ll I do.

What’ll I do, when you are far away, and I am blue, what’ll I do?

What’ll I do, when I am wond’ring who is kissing you, what’ll I do?

When I write, I listen to music. If I were to weigh writing against music and how long they’ve been in my life–music would actually win by two years. It is something that feeds my soul just as much, if not more, than reading. A melody and words. How can you beat that?

film dancing broadway funny face fred astaire

So when I set out to write a novel there is a song list involved. It may never show up in the manuscript–but it’s there. With the new title I’m working on, What’ll I do, snuck into the folds of a playlist that includes tracks from Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, and Fugazi.

You may be wondering how.

How could something as desperate and lingering as this classic tune ever fit next to Smells Like Teen Spirit? But that’s life for you. It never quite fits… You find yourself sitting around talking to your MC, and she smiles at you with that gleam in her eyes. You recognize it instantly because it’s reminds you why she’s doing what she’s doing–and suddenly I know the answer to, “What’ll I do,” where she’s concerned.

What’ll she do? Let’s just say it may not be the best way to deal with things…

I can’t image I’m the only person who uses music to help set moods and tones. Is this something you do? What songs have found their magical way onto your writing playlist that you never thought would be there?

I shall await your answer as I sway to Irving Berlin… When I’m alone with only dreams of you, what’ll I do?

Wednesday Words–Alien Prompt

nooUw41473100070

I am SO excited for this prompt. If you write a book based on this prompt, please tell me about it–but I LOVE THIS PROMPT!!

It is another science fiction prompt (next week I’ll do something different, scout’s honor!)

“Scientists recover alien DNA from a meteorite, and bring an alien species to life”


 

Dr. Diane Morals hunched over the microscope, brown eyes wide as dinner plates as she watched what everyone told her was impossible happen. Mitosis. But not just any simple earth bound organism–she was witnessing mitosis of an alien being.

“Ren,” she yells without moving an inch. “Ren, you have to see this.” It was only then she pressed the buttons that loaded the images onto the labs screen. 

Ren, a forty-something Japanese-American with salt and peppered hair inched to Dr. Morals side. He reached out, gently squeezing her shoulder. His fingers pinning down her wavy black hair she normally kept twisted on her head. 

“Is that the specimen?” His voice wavered like a think strip of paper on a breeze. 

Diane shrugged free of his hold, not liking how the heat from his palm bleed through the fabric of her clothing or having her hair touched at all. She moved to the side of the microscope, a silent gesture to invite him to look through the tube.

“Yes, Dr. Ando,” she said, as formally as she could manage without sounding like the cold snob most of those working in the laboratory thought she was. “Unlike all the other experiments, the introduction of chimpanzee DNA seems to be the right fit.”

All thoughts of how much they disliked each other were forgotten as the ramifications of what they were witnessing sunk in. 

They just completed the first ever alien, earth animal hybrid. 


 

Oh! Whatever will they do??

Happy writing! xxoo-A

Monologue Monday–creating a path

 

EBCvVB1473101101

image

I’ve been writing for years–more than I care to share on days, because my ego takes hold and I feel like a failure.. I know how bad that sounds, but if you write, than I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Will I quit? I’ve tried and failed at that as well–so I suppose I’ll keep going until I succeed.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with an astronaut playing the guitar in the international space station–but it is because of this astronaut (Commander Chris Hadfield) that I decided to write this post.

Back on September 14th I took my seven-year-old son to see Commander Hadfield talk about his new children’s book, THE DARKEST DARK.

cb1lynzuyaemoa6

This is his first children’s book and is about when he decided to become an astronaut. Intended for small children–the picture book speaks about overcoming your fears to reach your goals.

I saw next to my child in an over stuffed hall of a catholic church as Chris Hadfield paced up and down the center row–a lot of the times stopping next to my son’s chair.

Mr. Hadfield read his book, spoke about growing up in rural Canada. A country that, at the time, didn’t have a space program. He spoke about deciding that he would figure out a way to get into space–and he did.

When I’m in the thick of writing–thinking about how many years I’ve been at this–it’s easy to forget how much progress I’ve made. It’s easy to forget that the trick to overcoming ones fears is an endless process.  You have to keep moving one foot in front of the other. You have to keep taking deep breaths and continue on that slow climb.

You have to read more, write more, ask more questions, endure more rejection, but attempt to continue that journey.

At the end of the night, after Mr. Hadfield shared his life and book with us, the floor was opened to questions and answers. A father of two little girls asked what advice Mr. Hadfield could give the children in the room about finding the path to success. Hadfield said this, (I’m paraphrasing), “Go to your local library (or book store) and see what sections you gravitate to. Chances are you end up in the same sections each time. These topics are the things we find passion in when no one else is telling us what to do. Now, pick the one you’re most passionate about and make the conscious decision to go after it.

Pick an end goal, and then work to it. You’re end goal may take years, but say, ‘this weekend I’m going to do [this] to work toward that goal.”

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be a published author, but hearing those words reminded me of all the things I’ve done to work towards  that goal thus far. Yes, my end goal is still in the future–but giving up really isn’t an option. It’s not, because quiting the only true way to fail–and I’m not a failure.

Neither are you.

So, in closing–inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes it’s on twitter talking to other inspiring authors, or on facebook in the form of a writing group, and sometimes it’s in the hall of a catholic church listening to the first ever Canadian Commander of the International Space Station say, “Remember, my goal was to walk on the moon. I’m a failure, I’ve never done that. I’ve only been in space 3 times and lived in the space station for six months.”

Keep on writing. And as a little bit of fun, enjoy this video of Commander Hadfield singing and playing David Bowie’s, SPACE ODDITY.

xxoo-A

<center>

</center>

Wednesday Words–Writing Prompt

nooUw41473100070

I’m going simple this week. Science Fiction prompt:

There’s a spy trapped in your computer.

He or she needs your help to survive.

What do you do?

Maybe it’s not that simple, but it’s direct. What do you do if you learn the conscienceless of a spy has been downloaded into your computer?


My take:

My eyes were glued to the cursor. Suddenly it’s repetitive blinking felt more like old Morse Code than a reminder as to where I left off in my writing.

I read the text again–“I’ve been downloaded into your computer. Please help.”

What are you really supposed to say to something like that? Well, beside–haha! Funny joke! I wanted to believe that was the end of it. That somehow someone from Twitter or Facebook hacked my account to mess with me–but I ran the diagnostics. I checked, re-checked, took my computer to a shop and had them check–but when I booted up for the umpteenth time, with no real reason, the messages started again.

“Why wont you answer me?” they said.

“You  know I can see you through the camera, right? And may I add, pants would be a nice touch?”

“Why would I be asking you for help if I didn’t actually need it.” This was a good point, but still… You’re trapped in my computer?

The comments and questions wore at my psyche until I couldn’t ignore them any longer. That’s when I finally typed, “What do you need me to do?”

And they wrote back, “Finding my body would be a nice start.”


What would you do?

Happy writing! xxoo-A

Wednesday Words–Writing Prompt

nooUw41473100070

The Prompt:  Write a scene that starts with, “I haven’t told this to anyone before, but I’m going to tell you.”

— — — — — — — — —

Psst! You. Yeah, you–right there. This is for you. So… I ain’t told this to no-one before, but I’m tellin’ you. I’m sure you’re thinking, why? Why me? Why now?

It’s just time. Sometimes life works like that. Those secrets you bury so far down they make the soles of your feet it work their way back up your legs, torso, and throat until you have no other choice but to sing Dixie to the nearest standing person.

That’s you. Let me warm my vocals before the big guy ferrets me out.

I’m sorry if you don’t want it to be you. Actually,  I’m not sorry. I’m not, because I ain’t never asked for this . Never wanted the damn thing–but I’ve toted it around anyway.

Shit. Wait.

You hear that?

There! That was a foot step. You know I’m right. It was clearly the sound of a footstep–

It’s outside, so sit down. I’m almost outta time. If I don’t tell you now, no one will know the truth.

Crap. That door won’t hold if they keep kickin’ it like that!

If I could grab your shoulders I would, but know this–IT WASN’T ME! Now you gotta go, but know it wasn’t me!! Just let me get out of this and I’ll tell you the rest. Meet me at…

Shh… go. 

Hey, Minnow. What’cha doing here? This is Terrence’s hole. Aw, man! You don’t gotta be like that! Just put down the gun, man!! Put it down!

gif photography gifs vintage cartoon comic nerd retro hq action bam geek BOOM Power pow pam onomatopeia zang

 

Are you there, God? Oh, wait…

…I forgot. I haven’t done the whole ‘god’ thing in circa twenty years. So maybe I should say ‘universe’ or something less religion specific.

I sit here, as my dinner slowly burns on the range, with my fingers hovering over this neon blue keyboard attempting to articulate the myriad of thoughts devouring my brain. I am consumed with to many it’s become hard to sift through them all–searching for the right train of thought.

Frustrating building, I’m now calling to the heavens for guidance.

My writing inspiration seems to be an situation of ‘all or nothing.’ Either I have so many ideas I’m lost (like right now,) or it’s a blank desert–endless miles of dust mote dunes suffocating my brain. If only I could find a trigger… Oh, wait!! (again!) I entered a contest. I did! I entered #PitchWars, and now I have a list longer than the Mississippi to choose from.

Here is my question for you, my lovely readers. How do you choose your projects? What is your process? Normally, mine is I wait until an idea keeps me up at night–but I have a bit quandary, for I have a WIP that needs tending, another MS plotting on a promise–and then there’s the one that’s keeping me up.

Do you see what the problem is? What should I do?!

So, now you are god (this could go poorly quickly, but lets do it any way.) All of the help you provide (aka–advice) is greatly appreciated!

Now–if you’re also entered Pitch Wars, I wish you luck! And to everyone else. Happy Writing!!

xx-

-A

 

 

Writing, querying, PitMad, & words

What is in a name? Shakespeare. He had Romeo ask  that very question as he looked over a thorny rose–trying to convince himself what he was doing was right.

A few nights ago I asked a writer friend of mine what inspired him. What made him want to write? For me it’s everything. Maybe I’ve heard a name that interests me in a way that I’m compelled to attache a fictitious body to it. Then, I collect these imaginary people in my head. I leave them there to stew. Some survive. Some are forgotten.

But maybe it’s not a name, but a situation. An overheard comment. A dream.

Writing is a salve that cools and heals the life around me. My WIPs are made up of all those words I didn’t say at the right moment.

I don’t know how long I’ve been working on my latest project, THE TRIALS OF IMOGEN GRACE. I wrote the first draft two years ago. I’ve change the POV three times, and done countless edits and rewrites. And now…now I’ve entered the Query pit. The endless bit of sending off letters, chapters, pages, fulls, halfs, synopsis, pitched–all ties to hopes and prayers.

If you write, you know what I’m talking about.

The last time I did this–sent queries–was much harder. This time I feel different. Not as hopeless. Yes, I’ve received more rejections than not–but still–I’m not sure why I’m so calm. It’s refreshing. haha…

If you’re out there writing–don’t give up. I wish you luck! The same goes to those sending endless queries and everything else writing related. Follow your dreams, my friends. Life is to short for, ‘I wish I had.’

For Shakespeare also said, ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’

Write Right

To my right is an old warped cork board covered in index cards with places and characters written on them. They belong to a story I began last summer with my son, but abandoned once he was in school.

It’s hard to plot out a story you’re writing with a child who isn’t home…

But there they are – staring at me with weird made up words on them, penned out in a variety of obnoxious colors like neon green and magenta.

My computer and this cork board are in my bedroom, so each night as I sit in bed, I stare at them. About a week ago it occurred to me I should take them down, seal them in an envelope and save them for next summer when my son and I can pick up where we left off. (We have a rather extraordinary world, but not much premise or story as of yet.) But then as I looked them over – our sea monster, flying men, dragons, etc., – I decided to let them stay.

This decision brought up other questions: How long is too long to write a story? How many stories should I be working on at once? When is it the “official” time to throw in the towel?

Staring at his board had become my late night meditation. At first I would think about this world we created, and now I think of answers to those questions.

When I ventured out on this writing path (many moons ago) it was all very linear. You wrote a story, you had people read the story, you adjusted the story, you sent it to agents who either ignored you completely or sent robo response rejection letters. But now (many moons later) the answers to those questions have changed dramatically and I know the path is more chaotic than ever.

#Q1 – How long is too long to write a story? A1 – There is no time line. When you set a time line is when you mess up the story. You begin to rush, you miss details, your characters are thinner than the paper you want your story published on.

#Q2 – How many stories should I be working on at once? Q2 – I used to think the only way to write was to write one story at a time. Now, I can’t speak for you, but on a good day I have 5+ stories in my head rattling around like marbles in a jar. Currently I’m working on a new novel I’m calling “Triangle”, I’m also reworking an old novel in a new format that I feel will work better for its multi-character storyline, I have another novel waiting in my writing queue ready for a good edit (because my last edit was impetuous and damaging), and then there is the one on the wall and another one that keeps invading my dreams. Oh, and then there is the novella that I want to self publish – so make that 6+. (…then there are the others made up of only characters or vague premise that aren’t worth mentioning yet…)

Once upon a time, working on one thing suited for me, but only because I convinced myself that was how “real authors” wrote. Now I write in a way that keeps me wanting to write.

#Q3 – When is it the “official” time to throw in the towel? A3 – Back then, I used to get tired so I would give up on manuscripts – these days its more like we “take a break” from each other. I’ll have Beta Readers email me and ask about old titles, “What happened to that book? I loved that one!” And I’ll tell them I’m working on something new. They fret I’ve given up, but in truth I have not. If you believe in your story, your characters, your world – you will never officially throw in the towel. Because when you love something so much, giving up on it isn’t an option.

These are the things I remind myself on the days I do want to give up. Lately, I have more of those than I’d like to admit, but at the same time this is the most consistent my writing has ever been. I write DAILY. I edit DAILY. I challenge myself DAILY. And I permit myself to take a step back when I know I need one, because some days the words flow, and others its like trying to pulled tar out of the bottom of a nail polish jar. But I do it anyway.

Why?

Because even though it feels like I’m not going anywhere, I know as long as I try I’m making better strides than giving up.