A Garden of Delights

As part of the A Round of Words in 80 Days challenge (ROW80), this was one of my sponsor posts nearly three years ago… it’s as true now as it was then. There is always time to write something!

(Reposting here with apologies to the awesome Kait Nolan who runs the ROW80 because I reference this post all the time, and would like more available access to it)

Those (Five) Sentences (by me)

I want to talk to the people who can’t find time to write. You know who you are. (The rest of you free to read and comment—we’re all in this together–, and you may have suggestions to add that will help.)
First off, let me apologize. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t have time to write. I have the time to write–rather I make time to write. I do have a luxury that some don’t: I don’t have a job or a boss or deadlines to write around. My work involves volunteering (a lot), and I set my own schedule. I also am blessed with an encouraging husband and a son who thinks it’s cool that Mom writes stories.

The only real deterrents to my whipping out page after page daily are the occasional bouts of Writer’s Block (often in the form of Brain Drain or fear) and me.

It’s the second one that causes me the most grief, and I’m betting it’s the same for you.

You see, I know how much you are writing and posting and tweeting about not being able to write. I waste/spend a lot of time on Social Media too.

I has a hard time finding time to write recently too. I mean, where are those hours of time we hear about? When do we set up these precious “office hours” that writers are supposed to have to develop their creativity to its fullest?

Maybe they just aren’t there, or we cannot find them without sacrificing all our sleep and destroying our relationships.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find time to write—you can. Here’s what I did. May it help you too.

First, I gave up the myth of uninterrupted creative time. But even then, I still needed a goal to reach toward; I needed something to reach for and measure. Something concrete and yet easy to achieve.

Now if you’ve been around the ROW80 for a while, you are probably familiar with Kait Nolan’s Test Mile. If you are not, take some time to read up on the concept before I share my personal test mile.

You ready now?

It is to write five sentences (I bet you knew that already, didn’t you).

Yep. That’s it. Write Five Sentences, and they can be as short or as long as I want to make them.

There is one other rule. The sentences have to be creative writing. Tweets or Facebook comments don’t count. A new poem? Cool, but it won’t necessarily count unless I want to write poems or the poem somehow fits into my present Work In Progress. I can still write something along the lines of this:

David ate the squash. A bird had pecked one end. He tossed that in the road. He felt exhausted. Nearby a truck chugged past.

It took me less than a minute to scribble out those sentences. Yes, they need some tweaking, but there is a definite sense of a scene here. I see a vagrant who’d picked up a zucchini from the end of a garden, then finding that it probably had been tossed off because some animal had nibbled at it. He’s hungry and eats the squash anyway, tossing off the bad part. He’s tired of wandering. The truck matters to him…

Why? I haven’t written that yet.

When a scene comes easily like this, I might keep writing if I have time. That is the main point of a test mile—to get you started. But it also serves the second purpose of getting something written no matter how busy we are.

So one minute, maybe two… at most five. Five sentences, five minutes, maybe two less tweets or one last skim of your NewsFeed. We all have time somewhere in our day to use for writing. It may not be five minutes at once, but there is time. A sentence written while standing in line at the bank is still a sentence written. Add the next one, spoken into a phone’s speech-to-text app while driving or doing those thirty minutes on the treadmill (and maybe two or three more!) and you’re almost there. Another line, this time at the grocery store? Another sentence…

See how easy it is? If you promise yourself to write sentence as soon as you wake up and one more before you turn the light off at night, then you will be done, if you want to be.

As for myself, I actually don’t own a smart phone. If I’m not glued to my computer, I write on paper. I make sure I always have some kind of little notepad to scribble in (and often much bigger notebooks too, just in case I discover one of those mythic hours of creative bliss).

And for those who may be wondering,… no, things didn’t start out smoothly . I didn’t get up one morning and suddenly every day I was getting those sentences written. I had a day or two where I fell asleep in the middle of the third sentence; I had a few days I missed completely, and despite the best intentions, I didn’t make those missed sentences up the next day either.

I’ve planned poorly. As reigning Queen of Mislaid Plans and Sub-Empress of Disorder, I have scrambled to get those sentences in before bed. I’ve spent several nights recently writing my five sentences on the bathroom floor where I could make sure the light didn’t wake up my husband or son.

I still wrote them. I wrote a full page the other night. It took me ten minutes after brushing my teeth. I started while I brushed…using my left hand for some mirror writing just to get an idea I kept forgetting all day down before I slept and forgot it permanently.

They say it takes 30 days to build a habit. I’m not so sure of that. I still have to be prompted by seeing my fellow writers posting about their wordcounts or the fact that I can’t walk through my house without seeing an open notebook nearby begging for some word love and pen scritches.

Five sentences… If you can’t do this, then perhaps you might not be as serious about writing as you say (and that really is okay too). However, Writers write as fellow ROWer and sponsor Alberta wrote last round. Being someone who writes is part of who and what we are, and we will always find a way to write. There may be ebbs and flows to our productivity; after I’d broken my wrist in December, I didn’t write–I mean, I did write; I wrote notes and blogposts, but nothing I considered creative. But Writers Write, and I made a way.

So start small. You won’t always manage these sentences daily. Try treating your writing like a job in that sense and give yourself a (scheduled) day off here and there. Use a five-day work week with your two days off spread out (say Tuesday’s and Friday’s off or something like that). It’s easy to get in the habit of not writing when you’re already fighting yourself for control over your dream. Don’t let yourself down… write at least every other day. And allow yourself to have a few bad days (forgiveness is important, as important as self-discipline).

If you can’t do that; if you can’t find five minutes for something you say you want to do, then you need to find out why. That’ll have to be the topic of another post however. For now, just write those five sentences.

A Round of Words in 80 Days

I want to talk to the people who can’t find time to write. You know who you are. (The rest of you free to read and comment—we’re all in this together–, and you may have suggestions to add that will help.)
First off, let me apologize. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t have time to write. I have the time to write–rather I make time to write. I do have a luxury that some don’t: I don’t have a job or a boss or deadlines to write around. My work involves volunteering (a lot), and I set my own schedule. I also am blessed with an encouraging husband and a son who thinks it’s cool that Mom writes stories.

The only real deterrents to my whipping out page after page daily are the occasional bouts of Writer’s Block (often in the form of Brain Drain or fear) and…

View original post 1,116 more words

cups-8

Always?

It’s official.  I am the world’s most inconsistent blogger.

(It’s also official…  I do NOT like WordPress’s idea of a “newer, easier to use” [I forget the exact words they used] editor.  Give me the clunky thing in my Dashboard/Admin area.  Love that so much!)

Anyway…  I’m back.

Another Round of Words in 80 Days began today, and since I volunteered to sponsor (I haven’t ROWed in a long time, and I miss the gentle nudges to write regularly), I need to blog.  Why didn’t I choose my beloved writing blog Many Worlds From Many Minds?  I don’t know: maintenance reasons, emotional reasons…  Just reasons.


In the spirit of a ROW, it’s time to set some goals to keep tabs on throughout the next eighty days.  I’m going low-key right now with the option (one I’m sure I will exercise because I always do) of adding goals later in the ROWnd.

In fact, my first (and main) goal is going to be: Assess progress weekly and add more projects as needed.

Notice I didn’t say “adjust” or “tweak” or any of those other (sometimes weaselly) words that allow me to drop a challenging project just because something newer and shinier has come into view?  Well, I’m ALL about the shiny, trust me, but I’ve come to realize how self-defeating that behavior can be.

I just spent whole weekend cleaning out (actually I still have a few more hours left on the project yet) my OneNote files, notes that have piled up since 2003, notes that had not been synced correctly when I upgraded in 2010…  notes that came with seven (yes, seven!) “conflicted versions” because a random change or edit got saved on one machine and not another.

My next project is to make sure all my story files are saved, backed up and synced correctly, and that also will include digging into some scary archives.  Time to pull out DOSBox and Wordperfect 5.1 to make sure I have all the comments and notes.

And in the interim…  I have the goals of:

  • working through three chapters weekly of James Scott Bell’s Plot& Structure (including exercises)
  • catching up in my local critique group (including submitting something this week)
  • typing two pages a day of old notebooks in

And THAT is enough for anyone right now.

It’s been a process of rediscovering old interests, passions and… bad habits.  But thing can change.  In fact, they always do.

I have bad habit I’d really like to break.

I tend to react, often quickly, often with great vigor, and…  often without much forethought.  In other words, I tend to overreact, fly off the handle and not think before doing so.

So very much not a good habit.

Some of this comes from the fact I’ve felt rushed to make decisions all my life.  We live in a world where instantaneous responses are demanded for more and more daily affairs.  A product of technology perhaps, though I didn’t grow up in the era of cellphones and email.

Hopefully his son got some letters from Dad

That said…  I often dream of those days when people would travel for days to carry a message from one person to another.  Imagine a note from a Roman Centurion to his family.  Some news would be missed in the weeks and months between letters, little events such as his son’s first steps would not be so vital to record in a letter as a count of the wool gathered from the sheep this past season or that Citizen Maxanimus had offered to tutor the young child for the small fee of two hens.

Today however, messages are traded back and forth at the speed of conversation.  Some people type better with their thumbs than they do with all their fingers combined.  And many of these people can’t use a pen except to scribble their name on some official forms or an electronic pad at the store.

With that kind of communication speed, it’s easy to expect near instant answers to every question that can be asked.  Extra company is coming over…  Can you pick up two loaves of Italian bread on the way home?  Oh, and XXYY can’t eat gluten, so can you also grab some rice?  (because, of course, company that didn’t plan to come until the last minute expects a feast when they arrive) Or the fear of relationship trouble … Are you mad?  You didn’t call this morning (because we need to call our dates the first thing we wake up or we clearly don’t like them)

Don’t we ever take time to process things anymore?  Is it so wrong to simply have a cuppa and maybe a dish of fruit and cheese or some snacks as opposed to a full meal when unexpected guests arrive?  Or to say…  “Oh, I didn’t know you were coming.  I was making X, but I can put that in the fridge for tomorrow if that doesn’t work and we can go to Smith’s Restaurant tonight.”

Yes, some decisions need to be made on a moment’s notice.  But we live in a world where every decision seems so urgent….  And I am not good at it.  I like to think my ideas through.  I panic.  I get frustrated.  I snap…

I’d like to change that about myself, but…  it’s not easy to do.  The best way I’ve discovered?  Refuse to make so many instantaneous decisions.  Demand time to let the ideas and possibilities simmer.  Something I have learned in my near-half-a-century of life is that there are second and third and fourth (and more) chances to redo those poor initial reactions.

Thankfully!

Some cool links on decision-making:

Captured

Posted on: July 4, 2015

CRW_4681_crop

What do YOU see in this image?

Today, I’m a bit late with my First Friday Photo post.  We were cleaning house and moving furniture.  All sorts of my least favorite, but necessary,  activities…

That means my head just wasn’t on blogging or pictures or pretty much anything until just before I should have gotten ready for karate.  I’m not going to that tonight because there’s a Dr. Who event at the local Barnes & Noble that the Boodle wants to go to…  yes, I’ll take pictures and post them one of these days.

Anyway…  my contribution for the First Friday Photo is a small foreshadowing of the thing I’m planning on doing tomorrow… which is trying to capture a near-perfect camera RAW image of a firework using manual mode (despite it being slower for my camera to process and write to its compact flash card).

JPEG taken in 2009

JPEG taken in 2009

I’ve had some luck with auto-mode shots. My old Canon G5 can write JPEGs to its CF card reasonably fast. It’s a dog at writing RAWs though. And RAWs with a reasonable exposure-time? Good time to catch a cat-nap between shots….

So I’m actually very happy to have captured these last Thursday during the Tri-City ValleyCats game:

A Random Capture

A Random Capture

From the Finale

From the Finale

They aren’t perfect, but they are exceptionally detailed captures. And I learned a bit trying to catch these, such as I should ignore my camera’s exposure warning and speed up the shutterspeed just a touch more (the excess light in the Finale shot means I could even turn down the ISO a nudge and get a less noisy image).

And the top image? What do you think it is? How do you think it was taken? Any guesses?

If you’ve got an image you’d like to share, jump on in and post your picture to the First Friday blog hop. We’re a social group, and we love to talk and discuss our images.

CRW_4616

Way Out in Left Field

I went to my first ever baseball game last night, opening night for the TriCity Valley Cats, and…  I did it under duress.  Not that I knew I’d have a bad time, or that I didn’t appreciate the skill of the players or any of a number of things…  I don’t hate baseball.  I actually find a lot of things about the sport interesting (though none enough so to make me a fan).

CRW_4623_web

Two Boodles

It was just…  well, I wasn’t kidding when I said I have been super busy in yesterday’s post.  And all I could do was think of the multitude of things that needed to be done yesterday and how far behind on things I was….

Still, we went.  We had tickets, and we’d promised the Boodle that we’d go to at least one game this year (and this game came with a bunch of fanfare and fireworks so it made for a very full, intense evening).  It was fun.  The lines were insanely long at the concession stands (the register computers were acting up, so people often got their food while being stuck standing in line several minutes more just to pay), but the between inning antics were amusing, and the Boodle made a friend.

On a side note: I also think I’m finally perfecting my ability to take fireworks photos in manual mode.  I’m not quite there yet (I just downloaded the photos, and yeah…  not quite there yet).  It’s hard on this old camera–probably would help if I reduced the quality of the shots from CameraRAW images to JPEGs; just the time the camera takes to write to the Compact Flash card (yes, compact flash; yes, the camera is that old).  Thing is…  I’m trying to figure this out.  And maybe I’ll get there eventually.

And on that note…  I know what I’ll be doing for next week’s First Friday Photo!   The linky is now active (part of the change I decided on this week so we can actually get our photos in by the First Friday).  Don’t worry…  it’ll be open over next weekend end too for people who want to post holiday images.

Come on and join in the fun!

I forgot my last few weeks of posting (I know!  but at least the break in between wasn’t almost a year like I had done).  Who’d have thought it would be so hard to come up with single weekly blog post?

Thing is…  it hasn’t been a single post.  Just a single one here.

I’ve been busy, busy, busy over at my writing progress blog Many Worlds from Many Minds, and have been either posting there or commenting on the many wonderful participants of the Writing challenges I have been involved with: the Round of Words in 80 Days; Ready. Set. Write!; and the JuNoWriMo.  It was also the end of school for me at BCS (and homeschooling), so there were progress reports to make and assignments to review….

The plan this summer is to merge this blog with Many Worlds so I can dedicate my attention to maintaining one online home.  Or rather one blogging home…  with Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and… well, you get the idea.

But that’s for later this summer.  For now…  I just really wanted to both apologize to you all for being absent and to note a small change to the First Friday Photo blog hop I hold here on the 1st Friday of every month.

From now on, I’ll be opening the FFP linky up the week before the first Friday of each month so people have time to post their links.  The links should go active on the Friday.  This way people can schedule their posts somewhat, and they can have something to look forward to on First Fridays. 😀

Waiting for laughter

Waiting for laughter (cred: Eden Mabee)

Hope you’ll all join in.

Week 2

Week 2

Welcome again to this little blog hop.  I hope you all had fun with it last month and are looking forward to joining in again.  If you missed out on what the First Friday Photo is, let me fill you in.

I wanted to give myself an incentive to get back into photography, something I’ve enjoyed for a few years now but always set aside for “more important” things much the way I’ve often done for my writing.  Since I found bloghops helped inspire me to get more words on the page, I figured “why not make a photoblog hop?”

So I did.

I wanted to start small since I was coming back after months of not even using my camera.  And…  I’ve started taking pictures almost every day since.  I’ve even gotten my son involved, as today’s post demonstrates.

If you’d like to join in with us, here are our rules:

 

  • post a photo (one you took, please don’t post other people’s work) on your blog
  • include a link to the linky (so visitors can visit each other’s work)
  • add the link to your post to the above linky (so we can find your work)
  • visit other people’s posts

And now to the photos…

I have four pictures today.  All three were taken near the NYS Capitol around midnight (the metadata on the images lists the times as a bit off, since another shot we took of the Albany City Hall carrilon tower shows midnight but the metadata lists the time as 11:17pm.  Guess I need to fix that in the camera… later.

Anyway, to summarize things, this was an experiment. Why?  Because I’ve only taken a few night photos before, and none of them using long exposures or in RAW mode.  My hands shake pretty bad for even normal daytime shots (“essential tremor” runs in my family…  though I don’t know what made it so essential for us to have!!), so long exposure shots even bracing the camera usually result in wild blurs.

However, there’s a lot a tripod and a timer can compensate for:

Fountain at Academy Park, turned off

Fountain at Academy Park, turned off

This shot almost looks like it was taken during the day (I did do some post processing, but not as much as I thought I’d have to…  a bit of white balance adjustment; a bit of trying to remove the glare from the lights of the Capitol).  I posted a larger copy of the image to Flickr if you’d like to see more detail.

I have an old Canon Powershot G5 that gives a “mostly manual” mode that I’ve used.  In auto mode, these  shots would have been close to impossible.  Yes, the camera does allow a decent shutter length (15 seconds), but it doesn’t have anti-shake, and it can’t handle an ISO over 400.  Correction…  it can’t handle an ISO over 100 well.  The image above and the image below we shot at ISO 200, and… well, they’re very noisy images.  No amount of Adobe Photoshop can fix that, it seems.

The best part  was the way his eyes lit up when he did it himself

The best part was the way his eyes lit up when he did it himself

Not that I don’t like these images.  They’re great.  This one my son took.  He set all the settings himself, he picked his target (we could barely see the statue in the dark with the way the lights were aimed—in fact, he took the picture in part to see what it was a statue of), and I think it’s a great photo.  It’s just not a “great” photo in that it came from a mediocre camera.  And I’ll show you why….

This:

Noise...  lots of noise

Noise… lots of noise

See all that speckling in this crop of the larger image? That’s noise. There are ways to reduce the amount of noise in a picture. One, especially with our camera, is to cut the ISO (the camera’s sensitivity to light).  Simply by reducing the ISO from 200 to 100 I was able to affect this change in a different shot (the full-sized image is here on Flickr if you’d like to see it):

Less noise at 100 ISO

Less noise at 100 ISO

This image is actually of a smaller piece than the one above, but the details are clearer.  If I’d wanted to increase my exposure time (this was 6 seconds) I probably could have gotten even less noise out of the shot by going down to ISO 50, but there’s no guarantee of that.  The same amount of light was going to hit the sensor either way…

Still, noise or not, I look at these images and I remember a wonderful evening after writing group where my son and I just had fun exploring the city a bit.  We stopped (because he wanted to read) every single historical landmark post, we chatted, and we both tried something new.  I can’t wait to try it again.

First Friday Photo

Something to inspire

Amanecer

Cascade de Navacelles (France)

happiness

More Photos

obligatory “What I Allow”

I’m on Facebook (too much)

Short Stuff

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