Unblock the Blocks

Blogger Hannah Heath has begun doing YouTube videos also.  In a recent one (Oct 2017), someone asked her about “writer’s block”.  She replied that she didn’t believe in it, and went on to explain that too often writers use that excuse for not writing.  In the normal work-a-day world, most of us have paying jobs.  We don’t have the leisure to simply say, “I have CPA block”, or “I have brain surgeon block”, or “I have auto mechanic block”.  We have to show up to work and do the best we can anyway.  Allowing ourselves to ‘enjoy’ the leisure of writer’s block frees us from the responsibility of dealing with it.  Accountants do accounting and writers do writing.

Her point is interesting, and well made.  Writer’s block does conveniently allow us to stop writing for a while, and it sounds so creative and grandiose in the bargain.  But as Hannah points out, instead we need to examine what our ‘block’ actually is, and then actively do something toward removing it, or getting around it.

Are we lacking inspiration?  If so, are we doing anything to gain inspiration?  Research?  Writing out every possible idea we can come up with to see if something workable presents itself?

Are we just burned out on writing and need a break?  If so, are we setting aside a fixed amount of time to take that break, with a firm deadline of when to come back to it?  This would be the equivalent of scheduling your vacation in the regular working world.  At the end of the vacation period you DO have to return to work, whether you ‘want’ to or not.

If you can point to something more concrete than ‘block’, then you have a better chance of overcoming it.  If I tell you “the road is blocked”, you have no idea how to respond.  Is the road flooded, but in time the water will drain and it will again be passable?  Was the road washed away entirely in the flood and no passage will be possible until the road is rebuilt?  Is a tree down and blocking the road, and a chainsaw could quickly remedy the situation?

Finding the source of the block lets you make a plan for dealing with the delay or setback.  It’s difficult to fight against the unknown.

Name your problem, then work to resolve it.

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How Do You Top a Broken Tooth?

Hmmmm, how about breaking the temporary crown that’s only been on for two days?  Going into a three-day weekend?

Am I ‘little miss party girl’ or what!

Okay, soft foods, form a line to the left side of the mouth.  Orderly fashion, please.

It’s That Time of Year Again

No, not spring – that’s still a little ways off, and spring cleaning with it.  I’m not referring to the Winter Olympics either.  No, I’m looking at you Valentine’s Day.

Sadly, as with many other holidays, this has become a commercial nightmare, but I get the impression that in this case most people are willing to buy into it.  I see ads for things that are probably on her ‘list’, and there are numerous jokes about what happens should some hapless guy NOT get a gift that is big enough or expensive enough to suit the girl’s expectations.  Now, there might be instances of role reversal where the girl falls short of the guy’s expectations, but really retail America is all about the guy delivering and delivering handsomely to ‘show’ his love.

I admit, I have no significant other.  Should I blame the fact that I just don’t see how big, expensive gifts ‘prove’ anything, other than the willingness to spend money which you may or may not have?  I’m afraid if that’s the case, I will continue to be single and ‘unpaired’.  I can think of many ways for a guy or anyone else to show their love for me, but throwing money around isn’t on the list.  Sure, gifts are nice, but being able to buy something expensive just isn’t a major sign of love in my book.  How many wildly wealthy people do we see every day who are incapable of sustaining a lasting relationship?  The money and ‘big expensive presents’ didn’t salvage those.

So, what’s the point of this blog post?  I don’t know, maybe just to encourage lovers to re-evaluate what constitutes showing love.  Stop expecting, even demanding, a lot of money be spent every Feb. 14 or the relationship suffers.  Look for more worthwhile things:  thoughtful gestures/actions, a single flower in the middle of July for no particular reason other than they were thinking of you, treating you with respect, honesty, concern for your well-being.

And it goes both ways.  The burden shouldn’t be entirely on the male to ‘show’ their love; women should be doing it also.  If you can’t think of anything at all to give him, then maybe you seriously need to get to know him better.  There are bound to be things he would appreciate your doing without his having to ask.  If he really loves to watch football games on tv, then maybe prepare a lot of goodies, let him invite his friends over and stay out of the way while they enjoy their guy stuff.  Maybe even have him prepare a shopping list and buy his groceries for him while the game is on, just because you know he hates going to the store.

Yes, romance, flowers and even sex might be included in your Valentine’s Day celebration, but if that is the only thing you can think of as a way to show your love, maybe it isn’t love.  Maybe it’s just lust.  True love involves a great deal more than time in bed.  And true love adds beauty to everything else.  I may not have it, but I recognize it.

Lesson for Today

Guess what!  There is more than one word in the dictionary that begins with F.  Sadly, most of humanity only seems to know that one word, and uses it when expressing anything and everything.

It’s time people learn to use some of those other words in sentences.

Everything New Is Old

My grandfather was born in 1893, and served in World War I in France.  He carried a small pocket diary with him, though notations in it were scant on detail.  However, one thing that stood out was a comment he made about the work he was doing.  He was part of the Ambulance service, and thus drove an ambulance in the field, carrying wounded away from the fighting line to the medical facilities.

He remarked how the men were being taught to drive the cars because most of them did not know how to do so.

Sep 10, 1917              –        Had some more excellent training for ambulance driving – worked as a stevedor unloading ammunition – as yet I have learned about everything except the handling of a Ford car.

 Sep 22, 1917              –        After months of waiting our cars are at last definitely assigned to us.  Now for making drivers of our men.

 Oct 7, 1917                –        Cars run fine except that hobnails left by many soldiers in the road have caused many punctures – largely because the tires are not heavy enough to stand the work.

 Oct 13, 1917              –      … This sector in the Argonne woods is known as a sector of rest.  Thank heavens for us as we are expected to drive Fiats which most of us never handled before.

It makes you wonder how much of what we take for granted today will be unknown in the future.  And, even more, what do we not even imagine today that will be commonplace in years ahead?  Most of us, at least in the United States, give little thought to driving a car.  When you are old enough, you get a license and training, and then spend much of your life behind the wheel of a vehicle.

But even in that, we are already starting to see a change.  Traffic has become so bad in so many places, that more and more people are looking to mass transit options like commuter trains.  While owning a car has been a much desired goal for many years, more and more people are content not to deal with the expense and just use ride services or public transit.  What will tomorrow bring?  Will having a pilot’s license become as commonplace as driver’s licenses currently are?

In the 1960s, when the original Star Trek aired on television, phones were wired into the wall.  They were big and clunky.  So to see people in the future using small, handheld devices to communicate over long distances was “science fiction”.  Only, in 2017, it’s not.  Though largely replaced by smart phones, remember that one common iteration of the cell phone was the flip-phone.  You flipped it open to make your calls – just like they did with their communicators on Star Trek.

Driving, indoor plumbing, refrigeration – many generations passed without those things, and gave little thought to it.  What in our lives will be gone in 20 years, replaced by something “better”?

It does give you pause.  My grandfather went from horse and buggy days to the space age in his lifetime.  What will we see over the course of ours?

Why Bother?

I pass a billboard every morning on the way to work advertising a tv show called The Resident.  It has the tag line “Can one doctor save a broken system?”.  In the picture, we have:

1)  Latin male

2)  white female

3)  black female

4)  older white guy

5)  young handsome white guy

So, let’s guess which of them is the doctor that is trying to save the broken system!  Well, when they don’t have enough room, some of the ad pictures omit the black female, so I guess we can rule her out.  But the others…oooooo, who could it be?????

Give up?

It’s…ta da, the young handsome white guy!

Wow, didn’t see that coming, did you!  (Yes, dear hearts, that is sarcasm.  Lots and lots of sarcasm.)

And this is why we need more writers who are creative and diverse.  I look at that and have no reason to think I should watch, as there is unlikely to be anything said or done that I haven’t seen (frequently) before.  Why would I bother?  What reason have you given me to think you have brought anything new to the table when you are so clearly writing cliché?

I have nothing against young, handsome, white guys – I rather like them.  Even so, they aren’t the only ‘heroes’ in the world.  Others can just as seamlessly carry a story.  Witness recent movies like Rogue One (female, latino, muslim, asian all in one package), The Last Jedi gives us Finn (black, among others – haven’t seen it yet) and in a very nice touch, a movie of several years ago that I’ve mentioned before called Penelope (which had Peter Dinklage as a reporter and his size was completely irrelevant to the story).

If everyone in your story is all one color, you must live in a very colorless world.  People will go to great lengths to create aliens that look and sound different, but will not write people like that.

Let’s get more creative!

What’s the Difference?

As I’ve mentioned, I write fan fiction.  That means I’m working in an established world with established characters and an established history.  While some fan fiction writers go AU (alternate universe/reality) with their stories, changing whatever they want as they play in someone else’s world, for the most part, I try to be true to the story the original author told.

Because of that, it limits some possibilities.  Even so, the challenge is always to bring something new to the table.  There are a million love stories, battle stories, fantasy stories, etc. and many have similar details.  A guy and a girl falling in love is standard in a romance, but how they get there isn’t.  Unfortunately, some writers keep using the same scenarios over and over.  If I tell you a story wherein John and Mary meet, fall in love and live happily ever after, you are not going to want to read a second story that I write wherein I merely change the characters’ names to Bob and Sue, but pretty much tell you exactly the same story with exactly the same details.  Each time I tell a story, I need to bring something new to it, and so do you.

In my case, I have to think of scenarios for meeting that are ‘possible’ within the already existing timeline/scenario set by the author.  Anything the author didn’t originally tell his readers then becomes the fodder for finding new stories.  Tolkien told us how Faramir and Eowyn met in Lord of the Rings.  But he did not tell us how Eomer and Lothiriel met.  He tells us they married and had a son named Elfwine, but he never explored their history/story or told us much of them.  (Some even say Lothiriel and Elfwine are not canon characters since they did not appear in the main story line, but in additional writings of Tolkien.)

So, if I want to write about Faramir/Eowyn, I either have to flesh out the details of how Tolkien said it happened, filling in gaps that he didn’t bother to mention as to their meeting and falling in love, or I have to pick up my story after they’ve met and continue on from there into the unknown.  But if I write Eomer/Lothiriel, so long as I follow the details of history and the timeline, I have a lot more leeway in the story I tell.

But that’s just part of it.  I’ve written many Eomer/Lothiriel stories.  Others have also.  So why write another one?  There isn’t any point (not even I would want to read it), if a new story didn’t bring something new and creative to the tale.

The same is true for anything we write, even completely original works.  Find something new to say or explore about love at first sight.  Find a creative way to storm the castle and defeat the evil king.  Find/create new and different characters, with different personalities.  Not all dwarves should sound and act like Gimli.  Not every medieval fantasy requires elves that look and act like Legolas.  Love at first sight doesn’t happen exactly the same way for everyone.

It’s easy to copy details that another writer has already dreamed up and written, but we are writers, not transcribers.  We should be creating our own details, or looking at them in new ways, or exploring things they didn’t touch on.

Be the daisy growing in the bed of roses.  Find something different to say.  Then you might not be lost in the crowd.

Wow, You Really Can Buy ANYTHING on Amazon

I was on the Yahoo page that gives me headline lists of stories, ads, etc. (many of them old, outdated and rehashed from before, but that’s a separate issue…).  They tend to have a thing in the upper right corner with links to 10 things Trending.  One was Chris Hemsworth, so I clicked to see what that was about. 

When I went back to the Yahoo page, one of the items in the list was an Amazon.com ad.  It read:  Buy Chris Hemsworth on Amazon.  Free shipping on Qualified Orders.

Should have checked the price.  Might be too good a deal to pass up, eh?  And if there’s free shipping to boot…

Writers Looking to be Published

Blogger Bryn Donovan recently did a post about Fantasy and Sci Fi Publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts.  You might want to have a look if that’s the sort of thing you write (though the list mentions some other genres to a smaller extent):  http://www.bryndonovan.com/2018/01/08/fantasy-and-science-fiction-publishers-who-accept-unsolicited-manuscripts-2018/

Fantasy and Science Fiction Publishers Who Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts – 2018

by Bryn Donovan

Hey there! I know many of my readers aspire to publishing a novel, and many of them write fantasy and science fiction, so I put this post together to help them. I did a post like this a couple of years back, but it needed updating!