Tags: writing

the torch-ginger

101 in 1001

Forever is composed of nows.
Emily Dickinson

Over nine months ago, I told the world that I would write a list that, in a process of incremental victories, would change my life.

Finally, on November 19th, in the earliest hours of the morning, listening to zordac's near-apnea, I wrote my list in a ten-inch, spiral bound school notebook (my current think-pad of choice).

The list is this: one hundred one things I will accomplish in one thousand one days. 101 in 1001. These items can be modest or they can be monumental. These tasks can affect just one person, or millions.

I know that my attitude and goals will change over the nearly three years that list is supposed to take, so I will allow myself to change some of the items. I can take any item off the list but only if I put one of equal difficulty and significance in its place.

I am including this on my LJ profile page and after a few days will put this entry at the top of my journal. Encouragement is always welcome; questions about why any item deserves to by on my list are also welcome. Please let me know if you choose to write your own 101 in 1001 or anything with a similar agenda.

My list is very personal. Many of my choices may seem unimportant, superfluous, and wasteful. Some acknowledge, unblinkingly, my most embarrassing weaknesses. All are things I have talked about doing without actually doing. They may not change the world, but doing these things will change me.
My 101 in 1001
1. Write this list.
2. Finish building Clay Canvas website (gratis, for a company I adore).
3. Learn to ballroom dance. - Took one class in Dec. 2008, will take more when another event calls for it.
4. Go out specifically to ballroom dance in public.
5. Finish curtains for living room. - Finished April 2009, added sheers to the list to go under them.
6. Complete one original piece of artwork.
7. Complete one original piece of artwork per month for three months.
8. Complete one original piece of artwork per month for six months.
9. Showcase artwork in a local arts and crafts festival.
10. Showcase artwork in a traditional art gallery.
11. Sell one piece of original artwork.
12. Learn to sing an Irish drinking song.
13. Learn to sing at least three Irish drinking songs.
14. Have a dress up portrait photography day.
15. Paint a studio photography background.
16. Make softboxes for studio photography (again).
17. Maintain a day sleep schedule for one month (with fewer than two off days).
18. Maintain a day sleep schedule for three months (with fewer than six off days).
19. Maintain a day sleep schedule for six months (with fewer than twelve off days).
20. Maintain a day sleep schedule for one year (with fewer than twenty-four off days).
21. Host another murder mystery party.
22. Write my own murder mystery scenario for at least ten players.
23. Write/script a dark, spooky, one-shot larp for three to six players.
24. Sweep/vacuum floors once a week for one month.
25. Sweep/vacuum floors once a week for three months.
26. Make dust ruffle Velcro attachment for master bedroom.
27. Paint the master bedroom.
28. Organize my office as a clean, flexible art studio, sewing room.
29. Touch up paint in living room and dining room.
30. Make/build canopy for master bed.
31. Get a job (small or big to supplement my self-employment income).
32. Help Jimmy pay off dining room table and chairs (must be completed by Nov. 2009). - Jimmy did this without my help; I need to add something to replace it.
33. Pay off credit card. - No more debt except student loans, March 2009
34. Get health insurance.
35. Keep kitchen clean for two weeks.
36. Keep kitchen clean for one month.
37. Keep kitchen clean for three months.
38. Visit both sides of my extended family at least six times a one year period.
39. Write a will, a living will, and last wishes and burial information.
40. Exercise every other day for two weeks.
41. Exercise every other day for one month.
42. Exercise every other day for three months.
43. Exercise every other day for six months.
44. Buy an alto or tenor recorder, hang drum, or other simple instrument.
45. Learn to read music.
46. Learn to play three songs by heart on the recorder, hang drum, or other simple instrument.
47. Play in a large main event poker tournament.
48. Hang artwork in the living room.
49. Hang artwork in the dining room.
50. Design and build/or have built a sideboard and cabinetry in the dining room.
51. Decorate guest bedroom.
52. Make curtains for master bedroom.
53. Make curtains for dining room.
54. Make curtains for guest bedroom.
55. Sew/drape another Halloween costume next fall.
56. Finally set up a Christmas tree.
57. Host Jimmy's family for a holiday celebration. Thanksgiving 2008
58. Host my family for a holiday celebration.
59. Learn to belly dance. - In the works! So far, I look ridiculous.
60. Design and build a website for my work and/or creative pursuits.
61. Trim hedges and shrubs in the early spring.
62. Write a complete outline for a novel or web comic.
63. Spend two hours per day for one week working on novel or web comic.
64. Spend two hours per day for two weeks working on novel or web comic.
65. Go to a storytelling convention.
66. Participate in one political demonstration.
67. Take a tap dancing class.
68. Color (or have colored) my hair a deep shade of red (similar to Debra Messing's).
69. Volunteer for one hour.
70. Volunteer for one hour per week for one month.
71. Design and apply full back henna tattoo for Tiffany.
72. Organize tools on sun porch.
73. Keep bedroom tidy for one month.
74. Keep bedroom tidy for three months.
75. Keep bedroom tidy for six months.
76. Get married? - Engaged June 18, 2009, wedding within a year or so.
77. Get pregnant? (If I choose to do this, it will be at the very end of the 1001 days).
78. Work uninterrupted at the computer (without games or distractions) for two hours.
79. Work uninterrupted at the computer (without games or distractions) for four hours.
80. Work uninterrupted at the computer (without games or distractions) for four hours every day for a week.
81. Work uninterrupted at the computer (without games or distractions) for four hours every day for a three weeks.
82. Go without playing any pointless online games for one week.
83. Go without playing any pointless online games for two weeks.
84. Go without playing any pointless online games for one month.
85. Spend one week helping Grandma with her family photo project.
86. Attend a Renaissance Faire or Celtic Festival.
87. Save $1000.
88. Save $5000.
89. Save $10,000.
90. Go for one week without doing the tapping/syllable-counting fidget thing.
91. Lose ten pounds.
92. Lose twenty-five pounds.
93. Lose fifty pounds.
94. Lose seventy-five pounds.
95. Grow poker bankroll to $2500. - In progress.
96. Post a thoughtful entry in Livejournal twice per week for one month.
97. Post a thoughtful entry in Livejournal twice per week for three months.
98. Make a t-shirt quilt.
99. Complete (at least with a sketchy outline) my unfinished travel diaries.
100. Sort and organize my travel diaries and memorabilia.
101. Plan and go on another vacation with Jimmy.
I have also divided my 1001 days into trimesters. Deadlines help. My 1001 days started November 19th, 2008.
  • The first trimester will last 333 days and end on Sunday, October 18, 2009. I will be thirty years old.

  • The second trimester will last 334 days and end on Friday, September 17, 2010. I will be thirty-one years old.

  • The third trimester will last 334 days and end on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. I will be thirty-two years old.
the torch-ginger

My Comic Book Journey - Ex Machina - Wow!

I just finished reading "The First Hundred Days" compilation of Ex Machina. I actually put it down three or four times with weeks in between readings, thinking, "This is really good; I've gotta get back to this." I can't believe I set it down so often; that is no reflection on the quality of this graphic serial.

It has everything I could ask for in a comic series. It'll be easier for me to describe my affection in theatrical/film terms (and occasionally, overstretched culinary metaphors), and later you'll understand why. Each of the characters is so interesting, even the ones who have just a few "lines". The supernatural/super-hero aspect is only a portion of the story, and it often acts as just supernatural spice to the flavor of the "character soup". Mmmmm, characters. The dialogue is sharp and punchy and, in this television-perfected world, believable. The issues or sub-plots of the administration are totally believable, too.

But the artwork, oh my, the artwork, is incredible. It's not just that the drawings are beautifully rendered and perfectly saturated (because they are). It's the "direction" of the action within the artwork that is equally amazing. Since so much of the action and story are carried in the dialogue, those conversations had to do everything - provide exposition, create conflict, develop character, build to a climax, convey emotion, and conclude the plot. That's hard to do in moving pictures, much less still ones. But they did it; they did it so well that the even the most seemingly mundane of conversations was a page-turner.

The authors/artists included a few "behind the scenes" pictures at the end of the compilation, which gave me one of those "Oh.my.god. THAT'S why it works" epiphanies. The artists storyboarded this whole series with real models and took photographs. They then used those photographs as "studies" for each scene. They regularly used the same models for the same corresponding characters. In essence, they did a photo-based comic first before they drew it. And that's why characters look so much like real people; it's because they are based on them. The same poses, the same crooked noses, the same gestures of each person - that's why the rendered imagery is so believable, and ultimately beautiful. Sure, everything is a little stylized, but you get real body types and sneers and movements.

And that's SO FREAKIN' SMART. Most artists working on long-term pieces use a studies (sketches or photographs) to keep them on track, to make sure that their renderings don't get distorted during the course of all that manipulation of line and color and movement. In my mind, comic books are more closely kin to movies than to single pieces of artwork, so it makes sense that their studies would be serial. And why not storyboard it with real people? It is so much quicker to pose a model and click a photograph than to sit and sketch each panel before doing the real rendering. Plus, you have a nearly complete proof of concept to make sure you're getting what you want.

Not only will I (hopefully, if spiderknight has the rest) be finishing the series, I am also encouraged to try this myself. It means that working with an artist will be much easier (whether this artist is local or hundreds of miles away) should I decide to use this medium to tell one of my stories. It also means that I can probably block whole segments of the story work with several friends in just a day. Sure there will be hours upon hours of dialogue and story to write, but it means that I can put the action together quickly and convey instantly to the artist what I want my audience to see.

I am really blown away by this. If this is some kind of industry standard in the development process, it probably seems mundane to the rest of you. But to me, it removes one of the big obstacles to working with this medium.
the torch-ginger

Writer's Dilemma

Please listen to the following hypothetical scenario and consider what you'd do:

Suppose you have several notebooks full of potential story and character ideas, but those ideas are fragmentary. Most of your ideas are undeveloped and take the form of, "I wanna write a historical novel about person_X," and "It would be really cool if one of my characters had personality_tick_Y," and "Wouldn't it be beautifully tragic and ironic if event_Z happened."

Suppose while reading Wikipedia about certain persons of alleged history, you decide definitively that you've found the character you want to write about, period. This person may never have existed and is considered by most scholars to be fictitious. You're already jotting down notes and outlining the progression of the plot.

After a while, you stop writing to finish reading the Wikipedia entry, and you discover, to your overwhelming frustrating, that someone else has recently (within the last eleven years) written a work of historical fiction about the same character. Your plot lines and character traits are fairly different and the other author's book has been both adored and disdained by readers. The biggest threat is that there might be a motion picture planned in the next two years, but until now, you've never heard about it.

What do you do? Do you write your story or do you set your notes aside and pick another historical person? Do you continue with your own version of the story and hope that a publishing company would print and distribute your novel despite the competition from this already established publication? Or do you admit the inevitability of your defeat and move on, trusting that you'll find inspiration again?
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the torch-ginger

Comic Book Questions

I'm trying to learn more about comic books as a storytelling method. I have read only one comic book series, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, long ago and which I loved. But honestly, none of the other comic book series to which I have been introduced (which are few) have interested me.

There is also something a little simplistic about using a series of images to communicate a story. It often seems as if the writers and artists have to be very literal or explicit and that all subtlety is lost. They seem like super hero soap operas. This is an opinion formulated through very little exposure and I would be extremely happy if someone would give me examples to the contrary.

Lately (as I recently discussed with spiderknight), I have started to visualize story ideas in still image form. This is fine, except that the images are not translating well to the written word. I don't know if this is because I am out of practice for writing fiction and the process comes with less ease to me, or if these stories are better suited for a still image method.

I know several of you are fans of comic books and possess a large store of knowledge to draw from. Would you mind answering a few questions for me? You may either leave a comment or email me at ginger.cox at gmail.com.

1. Other than the traditional super hero fare, what types of stories are best told through comics?

2. Do you think the method of serial images lends itself better to certain scenarios?

3. What stories would you not tell via comics?

4. What titles do you recommend of the non super hero variety (I like super heroes; those just aren't the stories I want to tell)?

5. Is there a market for comic novels that are not released serially in segments?
the torch-ginger


I set a challenge to myself.

Starting at this moment and for the next three weeks, I will endeavor to write and speak without equivocation, to kick away the crutch of caveat, to eschew over-reliance on qualifiers, and lash myself so tightly to the edge of callousness that I no longer require courage to write a simple opinion.

In times past, I have watched my thoughts transform to toothless arguments on the page.

Let me restate: My writing is weak because I fear misinterpretation and dislike.

I use multiple adjectives where one would suffice, or none. I list a dozen exceptions or counterarguments (as I was taught to do in academia and persuasive writing so as to render my opponents' attacks ineffectual) and watch as their length nearly exceeds that of my original point. I acknowledge that I could be and am often wrong before nearly every opinionated statement I make. The power of my own words is lost in elaborate clauses, parentheticals, and cowardly lists of why, even if you disagree with my opinion, you should still like me.

While I am proud of myself at examining a situation or contentious issue without prejudices, I shall no longer be a flaccid writer in an attempt to convince you that I'm a good thinker.

I will be direct. I will no longer be overly polite to people out-there-in-the-great-wide-internet whom I may never meet.. Nearly (see! a qualifier! If I generalize, I should at least do it fully!) everyone has lost their appetite for directness. I point out the public's overuse of the words "like", "seem", "sorta", and "almost".

I have given this challenge a time-span of three weeks, not because I wish improvements to cease after that time, but rather to force myself to re-examine my performance - whether I fail, succeed, or over-succeed by being too callous.

I will also try retrain my brain to stop treating my statements as confessions. I will fight back the feelings of exposure and fear of reprisal even when it is likely that they may come.
the torch-ginger

Literally the Writing on the Wall

I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to write on the wall.

This urge is strong enough that I'm contemplating going to the Home Despot, buying an expansive sheet of plywood, gessoing the crap out of it, and hanging it vertically as a writing space.

Is this what crazy feels like?
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ruined paradise


What do you want to be remembered for when you die?

What is the ideal YOU that you would like to have spent your life being? Do you want to be known as the passionate partner, unsinkable visionary, provocative writer, incomparable artist, best mom, calculating business mind, charismatic leader, constant friend?

What qualities do you want to be forever associated with your name? What projects of great or little import would you want to be recognized for endeavoring, encouraging or even completing?

Now, ask yourself this - are you that person? Why not?

What's stopping you from being that person this very instant, of internalizing that far-off, ideal person and making her you, and you her? What else are you doing instead of that?

So, tell me, who do you want to be? I'll tell you mine...

I want to be a writer of stories that my readers will skip work to read, start to read before bedtime and finally put down a few hours before their alarm goes off, and gladly give their copy away to share the joy and catharsis with their loved ones.

I want to be genuinely creative. I am terrified that I am a better editor than a creator. I am rather talented at revising and cultivating other people's ideas. Perhaps I should accept it and become a tried-and-true-paycheck-earning editor, a publisher, and an enabler. But I think I would be forever disappointed if I didn't one day feel like I was a producer myself.

I want to be brave. I want to stop worrying about the judgments of strangers, to be confident in myself, to never let the concerns of failure stop me from doing something of interest, to have the strength to fight for social concerns.

I want be adventurous. I want to continue to seek out new experiences and challenges. I remember being at a religious lock-in retreat in high school and feeling so proud and honored when one of the other students wrote (in an exercise) that I was adventurous.

I want to be able to find happiness in passionate work. I want to be a hard worker. I want to be passionate. I am lacking both.

I want to be known as a truly sage and caring person who embraces the whole of a person and doesn't judge their flaws. I actually work on this every day, often fail, but go on trying again the next day, and the next.

I want to be a person that people love to spend time with (this often works against my desire to be a dedicated artist, which requires more solitude that I am often willing to give). I want my friends to always feel welcome and loved and encouraged around me. And oddly, I want to give this to strangers, too. I want to continue to find joy in meeting new people.

I want to want to be a mother. I am afraid that by the time I get around to wanting children that I won't be able to anymore.

And lastly, and embarassingly, I want to be devastatingly, yet somehow understatedly, sexy - mind, body, and soul.
the torch-ginger

Ball of Yarn

I realized that writing, for me, is like untangling a ball of yarn.

I start off with a jumble of useless strings of phrase and few, if any, complete sentences. I stare at it a lot, tracing my eyes trying to find the invisible threads that, when pulled, will release them from their tangle.

Slowly, with very little method, the repetition of these phrases in my head start to click together, and the ball unravels into rows of readable communication.

It's slow. It's plodding. But as sluggish as my brain is, this'll have to do. My vocabulary creaks with rusty joints. Revolting cliches leap into my head and I bat them back like hornets.

::shrug:: It's progress.

How would you describe your writing process?
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Attention: Writers; also, Mrs. Parker & the Vicious Circle

Gather.com First Chapters Writing Competition

The Gather.com First Chapters Writing Competition is a first-time author's gateway to publication. One novelist will win a publishing contract with Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, a $5,000 cash prize and promotion by Borders! Enter or read and rate today.

I'm always wary of programs like this. I haven't read the fine print so you could be giving away some rights that you might otherwise have if you went with a traditional publishing method or a creative commons license. However, I thought many of you may be interested or would be willing to at least provide some insight on such competitions.

Perhaps I'm reticent because my mind is still mulling over the "Don't Devalue Your Work" write-up that was passed around a couple of weeks ago.

I also spent part of this afternoon (during an extended lunch/breakfast) watching a biopic about Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table of the 1920's, Mrs. Parker & the Vicious Circle. The movie was a little Robert-Alton-esque, with loads of interesting secondary and tertiary characters and lots of overlapping dialogue (at least in the round table scenes) like how real people talk.

I've read a handful of Dorothy Parker poems and was aware of her influence within the writing/theatre/movie community of the time. What I didn't know was the depression and insecurity that sharped her often frivolously-aimed pencil. I also learned that she gave her entire estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. and that now the NAACP has the rights to much of her work.

I did a little bit of thinking during and after the movie. First, we all write for an audience. Even if we never think anyone else will see it, most people do write with the expectation that someone will eventually read it. Secondly, we are all so profoundly influenced by our culture, our society, the times:
I write doodads because it's a doodad kind of town.
One sequence within the movie mirrored a recurring concern within my own life. A psychoanalyst says to D. Parker when she asks why she was unable to write:
It's not what you're suffering, Mrs. Parker. It's what you're missing. In my opinion, you and your friends are missing a great deal. It's a sign of insecurity, this compulsion to be constantly with each other, to be constantly entertaining, but never discussing one subject for long, never in depth. The serious side of your nature is lost— your purpose— and then you can't write. I think life is something more than being able to breathe.
I often am accompanied by a sense of guilt and frivolity when I spend time doing things like designing rooms in our new house and planning parties and especially when watching television or movies. I have a sense that all of this is keeping me from doing something more important with my talents, with my life. And that by spending the preponderance of my time doing inconsequential and temporary things, I am avoiding the weight or burden of making the most of my limited time in this world.

Or perhaps these methods of avoidance are so I don't have to face potential failure.

Now if only I could figure out what I should be doing and then develop the discipline to make myself do it.