Mother of Invention

Apollo Launch

“The Cold War did a lot for us. Just think of it, we went to the Moon and back because we wanted to win the “Space Race.” ~ Aaron Sneary

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.” ~ Harry Lime in The Third Man

A few weeks ago we had dinner with a friend who is going through huge life changes. During our discussion, he pointed out that the Cold War helped us with a great many technological advances. My husband and I agreed with him. It seems to be our way for necessity to be the mother of invention.

Last week I used some quotes from Gary Zukav’s book The Seat of the Soul, to make my point that the human race is evolving. Sometimes we need to take a look back to discover where we are going. Near the end of his book, Gary Zukav points out that at some point near the beginning of our existence, we five-sensory human beings chose “to learn through fear and doubt instead of through wisdom.” Yet the point he is making with his book is that we now have a chance to choose a new way to learn and evolve.

Here we are at this crucial time in human history, not just in this country, but all over the planet. What will we invent? How will we grow? Will we choose to set aside our petty squabbles and begin to work together? I hope we really do move away from inventing ever more complex technology, and instead make deeper connections with each other and with who we really are.

Last week I also referenced an article on the site, Prepare For Change that gave evidence that humanity is waking up because the frequency of the earth has risen drastically in the last few months and years. If you didn’t read my post, just know that the frequency of the planet is linked to human brainwave activity. Maybe we’re finally using parts of our brains that have been dormant for so long.

If you look back at history, it takes a lot to shake us up enough to make us adopt major changes in the way we think, in the way we treat each other, and in our societies. Usually most of us fight that change with everything we’ve got. It doesn’t seem to be that way this time. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that the number of people trying to hold on to the old ways of being and doing are relatively small. Unfortunately, at the moment they also happen to be those in power positions, at least in this country. But the flow of history has changed. The old ways no longer work. We can’t abuse the environment, or people and assume the planet or people will lie down and take it. This is illustrated by the multitude of demonstrations, calls, emails, and snail mail being sent to our elected officials. It’s also reflected in our art.

I think I can speak for other artists when I say that the work we create is our attempt to understand, and maybe even define what it means to be a human being. And some artists of late have attempted to point out that humanity is standing on the precipice. We can either evolve or die. The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Matrix series, and Arrival are just a few of the movies that use human evolution as themes. There are also other art forms that do that same thing, but I don’t need to list them all here.

Arrival is particularly interesting because it advocates cooperation as a way for the human race to save itself so that millennia in the future humans can help save the alien race that has arrived. I’m all for using more cooperation probably because that was a major lesson I learned from my involvement in theatre. If the director, producer, actors, designers and crew don’t work together, the production falls apart. It’s like that for companies, sports teams, educational classrooms, families, and so many other life situations

In Arrival, the key to human evolution has to do with changing the way we think by learning the language of the aliens who have come to earth. I loved the idea that the language we speak causes us to think in specific ways and one way to change the way you think is to learn a new language. So, maybe we need to require that all students learn one language other than English by taking six or eight years of the language they choose. Wouldn’t that be great, to have lots of different language offerings for students. I for one am sad that I attended a series of small towns with scant foreign, (I don’t like that word) language offerings. I wanted to learn French, but when we moved to a new school, they only offered Spanish and German. I wish now living so close to the Mexican border that I had taken Spanish. Instead I took one year of German. Not enough to learn the language properly.

What we need is one universal language that everyone on the planet learns, like everyone on the planet eventually learns in the movie Arrival. I think it would be great if it was a completely new language not spoken by anyone on the planet at this time. Maybe some linguist will come up with such a language, or the one that they created for the movie could be developed further and we could use it. I’d learn it. What do you think?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Dilemma

Confused Reader

Confused Reader

“I understand why creative people like dark, but American audiences don’t like dark. They like story. They do not respond to nervous breakdowns and unhappy episodes that lead nowhere. They like their characters to be a part of the action. They like strength, not weakness, a chance to work out any dilemma.” ~ Leslie Moonves

“Build your reputation by helping other people build theirs.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

“By helping others, you will learn to help yourself.” ~ And San Suu Kyi

I love reading. For me it’s a lesson in writing. I learn about writing from the great books as well as the not so great ones.

Recently I’ve read two books with great stories, but with not such great writing. I’ve been thinking about sending messages to these writers to point out things that bothered me about their books. But here is my dilemma. The books are already published, and I’m a new writer, so do I have the right to critique their work?

I don’t know these people personally. One has written many books, while the book I just finished is the first novel by the author. Both writers have won awards. The books are fantasy. Hmm. Maybe the standards are different for fantasy writers but I don’t think they should be.

I had some great mentors while writing my book. Even though it hurt a little to hear that I still had work to do to improve my manuscript, in the end I was grateful. And I’m committed to making my book enjoyable for the reader. I don’t want them to skip sections or be irritated by the writing.

Here are some things I learned from my writer friends that I think these authors could benefit from.

The information dump. There is always important information the writer wants the reader to know, but to stop the action to dump the information all at once is not good. Spread the information out a little at a time throughout the book.

Use of adverbs. Now, when my writer friends first talked about this, I didn’t believe them. I thought that adjectives and adverbs spruced up my writing. Then I read a series of books that I loved, but the writer used an excessive amount of adverbs and I got irritated by the shear number of them. I got the message loud and clear. I went back to my novel and cut out almost all of the adverbs.

Keep the main character in hot water. In this last book, there were huge sections of the book that I skipped. These sections were about side characters. This is information I might need, but not pages and pages of it. Like my friend Debrah said to me, “Give the information in a couple of short paragraphs and get back to the main character. He or she is the one we care about. And keep them in hot water. That helps the story build to the climax.”

Creating the world with language. In fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction you have to send the reader to the world you’ve created. Therefore, the language needs to be different than the everyday language we’re used to. If a writer uses current idioms or slang, it throws the reader out of being immersed in the story.

Edit, edit, and edit again. If I read a book and there are only one or two typos, stray words, or even awkward sentences, I just read over them and don’t think a thing of it. But if there are lots of them, I get annoyed. After reading these two books, I’m inclined to go back and take another pass through my novel. I was going to use a section of my novel in this post today and found a mistake. Whew, dodged another bullet. The more eyes on your work the better.

So, the teacher part of me says I should send the critiques. After all, I was irritated as a reader and if I was, others might be too. I want these authors to be successful. And maybe we can help each other become better writers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Literature and the Human Soul

Classic Books

Classic Books

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain … To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” ~ Kevyn Aucoin

“Literature must rest always on a principle, and temporal considerations are no principle at all. For, to the poet, all times and places are one; the stuff he deals with is eternally the same: no theme is inept, no past or present preferable.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“I found that dance, music, and literature is how I made sense of the world … it pushed me to think of things bigger than life’s daily routines … to think beyond what is immediate or convenient.” ~ Mikhail Baryshnikov

“I pray for the change in perception that will let me see bigger and sweeter realities.” ~ Anne Lamott

This past weekend I uploaded the first episode of my “Loving Literature” series. I’ve been having so much fun learning iMovie, finding the photos, writing the copy, and recording the talking head and voiceover segments. It’s a joy to wake up feeling energized, to know that I get to work on the videos and my writing. Why did I wait so long to allow myself to have this much fun?

As I’ve been working on the series, I’ve refined my ideas about why literature is so important to me. Over these last years of writing, a transformation, or perhaps a revelation has been going on in my consciousness. This revelation has been like chipping away pieces of marble to get to the sculpture living inside the stone, or maybe it’s cutting the jewel to reveal the fire within. Whatever the process has been, I’m coming to understand in a profound way why authors, poets, and playwrights feel compelled to write. We need to convey to our audience and ourselves the depths of what it means to be a human being.

This feeling about literature began to gel during Thanksgiving weekend as I talked with my second cousin about my video project. He’s a mathematician, and has a very different idea of how the world works than I. He told me he doesn’t understand literature. That got me thinking about different personality types and how we are each oriented to view the world in unique ways. I couldn’t articulate why I felt literature was so important during that discussion. But it got me thinking. Today I can. In posts earlier this fall, I said that the idea for the videos came to me because of some students who were struggling with reading, but it’s really more than that. The arts provide us with a way to change our perception of the world.

Now don’t get me wrong. I admire people who can do math and see the connections between numbers and abstract ideas. We need those kinds of people to help us figure out so many things, but there is no equation that can reveal the pain, fear, frustration, compassion, joy, or love humans experience every day. Mathematics is a function of the mind. Literature reveals what is going on in someone’s heart. And that’s what compels me to write my blog, books, and do this video series. I want to help people understand a little bit more about what it means to be a human being, and maybe even why we’re here interacting with each other.

I know that we each live in our own little universe and see the world in a unique way. From my viewpoint, it is through reading and watching plays and movies that I can get a glimpse into the way someone else experiences life. When that happens, my world view expands. I cherish the times when I open up to a new perspective. Somehow the connection between me and everything else on the planet deepens and I feel great joy in that moment. I want to help foster those kinds of experiences in others. It seems to me that feeling empathy for each other is something we need very badly right now. That’s the purpose of my video series.

In case you are interested in seeing what I’ve created, here is the link to the introduction video on YouTube. I hope you’ll go watch, and subscribe to my channel.

If you would like to join my email list to receive notifications of new additions to the series, or information about my soon to be published novel, The Space Between Time, you can join by using this link.

Thanks for reading. Welcome to my new followers. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Finding My Direction

Classic Books

Classic Books

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” ~ Mary Tyler Moore

“As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I’ve mentioned in previous posts my plans to offer a video series called “Loving Literature.” Today I want to tell you why I’m so jazzed about creating this series.

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to tutor a young person who is having great difficulty with reading. I wasn’t hired, but the cosmic tumblers in my head all fell into place, and the idea for this video series was born. I’m not giving up writing. On the contrary, creating this video series has renewed my fervor and desire to improve my story telling techniques.

My love of story all began with my parents. I’m sure that is where lots of people learn to love reading. My mother shared books with me, which helped me learn to love reading, but it was my father who helped me learn to analyze a story.

As I was growing up, we didn’t have lots of money, so six people going to the theater to see a movie was a rare treat. However, showing recently released, or classic movies on television was a big event back before cable and satellite, and my family took advantage of them. In fact, I didn’t see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen until I was in college. Yet, every year we watched it as it was broadcast on television.

My father turned these movie events into educational sessions as well. He’d ask question after question about what we liked about the movie and the characters. As I recall, he and I would still be discussing the movie long after the others had gone to bed.

One weekend my dad came home unexpectedly with a new color TV after a trip to Sears for something else. That began a new ritual of Dad and I staying up late on the weekends watching and discussing movies together. By extension, and because of a great English teacher, I became deeply interested in the books and stories we studied in class. That’s why I became a theatre artist.

Fast forward to teaching high school drama and English. I realized that I had a unique skill in story analysis when my students became engaged in deep discussions about a story, play or book. It was that realization more than any other that convinced me to quit teaching and become a writer. I’ve been supremely happy these eight years, but teaching at the college sometimes gets in the way of what I really want to be doing. This series will be the perfect blend of teaching and being creative.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been putting the first three videos together and I get more excited every day as ideas for more videos come to me. To begin with, the videos will be about how to read a textbook, play or novel. Then I will have a series on the elements of literature: plot, character, conflict, setting, language, and how to use these to determine the author’s purpose for writing the story. Then I’ll move on to the different genres. Who knows where I’ll go from there. Eventually, I hope I’ll be discussing books, movies and plays I like.

Creating these videos will not take the place of my writing. I see it as an extension of it.

I’ll keep you posted about how it goes, and even invite you to take a look.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are recovering after election day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Importance of Story

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” ~ Helen Keller

“Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.” ~ Samuel Butler

“Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.” ~ Boris Pasternak

“No matter what is happening in life or in the world – war, natural disaster, poor health, pain, the death of loved ones – if existence is filled with art, music and literature, life will be fulfilling, a joy.” ~ Karen DeCrow

In the next week or so, I’m going to launch a video series on YouTube titled, “Loving Literature”. At first I thought, “This can be a tool for teachers to use.” But later I realized that the real reason I’m doing this series is to relive some of the great things I learned as a result of my dad staying up late with me on Friday and Saturday nights watching movies. I loved those times together with him and I loved that he helped me understand that even if a story is deceptively simple, there are always layers of meaning hidden within the plot, characters and setting.

I was gratified last week, when one of my acting students said to me, “You’re right. This scene seems simple, but there is a lot going on between the two characters.” Hah, another student won over! Thanks dad.

I’ve learned it’s like that in life too. When I have an encounter with someone there are so many things going on. There is what’s going on inside me, and what’s going on inside the other person. Sometimes outside circumstances even play a part in the encounter. Because of my practice analyzing fictional stories, I can analyze the situation with that other person, and hopefully either work things out, or help the relationship deepen. It’s all because I had a great dad who asked me all kinds of questions about the movies we watched together. Because of that, I understand a little bit more about why people do what they do.

I don’t know if my video series will help anyone understand themselves and others better. Or if it will help them learn to think more critically. I hope it will. All I know is that I have a passion for discussing all kinds of literature and I want to share that love with others.

My husband and I were watching an episode of Ancient Aliens the other day. It was about the similarities in the mythologies of all the ancient cultures and how we’ve taken the basics from those stories and created new mythologies in the science fiction and superhero stories we tell today. They cited Joseph Campbell and his work in finding the similarities in the myths of ancient cultures. He said, “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.” In other words, story is in our DNA. we need stories to help us make sense of our world.

So, I’m embarking on this new adventure. (Don’t fret. I’m nearly finished with The Space Between Time, and I will continue to post this blog weekly.) I don’t know where it will take me, but I think it’s going to be fun. I’ve got the “donut”, as my husband says the intro and outgo are called, created and the first episode ready to place in the middle. And I have ideas for at least four or five more episodes. I’d love to hear your ideas of what I could talk about. Feel free to leave them in the comments below, or at my writer’s site on Facebook. You can also tell me why you love reading, watching movies or TV. Is it more than entertainment? It is for me.

Thanks for reading. I hope you leave a comment and share this post with your friends and family.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Opportunities

My Favorite Books

My Favorite Books

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~ Milton Berle

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” ~ Napoleon Hill

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan

Recently I’ve been helping my sister brainstorm ideas for a series of YouTube videos to help promote her life coaching business. While we were talking, I got the urge to create my own videos. I have my own YouTube channel created some years back so I could post videos of my students performing their acting scenes. It helps if they can see themselves and the mistakes they make, but also seeing how well they do gives them confidence. For the most part, the videos are not public, only the people with the links can view them.

So, I already have a channel set up and I’ve been thinking how I can monetize it. There are people who make a great living posting videos. Maybe I can earn a little money too. But what would my videography theme be? Finally the idea crystallized through a series of events, to complicated to enumerate here, of creating videos tentatively titled “Loving Literature.”

It’s funny how lots of experiences and elements in my life collate and synthesize into a new, better understanding. When that happened last week, I got energized and I can’t wait to begin making videos.

What will the videos be about? The importance of reading and understanding literature, of course. In fact, to me it’s the most important basic skill we need because without being able to read, our learning is handicapped. It’s not that we can’t learn, it’s just a great deal more difficult.

Reading literature, watching plays, movies, and television are ways we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes. That’s what makes storytelling in all its forms so compelling. We’re fascinated by other human beings and their experiences. Stories help us widen our world view and understand people who have a very different outlook on life than we do. We can learn from their experiences. To me understanding what it means to be human is the basis for building societies, cultures, even governments.

In my opinion, if you don’t understand other human beings and why they feel and act the way they do, you can’t be a completely successful person. I’m not talking about gaining wealth, I’m talking about gaining friendships, nurturing families, and being part of a team at work, all of which make having the money worthwhile.

When I’ve got the first few videos posted, I’ll include the link here.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Rethinking Meandering

Star Trek Logo 50 Years

Star Trek Logo 50 Years

“Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” ~ Phillips Brooks

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” ~ Douglas Adams

“Artistic self-indulgence is the mark of an amateur. The temptation to make scenes, to appear late, to call in sick, not to meet deadlines, not to be organized, is at heart a sign of your own insecurity and at worst the sign of an amateur.” ~ Harold Prince

“Typically creative people are usually not clock-slaves or list-makers, so the idea of enforcing goals and deadlines can be somewhat daunting.” ~ Kristin Armstrong

Last week I wrote a post titled, “Determined Meandering.” In it I was exploring the advice my writer friends gave me about the seemingly endless rewrites of my novel. They advised not to get impatient to publish my book. That was probably their way of telling me that I still have a great deal of work to do before it’s ready, which is true. However, since last week, two things happened that have made me rethink my daily agenda.

First, I admit it, I’m impatient to publish my novel. It’s not that I’m sick of it, it’s more of a feeling that the time is now to publish it. I can’t really explain why I feel that way, except that when I meditate I feel that I need to get on with the rewrites, or be more efficient about how I accomplish the work.

Second, I’ve been reading the book E Squared by Pam Grout, who happens to be a full-time freelance writer herself. In the book she gives practical experiments to help the reader retrain their thinking so that they can accomplish their dreams and goals. One of the things about the experiments is that each one has a deadline, 48 hours.

As I was reading, and thinking about my current situation, I came to the conclusion that, though I hate deadlines, I must set one for myself in regards to my book. It occurred to me that sometimes people do their best work when they have limited time to finish it.

And thinking of the analogy of the meandering river, there are slow moving rivers and fast moving ones. When I was a child, I lived near the Columbia, which is a fast moving river. For years I’ve been telling myself I’m a slow writer, when I could be telling myself I’m a fast writer. So, I decided to change my mind and become a faster writer since perfection is impossible anyway.

Other interesting little tidbits have contributed to my shift in thinking. Barry and I’ve been watching the original Star Trek series again since September 8 was the 50th anniversary of the premiere. We’ve also watched some of the special features with segments by the writers. More than once writers related times when they were up against the clock to finish the script for the next episode, and how, by some miracle, they managed to produce an exceptional story, one the fans and critics loved. Thanks again, Star Trek for saving the day!

So, my conclusion: I can finish the rewrites and have an exceptional manuscript ready in about a month by being focused and determined. To that end I’ve changed my daily schedule around. So that I go straight to my office to write first thing. This way all the ideas I woke up with are emptied out onto the computer screen and later in the day when I go to meditate etc., my mind is less cluttered. It’s working so far, four chapters down, thirty-one to go.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Determined Meandering

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

I had a very different idea for today’s post until I met with my writer friends to discuss my manuscript.

The good news is, the plot is much improved. The other news, I refuse to say bad news, is that there is still work to do, and I’m dedicated to doing it.

Never before have I felt so engaged by my work. While I love being a teacher, there are aspects of the job that are annoying. Not so with writing. Working on this book is a little bit like watching a beloved movie over and over again and noticing things I had never seen before. Each time through the manuscript I understand a little bit more about my characters, I see places that need to be consolidated or cut, and I clean up sloppy sentence structure. Each improvement feels good.

At first when my friends gave me suggestion after suggestion, my heart sank a bit. I was hoping the manuscript was closer to being ready for publication. But as I digested their comments and where they want me to go with the book, I began to feel renewed excitement. They think the story is engaging which makes me determined to keep working.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when I long for the book to be finished. It’s a little bit like being on a teeter totter. Some days I’m up and some days I’m down. But isn’t that what life is all about anyway? Taking the challenges in our stride is what makes life interesting.

The other day I was checking into my Facebook feed, I’ve been taking a little break from it of late, and I followed a link to an article about a group of people living on the Greek island of Ikaria who are long lived, and extremely happy. They don’t have lots of possessions, many worries, or health problems. They sleep late, work in their gardens or at their jobs until mid-afternoon, then take a long nap. They eat simple meals and in the evening they socialize with their family and neighbors. As I read the article, I was thinking that’s the life for me! In the next moment I laughed at myself because for the most part, that’s the life I live, only instead of working in the garden, I write.

What can be more satisfying than to do what you love. You can have your rush to success. I’ll meander like the river and eventually reach a quiet cove, then be off again on another adventure.

P.S. I used to live on the Columbia River Gorge. I miss the reminder to go with the flow.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Restless Curiosity

Tarantula Nebula

Tarantula Nebula

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~ Walt Disney

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” ~ Albert Einstein

“As children, our imaginations are vibrant, and our hearts are open. We believe that the bad guy always loses and that the tooth fairy sneaks into our rooms at night to put money under our pillow. Everything amazes us, and we think everything is possible. We continuously experience life with a sense of newness and unbridled curiosity.” ~ Yehuda Berg

For the last week or so I’ve been getting ready for a new semester, while at the same time doing a long overdue clearing, and reorganizing of my office. I thought I’d feel better getting these tasks done, but I don’t. I feel anxious and restless as evidenced by the fact that I’m having a difficult time meditating, not able to concentrate on my Tai Chi, and on top of it all, reading at night has become a chore. All of this is not like me at all. Finally this morning I understood what’s going on. It’s because I’m not making time to write. My mind is filled with all kinds of ideas for the projects I’m working on, but I haven’t taken the time to put them into the computer. The only writing I’ve done is to keep up with these weekly blog posts.

This break in my creative expression has caused a great deal of tension between what needs to be done, and what I long to be doing. The tension is getting so bad that I’m feeling shaky, muddled, and irritated.

My sister and I were talking on the phone about this very thing the other day – we talk almost every day – and she was saying that her back has been bothering her, she’s having trouble sleeping, and her job has become extremely boring. The reason she is experiencing these irritations is because she’s planning a new venture but there have been irritating little things holding up the process. However, instead of waiting for the perfect time to get started, she’s just going to begin. I’m excited for her and I completely understand what she’s experiencing. I’m feeling like that too. So I’m going to follow her example and go back to making writing my top priority again, even though I’m not quite finished with my other tasks. I know doing this will restore the balance in my well-being.

Recently I’ve written about how I’m working on changing my thoughts so I can create a new life, and during that process it has been driven home in a bigger way than ever before that our health and happiness depend on being able to do what we love. Yes, we may have to hold down that job to be able to write or paint, or garden, but making as much time to do what we love best in the world is extremely important. I feel sad for people who don’t know what it is they love doing above all else.

Some advice I picked up from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, is just what I need to be concentrating on right now. Perhaps it will help you too. The advice is this, if you want to live a creative life, you need to follow your curiosity. I love doing this. It’s something I learned from my dad. He would watch something on television, or get an idea from something he read and then he’d follow the thread to learn more about the subject. His curiosity knew no bounds. Often when we were taking family trips, he’d look for fun detours so we could learn something new and interesting. I loved those side trips.

My recent descent into restlessness just points out the fact that I’ve let myself get into a rut. It’s time to shake up my life and try some new activities. Which is why I’ll go back to writing the fantasy story I began this summer about a girl and a dragon. To that end I’ve been reading lots of young adult fiction, fantasy and medieval historical books. Though I love reading these types of stories, I’ve never tried to write one before. These books have given me an education about how to turn a known genre on it’s head and make it new and exciting. That’s what I’d like to do. It’s a fun challenge. But just recently I tripped myself up when I made the decision to read a mystery. While I love a good mystery, reading one now doesn’t help my process of writing a fantasy story, which is why I’ll go back to learning as much as I can from the genre I’m now working on.

As the summer is winding down and we’re getting back into fall and winter routines, I will look for other interesting opportunities and activities to help feed my creativity. I hope you’ll join me in trying something new. Who knows where our curiosity will lead us.

Thanks for following. I hope you share this with your friends and family.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

My Process is Backwards

Cart - Before - Horse

Cart – Before – Horse

The other day I was thinking about my writing process and I realized that I do it backwards to the conventional wisdom. When I get an idea, I sit down and begin writing. I don’t do an outline, or any research. I get my ideas down on paper and it’s only as I write that I see the shape the story is supposed to take. If I need to do research, I do it on the fly, and I don’t apply a plot outline until after I’ve finished the first draft.

Some of you may think I’m weird but as I was considering my process it occurred to me that the reason I write in this way might be because of my theatre background. For many years I analyzed plays from an actor/director point of view. I was handed a script and discovered the shape of the story and character arcs from the finished product. For that reason, I find it difficult to create the plot outline from scratch before writing the story that is in my head. In a way, this is very inconvenient because I find myself waking up in the morning realizing I left out a vital part of the story. I must then go back and rewrite that scene I worked on the day before, and I may have to do that four or five days in a row before I’m satisfied with it. When the first draft is completed, I go through the manuscript dropping out scenes that slow down the story and creating new scenes that add to building the suspense in the plot.

Many writers advise newbies like me to keep writing the first draft without going back to revise because it slows down the process. We have the opportunity to make changes when the rough draft is finished. Maybe they’re right. All I know is that if I don’t get the improvements down on paper when they occur to me, they sit in my head clogging up my creative flow until I add them to my story. This does slow me down a good deal, but it’s my process. At some point I will change my method, but for now I’m stuck writing backwards.

I have never been a big believer in one right way to do anything. It’s true that there are as many ways to create a piece of artwork as there are people to create them. So my writing advice is find the method that works for you and expand upon it. If you attend writer’s workshops or take creative writing classes, remember, the method of writing that the instructor is proposing is their method. It doesn’t have to be yours and don’t let them bully you into thinking you are doing it wrong. There are no rights or wrongs when it comes to creative thinking. In fact it’s the people who think outside the box who come up with the best stories, theories, inventions, or artwork.

Having written that, I thought I’d include a portion of a new scene in my novel that I added in my latest round of revisions. It’s one of those scenes that I had to work on for several days before I felt it had all the elements it needed. I will no doubt do more work on it after I get comments and do more revisions, but for now, I’m happy with the way the scene turned out.

The set up: The Space Between Time is a time travel story of sorts. Jenna Holden in the present finds her three times great-grandmother’s journals. When she begins to read them, she enters her great-grandmother, Morgan’s consciousness. For her part, Morgan slowly becomes aware of Jenna’s presence and takes comfort in it as she travels from Vermont to become a teacher in Southern Oregon. The year In this scene is late fall 1859. Morgan is facing the town council, school board, and other town organizations on charges of indecent behavior. This fracas is lead by banker, Herbert Perry who does not keep it a secret that he does not like Morgan. This is Morgan’s explanation about what happened.

* * * * *

Charles cut him off by saying, “I agree with Mrs. Cobb. Let Miss Carlyle tell us what happened.”

Though Morgan was warmed by Charles support, he was only one man. Rage licked through her veins as she studied Herbert’s bloated face. He looked like the slugs that left slimy trails on her sidewalk. Resentment clamped its icy fist around her heart. Why does he hate me so? Getting herself under control, she cleared her throat and said, “I’ll be happy to respond to the charges.” Charles sat down. She stared into Herbert’s cold eyes for a few moments gathering her strategy. The silence lengthened and as he was about to speak, she cut him off by saying, “However, first I’d like a few questions answered. Mr. Perry is it not true that you have disliked me from the moment I stepped off the wagon train?”

Herbert glared at her, “What does that have to do with your conduct last night?”

“It has everything to do with why you’ve accused me of misconduct.” Again he was about to speak but she went on. “Isn’t it true that your first words to me had to do with the fact that you thought it inappropriate that since I was an unmarried woman, I should have an entire house to myself?” He started to speak, but again, she proceeded as if she were a lawyer interrogating a witness. “However, wasn’t the building of the house suggested by Mr. Evans and Mr. Pendleton, and was duly approved by the school board before my arrival?” She didn’t give anyone time to answer before continuing, “In addition, can you deny that every time I attempt to withdraw money from my account, which is legally and rightfully mine since I have no living male blood relatives, that you force me to produce the notarized letter from my lawyer, of which you already have a copy, stating that I am to be given complete control of my account? And, unlike other members of the community, I must wait an entire month before you will release the funds to me?” At this question, the women behind her gasped, while the men mumbled and shuffled their feet.

Mr. Wheeler startled everyone when he spoke up. “Yes, that is true. Miss Mancruso, who also has an account, receives her money on the day she fills out the withdrawal slip.” Morgan was grateful that Mr. Wheeler had spoken up. He had whispered those facts to her upon her second attempt to withdraw money from her account. Attention shifted from her to Herbert who turned his venomous gaze upon Mr. Wheeler. He, however, was unperturbed. She was sure he’d lose his job over the revelation.

“Thank you, Mr. Wheeler. I may need your testimony if I notify my lawyers of what has taken place today.” Herbert’s face looked like mottled stone. Morgan went on. “I wonder, if I were a man in this situation, would we be having this inquisition?”

“But you are not a man,” said Herbert, “and women must be held to a higher standard.”

“Why, may I ask?”

“Because it was Eve who ate of the fruit and led Adam to sin. Women must redeem themselves.” said Herbert lifting his chin. Some men nodded in agreement but most of them sat as still as statues.

“And that is an account of the creation of the human race written by a MAN in a culture where women were property, much like they are today.” She paused to let what she had said sink in. “As you well know from my credentials, among the subjects my father taught me were biblical criticism, world history, and world religions. The bible is one of only a few such accounts where the woman is to blame for a moral fall from grace. Many other religions revere the feminine aspect of God.” This statement created another stir in the room. “That having been said, I cannot help that I was raised for half my life by a man who taught me to think like a man. I can’t go back and unlearn what my father taught me, nor do I have any desire to do so. However, I have always followed a moral path as evidenced by my behavior since arriving, and by the references which I sent with my application. Yet at my first assumed offense, you decided that I should be sacked.

“However, to get to the point of this meeting, this is my side of what happened last night. When I discovered that neither the O’Days, or the Jeffries could attend my dinner party, I did as my friends have testified, I consulted not only Mr. Jeffries, but Mrs. Cobb. They both approved of my plans. We had our dinner at which we conversed, and played a game. Nothing more, so, I can only conclude that you have a personal dislike for me and have brought forward this vendetta for reasons of your own. I surmise this from the fact that you frequently come to the school to observe my teaching.” She had not mentioned this fact to the other school board members. Charles directed his disapproval in Herbert’s direction.

Before she could continue, Herbert sneered, “And it is evident by your teachin’ that you are an abolitionist. Ah am not sure that is the kind of teacher we want.”

Charles spoke up. “Herbert, Oregon is a free state, albeit a white one. What Miss Carlyle believes about slavery is her own business as is yours, I might add. I’ve had no complaints from any parents about her spreading her personal views and since you have no children in school, you have no right to harass her by showing up unannounced in her classroom. You jeopardize your seat on the school board. But that is a matter to be dealt with at another time. Miss Carlyle, will you please continue.”

She paused looking at Herbert, who had turned a dark shade of purple. Taking a look around the room she continued. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am perfectly willing to resign my position if that is your wish. However, I will not leave Table Rock City. I have funds elsewhere and can live very comfortably working with Mr. Evans at the paper and doing all I can to contribute to the growth of this community. You may get rid of me as a teacher, Mr. Perry, but I will still be a thorn in your side.”

By the end of her speech, Herbert’s jaw seemed made of stone. He was about to speak, when Arthur stood. Charles said, “Arthur, I hope you can bring some wisdom to these proceedings.”

“I hope I speak for others here when I say that I think Miss Carlyle acted in a most considerate manner last evening. She was deliberate in seeking advice from more than one quarter as to the appropriateness of having dinner alone with three bachelors, all prominent and respected members of our community, I might add. As Miss Carlyle has pointed out, it is no secret that you, Herbert, have not approved of her since she arrived.”

Arthur took a deep breath and continued. “May I also say, that she has been an asset to our town and our children. If we condemn her and release her from her position, it will take a great deal of effort to find a replacement with as wide a range of knowledge. I for one want her to remain in her post.” Turning to Charles, Arthur asked, “Is it appropriate to call for an indication of support for Miss Carlyle by a show of hands?”

Charles smiled as if he thought it good that for once someone else was taking the lead. “It is entirely appropriate. Before we call for a show of hands, does anyone have have anything else to add?”

The atmosphere in the room had changed markedly and it appeared that Herbert was resigned to his defeat for the present. After a considerable pause, Charles surprised everyone by adding, “Ladies, I would like you to vote as well. If you are in support of Miss Carlyle retaining her post as teacher of our school, please raise your hands.” A majority of hands went up immediately, others more slowly.” With a wicked smile, Charles said, “Those who do not support Miss Carlyle, raise your hands as well so she knows her accusers. Mr. Cobb and four older men looking over at Herbert, slowly raised their hands. Herbert only glared.

“Support carries for …”

Just then Emmet burst into the room. His clothes were covered with dust as if he’d been riding full tilt from his ranch. “What is this I hear about sacking Miss Carlyle?” His face was contorted in anger and his voice hard as rock. “If one of my hands hadn’t heard what Herbert said to her at church and told me, you would have cut me out of adding my two cents worth.” He looked around and saw for the first time since his entrance, that the room was full to bursting.

“We’re not sacking Miss Carlyle, Emmet. This is not an official meeting of any of these bodies, though we are keeping a record of what is said and done for future reference.”

“Well, why meet then?”

“To clear the air and see how to proceed,” said Charles.

“Well, I still wish someone had sent for me. I’d have things to say in her defense. Have you voted yet?”

“Yes. We’ve decided by majority vote to support Miss Carlyle which means no further action will be taken against her.”

“Good.” He put his face near Herbert’s. “Thwarted again, Herbert!”

* * * * *

I hope you enjoyed that scene. Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment from a reader’s point of view. Also feel free to share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016