Friday, December 16, 2016

The Search for Civilization Continues

I have been trying for two weeks now to have a good bowl of soup at lunch time. Not a great bowl of soup - I have not been going to 5 star restaurants - but the inability to get a good bowl of soup amazes me.

I have been to Subway, Culvers, Panera's, uncountable Chinese restaurants, other sandwich shops, and many more. Most of these seem to think they are making stews out of soup ingredients. I have never had so many thick cream soups they are supposed to be broth soups. Once I did try a cheddar broccoli which was supposed to be a cream soup and it was so thick it could have passed for a chili.

The Chinese soups were mostly nice brothy soups, but usually they were completely lacking flavor. I had one the other day that I had very high hopes for. It was a wonton soup that had pork, shrimp, and chicken in it, as well as noodles, onions, carrots, and mushrooms. Sounds delicious doesn't it? It wasn't. How with that many ingredients can there be almost no flavor at all? Even the broth had very little flavor, it could have been water.

Why is it so hard to make soup? Sorry; let me rephrase that question. Why is it so hard to make good soup? It's a money maker; so many servings from one preparation. Every ingredient is full of flavor and the end result should be as well. I just don't understand it.

With the inability to find a good soup the search for civilization continues. If you can recommend a good local soup please do.





Tuesday, December 6, 2016

NaNoWriMo FTW!



So, NaNoWriMo went well. I managed to hold it together for the last week and in fact finished a couple days early. Well, I passed the 50,000 word mark early, I made some changes to the ending a few times right up to November 30th.

This is the first complete story I have written in as long as I can remember. I have started hundreds, written the middles of many more, though they didn't have beginnings or endings. But from beginning to end, this is the first I can remember since I graduated from high school.

Finishing this story gave me just about the best feeling of satisfaction I have ever gotten all by myself. I think that the advice that NaNoWriMo gives, that of quantity over quality, for the first draft is one of the most important things you can learn. Speaking as someone who HATES everything I write I needed to take that to heart. I needed to allow it to stink, to get it finished at all costs. 

The deadlines helped as well; breaking it down to 1667 words a day helped a lot. Sure there were days I didn't make that goal, but there were days that I hit 5000 words. Knowing it had to be done - even if I was the only one that cared about that deadline -  made me sit down at the keyboard and write when I would certainly have rather been reading or watching TV.

Now, though, it's finished and the hard part starts. Trying to turn it into something that I do not think stinks like a bag of dead turtles. Don't get me wrong, there are parts that I like, some bits I like a lot, but as a rule, it needs a lot of work. The biggest problem I have here is that, having not written anything completely since high school - which also was before I even knew something like editing existed - I have no idea how to edit my way to a second draft. 

Fortunately I have a friend who has a Master of Arts in English, he can make sure that the sentences are complete and don't run on. He can make sure I have not murdered the comma or forgotten the semi-colon. What he can't do however is help me make it a good fantasy story. For that I am going to need to find someone else who, while still being a writer, also has a basis in fantasy to help with the actual story. Which parts are too cliche, which are not clear enough, which are too blatantly stolen from some other story. You know, the usual. 

I guess that's what the What's Next months are for in NaNoWriMo. January and February are supposed to be when you take the next steps, perhaps I can find someone during that time to help out. If not, well, I will have to do it myself. I know the story will be weaker for it, but I certainly can't give up on it now. 

When I get it into a better shape (take this as meaning readable by anyone other than family) I will probably post it here, serialized, over the course of a couple months to see if anyone has any suggestions. Till then, if you won NaNoWriMo then congratulations, if you didn't win, then keep working on it, if you never started, then look for Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July.  


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Where do I go from here.

As I am sure the one or two of you who read this blog with any regularity have noticed I have not posted in quite some time now. The single largest hurdle to writing for me has always been the idea. Once I have an idea I can generally write three or four blog posts but without that idea nothing else works.

I can provide a very long list of excuses for why I haven't written anything in weeks but they would be just that...excuses. I find the time, energy, and motivation for (some limited) other activities so I could, if I wanted to, find those for writing as well. What confuses me, the one thing that I really don't understand is that I love to write. It isn't something I normally have to force myself to do. so why would I rather sit in a stupor watching something on television rather than writing or even reading something? 

When I am busy doing something all I can think about is writing something new or reading any of a number of books I have been looking forward to. For example, I just received the Facsimile First Edition of The Hobbit which I have been looking forward to reading since they announced it back in 2012. Yet, whenever I have time that I could be reading, almost invariably I turn to something else. Something much less cerebral.

I really don't understand why I am having problems breaking away from the bone idleness which has become my default state of being. My motivation across the board is so low as to be undetectable. Don't misunderstand me I have never been a go-getter but when I was interested in something I was able to muster the drive to make it happen. 

For weeks now just standing up seems to be an almost insurmountable task. I wake up later and later in the the morning which is not something I have ever had to deal with before and at the other end of the day by 10:00 PM I am longing for bed which is also out of character for me this normally being the time I would start doing things like writing or reading as the house is finally starting to quiet down.

The lack of a visible, tangible, deadline seems to have been the problem. I wrote the beginning of this post in early October. It is now the middle of November and things have changed. 

NaNoWriMo happened.

I decided to try winning NAtional NOvel  WRIting MOnth this year. I have followed it in previous years but my experiences writing anything longer or more difficult than a blog post - the phrase Epic Fail comes to mind -  was not something that made me feel I could accomplish it.

This year though I saw some posts from others about it, during the last week in October, I did some research and decided this might be what I needed. A month long writing prompt that stressed quantity over quality. I think I may finally have been convinced that first drafts were supposed to stink like a bag of dead turtles and that it was OK that they do.

November 1st came and I started. Day one was big, I blew past the recommended word count and felt good about it. Turns out I need deadlines and the approval for it to be OK with it not being great.

I am definitely a discovery writer which means I don't really plan out, outline, prepare, or otherwise work out in advance what I am going to do in or with a story. The original idea for this story has changed a couple of times along the way and characters I intended to be walk-ons have become important full cast members. The addition of one character even changed the history of another, and prompted a story idea for a sequel.

It is day 22 right now, and I should be (to finish on time) at 36,666 words - a creepy number if I have ever seen one - right now I am at 38,500ish. I should be able to pass 40,000 words tonight when I can get back to working on that and things are looking positive. 

38,000 words is at least 36,500 more than I have ever managed to do on any one story before, and I am shocked to see that I don't actually hate the entire thing. I don't think it's great, don't get me wrong, but I don't hate it and want to delete it from everywhere including my memory like I always have in the past.

It remains to be seen if I can hold it together for another week or so and cross the finish line as a successful NaNoWriMo winner. whether or not I manage that, or even finish this story. I have accomplished something I never have before and that's a start. 

If you are like me, and feel unmotivated or unable to accomplish what you should, or even what you just want to look for something outside yourself for motivation. It can come from the strangest places. And if you ever wanted to write something and have never found the time, look into NaNoWriMo next November, or join Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July.

Deadlines, who knew.

  -John




Friday, September 16, 2016

Religion and Politics Part 5 - Politics - No Really.

I was planning on using this post to start tying together my philosophy and my political views into a cohesive thought. However the current political environment has so burned me out and frustrated me, I do not believe I could do justice to that original idea. Instead I will discuss some of what is going on now and what I think about it.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Religion and Politics Part 4 - Taoism (and a Bear)



I continue to look at Taoism and how it has changed me, and the life I live. This week we will look at the Taoist principles of non-contention, non-action, and non-intention.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Religion and Politics Part 3 - Taoism (and a Bear)

In my {previous post} I talked about how I found Taoism and some of the humble beginnings of learning the Way. In this series I would like to spend some time looking at why Taoism resonates with me and why over all others I follow Taoism teachings.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Religion and Politics Part 2 - Philosophy and a Bear.


pooh.jpgAs I try to decide what I believe now I have a great difficulty separating what I was raised to believe and what I really think. Twenty years ago had you asked me if I believed in God, in Jesus and the resurrection, I would have answered, without even thinking, that yes, I did. It's the "without even thinking" part that bothers me now.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Religion and Politics, two things you should never discuss. Part 1

I enjoy conversation, I savor great conversation but all conversation is worthwhile. Debate is great, there is nothing that gets the blood pumping quite like a lively debate. Debate has the added benefit of solidifying your own thoughts and beliefs and has the potential to change them. How can you truly believe something if you don't understand it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Writing in a coffee shop.


20160409_095245 (1).jpgNormally I write at home after the house has gone to sleep because it’s quiet and there is nothing else requiring my attention. I tend to do my best work late in the evening, I don’t know if it’s because of the minimum amount of distractions or simply because I  am a night person and naturally more effective at night. Recently though - for probably less than a month - I have been writing during my weekly coffee klatch on Saturday mornings.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Friendship, again and again.

I have been re-reading some of the classics, and I am currently working my way through Euripides. While reading last night a quote stuck with me. "for it is in trouble's hour that the good most clearly show their friendship; though prosperity of itself in every case finds friends" * This passage brought me back to something I have been thinking about for some time. 
A number of my recent posts revolve around friendships in general and my friendships, or lack thereof, in particular. Maybe because I don't have a lot of friendships or maybe because friendships have been much on my mind recently, I find I need to write another post on friendship, if only to clear my mind and let me move on. I've said it before and I am sure I will say it again; friendships, like tents, are hard