Birth of an Idea

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Lightning strikes. In a flurry of activity you quickly jot down every piece of information that has come to mind. Afraid to let even one tiny bit get away.

Having given birth to an idea you slump back, drained. Your eyes are now a combination of dry and itchy and glazed. Reality seems hazy. You look at your creation and beam.

In that instant you know you would do it again. 

Having had three children I very much can attest to the similarities of giving birth and coming up with an idea. The lightning strike is the day of birth. The many years of watching your baby grow are the months of shaping your story into something you will maybe someday publish.

The birth of the creative work – bringing a book into reality for someone else to read – no longer just hidden deep in the imagination.

The wonder held at that initial inception of idea is not the final payoff. Instead you look forward to the months (or in some cases, years) of writing after that inspiration has struck as the first few years of life. Your idea is rolling over for the first time, taking its first steps, speaking its first words. It’s the beginning of many sleepless nights as you run into the other room to check on it.

You have read all the books that are supposed to guide you on the journey.

Every.

      Last.

            One. 

And still, you worry about whether you are doing everything right.

None of the rules, guides, advice from others will matter as much as making sure you are following what feels right in your heart.

After all is said and done you have to care enough to be honest. With yourself. With your story. With your readers.

Then you have to let it go out and find its own way.

Or, to quote Semisonic –

“Closing time –

Time to open all of the doors and let you out into the world”

 

Remember When(sdays)

It’s been a little while since the last Remember When post, and this week I am not quite ready to dive back in for our next decade. Instead I wanted to take us off the path and highlight a list of dystopian and post-apocalyptic societies that were on the page as well as on the screen.

Note – (not really all that surprising) Phillip K. Dick (PKD from here on out) absolutely OWNS the dystopian future genre.

And with that here is my list of apocalypse fiction for your consideration:

“Blade Runner” (1982) is a cult classic. And it’s (loosely) adapted from PKD’s short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (1968). PKD got an early viewing of what Ridley Scott had for the film before he died and was very pleased that Scott captured his own vision of how the world should look. (And of course the sequel, “Blade Runner 2049” is out there now – while it’s on my must watch list, I haven’t quite gotten there yet).

“1984” (1984) Released the same year as the title may have seemed like a clever idea, the events of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four occur the same year, reducing some of the concern, at least at that time. Now it’s heralded as a prophetic novel (although it’s often debated that A Brave New World is a little more on point with what the future actually turned into).

“The Running Man” (1987) – the movie based on Stephen King’s The Running Man (1982 as Richard Bachman) starred Arnold Schwarzenegger during his pumped up leading muscle man prime.

“Total Recall” (1990) The original with Arnold Scwarzenegger, not the remake in 2012 with Colin Farrell. Seems like the T-800 from “Terminator” landed comfortably into the dystopian future. PKD’s 1966 short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” inspired this one.

“A Brave New World” (1998) is the film adapted from Aldous Huxley’s 1931 novel, which is often mentioned in the same sentence (if not the same breath) as Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. 

“Minority Report” (2002) – I did mention PKD is insanely all over the dystopian landscape, right? His 1956 short story was used for the basis of this Tom Cruise movie about thought police, strange times we live in where this idea seems more real than it did a couple of decades ago.

“A Scanner Darkly” (2006) brings Keanu Reeves back in a very life-like animated movie (the strange animation actually creates the sensation of questioning what is actually real, something I think PKD would strongly approve for his 1977 novel of the same name).

“I Am Omega” (1962) / “I am Omega” (2007) / “I am Legend” (2007) – all three of these movies are inspired by Richard Matheson’s 1954 I Am Legend about a plague that turns the infected into zombie or vampire-like creatures.

“Fahrenheit 451” (2018) for the writerly and readerly types is a true dystopian horror with outlawing and burning books adapted from Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel. It’s eerie how much Bradbury predicts about how he saw future technology and society, luckily so far my books are safely on their shelves, not alight in the street.

And of course the honorable mentions – “Soylent Green” was a book first, Harry Harrison’s title wasn’t quite as catchy though, Make Room! Make Room!, Franz Kafka’s existential novel The Trial was on screen in 1962, “Planet of the Apes” was adapted from the french novel Le Planete des singes by Pierre Boulle, and of course it would be remiss of me to overlook “A Clockwork Orange”, the Divergent series, or Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series (which is very reminiscent of The Running Man, but if you haven’t read both please do and let me know what you think).

 

Finding Our Balance

I have to admit I’ve spent some time trying to get centered again. It’s been slow.

I slapped myself into gear today, made myself get dressed, and I tried a new recipe.

Then I jotted some notes on my outline and ignored the news. It’s amazing what not looking at the news can do for the soul.

The kiddos start online school this week so we’re getting them set up – as a result it’s getting me set up too.

I like to feel like I have a purpose. That there is a defined goal to accomplish. Funny thing is I let myself forget I have a defined goal right there in front of me. And it’s maybe a little harder to check off the to do list – but it still needs doing.

With the world off balance it’s been hard to remember that I still have to keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other. Repeat.

So here’s to turning off the news and letting ourselves breathe a little easier for a moment or two.

I am still finding my exact balance, but in the meantime check out this flash fiction I submitted to a Writer’s Digest contest back in the fall.

Meet Necessity, the Mother of Invention

My mom used to call things interesting. Only interesting never meant interesting. It varied, but it was always a negative comment on whatever she called interesting.

For example, the salmon dish dad made was interesting (this one in particular was called salmon surprise, and all of the ingredients except for the salmon were always a surprise). She’d poke it around the plate with her fork, nibble on a couple bites, and if dad dared ask how it was she’d nail him with one of those looks and say “interesting”. Everyone’s mom had a look like that. The look that says it was stupid of you to ask, you know it was stupid to ask, yet you asked anyway, and I want to really let you have my opinion, but I’m saving that for later …

Well. 2020 has been an interesting year.

And it’s only just the beginning.

[Quick! Knock on wood, if you’re into that sort of thing.]

I planned this year to be the year I started to work for myself. I planned to step away from my career of the last 16 years and branch into something new. I had planned a rather large cushion into that. And I had figured I’d be taking the long and winding scenic route.

Then the world paused. And for the last week I paused with it.

It’s time to hit play on what we can control. One more week of spring break with the family. Then the world will start to thrum back to life, just a tiny bit.

I’m kicking my plans back into gear.

The kids will be doing the online school at home program – not because I am concerned about them losing the knowledge or being behind, but because that is what their school district is doing to keep the year going.

And because all of that makes life a little bit more normal.

Whatever the normal will be, we’ll take it one day at a time.

And probably come up with some really cool new ways of doing life.

Because necessity is the mother of invention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Not Gonna Take It

It’s been a scary couple of weeks.

Not the kind of first line you’d expect from a self-proclaimed optimist’s usually sunny cram the positivity down your throat kind of blog.

But I do try to temper my sickly sweet optimism with a healthy dose of realism. And it has been scary. The kind of scary we usually turn to Hollywood for. And it’s been so easy to wallow in the scary. To let the fear slam against us like waves from the ocean when the tide is coming in.

I drove to work yesterday, one of my last two days before I become self-employed. I work again tomorrow. I would much prefer to be cooped up at home with my children, avoiding the outside world. Waiting for the shadow of what is happening to pass over us and hope we aren’t noticed. But that wasn’t in the cards. And on my way in I listened to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” because that always pumps me up. It didn’t succeed yesterday.

Yesterday I almost had to pull over because I was starting to sob. Because it’s so hard to fight what we can’t see, what we can’t touch, what we don’t understand.

And there it is. We always fear what we don’t understand. And at the very core of our nature as a species we panic when we become afraid. Like horses in a barn when it’s on fire. We don’t make the right choices.

We do silly things like buy all the toilet paper because we don’t know when we will be able to do that again. And it’s something we can control.

Some people use other people’s fears to profit. They buy all of the hand sanitizer and mark up the prices for those that didn’t think to buy it earlier.

But. Buuuuut. If we take a deep breath. And we look around us, we can see the beautiful resilience of our communities. The people who are reaching out to help. Those that put their own needs on hold and offer their homes as child care so that those who can’t take the time to be home can still work. The people that are offering to go to the store for the people who can’t afford to get sick.

The world isn’t ending. It might feel like it is, because it’s a little too close to something we might see on T.V. But it isn’t.

Take a deep breath.

Turn off the news. Stop scrolling through social media for the latest death tolls.

Don’t let the reports of what the grocery store has run out of make you fear that tomorrow won’t be okay.

We’re a resilient species when we turn the fear off. We support each other. We hold each other up.

Together we make a mighty roar.

So for now. While you’re home, letting this shadow pass, remember to wash your hands to the tune of “Never Gonna Give You Up” (yes, I Rick Rolled myself doing this already), read all the back log of to be read books you promised yourself you’d read if you ever found the time, and maybe binge watch really really bad old t.v. shows.

And remember to stay positive.

Funs are a Real Unit of Measurement

Time has been flying by at the rate of many funs per second. Although, to be fair, I can’t say I’ve been having much fun.

I haven’t not been having fun either, however. It’s just been very very busy.

Finishing classes for one semester and starting the next one. Running kids from one activity to the next. Scheduling appointments. Scheduling follow up appointments. Finishing the final tasks on my task list in the last few weeks of work.

The countdown is on. And that makes the next phase that much more real. I will really be self-employed in 8 days. Gainfully or otherwise it will happen very soon.

There is a thrum of excitement that sets in when something new is coming. A deep internal vibration that hums with activity at the very core of my being. There’s a tinge of fear setting in too, because once it’s real then it’s real. There’s not really any turning back at this point.

I have to just take a deep breath, and dive into the unknown.

Possibly the questions at work are adding to the nerves. That “you know this is stupid, what will you do if you fail” that is hidden under the comments of things like, “Oh wow, that’s really brave, I could never do that.”

It isn’t meant in a mean way. Most people see this as a crazy step. And maybe it is stupid. But (ready for some repetition?) I can’t let fear of failure hold me back.

Plus … if I don’t do this, what will I do with all of the research I’ve been gathering?

And how can I be okay with giving up before I even find out what I am capable of?

So here’s to 8 more days before big new change takes place.

Here’s to amazing opportunities.

Here’s to bringing dreams into reality.

And here’s to many more funs.

Rejection Level Thick Skin

Disappointment comes in many forms. And sometimes even when it’s expected it’s still a tiny punch in the gut.

I read once that Harper Lee said “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” Actually, a lot of very famous authors have a quote that is very in line with this sentiment. With that many people saying it there has to be some truth to the thought.

Heck, I heard that I needed thicker skin my entire childhood, so I figured I was pretty much set to handle whatever rejection came my way. As a twitterpated teenage girl I even was so bold as to write a very long (3 pages? 10?) love letter to a boy and anticipated the rejection that was going to come my way. If that cringe worthy event didn’t build up some thick skin then I don’t know what would.

And yet, strangely … rejection still stings.

So what is the secret? Apparently it’s getting lots, and lots of rejections. Just loads of them. Enough that you become desensitized to the very idea.

Although, if I’m being honest, becoming desensitized to anything seems like a bad idea. If you don’t feel the brutality of it can you really gain anything from the experience?

Maybe thick skin isn’t quite right … maybe it’s accepting that it’s going to hurt. Then taking that hurt, placing it under a microscope and examining what exactly hurt about it. What didn’t hurt. What you can use next time to avoid getting hurt. Rinse, and repeat.

So while an acceptance letter or two here and there (or all the time, that would be okay too) is very welcome, maybe we should also welcome the rejection letter? At the very least a rejection letter that goes beyond the form letter variety and provides genuine feedback. At least those act as a guidepost towards acceptance.

So here’s my new writer’s prayer … May your rejection letters be filled with much feedback and be only as plenty as your acceptance letters.

 

Remember When(sdays)

The literary adaptations to the big screen continue this week with the 1990s …

For the record – Roald Dahl’s characters attempted a take over of theaters for the decade. We were alright with it.

1990: The Witches “Witches work only with magic!” – Miss Eva Ernst I couldn’t have said it better myself. If you love Roald Dahl you’ve probably already caught this adaptation. Although I made this a must see for my kiddos I have to admit there is still a tiny part deep down inside of me that gets a little scared that the witches could show up and turn me into a mouse (I guess lucky I’m not a little kid anymore, not so likely now).

1991: Fried Green Tomatoes – to be honest I still haven’t read the book, but I absolutely loved Kathy Bates in this one. And, as an adult that is still trying to have someone clarify what middle aged looks like in this decade, I appreciate her so very very much more now. “Face it girls. I’m older and have more insurance.” 

1992: Of Mice and Men – sure, we all make Bugs Bunny and Elmira jokes with regards to this tale, but if you’ve read the book I can guess that your eyes have teared up a tiny bit just looking at that title. “There ain’t many guys travel around together. I don’t know why. Maybe everybody in the whole damn world’s scared of each other.”

1993: The Joy Luck Club, while it has not necessarily received the most positive feedback with regards to accuracy of Chinese immigrants, the movie (much like the book) hits some powerful emotional chords. “I like being tragic, Ma. I learned it from you.” in this one line from Rose the entire theme of mother-daughter relationships becomes clear.

1994: Shawshank Redemption “Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” – For as long as I can remember Morgan Freeman is the person who says the thing that you most need to hear, it’s just that this is one of those times that he got it a bit wrong. Leave it to Stephen King to weave a story that even once it made it the screen could trip you up if you aren’t paying attention.

1995: Pride and Prejudice – well, one of the versions of the movie came out in 1995 (and pretty close to every year since 1938). Between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy – and Colin Firth plays a positively perfect Mr. Darcy – well, need I say more? “It behooves us all, to take very careful thought before pronouncing an adverse judgment on any of our fellow men.”

1996: This was a very good year for book adaptations (and a very spectacularly good year for Roald Dahl’s books). Though perhaps one that (at least at the time) made every high school student breathe a sigh of relief was Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet – the modern imagining gave 9th graders everywhere a more clear understanding of Shakespeare than Kenneth Brannagh had managed (surely, not for lack of trying). “The world is not thy friend, nor the world’s law.” – Well, we all know Romeo was not known for his optimistic outlook.

1997: “A Borrower is quiet, conscientious, and inconspicuous. We don’t steal; we borrow.” I feel silly, I did not realize that The Borrowers came from a book – always excited when I make these lists and add a new book to my to be read pile.

1998: I think maybe I have gushed about Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic perhaps at least once, and the movie adaptation that does a pretty great job of capturing the Owens women on screen. “Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside of me, an emptiness that at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean.” You and me both Sally Owens.

1999: Fight Club created some havoc right at the end of the decade. Strange, given that the Y2K panic was just around the corner. Ummm … “The first rule of fight club is that you do not talk about fight club.” Well, I guess if it’s already broken it’s not like we can un-break it, right? “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

I feel like there are so many more movies that could be listed here, and some pretty awesome quotes, but I’ll let you all be the judge.

Life is Cyclical That Way

Life has a funny way of repeating itself. In one moment you think you’re on a brand new roll and then … BAM! You realize you are caught in a loop.

Maybe that is the entire world.

If we pay close attention to history, as my great grandmother once said, we find that the people don’t change, just the clothes that they wear will change. G-G-Ma was a pretty smart lady so I’ve held that thought in my back pocket for a few decades now.

(Cool, I’m old enough to reference things in life in decades. Less cool, I am old enough to be able to reference things in terms of decades now.)

It’s strange to watch the cycles in terms of what is popular, especially given that every generation is sure that they were the ones to invent whatever the trend of the day is.

The internet for news? Try the newspaper. Cell phones? Alexander Graham Bell did it first. Social Media? It was AOL chat rooms and emails and online live journals before the point where people could thumbs up or thumbs down a post. In reality, it really has all been done before.

Why? Heather’s opinion? Because at the end of the day I think that as a species we are creatures of habit. Even if we decide that we want to try something new, we like to make sure someone else is either already interested or has already done it.

The Bare Naked Ladies said it best … “It’s all been done before.”

So perhaps it’s less important to try to be the ones to do things first, or to worry about how many people got there first, and instead try to consider how to do it right.

 

 

Remember When(sdays)

I’ve had a lot of fun putting together a list of the best books (to me) of the decades from 1980 to now … but what about all of those movies that were adapted from books and short stories to the silver screen?

1980: Somewhere in Time is a movie where Christopher Reeve falls in love with the photograph of a stage actress and somehow, through the magic of hypnosis, travels back to be with her, though this is abruptly ended due to finding one very unlucky penny. This was based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie.

1981: The tales of King Arthur have been written, time and time again. His knights and their round table, the different versions of every story. One of those tales was Exaclibur, based on the specific story Le Morte d’Arthur (translates to The Death of Arthur). Very few characters catch our minds as completely as this one does. “The future has taken root in the present” – Merlin.

1982: First Blood – John Rambo first showed up wearing his iconic headband (often innovated by young boys from ties found in their father’s closets for years and years after …) and saying classic 80s lines like: “They drew first blood, not me” – but did you know that he first graced the pages of David Morrell’s novel of the same name 10 years earlier in 1972?

1983: Classic high school literature, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders touches on truth, and coming of age. Hinton started writing the novel at fifteen, and maybe that’s why it still feels like it gets the perspective right, regardless of the era. The novel translates well to film, too. “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold” – Johnny.

1984: The Neverending Story is one that I don’t think surprises us too much that it was adapted from a book of the same name. Afterall, our protagonist does find himself avoiding bullies in a bookstore, or diving into a new world through the words on the page as he reads … really it makes perfect sense. “Never give up and good luck will find you” – thanks Falkor. 

1985: The Black Cauldron is an animated fantasy film from Walt Disney, but it’s also from a book series called The Chronicles of Prydain. I not only remember this film from my childhood, but the first video game I ever played was the computer game – on the giant floppy disks that I swear you could remove the center and go play frisbee. “Oh, poor miserable Gurgi deserves fierce smackings and whackings on his poor, tender head. Always left with no munchings and crunchings.” – dear, sweet, Gurgi …

1986: Stand by Me, the super iconic coming of age tale, was adapted from a Stephen King novella, The Body. Stephen King worked on the screenplay for the movie as well (along with two other writers, Raynold Gideon and Bruce Evans). “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” – The Writer.

1987: I don’t know very many people who aren’t familiar with The Princess Bride; there was a good chance if you hadn’t seen it at home you were going to catch it on a down day at school (Middle and High schools, of course), and if you haven’t seen it you’ve probably seen a meme or heard a quote (at least one) from it – “As you wish” surely is running through your head by now … Anyway, this beloved movie also comes from a book, though perhaps you knew that given the grandpa reading the story at the beginning of the movie?

1988: In true 1980’s fashion action movies were the name of the game, and one of the most iconic action heroes was John McClane from Die Hard. Nowadays it’s revered as one of the best Christmas movies, but when it came out (in middle of July, mind you), it was the adaptation of Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Lasts Forever. Interested in John McClane pre-Die Hard? Check out the first book in the series, The Detective. “Welcome to the party, Pal.” – John McClane.

1989: “If you build it, they will come” went from a movie quote, to a motivational speaker’s dream speech. Field of Dreams taught us that all we had to do was have a dream, build said dream (so long as building something was required, if not … well, good luck folks), and BAM! Success abounds. Okay, I’m really oversimplifying the movie – and the book, Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, as well (I think, I didn’t realize it was a book until 5 minutes ago).

I’d love to hear your favorite quotes from these, or any others that maybe I missed.

An Optimistic Realist Kind of Moment

The glass is half full. Even if we have to fill it ourselves.

Some days the world really makes it hard to keep a positive mindset about things. Things like burst pipes when you would have sworn you never had water in the pipe for the sprinkler system to begin with certainly has a way of putting a damper on things. That happened earlier today.

But there’s always a bright side.

And I always find it.

The silver lining here? We don’t use the sprinkler system. As a result we don’t have to pay to repair it, well … at least not today. Possibly even a good opportunity for some DIY learning moments when the weather is nice enough to be outside for many potentially frustrating hours.

Hey! I said I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist.

Some days you just have to consider that things are going to get stressful. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare for things there are always moments where the unexpected crops up.

It rears its ugly head just to remind us we aren’t actually in charge.

Sometimes it’s a burst pipe, sometimes it’s a story we thought we’d get done in a certain amount of time, or a project we anticipated tackling. It happens.

Tomorrow is coming whether the pipe burst or not. We get to decide how we start the day. That’s the thing we are in control of … no matter what else happens.

So take a moment and check your cup. Is it full? Do you want it to be? Go ahead, take a moment to fill it up. Then take a few sips.