Trendsetting again, darn it. (Pen and Paper Edition)

So, I’m kind of a dork for stationary.

Pens, paper, and if I’m in a whimsical mood, stamps and stickers… But mostly it’s about pens, pencils, and the perfect thing to use them in.

This can be an expensive obsession. Check out Levenger or The Goulet Pen Company for proof. There are entire forums for fountain pen aficionados, facebook groups, and I don’t know, probably conventions that rival SFF cons for geekiness.

Why do I mention this now? There’s a not-really-new trend for “analog” planning and journalling. You’ve got your hipsters with their index card journals and the Cult of the Planner with the tricked out Erin Condren Hobonichi Fauxdori DIYs with the stickers and washi tape and stamps. (Which is not even the same thing as the scrapbook planner or “smashbook.”)

These are distractions from the sublime satisfaction of a black fine-point ink pen and a black, hard-cover, grid-lined, classic size Moleskine.

A Moleskine is the perfect canvas for customization (see Cult of the Planner above, or Google “Moleskine hacks” for proof) but one thing I know about myself is that my outside world has to be pretty tidy for my inside world to work properly.

SO let me tell you about my discovery of the “Bullet Journal,” aka “Writing Stuff Down in a Book.” Who knew I’d be such a trendsetter. I’ve always kept multiple journals (some of you have heard me talk about this), and joking aside, this guy Ryder Carroll didn’t reinvent the wheel so much as say how he got it to roll better for him, and maybe it’ll work for you, too. The blog has ideas/modifications to try, but it’s really just about finding a way to put everything in one place—events, to-dos, notes, future planning, etc.

 

But dammit!  I’ve been “analog” all this time! And now I’m following a trend. Heck, I”m not even on the cutting edge of it. There are blogs and facebook pages and instagram tags devoted to making your “BuJo” all it can be.

All you have to do is look on Pinterest (speaking (affectionately) of the Cult of the Planner) for infinite ways to make your planner take up more time than it saves you. I stopped trying to make mine pretty, but I have added ideas that work for me (Click here for lots of info on Tiny Ray of Sunshine), and I am not exaggerating when I say that being more intentional about writing things down and keeping track of my time (both going forward and looking backward) has had a serious impact on my projectivity and general mental health. (This actually deserves a post of it’s own. Watch this space.)

Ugh. I hate following a trend.

Except, of course, when it gives me an excuse to shop for pens.

 

In Which I Get Domesticated

My friends. I’ve wandered into a dark back alley of the Internet, and I can’t quite break my addiction. It was a slow slide. A random link, a pop-up add, an “I’ll just take a little peek” click of the trackpad.

As part of the Year of Getting My S*** together, I wanted some inspiration for getting organized. So I searched “organization tips.” Oh. My. God.

No, I’m not wasting time looking Pinterest. I am GETTING ORGANIZED. I can QUIT ANY TIME I WANT.

No. I can’t. Because I have been sucked into the seedy underbelly of the blogosphere. I had discovered the world of Organizing Bloggers.

Not like a blogger’s union or anything like that. Blogs about getting organized.

And decorating.

And sometimes cooking.

Dammit, I’m addicted to HOMEMAKING BLOGS okay. I have bookmarked freaking Better Homes & Gardens and Real Simple. Why don’t I just turn in my hipster card right now.

But look at this. LOOK! My stuff could look like this!!

staples-storage1-680x453

Just a Girl and Her Blog are adorable.

My desk could look like this!

25

From A Bowl Full of Lemons, one of my favorites.

 

THIS could be my pantry:
pantryafter

From I Heart Organizing (And right on the front page (when I wrote this) was a Free Printable. See what I mean?)

Okay, obviously not. My talent lies in translating my vision into words, a virtual world. Putting it into the three dimensions of the physical world is a different thing. I can tell you that my dream cottage looks like Laura Ashley and Anthropologie had a baby, but I will stand in front of the paint chips at Home Depot all day long unable to decide whether Ice Lilac or Violet Whisper will match the image I have in mind.

On the other hand, I can knit really beautiful things (if I say so myself) as long as I have a pattern and some practice. So when I look at what miracle someone has pulled off with an IKEA shelf, a drill, and some duct tape, I’m like… I have a drill, duct tape, and an IKEA catalogue.*

That’s the idea. The problem is, it’s much easier to pin pictures to show the home decorating fairy when she shows up.**

Here’s a few more recommendations, so you can know my full shame:

For crafty things I follow Mollie Makes and Interweave Knits on Pinterest.

For recipes that aren’t the same ol’ thing I love The Other Side of the Tortilla.

For getting things clean…or aspiring to get them this clean, there’s Clean Mama.

For design inspiration I love Apartment Therapy, and also IKEA has a bazillion ideas collected and easy to find on their Pinterest Board.

And finally THIS PINTEREST BOARD is the hub of wonderful organized things.

One minute I was roaming free, a lone wolf, and the next I’m reading about Ikea Hacks. How did I become a den mother…auntie?

I might as well give into it. At least I’ll get to cill in my newly redecorated bedroom. Ha ha, not really.

 


 

*I am Rosemary’s frustrated need for order in a world she can’t control.

** Inertia is a bitch. (And if any of you have struggled with depression, you know that change means not just inertia working against you, but also the gravity well of your couch and blankie.)

 

Recent-ish Science Fiction Movies That I Think Didn’t Suck

popcorn-1085072_640It’s just embarrassing how long it sometimes takes me to see a movie, even once it comes out of iTunes. Really Sad, becasue I don’t really have an excuse. Except, I guess for working all the time. (Pinterest and Tumblr are work, right?)

So among all the other things I’m catching up with in 2016 (The Year Where I Get Caught Up on S***) are movies. Maybe you are, too. Or maybe you don’t get that much time to watch movies, and you want an opinion so you don’t waste your limited iTunes budget/Netflix time on something lame. So I offer you this diffinitive guide:

Relatively Recent Science Fiction Movies That Didn’t Suck (in my humble opinion)

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Just getting the obvious one out of the way. I freaking loved this movie. I was the absolute last of my friends to see it, and sometimes after a movie has been out for… oh, lets say a month… some of the bloom comes off of it.  Well, TFA is blooming awesome. I laughed, I cried, I squee’d. I had ALL THE FEELS. Then I had all the thoughts about my feels, then thoughts about storytelling, and this movie is actually probably worth it’s own post, maybe when the Blu-Ray comes out.
  2. The Martian. Another movie that my friends pretty much all liked or loved. I loved it. When I’m at home, I measure the engagement factor of a movie based a lot on how many rows of knitting I get done during the run time. The Martian scored a “1” which is about as good a score as you can get. The plot is that astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars and then he has to science a way to stay alive until they can figure out a way to rescue him. I was totally engrossed and invested in Watney’s survival. Matt Damon always makes me want his character to be all right (even sociopaths like Tom Ripley).  But with such a strong cast, I felt how invested their characters were in getting Watney home, so I wanted THEM to succeed. So, great actors and Ridley Scott to find the heart in this really sciency story. (I loved it, but I was exausted at the end.)
  3. Time Lapse is on Netflix right now, so it’s free to take a chance on it. The professional reviewers didn’t seem to like it as much as I did, but that’s not unusual. It’s got a very “indie” feel to it (all takes place on limited sets, lots of silences and slow, minimalist piano music), but that’s what I liked about it. The premise (Three friends discover a camera that takes pictures 24 hours into the future) isn’t totally original, but I liked watching how the paradoxes and inevitabilities played out. It’s a good Netflix movie—I was glad I watched it, because I wouldn’t have payed movie theater prices to see it. (Plus I got more knitting done in this one).

I also enjoyed the heck out of Jurassic World, but I couldn’t think of a fifth movie, and the lists look weird when they stop on four, like you’re not decisive enough to pick three, but you lack commitment to go to five.

So help me out. What should I download next in my quest to catch up with 2015?

Some Psyches Are a Bit Passive-Aggressive. Just Saying.

addtext_com_MDAyMDIwNjI1MjU1A confession: Though it may appear that I only write on this blog every month or so, this is untrue. The truth is, I write a lot—I mean, a lot—that I end up not using. (Much like my manuscripts.)

Let me share the titles of some of the drafts in my folder:

Please Don’t Reset the Year Until I Get to a Save Point. — In which I feel really bad about David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying within a week of each other, but I accomplished a Major (and overdue) Thing and I really don’t want to have to do it again, because it was hard the first time.

My Word for 2016 is ‘Badass.’ — Pretty much what it says it is.

Death and Taxes — As in, the only two things in life that are certain. (This was kind of a downer.)

OMGSTARWARS! — Too many feels to contain. Too many spoilers to post.

All I Want to Do is Keep a Schedule, So Why Do I Need All These Stickers and Colored Pens? — In which I type the word “Planner” into the Pinterest search bar and get sucked into a Filofax-LifePlanner-Hobinachi-SmashJournal Wormhole. (I found out I really like just a Moleskine and a pen. Maybe I color code it a little. Okay, a lot.)

It’s Not You, WordPress, It’s Me. Is blogger’s block a thing? What if I’m only brilliant 140 characters at a time? I have a master’s degree in communication! Social Media shouldn’t be this hard! *sobs into couch cushions*

 

Yeah, I’m totally making this harder than it should be. Don’t try this at home.

No, really. Don’t. I have years and years of training.

Why would anyone write things and then throw them out?  Especially, you know, a professional writer. Well, I’ll tell you. Here’s a sample conversation in my head.

addtext_com_MjM1NzM2MjE1NTk1Me: La la la, I’m so happy to be writing a blog post today. I hope people enjoy reading it.

(Metaphorical) Devil on my shoulder: Oh honey, no. There was a school shooting today, so you’d better post something Important and Profound.

Me: Man, that makes me angry and sad. I’d much rather post about how much I love colored pens.

Devil: Hmmm. Better not post anything. Then we can go get a cherry lime slush from Sonic.

Me: Mmmm… Sonic.

The devil on my shoulder is kind of a passive-agressive asshole.

And then there’s this:

(Metaphorical) Angel on my shoulder: You know what Every Single Writing Article ever says: you’re not a Real Writer if you don’t write every day.

Me: But I didn’t write yesterday.

(Metaphorical) Devil on my shoulder: Then you must not be a Real Writer.

Me: Okay, then. I’m going to sit here and stare at this blank screen until I’ve writtten something.

*stare*

*stare*

Me: Maybe I’ll be inspired if I look at Pinterest for awhile.

Angel: DO NOT TOUCH THAT TRACKPAD, YOUNG LADY.

Me: *touches trackpad*

Devil: You know, if you were a real writer, you would have written 10 pages by now. Just look at all those Real Writers posting their word counts on The Twitter.

Angel: Do NOT even THINK about clicking over to— DAMMIT!

Me: Wow. Those are some Real Writers.

Devil: Yep. And you haven’t written anything in two days now.

Me: I must not be a Real Writer.

Devil: My work here is done. Let’s go to Sonic.

This isn’t just a writer thing.  I know I’m not the only one who thinks “Welp, I’ve blown my calorie count for the day, so I might as well have this ice cream sundae.”

(It occurs to me that I might be a little hungry as I’m writing this.)

ANYWAY…

I’m not any crazier than the next person (in this regard)–we all have an inner passive-agressive asshole. (It gets it’s script from all the outer passive-agressive assholes we’ve met in our lives). But we don’t have to listen.

(I just cut a lot of metaphor about volume dials and car radios on bumpy roads. You’re welcome.)

So, I’ve managed to post a blog before January is over. (*makes checkmark in turquoise for social media task*) And I even I managed to work it around to a takeaway point.

My work here is done. And Sonic is open for another 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Four Calling Birds

I’ll bet you thought Christmas was over. Psych! Today is the fourth of the twelve days of the liturgical season of Christmas, which means that as far as Christian Christmas is concerned, I am not actually late with my Christmas cards. Or presents. Whatever.

This is actually my favorite time of the season, because the blitzkrieg of Christmas Shopping commercials has ceased, I still have my little Christmas rosemary tree decorated, everyone is in a pretty good mood because the shopping pressure is over and they’re spending their holiday gift money and the mood is generally one of hope for good things in the new year. Plus, you don’t have to worry about offending anyone with “Happy New Year” because it applies to everyone. (Except for the Chinese, I suppose.)

And I don’t have to worry about Santa Claus breaking into my house  for another year. *shudder*

I guess this is why I’m able to create such a separation in my mind between American Secular “Christmas” and what I commemorate as a Christian. They don’t even really fall on the same days if you’re being pedantic technical about it.

But what I really want to say is that whatever you celebrate (even if it’s just the fact you won’t have to hear “Jingle Bells” for another nine months), I wish you joy of it. In the longest nights of midwinter, one thing we all share is faith that the dark will get lighter, and a new year brings the hope of peace on Earth to people of good will.

And lots and lots of poultry.

Calling Birds Stamp 1977

Stamp Issued in 1977

In which I tackle Serious Issues

Two CommandmentsIf this blog seems a little untimely, it’s because I’ve been working on it for a bit, trying to decide what I want to post. For the TL;DR, scroll to the bottom.

I don’t generally blog about Issues—not seriously, anyway. I really just want to talk about Chris Hemsworth in the movie about the Essex, or these cool new pens I got for my planner.  And yet all this Serious Issue $#*! keeps happening. It’s crazy and tragic and infuriating and frustrating and heartbreaking. And I have a lot of feels and some vehement opinions on these Serious Issues, but I have no solutions. (Well, I do, but most of them involve mind control, where I can just send out rays to the chips in everybody’s heads and say “Okay, nobody kill anybody else. Oh, and read more books.”)

I was watching Highlander the other day, and you know at the end, where he gets the prize, and the Silvercup sign blows up, and he’s all like “I see everything! I know what everybody’s thinking. And I’m going to use it to help people understand one another and bring about World Peace.” I was like, “Good luck with that unless the prize came with a mind control ray in the box.”

Sivercup-Studios

 

Sidebar: On my first trip to NYC, when the taxi was crossing the Queensboro Bridge, I was all like OMG THAT”S WHERE CONNOR MCLEOD FOUGHT THE KURGEN, and my friends were like, “We don’t know you.”

 

So, I spent a couple of hours, or three, writing a long rant manifesto essay on fear (and mind control) and believe it or not, this is the short version.

Our climate has become divisive and angry and filled with fear.

Some of it fear of change, like the pushback that has come in the form of #notallmen and #alllivesmatter. But some of it is artificially enhanced, the pot of our paranoia stirred by people and institutions that have a lot to gain from us being afraid of each other.

Fear closes minds to compromise, to acceptance, and to the love we’re supposed to have for one another.

Fear is it makes us selfish, and it isolates us. We think only of ourselves. We don’t cooperate, because we’re afraid the other person is going to pull one over on us, or somehow come out better in the deal.

Fear makes us easy to manipulate. That’s the true mind control.

It’s a scary world. Americans fear a terrorist act, and they’re frustrated because they don’t see leadership with a decisive strategy for dealing with it. (That’s what CNN says, not me, whose solutions all rely on science fiction. Or magic.) But the odds are far greater that you should worry about a firearms related incident. (About 33,000 people in American die from gun violence each year.*)

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It’s so simple. It’s in the Old and New Testament, it’s in the Qur’aan, and it’s not even a matter of faith, just of decency and coexistence.

So, here’s my point. The world is full of far more decent individuals than horrible ones… until fear gets involved. We need to pay attention to who is trying to stir that fear into hate or injustice. When bigots and blowhards tell you that we need a wall to keep the Mexican rapists and criminals out, or that we need to ban all Muslims from coming into the U.S., or that Jews are responsible for the economic depression in post-war Germany, they are flat out fear-mongering, and its inflammatory and dangerous.

So, don’t let anyone tell you to fear your neighbor because she wears a headscarf or he has dark skin. Don’t let anyone say that if we give medical care to the poor they’re going to turn into lazy hoodlums.

And for God’s sake, don’t let anyone tell you that “Happy Holidays” is an attack on Christianity. (I feel like Christ is okay with not making a large percentage of the population feel like second class citizens in their own country.)

Don’t let anyone use fear to control you, or to drive a wedge between you and your fellow human being.

This is probably the most political you’ll ever hear me, unless something awful happens, like Lord Voldemort 2.0 getting the Republican nomination. Because honestly, my whole political platform boils down to this:

Be Excellent to Each Other

 

*According to the Center for Disease Control.

Edited 9am because I can’t number.

 

NaNo Now What

Congratulations! You’ve the parent of a manuscript. Now the real work begins.

MSS3Obviously this is a post-NaNoWriMo post. I always picture editors bracing themselves on December 1st for the onslaught of manuscripts submitted at 12:01am. Okay, I don’t really think that happens…any more than the normal percentage of people who think their first draft falls from their fingers like the song from the lips of angels.

But for the rest of us, the real work is in the revision. When I was researching what other people did to revise their work (because I was talking about this last night at the Euless Library *wave to fellow Eulessians*) I found some really great articles that I was nice enough to put in a handout, which you can download here. (PDF Handout)

But here’s a general list of the things that I’ve learned, and learned to look for:

  1. Let it rest. Especially after a really intense spell of writing, you’re still living the book in a lot of ways. It’s an emotional investment. You are either totally in love with it or totally hate it, and “totally” anything is not objective. Putting the manuscript down for a few weeks allows you to get some perspective, and also to approach the book with fresh eyes, like a reader would, so you can better evaluate what’s on the page versus what’s in your head because you know it so well.
  2. Work from a printed copy, or something like it (say, an iPad app that lets you mark up a pdf like you would with a pen). Personally, I like a stack of paper, because it gives me a visual for structure and pacing—how far am I in the book, how many pages is that, blah blah blah.
  3. The first read through is triage. (That’s from Holly Lisle.) You’re looking to stop the bleeding from plot holes, not worried about bumps and bruises. Think big picture and don’t tinker. (I need to embroider this on a sampler and hang it on the wall over my desk.)
  4. You’re looking for:
    1. Plot holes. (But wait? How did the giant monkey get off the island in the first place?)
    2. Inconsistencies and breaks in continuity.
    3. Incredibly convenient coincidences and implausible leaps of logic.
    4. Plot threads that never go anywhere, and characters that disappear for no reason.
    5. Things that you can make do double duty—a romantic development scene that can also be where they discover a vital clue. Instead of two cardboard characters who each appear to do one thing, one character who can do two things.
    6. Rambles, infodumps, and navel gazing. Long stretches of dialogue, exposition, or internal monologue that don’t advance the plot (or don’t advance it enough to warrant two pages about the evolution of the unicorn).
    7. Boring Sh*t.
    8. Scenes with out a purpose. Every scene has to have a goal that is either accomplished or not–and if not, it still provides something vital to the plot. (Mary fails to steal the secret government plans but overhears a plot to replace the president with a robot.)
    9. Scenes without tension. Every scene needs conflict, two characters who want opposite things. They don’t have to be the protagonist and antagonist–they can be allies who disagree about the goal, or how to accomplish it.
    10. Transitions and transcriptions. Make sure an ending leads logically to the next beginning, and orient the reader in the new scene ASAP. Conversely, art imitates life, it doesn’t transcribe it. Fast forward past the nicey-nice and the laundry lists. It’s okay to say, “John was in the library all night, and in the morning had discovered X.”

For lots more detail about these things and more, check out the articles on the Revision Resources (PDF Handout). As a bonus, it includes some Internet and book resources that are helpful if you’re like I was 11 years ago*, loving to write, but clueless as to what comes after.

Cheers!

*It’s my tenth anniversary!  My wonderful agent and I sold Prom Dates From Hell at Thanksgiving time 10 years ago. OMG I’m old.