Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Plot-Blindness and Walter White

In ruminating, writing on January 18, 2014 at 7:29 pm

I have a confession. It involves a condition I have.

Plot-Blindness.

A rare condition that can potentially be deadly. If you’re a writer.

Maybe I’m not the only one … Do you have Plot-Blindness?*

Plot-Blindess isn’t something that can be self-diagnosed. Unfortunately, you won’t realize you have it until it’s pointed out to you. But don’t fret, rarely – if ever – is it in a sudden and startled, “OMG! You’re plot-blind!” kind of way. No, Plot-Blindness reveals itself quietly over a long period of time – say about the time it takes to write several books, read several books, or watch several movies or t.v. series. It is only actualized when – while writing, reading, and watching – you are regularly exposed to comments such as “I was waiting for the story to begin,” and “Not a lot happened,” and “What was that story supposed to be about?” and you don’t get it. You don’t understand how these people have come to speak those comments, let alone how to go about responding. You never were good at writing summaries for the teacher at school; is nailing down plot the same kind of thing? Your mind just never has worked in a straight line like that. Heck, you can’t even draw a straight line with a pencil. Besides that, you have difficulty identifying main points; pin-pointing inciting incidents; recognizing if something is missing, if there’s a gap. Plot? Plot holes? *shrug* So you keep quiet. And smile a lot. If you are plot-blind you will find ways to hide your condition, all while wondering if you are indeed existing in the same realm as those around you. Perhaps you are not. You do not see as they do.

Being plot-blind you may begin to wonder how you are even capable of reading anything from beginning to end. How you even have the capacity to enjoy an entire film. How you ever make sense of anything. How you ever got anything published. (Like, seriously. How did that even happen?) Plot-Blindness can be quite distressing and once diagnosed, you will experience many emotions, among them being denial, confusion, frustration, anger, and fear. And like any good cycle, these reactions will eventually lead you to stage 6: Seeking a Cure. Once at stage 6, you will madly research ways of replenishing the depleted plot reserves in your system. It will overtake you. It will be your new obsession. But even though you do this, even though you spend hours and hours that equal days that equal weeks that equal years researching, discussing, and reflecting, even when you do find the cure (and you will, many times over) it will all have been in vain. Because you simply cannot grasp and absorb the remedy. It disappears before your plot-blind eyes like boiling water thrown into the frigid air of a polar vortex, turning immediately to a cloudy vapor and disappearing. Your plot-blindness, evidently, is terminal. You will never write again.

Really?

Truly.

Is it really too much work to find another way? Are you that spent, that tired of fighting that you’re prepared to give up? Have you lost your will to write? Will you simply roll over and let your words die? Or will you, like Walter White, get to business and start cooking up some superior new crystal meth writing mindset and get on with it? No matter the trouble you may face. No matter the extra hard work it will take. No matter what gets in your way, intimidates you, or tries to make you feel weak and incompetent. Face it head on. Focus on what you are skilled at. And use it. It’s a well-known fact that when one sense is lacking, another will compensate. What compensates for Plot-Blindness? Maybe superior word-crafting. Maybe killer dialogue. Maybe kicka** characterization. Maybe fantastic world-building. Maybe a combination of a few. Whatever it is, acknowledge it. Dig in. Focus. And start cookin’.

Get to the final stage.

Stage 7: Acceptance.

Acceptance of Plot-Blindness.*

Acceptance of compensatory strength(s).

Acceptance of a long, hard road ahead.

Acceptance that though something is lacking all is not lost – it can be worked out later. With help. From a professional.

You may always suffer from Plot-Blindness, but Stage 7 brings freedom and confidence, removes barriers, and sets you facing forward.

Now move.

*Plot-Blindess is my challenge. (Ummm … Kinda huge, right?) You may have a writing challenge of your own that gets you down, makes you want to give up. Don’t let it. Fight it. Work through the stages. Work hard. Start cookin’!

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“Just Write”

In ruminating, writing on June 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm

My attitude towards advice on writing process is like that of some people towards faith: Keep it to yourself.*

If I want to know what you think, I’ll ask. Pinkie swear.

But if I don’t ask, know that I’m wrestling with it all the same. I’m thinking it through. I’m learning. I’m reflecting and evaluating and growing. I’m figuring it out.

I am.

I’ve got to, because it’s my process.

You’ve got to figure out your process, because it’s yours.

Writing is such a personal, individual act of creation, how can anyone tell me how to do mine? How I should do mine? How can I tell anyone how to do theirs?

No one should be telling us we’re doing it wrong.

Or make us feel that way.

Even if it’s taking longer than their process.

Even if it looks horribly painful.

Even if they don’t understand it.

Even if they’ve never heard of anyone ever doing it like that before.

Even if …

Do they really think there is a “right” way? Really?

Saying “don’t do this; just do this,” is rarely, if ever, helpful.

Saying “this is how I do it,” might be helpful.

Saying “discover it for yourself,” will be helpful.

And once you’ve discovered it, accept it. Like it. Love it.

And write by it.

 

*This blog post brought to you by the existence of one too many “Don’t edit as you write – JUST WRITE” remarks in the world.

Imagine my surprise …

In writing on February 19, 2013 at 8:00 am

… when I was about to walk out the front door on February 18, 2013 and the mailman was just leaving the front step. February 18 was Family Day, a long weekend holiday. I wasn’t expecting mail.

Imagine my surprise …

… when I spotted and then plucked an envelope, addressed to me from the Ontario Arts Council, out of my mailbox. “Well, here we are. My ‘we regret to inform you’ notice,” I said to my husband as I brought the letter inside. “At least I can stop checking the mailbox every day now.”

Imagine my surprise …

… when I tore open the envelope and found it to be fuller than I remember it being in previous years. There was more than just the usual one-pager in there.

Imagine my surprise …

… when I slowly opened the top flap of paper, upside down, and, peeking into the fold, quickly searched the inverted and creased first line for the word “regret”

Imagine my surprise …

… when I couldn’t find it. When I read and reread those upside down words a couple of times before it dawned on me that “regret” had been replaced

by the word

pleased

“… I am pleased to inform you …”

Pleased? Pleased?

I flipped the paper rightside up and unfolded the entire thing as my eyes skipped wildly across the rest of the opening paragraph:

“Dear Claudia …”

“… the Ontario Arts Council …”

“… you have been awarded …”

“… ‘The Other Wyre’ …”

” … cheque is enclosed.”

My misty hazel-browns slid down to examine the handwritten signature at the bottom.

And then I rechecked the name at the top.

It was still mine. Claudia Osmond.

Imagine my family’s surprise …

… when I jumped up and down on the living room floor in my snow boots, coat, scarf and mitts, shouting and crying and crying and shouting:

“I got it! I got it! I got it! I can’t believe I got it!”

I still can’t believe it. The process is fierce. What makes a successful applicant is unpindownable.

But it’s true. Thank my good God, it is true.

I am beyond grateful to the Ontario Arts Council and its jurors for their support and affirmation.

And for believing an eleven-year-old girl named Theodora has a story worth telling.

It. Is. Aliiiiiiiive

In website, writing on February 19, 2013 at 7:30 am

Okay. It’s not alive. But it is live.

That’s right! My all-new, fully renovated, totally rad website! And to help celebrate its auspicious launch, I’m going to hold an interview. With me.

Now, I know it’s not a usual thing to do, having an interview with yourself, but so what? Live while you’re young.

Below you’ll find the content of the Q&A page of my website. And after you’re finished reading it, please use the screenshot at the bottom of this post as your portal to check out the rest of the site.

Happy reading! And please do send me some feedback and/or comments, if you’re so inclined.

Claudia Osmond – Writer of Words

 

How did you become a writer?
By writing. Seriously.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Not in the professional sense of the word. It’s just part of who I am. I need to write. I must write. If I don’t, I get all restless and feel like something’s missing, like I’m not doing what I should be doing. So I don’t think it’s that I always wanted to be a writer – it’s more like I just had to figure out how to cultivate and release what has always been inside me.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Good question! I don’t even know. Ideas have this habit of popping up from nowhere and everywhere all at once. They’re very sneaky, unpredictable little things. And if you aren’t quick enough, they’ll disappear just as fast as they appeared – kind of like those little amusement park gophers you have to try to bop on the head with a rubber mallet before they disappear back into their holes. So as a writer it’s my job to be prepared to grab the little guys whenever and wherever they show up. And, of course, once I’ve got a hold of one I’ve also got to be prepared to keep it entertained or else it’ll get bored and go looking for someone else to play with.

What are some of your favorite books?
I love Sally Gardner’s books, namely I CORIANDER, THE RED NECKLACE, and most recently MAGGOT MOON. I also adore Markus Zusak’s, THE BOOK THIEF, Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, and Kenneth Oppel’s new THE APPRENTICESHIP OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN series. And I’m absolutely mad for Dr. Seuss!

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a writer?
First of all: READ. And when you read don’t just read; enter the stories. Experience them. That way, you can add those experiences to your own personal experiences and the pool of creativity that you need to pull from when you write will widen and deepen. Not to mention, the pop-up idea gophers will multiply as a result as well. Also, become interested in anything and everything in the world around you. Use your senses and commit to memory smells, sounds, tastes, sights, and textures. Practice composing descriptions of those things as if you had to describe them to someone who’d never experienced them before. How would you describe the sound of snoring, the taste of a pomegranate, the smell of a sewer? Furthermore, you must also be a very keen observer of people: Study how they interact, walk, talk, eat, sit, sleep, cry, laugh … You get the picture. And finally, never go anywhere without something to write with, preferably a notebook and a pen. But a gum wrapper will do in a pinch.

Are you going to write more books?
Yes. Many more.

Do you follow a routine when you write?
No. I wish I could offer you a fail-proof writing plan, but I can’t survive with routine for very long – it suffocates me. I need to live within a certain degree of chaos. That’s how I operate. The only thing I can tell you that would be anywhere near routine would be that I have a big mug of coffee every morning. (Although, some people may consider that an addiction, not a routine ) A friend of mine has a great motto: Make a plan, change the plan. But most times, I don’t even get to the “make a plan” part!

Which of your characters is most like you?
All of them have a bit of me in them. I can’t say that any one of them is more like me than any other. (Although, I do constantly have internal monologues like Smudge does!)

Now please allow me to present claudiaosmond.com in its entirety:

Note: What you are about to experience is fully due to the creative genius of Grand WebMaster Flash, Paul Agius. Please do pay him a visit, too. And if you’re in need of a website overhaul of your own, I can’t recommend him highly enough. He’s a brilliantly intuitive designer.

Click to visit website

Click to visit website

Best Creative Self

In ruminating on June 4, 2012 at 9:00 am

A nice little lunch conversation the other day led me to an epic self-discovery moment. One that wasn’t so epically awesome.

All you need to know about the conversation that led to the instant when time stopped to open its jaws and suck me into a gravityless atmosphere of a WTF void is this line, said by me: “Oh, so you have a nanny so you can paint during the day, when you are at your best creative self?”

(((cue loss of grip on reality, which included a fork in a Greek salad, and commence spinning off into the void)))

Whaaat? Are you serious? Back in the day when my kids were young I sacrificed my best creative self on the altar of motherhood. I had no choice. I had to. I didn’t have a nanny, housekeeper, personal trainer, cheerleaders who told me to go ahead, follow your dream; we’ll help you take care of the rest. Back in the day my best creative self was stuffed, kicking and screaming, into a vault and locked, not to be set free until the grown up responsibilities of important life allowed it. Back in the day … Actually, forget back in the day: I STILL sacrifice my best creative self on the altar of things I have to do. By the time I actually get around to closing the door to the outside and jimmying the lock on the window to my creativeside, I’ve got nothing left to give!

You can all now join your virtual hands and together send me a collective, “Oh, poor, poor you. Poor, poor your best creative self. You are such a hero for your sacrifices.”

Or, you can do what I did. (Well, what I did after I resumed cognizance and managed to impale a sliced tomato onto the prongs of my fork and guide it to my mouth all the while nodding and smiling and chewing as if I hadn’t just briefly left the conversation to take a quick spin in my internal abyss of despair. And even once I’d emerged and had eaten the remaining cucumbers and olives, there were quite a few hours of “Oh, poor, poor me”-ing before I came to the moment of my epic self-discovery.)

And this was my epic discovery (feel free in joining my acknowledgment of it):

What an epic #creativefail I’ve been.

By that I don’t mean I’ve been failing creatively. I mean I’ve been failing my creativity. I haven’t been loyal to her. I haven’t elevated her to a high enough priority. I haven’t given her enough respect. I’ve made excuses for neglecting her; made justifications; used scapegoats; minimized her importance. I’ve done it in the past, and I still do it now. But it makes me a hero to no one: Not to my employer for whom I often work overtime, not to my family that wants me physically and emotionally present and clambers for my attention. Because, really? This is how it goes: The less I acknowledge and support my creativity, the less I write. The less I write, the more insecure I get about starting up again. The more insecure I get about starting up again, the less I feel like writing. The less I feel like writing, the more depressed I get. The more depressed I get the less I give to other people.

It’s not a cliché for artists to say making art is like breathing; to say they make art because they have to. It’s true. Artists must create. It’s part of our psyche. Part of what helps us process life; live life; enjoy life. It’s part of what keeps us healthy and happy. And it needs to have a place of priority.*

The trick is giving it its proper place.

And proper attention.

This is where I’ve failed most epically: in not paying heed to the significant detail that creativity doesn’t just happen during the act of putting paint to canvas, pencil to paper, fingers to keyboard. The process of creativity, for me, must start way before that: It begins in figuring out HOW and WHEN. Instead of complaining that I don’t have the kind of time and energy I want to dedicate to writing, it’s figuring out what I’m going to start sacrificing on the altar of my best creative self, instead of the other way around.

For my lunch friend it’s a sacrifice of cash to hire a nanny so she can paint during the day, not when she’s exhausted at night after the kids are in bed. For me, maybe it’s sacrificing some sleep time, lunch breaks, facebook sessions, blog post writing, coffee money to save up for a writing retreat. I don’t know. All I know is that I have to stop making excuses, and stop letting those excuses thwart my creativity. “I’m exhausted,” “I need downtime,” and “If only I could write full-time,” are getting old and just aren’t cutting it anymore. There are a lot of things that I can’t change, but there are some that I can. It’s time to take the little pockets of time in my days that I do have control over and start redefining their purpose to serve the empowerment of my best creative self.

I think I’m going to make little signs and post them on my alarm clock, in my lunch bag, above my computer, in my wallet. They’re going to say: FOR MY BEST CREATIVE SELF. Maybe I’ll make a t-shirt, too.

N.B. That paragraph-long rant starting with “Whaaat?” and ending with “I’ve got nothing left to give”? Yeah, I didn’t say any of that out loud. That was me spinning in the void. In case you’re wondering.

*Of course placing too much priority on your creative self can be just as damaging. The name escapes me, but there’s an author who didn’t even attend his own son’s funeral because it interfered with his writing schedule. There are countless artists whose entire identities are/were consumed by their creative selves. And just as many who have been destroyed by it; led down even darker roads of depression, despair, and isolation. They are examples of epic #fails, too, but of a whole other kind.

Three to One

In a peek inside my head on October 4, 2010 at 4:14 pm

What do you do when writing is really HARD?

Me? I check email, send a tweet or two, post a link on facebook, research something obscure and hope it’ll somehow find its way into a future manuscript. And then I write a blog post about how writing can be really hard.

You know, I often wonder how some writers can crank out book after book after book – entire triologies have been written in the time it’s taken me to complete one freaking book. I kid you not. (Hmmm … maybe they don’t distract as easily as I do when writing gets hard. It’s a thought.)

I’m also a slow reader. A friend of mine can read entire trilogies in the time it takes me to read the first book. Again, I kid you not.

However, I must say that she hardly remembers a thing she reads.

Me, on the other hand, I over-think things. When I’m reading, I often find myself analyzing words and sentences, reading them over and over because I like the sound or the look of them. If there’s an especially appealing word on the page, my eye will jump back to it several times before I turn that page. Sometimes I have to stop and say the word out loud. Yes, I’m a bit obsessive with the look and sound of certain words. Especially if they’re in a fabulous font. I have a childhood saturated in Dr. Seuss to thank for that.

The same kind of thing happens when I’m writing. More times than not, I find myself jumping back a few pages, reading and revising when I really “should” be pushing forward. And ironically, it’s days like today, days when I’m determined not to go back, that writing becomes hard. It’s days like today that I get the least amount of writing done. When I don’t allow myself to flow with my natural writing bent, when I don’t allow myself the pleasure of enjoying the words I’m writing and my focus is only on adding more words where I left off the day before, my word count seriously lacks growth. 

This isn’t a new revelation to me by any means. I used to think my “revisionitis” was a condition that I needed to be cured of, so I used to fight against it. (Evidently, sometimes I still do.) But I’ve recently realized it isn’t a condition that needs curing; it’s simply my process. A process that I’m still learning to accept.

And I’m coming to accept something else, too:

I write best when I read. Yes, when I read other people’s books, of course. But I mean, when I actually read and enjoy the words that are already in the document I’m working on. I’m a very visual person: I love format. I love fonts. I love the look of dialogue. I love deep black on crisp white. For me, writing is more than just getting the story out and dropping as many words as I can onto the page; although c’est tres important, aussi. But I’m slowly figuring out that my revisionitis isn’t only about rewriting. It’s also about allowing myself the pleasure of enjoying and appreciating the words that are on the page for the way they look and sound just as much as for what they mean. And amazingly, when I do that, the story progresses.

The trick is figuring out how to do that about three times faster than I currently am.

***

When does writing become hard for you? And what do you do about it?

Take Four

In a peek inside my head on August 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I’ve been trying to write a blog post today. All day. This is my fourth attempt.

My first attempt was about how I’m tired of my own excuses for not buckling down and writing. How for the last several months I’ve been telling myself that I’m suffering from a mondo case of writer’s block and I’ve been excusing myself for it by blaming it on our move, the renos, my job hunt… the list goes on. But after reading Becky Levine’s post on “Comparisons” and Rachelle Gardner’s post on “A Target on Your Back” this week I’ve come to a completely different conclusion: I don’t have writer’s block at all. I’m just plain afraid. Afraid of not measuring up. Afraid of not being able to finish what I’ve started. Afraid of having confidence in my work. Afraid of being in the same situation in a year’s time. Afraid of that big ‘ole target on my back. Fear is crippling. And I’m sick of it. And I didn’t want to give it any more air time by blogging about it. Delete.

My second attempt at this post was to reach beyond how I’m really feeling and write something funny, lighthearted. You know, get some nice comments, imagine that the sun’s shining a little brighter. Maybe link to a comic from my awesome torkidlit writer friend, Debbie Ohi and put a smile on everyone’s face. But so not the headspace I’m in. I couldn’t think of one funny, lighthearted thing to say. Delete.

My third attempt was to immerse this post in deep and philosophical thoughts, to ruminate on the juxtapositions of life by filling this page with inspirational quotes. You know, quotes like

Every artist was first an amateur.   Ralph Waldo Emerson

The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be. Horace Bushnell

Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.   Leon J. Suenes

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.    Epictetus

The future depends on what we do in the present. Mahatma Ghandi

You must do the thing you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt

Ugh. Too idealistic; without context. Gag. Dele–

Wait a minute… Context? I’ve got context.

My fourth, and final, attempt is this: read fears in attempt #1, read quotes in attempt #3, then click here.

Yep. It could be worse. I could be an earthworm.

Overcaffeinated, by Debbie Ohi (inkygirl.com)

In writing on June 19, 2010 at 10:15 am
This is just WAY too good not to share!

inkygirl.com

Debbie Ohi is a #torkidlit author who also happens to be an amazing cartoonist and respected social media guru. (Well, she’s got guru status with me, anyway! Though she IS respected by everyone who knows her.) Click on the cartoon to visit her site.

Where Canada and Germany Meet

In Chinese Whisperings on March 31, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I am having the time of my life writing for the Chinese Whisperings Yin Book Anthology!

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are 20 writers and two editors from across the globe participating in this venture. And further to that: There is one premise and two strands that branch out from that premise: one is the Yang Book that is being written by the male writers, and the other is the Yin Book that is being written by the female writers. The idea is that your story must at least begin or end in the original setting and you are to take a secondary character from ANY preceding story and make them the main character of your story. And then we see how all the stories link up. How awesome is that?

One Yin author and one Yang author write at a time with a two week limit to complete the first draft. We write separate stories, yet if there’s an opportunity to link them someway, somehow, that’s even better. My writing Yang opposite is Dan Powell from – get this, I just realized this today – Germany! It’s been great collaborating with him and it’s amazing how our stories have linked together at a couple points so effortlessly. Very cool indeed.

If you haven’t already, check out the Chinese Whisperings website. You can’t read the stories there, but you can find out about the editors, authors, anthologies, and other awesome writing stuff!