Witch Doctors, Jesus Christ, and the Harlem Globetrotters

Hile, you lovely people! With no more preamble than what you’re reading RIGHT THIS INSTANT, here’s a quick run-down of Courtney’s Recent Life:

  • Writing advice site UnstressedSyllables.com published my recent article on how to choose a target audience for your novel. Click that link to read and go ooh-ahh.
  • Speaking of ooh-aahs, I’ve been singing a lot of “Witch Doctor” to the baby. She finds it entertaining.
  • I’VE BEEN PAINTING. I know. I KNOW. That’s a pretty big one. I hope none of you fainted. If you did, and if you’ve since revived to read the rest of this bullet point, I’ll tell you that I’ve actually got TWO paintings in the works:
    1. an illustration of Revelation: a post-Second-Coming Christ, the church in the form of a house, and a New Jerusalem coming down out of the heavens — you know, iconic epic-type stuff
    2. an image that’s been knocking around in my head for almost two years: landscape with crimson sky and purple hills in the background, and a mysterious dark Something in the foreground. The Something might be a structure. Or it might be a person (possibly a female version of this). I’m not sure yet. But it will be black.
  • I’ve been editing Josh‘s latest: Hell-Bent for Leather, a Weird Western in which supernaturally gifted Chet Leather must rescue the soul of his friend, Dan, from the clutches of a Duke of Hell. It’s an incredibly entertaining romp with plenty of action, deviltry, tongue-in-cheekiness, and heart. Though I’m slow due to time constraints, I’m enjoying it immensely. In other news, Josh has been very patient with me.
  • In further news, Elevator People progresses apace. Our Hero is about five paragraphs and a few lines of dialogue away from his final encounter with The Villain, Carrigan Bell. I’m glad of it, because I’m ready for this story to be in editing and pre-publishing stage, and I also want Carrigan Bell over and done with. He’s a particularly nasty sort, and I always feel like I need a shower after I’ve been in his head for a while.
  • This isn’t part of Recent Life, but it’s a Recent Development pertaining to Life, so I’ll share it: I get to see the Harlem Globetrotters in April, and my brother-in-law will be on the opposing team. BAM.

For now, that is all. I’m going to bed. See ya later, dahlings! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

But if you do, take pictures.* ; )

*I picked that one up from my Grandpa. WHAT.

The one where I’m Sigourney Weaver. No, really.

As I mentioned last week, my brain is rather thoroughly occupied with keeping the small human alive and healthy and content (actually, I used the word “happy,” but I think I really meant “content,” and no, I don’t think the two are interchangeable, but that’s another story and shall be told another time), so The Writing Life hasn’t seen much of me lately.

sadfaceReally, this makes me sad.

And frustrated.

And a little crazy.

Because I discovered a certain truth a long time ago, and it hasn’t changed:

No matter what grand and beautiful things are happening in my life, I’m never really content unless I’m writing.

Pinky, Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering?

One thing about not getting to be as much of a writer as I want to be, it sure has made me think a lot about this blog and what it’s for and how I miss it and, to be honest, how in some ways I don’t miss it. And as I’ve pondered these things (between dirty diapers and “Twinkle, Twinkle” and baby burps), I’ve ended up meandering into thoughts about how I do or don’t use social media.

And here’s the thing: While I do enjoy drawing headless chickens for you and giving you free blogging ideas and telling you how beautiful you are…and while I get a kick out of tweeting the sordid tale of my toenails, the kiss between LeVar Burton and Patrick Stewart, and puns about winter and disco tents…while all of that is great and I don’t begrudge the universe a single minute of it all…

…all of that stuff is not really why I’m here.

And this is the part where I am Sigourney Weaver.

onejobIn the absolutely brilliant movie Galaxy Quest, Sigourney Weaver’s character Gwen DeMarco gets mocked because she repeats everything the (star)ship’s computer says. In response to her friends’ derision, she yells,

“Look! I have one job on this lousy ship, it’s stupid, but I’m gonna do it. Okay?!”

~Gwen DeMarco,
Galaxy Quest

My lousy ship is this whole bloggingsocialmediainteractingonlinething.

In spite of all the great and fun stuff I can do with my blog and with Twitter and with Facebook, my job here boils down to one thing, really.

My one job is being a storyteller: telling you stories and telling you about my stories.

It were well that I remembered that. Y’know…against the day I turn all of these ponderings back into writing again. ; )

In the meantime…

…I am Sigourney Weaver.

” I’m just jazzed about being on the show, man.”

~Guy Fleegman,
Galaxy Quest

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

Greetings, my beloved inklings!

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me here. I mean, yeah, I’ve been posting something every week or so, but those recent posts haven’t had a lot of meat to them. I know. What can I say? The reason for my silence is also the originator of this post’s subject matter. Here’s your bonus round before I even get to my five points:

Babies require many, many items.

Babies require much, much time.

So there ya have it.

Plus, I’ve been working on posts for writing advice site Unstressed Syllables, as well as mentoring Josh through his latest novel. (It’s a Weird Western: cowboys, Pinkertons, vengeful ghosts, and demons.) These are excellent endeavors for me to be involved in, but they have caused my own writing to suffer from neglect.

Balance: It’s difficult to achieve when you’re a new momma. And there’s another bonus point for you.

So! On to the “5 Things” I originally sat down to tell you about today. ; )

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

1.  It can really, really hurt.

Once upon a time when I was 8 or 9 years old, it was summertime and my parents and I were at the grandparents’ house for our annual visit. My cousins, Amanda and Jonathan, and I were jumping on Grandma’s unfolded sofa-bed, launching ourselves up and dropping down on our butts.

As it turns out, this was quite the poor choice on my part. I jumped up, dropped down, and landed tailbone first on the metal rod running beneath the mattress. Said mattress did not provide an adequate cushion for my posterior. All I remember after that is running through the house, screaming for my mother.

Three weeks after that, while visiting the other set of grandparents, I re-injured the aforementioned tailbone by falling off a horse.

Fast-forward 26 or 27 years, and I’m in the hospital, about to push something the size of a small watermelon out of something the diameter of a shooter marble. When my doctor tells me to, I give my first big push. And from somewhere in my nether regions, there comes a loud pop!

“Well,” says I, “that was fun.”

My doctor gives me a look, and I can see her thinking, You have no idea what just happened.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

She was right. I had no idea. I thought that pop was simply the sound of my back popping, which is something it does from time to time.

But no. That pop was the sound of my tailbone fracturing.

I am thankful beyond words that I’d asked for that epidural not quite three hours before.

Nobody told me this could happen.

Apparently, fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth is not terribly uncommon. It can happen if the baby is unusually big. At 6 lbs 12 oz, my baby was not unusually big.

Fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth can also happen if there has been a prior injury to the tailbone. Sometimes, one has quite a bit of cause for regretting the foolishness of one’s youth.

I spent the first two months of my daughter’s life sitting on a Boppy and taking 600mg of ibuprofen every six hours. For the first month, someone had to be with me constantly, because I couldn’t sit down or stand up without using both hands to lower or raise myself. Someone else had to hold the baby while I maneuvered.

Also — and here’s some TMI for you, so read this part at your own risk — I was on Percocet for four days after delivery. Nobody told me that Percocet can cause severe constipation.

Percocet + (fractured tailbone) = bad

Really, really bad.

When my baby was four days old, I spent 4 hours at the emergency room getting an enema. Lemme tell ya, folks, you haven’t lived until you’ve had an attractive young nurse pump a tubeful of soapsuds up your rear.

Side note: This took place a day after my first postpartum ER visit. That one was for unusually severe swelling in my feet and legs. They did ultrasounds on my legs. Fortunately, I didn’t have bloodclots. I just couldn’t elevate my feet properly because of the tailbone pain*.

Nobody told me that could happen, either.

2. You have never known this level of tired. Not even in college.

I’m a lifelong nightowl. I knew that caring for a newborn would involve sleep deprivation. But I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters; I thought I could handle it.

Nuh-uh. Y’all, there is no handling this. United States Government, please don’t ever trust me with state secrets. ‘Cause if the terrorists get hold of me, all they’ll have to do is deprive me of sleep for a few days, and I’ll be singin’ like a drunk canary in a honky-tonk.

Seriously. The first three months, the longest I ever slept in one stretch was 4.5 hours. Most of the time, I averaged 2.5 hours between feedings. Itty Bitty is now 4 months 3 weeks old, and since she was born, I have gotten 8 hours of sleep exactly once. There have been times that I was so tired, I just sat loose-limbed in a chair and sobbed.

During her first month, I had hallucinations. Hallucinations, people.

Nobody told me that could happen.

3. Projectile poop is the new black. (Everybody’s wearing it.)

I read about projectile vomiting. I read about poopy diaper explosions. I read about getting peed on while changing a diaper. (Yes, even little girls can sometimes produce a “fountain.”)

But nobody told me that when you lift up the baby’s legs to wipe her and she turns red in the face and pushes, green liquid can squirt out her butt and up over your shoulder and land on the white carpet three feet behind you. And, if you don’t learn your lesson, she’ll do it again several days later. But this time, it will splatter you from chin to knees.

wubbanubduck

4. Your baby might not, in fact, take a pacifier.

Our Itty Bitty will take a pacifier. In fact, as far as she’s concerned, the pacifier is one of her best friends. The problem is that most of the time, she can’t hold it in her mouth by herself.

I don’t know why this is. Something about developmental stage or sucking method or the alignment of the planets. Whatever it is, most of the time she ain’t got it. And if we want her to stay asleep after we’ve put her to bed, one of us usually has to hang out with her for about half an hour, holding the pacifier in her mouth until she falls deeply enough asleep not to notice when it plops out of her mouth.

“One does not simply hold the pacifier.”

— the Baby

We’ve even tried this cute thing called a “Wubbanub”: a little stuffed toy that is supposed to help baby grasp a pacifier and keep it in her mouth. It’s a great idea and looks really cute and doesn’t work with our baby at all. She just uses the ducky to pull the pacifier out of her mouth again. So we play the now-infamous Pacifier Game with her and hope that Mars, Jupiter, and Uranus line up properly so that we’re not still doing this when she’s 18.

Nobody told me this could happen.

5. The first three months are really, really hard.

Nobody told me this.

And if they had, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

But I still wish they had.

Instead, all I heard was how wonderful and rewarding motherhood is and how cute and cuddly the babies are.

Well, I’m gonna tell it to you straight. Yes, motherhood is wonderful and rewarding. Yes, the baby is cuddly and cute. In fact o’bidness, as Grandpa would say, I think she’s pretty much the most beautiful person on the face of this planet. I wouldn’t trade being her mother for anything.

But.

And please forgive my language, but this is how strong this truth is.

Motherhood during the first 3-4 months is damn hard.

All of those women who portray it as rainbows-glitter-sunshine-unicorns-blue-skies? I’m not saying they’re lying. I’m not even saying they’re misremembering.

But I am suspicious.

This is hard, y’all. And I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t. I still sometimes sob because I’m so desperate for sleep. Especially during the past week, when my baby has had her second ear infection and needed my constant attention, I’ve longed to fast-forward to when she can talk and tell me where it hurts, never mind that I’d be missing all the supermurgitroid developments in between. The husband and I are still trying to figure out how to be parents and how to be a married couple at the same time. I used to have a relatively organized house, but now it looks like I’m running a daycare that has never once seen a vacuum or the folding of laundry. I still can’t shower regularly. “Alone time” happens only if I give up sleep to get it. (I’m doing this right now.)

I haven’t even talked about the feeling of inadequacy. My daughter deserves a rested, put-together, patient, on-top-of-things, well-relating mother. I’m not so unrealistic as to feel guilty that I’m not Supermom. But feeling inadequate definitely happens a lot.

Month 4 is definitely easier than Months 1-3. But rough patches still happen. And though I know life will continue to get more manageable, if not easier, I also know that rough patches will continue to happen.

________________

If I were a Pez dispenser and you were a momma-to-be or wanting to be a momma-to-be, I’d give you some advice. But I’m not a dispenser. All I have to offer are these truths that nobody told me. They are my truths. Whether or not they apply to you, I don’t know. But there they are for you to do with what you will.

In the meantime, pray for my sanity. ; )

This. : ) (2 weeks old)

She is cramazing. : ) (2 weeks old)

*By the way, I’ve been in physical therapy for the fractured tailbone for two months. My recovery is progressing nicely. The pain level has dropped from 8-10 to a comfortable 0-2 range. The therapy itself is called “osteopathic therapy,” and as far as I’m concerned, it’s brilliant.

On Censorship

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.”

~Henry Steele Commager

“Anytime you censor people, you are deliberately breeding weak people.”

~Aaron Pogue

This is really a propos nothing in particular; I happened to stumble across the Commager quote, and it reminded me of the Aaron quote. Both are worth sharing, and since blogs tend to be good places to share things and my blog has remained neglected of late, I decided to do my sharing here and now. : )

O Failure! Thou Art Glorious

Hey there, dearly beloved,

I have no idea when I first ran across the two sites (links are below) that inspired and informed this blogpost. I only know that both resonated with me enough that I tucked them away for future reference. Their content is of the Things That Make You Go Hmmm variety, so my subconscious needed to ruminate on them for awhile.

Humiliating Failures

The first inspiration came from blogger Lachlan Cotter, who listed his many humiliating failures in chronological order, beginning with his being 3 weeks late to his own birth.

Mr. Cotter’s tongue-in-cheek rendition is entertaining. I’m not certain I could infuse my own list of failures with a tone that would keep you reading without wholly depressing you, my dears, so I’ll spare you that. But Cotter’s list does bring to mind plenty of my own failures…and the things I learned from them.

Or didn’t learn.

Because sometimes, I don’t get it in the first round.

Or the second.

*sigh* Or the third.

So, there are two of my failures already:

1. Not being able to craft a List of Humiliating Failures well enough to entertain you.

2. Repeatedly not learning from my own failures.

Concerning #1, I promise that my reluctance does not stem from not wanting to out myself. I could tell you about the time I, at age 11, beat up Sven, who was 10 and scrawny — and I later found out he was an abused kid. Go, me. Or the time I bragged to a classmate that I would never EVER name a kid “Ingeborg” because it’s such a terrible name, and he turned to me and said, “That’s my mom’s name” (which, if you recall that I grew up in Germany, is not far-fetched at all). Go, me. Then there was the time in 8th grade when I, the opera singer’s naturally talented daughter, got the German equivalent of an “F” on a music test.

Go, me.

Honestly…even though I know it’s deadly to compare myself, good or ill, to other people…honestly, the only thing that keeps me going sometimes is the knowledge that other people screw up just as much as I do.

Okay, not the only thing. As I mentioned above, The Learning of Things from Failure has quite a bit going for it, too.

I learned to protect instead of attack those smaller than I (and, later on, I figured out that “smaller” didn’t just apply to physical size).

I learned to find out where others are coming from before spouting off my own opinions (Rule #214. Meet them where they are.)

I learned that natural talent doesn’t mean squat if you don’t couple it with hard work.

From other failures, I learned to stand up for my artist self — the part of me that’s created to be creative. I learned that when I defend that part, I am a happier, more wholesome, more giving, more forgiving person. I learned that when I defend my artist self, other people are happier around me*.

From further failures, I haven’t yet learned just where my personal boundaries should be in interacting with certain people. And since I don’t know the exact location and definition of these particular boundaries, I haven’t learned how to set and defend them yet. But, as I fail over and over (andoverandoverandoverandover…) again, I’m figuring out the wheres and hows one little bit at a time.

But the one thing I have learned from NOT learning from my failures is that figuring it out one bit at a time is perfectly okay.

Let me restate, because this is important:

You don’t have to figure it all out in one go. Screwing up over and over and learning a little bit at a time is perfectly okay.

I wouldn’t understand this if I hadn’t already made a total idiot of myself. Lotsa times.

Morphing from Mistakes

This learning-from-failures stuff relates quite well to an article I found to go with Lachlan Cotter’s Failures List: “Goalar Energy” by Marney Makridakis. Here are the quotes that particularly resonated with me:

“Instead of ‘measuring by milestones,’ I found great relief in ‘morphing from mistakes.'”

You do this task first. Once you complete it, you can move on to the next task. Finish that one, then on to the next. And so on. I suspect that’s the message most of us get from society, from our inner circles, and from ourselves. It’s likely the message many of us preach to others: Take it day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute, if you have to.

A few paragraphs ago, I was talking about learning from my failures one step at a time. But maybe it’s not a step-by-step thing? Maybe it’s a process of transformation — in which change occurs one step at a time, yes, but at such a slow pace that one “step” is indistinguishable from the next.

Maybe the process of “learning” from humiliating failure is simply to let it all be an amorphous, unattractive blob for however long it takes until something glorious coalesces from it.

“Maybe all I needed to do was simply shine…and trust that forces greater than myself would take care of exactly where the light fell.”

I operate from the assumption that forces greater than I are reality and that they are trustworthy. Thia doesn’t mean that I’m always able to trust them — which says far more about me than it does about them. Yeah, yeah, I am Eternal Optimist Woman and all that (have you heard me roar?), but verily and forsooth, I do believe that the universe operates by benign principles. And one of those principles, I believe, is “let there be light” just where it needs to be.

So, I’ve screwed up. I know that if I “brighten the corner where I am, I will light the world” (Dean Koontz)…but I also know that when I screw up and darken my corner, the darkness has a ripple effect into the lives of others. I’ve failed in some way, and now the darkness is spreading. I can watch it. I can see what it’s doing as it ripples along. How can I trust that the light will ever dispel the darkness again?

But I do trust. I do believe. And I do believe that the light is always stronger and farther-reaching than the darkness.

“Whereas the old books had instructed me to ‘be direct’ as I focused on a goal, I found that ‘be dreamlike’ worked better for me.”

When I consider my worst failures, I see that they all involved my causing someone else pain. That’s what made these failures so humiliating: not that I made a fool of myself in a slapstick way, but that I hurt someone else and damaged (or ruined) a relationship.

Unfortunately, I had to go through quite a few such humiliating failures before I learned to go with the dreamlike instead of the goal-oriented. Morphing from these failures meant recognizing that it’s not my job to fix things for others — or to fix others, period. I can dream with them even as I dream with myself…but I must give up this idea that I have the answers they need.

Does “being dreamlike” help me avoid failure? Maybe. Maybe a better question is: Should I even try to avoid failure by being dreamlike?

What I’m getting at (and what I have to remind myself of again and again) is that failure is not by nature a bad thing. It’s only a bad thing if I don’t use it as a tool for transformation. If I’m going to be dreamlike and allow my mind and heart to follow what-ifs, I have to accept that some of those what-ifs will lead me to screw up again.

And when that happens, the best thing I can do is facepalm and carry on: admit the failure, make amends if possible and where necessary, and morph from the mistake.

After all, I have a corner to brighten.

_______

*NOTE: It is not my job to make other people happy. Others’ happiness or unhappiness depends entirely on their own emotional choices. However, when I am more authentically me — when I am what customer-delight specialist El Edwards calls “more youier” or “me-ier,” I guess — a side benefit is that my happiness spills over to others. Conversely, when I am not authentically me, my resulting unhappiness spills over to others as well.

We are all connected, y’know. : )

Freddy Mercury, Painting, and Ennui

Because I’ve had an icky evening (READ: pregnancy is not for sissies), and I haven’t the fortitude for delving deeply into anything, here are a few thoughts on current events both local and not:

Olympics 2012 Closing Ceremonies

º I know I picked up on the meaning of many of the elements because I’ve spent most of my life in Europe.

º I had no clue of the meaning behind many of the other elements.

º This go-round wasn’t as moving as the Opening Ceremonies, but I still enjoyed watching.

º George Michael could tone down his vibrato a bit, but I was still disappointed that he didn’t sing more than one song.

º The members of the apparently newish boy band whose name I’d never heard of and now can’t recall all look like Justin Bieber.

º Whoever that girl was, she’s no Freddy Mercury.

º The giant puzzle-piece John Lennon face was pretty cramazing.

º Also, regarding the last Olympic event I watched this morning: Basketball players are quite tall.

Writing

º I didn’t work on the Rethana’s Surrender sequel this weekend.

º Friday night, I woke up at 4:30am and didn’t go back to sleep until 7:30am. (Yes, I still count that as Friday night. Hush.) At 5:30am, my brain delivered the first line of a new sci-fi short story: “The joke was sleek, fast, and deadly.” And in the next sentence, a woman dies a particularly bloody death.

Accordingly, with the little time I had Saturday morning, I started writing the story. I wrote more than a page. I’m still not sure just what The Story of the story is, but the title shall be “The Joke’s on Us.”

If I can’t figure out where it’s going, the joke will definitely be on me.

º I’m also feeling an urge toward poetry. It’s been a long time since I’ve written any, and I suspect I’m overdue. Once upon a time, I wrote 15-20 poems per year. Now, I might do two. That’s what happens when you turn yourself into a fulltime novelist, I guess. But I shouldn’t neglect the poetic aspect of writing. It affects the noveling in good ways. I shouldn’t forget that.

Politics

 

Media

º Multiple times per day, I check Twitter and Facebook.

º I don’t know if I’m just desensitized or dejected or what, but recently, my internal reaction to both media has been, “I’m bored.”

º Recently, my internal reaction to the intarwebz has been, “I’m bored.”

º Lest you think this were a reaction to my commitment to blogging every day — as in, I’m blogging every day and so am simply dazed with the amount of time I’m spending online — I’ve had ennui regarding the internet for quite awhile now. There just doesn’t seem to be much to do online.

º Maybe this is a feeling I need to follow. I would certainly get more writing done if I did.

Art

º I miss painting. I’ve had a concept in mind for a painting for over a year, and what with cover art and other projects, I haven’t had time to put that idea to canvas.

º Now, considering the 8-months-pregnant tummy, I can’t sit down to paint anymore. And I’m too tired to stand up to paint.

º So will I ever get to paint this picture I have in mind?

º Since I haven’t been able to paint, I’ve been playing with my phone camera and self-portraits. I leave you with one of my current favorites. Please do click to embiggen for the details!

Against the Grain

TEDTalks and Learning Through Doodling

“In the 17th century, a doodle was a simpleton or a fool.”

~ Sunni Brown
of The Doodle Revolution

Sunni Brown and The Doodle Revolution

I have no idea where I ran across this video; I only know it was a long time ago, because it’s been sitting in an unfinished draft on my WordPress dashboard for ages. So it’s about time I did something with it and shared it with y’all.

In a TEDTalk, speaker, author, and creative director Sunni Brown had the following cramazingness to say about doodling:

The main definition I’ve always heard of “doodle” is even less flattering than the one Ms. Brown considers most offensive.

The definition I’ve heard is: “doodle” = “piece of poop.”

Especially after you’ve watched / listened to Ms. Brown’s Talk, don’t you think this is majorly unfortunate?!?

Permission to Poop ENGAGE EVERY BRAINY LEARNING MODE

Dearest inklings, if you’ve been paying attention (and I know you have been, because that’s just the sort of studious darlings you are), you know that I grew up in Germany and attended German schools until I was 19 years old. At some point this month, I shall be blogging about said schooling in more depth; here are posts where I’ve at least mentioned it before.

For now, suffice it to say that I can best describe my 7th – 13th grade (yes, 13th grade) education as rigorous, strict, exhausting, intensive, demanding, terrifying, thorough, and comprehensive. It was seven years of high stress…and though it resulted in my breezing right through university and graduating summa cum laude, it didn’t exactly foster an artistic mindset.

(OH HOW I LOVED MY ART CLASSES.)

(That said, it’s worth noting that I am grateful for my German education, rigorous and heart-wrenching as it was, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything easier.)

I didn’t get to doodle. There wasn’t time. My attention had to be riveted on the day’s lessons to the exclusion of all else. Teachers expected us students to take copious notes; and indeed, if you didn’t write down every word, you missed something that was bound to be on the test later. Take a few seconds to doodle in the margins or on an extra sheet of paper? Risk that, and you risk a “letter grade.” (The German school system uses numbers: from 1st – 10th grade, 1 = highest score and 6 = lowest score; from 11th – 13th grade, 15 = highest score, 0 = lowest score.)

So. I didn’t get to doodle. I am convinced that this is a major part of why I struggled in many of my classes: I wasn’t allowed to engage every learning mode of my brain.

I doodled at home. I doodled in church. I doodled everywhere and anywhere I could. When I was 14, I convinced my parents to let me draw on my bedroom walls. I COVERED THEM IN DOODLES. Somewhere, there are photographs of this; alas, I have them not in my possession.

In school, I constantly resisted the urge to add my vandalistic artwork to that already besmirching the surfaces of our classroom tables.
(Okay, sometimes I didn’t resist at all.)

When I could doodle, I did. But I didn’t get to do it regularly until college, when academics finally slowed down. The margins of my class notes drowned in doodles. I acquired a ginormous sketchbook that I hauled with me all over the place.

Finally, my pen had permission to do something other than jot down someone else’s words. And suddenly, I was retaining all sorts of information in ways I’d never been able to do in high school.

Huh. Imagine that.

The Adult Doodlebug

What I learned to do in college, I’ve continued on in adulthood. Everything’s a canvas, especially when I’m sitting and listening to something that I know is important. I illustrate whatever notes I’m taking. My pen wanders over to blank notebook pages and before I know it, there’s an entire scene of weird somethings sketched out on the paper, and I have no clue how any of them got there.

But they make things stick in my brain.

When I don’t doodle, the stuff I listen to fades to hazy in my memory.
When I doodle, what I listen to acquires crystalline clarity…and it affects how I see the world.

For me, doodling is essential to positive paradigm-shifting. Doodling changes how I view the universe.

It’s that important.

To wrap things up, here are some of my doodles. Please click to embiggen and enjoy! : )

Your Perusing Pleasure: #BEDAug the 1st!

So. My body is putting together a baby inside my abdomen; my brain is generating multiple things of the writing and the artsy-crafty persuasions, as well as coaching writers and acquiring fabulous stories for Consortium Books; and my spirit is continually occupied with ponderings of various natures ranging from the simplistic to the paradigm-shifting. The last thing I need is yet another project, right?

Right.

With that out of the way, I hereby announce the beginning of BEDAug: Blog-Every-Day August. On Twitter, I’ll be using the hashtag #BEDAug. I told you last week that it was coming; now, it is here. And that’s why this post exists for your perusing pleasure.

BANGERANG.

Me, I take this Addition of New Project as a sign that I am slightly unbalanced. Another such sign is my penning of short stories and editing of short story magazines, the latest of both-which (this is terrible grammar, you must know) you may find here.

This edition of A Consortium of Worlds contains my short story “The One Where Jack Loses.” When we meet Jack, he is a hapless sort of fellow completely and utterly in love with a young woman named Grace. Grace, as we quickly learn, is mentally unstable (hmmm…I’m seeing a disturbing theme here…), as evinced by her belief that she regularly crosses from one dimension into another.

It’s a love story, yes, and it’s kind of heart-breaking. But mostly, it’s a sci-fi story about Choice, about our concept of reality, and about the malleability of what we perceive as “linear” time.

This is also my first in a series of short stories I call my “Grace and Jack stories.” Several others are already written, so you can expect more of Grace’s sci-fi madness and Jack’s despair in the future. (Insert Fight Club reference here.)

You can get your greedy little Kindle-reading fingers on “The One Where Jack Loses” here. And as an editor of this e-mag, I also heartily endorse the other stories therein. The genres range from sci-fi to fantasy to superheroes to alternate history — so there’s something in here for everyone. Enjoy! : )

Why I Believe I’m Created to Create

This is pretty much the essence of how I feel about writing:

“It feels like a gift from the universe to you. And maybe it is. …(Y)ou’re so far into the thing you’re doing that in that moment, everything else doesn’t matter. I’ve gotten this feeling from other things, but where I get it the most is when I’m writing.

“It’s a relationship with words, essentially. I have one and it manifests itself through my fingers, usually onto a computer screen but occasionally with pen and paper. It’s a relationship in which I feel defined, in no small part because in the act of writing I have been able to define myself, to myself and to others.”

–John Scalzi
The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Eighteen: Writing

 

Having a Little Faith

In my Twitter bio, I tell the world that I am “created to create.” If you search my blog for that phrase, you’ll find a bunch of posts in which I use it. It’s a phrase that’s near and dear to my heart lodged at the very core of my being.

“What’s the because?” you ask.

(Or maybe you use proper grammar and cock your head while stroking your chin, saying, “Courtney, dear, do please elaborate: What is the reason that this phrase resonates with you so?”)

 
At the end of this post, you will find a link to my Confessions of my creative sins. In these Confessions, I talk a lot about my faith and its effect on my life and my art. Some of this effect has been, on the surface, horribly detrimental to me as a human being and to my expression of my creativity — on the surface. Two things of great import are worth noting here:

1. The detriment was a result of my misunderstanding of “faith” in general and of the principles of my own faith in particular.

2. The detriment has proven itself superficial because I’ve learned so much and grown so much stronger as a result of the dark times. The surface was deadly…but the depths are invigorating, rich, fulfilling, and teeming with life.

I don’t often discuss my faith on this blog; I know that’s not why most of you come here. But if you’re interested in my writing and/or in me as a writer/human, I suspect that hearing the occasional tidbit about my deeper beliefs isn’t going to drive you away. Feel free, though, to correct me on this if I’m wrong. ; )

And, yet again, “What’s the because?” What’s the connection between all of this faith stuff and the Scalzi quote above?

Created to Create

Well, here’s the connection in one shelle du nut:

I believe in God.

I believe in the very first statement of the Christian Bible’s Old Testament: “In the beginning, God created….”

I believe that it’s no coincidence that God-as-Creative-Being is the first thing we learn about him.

I believe that being “created in God’s image” means, in part, that we each are created to create.

I believe that “to create” means to put something into the world that wasn’t there before. That might be a story. Or a painting. An etching in wood. Something made of construction paper.

Or it could be an encouraging conversation with a friend. It could be a hug.

A kiss.

A smile.

When I watch my cat, I see her being exactly what she’s been created to be: She plays, she stalks, she hunts, she revels in sunshine, she interacts with her humans. In every facet of her being, she Is exactly what God created her to Be. When I watch her, I marvel at how easily she expresses God’s creativity at work in her. She doesn’t think about it, doesn’t analyze it, doesn’t worry if she’s “doing it right.” She doesn’t even do. She simply Is, and that is enough.

Pippin and sunshine

Me, I have a hard time being that simple. I have a hard time simply being. But my roots are digging ever deeper, and I am growing. I understand one thing for certain: I am created to create. The cat is Cat when she’s in the sunshine, on her back, with all four feet in the air, looking about as ridiculous as a feline can.

Me, I am Human when I’m in the sunshine of creativity, exposing my belly, baring my vulnerable heart to the world, making a fool of myself by letting others read the secrets of my soul in my written words. When I am Writer, I am expressing God’s creativity at work in me.

Scalzi says, “It’s a relationship in which I feel defined, in no small part because in the act of writing I have been able to define myself, to myself and to others.”

Me, I’m engaged in an ongoing love affair with my Creator. That affair, that Love, manifests itself in many ways — but one of its most significant manifestations is my Writing. When I am Writer, I am being exactly what he created me to be. This defines my Self — to myself and to others.

If you want to read more about how I came to these conclusions — if you want to see me bare the darkest times of my soul — my Creative Confessions are here.

___________

What about you, dear inklings? Any thoughts to share on faith and the writer’s relationship to the written word? Do you agree or disagree that every human is inherently creative? Whatever the roots of your own creativity — whether you call those roots spiritual or not — I’d love to hear from you in the comments.