Walking & Writing Down Memory Lane

As I continue to unpack my life in my new home (hey, the older we get, the longer the process takes, wink wink), I discovered some long-forgotten gems I’d packed away. A friend is bringing by a TV with stand later today, so I had to make room. There were still two containers, one packed with Christmas decorations and the other marked “Memorabilia” that I needed to either put away or go through and discard unwanted items. I stored the Christmas box in the storage closet then set about rifling through the box packed with memories of my past. 

That container walked me through parts of my life I’d long forgotten, including many of the papers I’d written while earning my Psych degree back in the late 90s. I chuckled and snorted my way through the papers – Philosophy (the life of Socrates), English 202, and several of my clinical psych papers on serial killers (yep, that was my specialty – their psychopathology and crime scenes). At the bottom, tucked in an old scrapbook, I discovered some poems and short stories I’d written as a teenager. Seems I’ve been writing for longer than I remember. I stacked those papers in a neat pile to scan into my computer at some point. I enjoyed reading them again, to see how much I have (and have not, in some ways) changed over the decades.

Strong memories flooded my mind; in particular, of my favorite professor, the late Dr. Eugene Policelli. This man was not only a brilliant professor and writer; I clearly remember he was also fluent in Italian and, of all languages, Latin. We’re talking old school here. But his exuberance, kindness, generosity, and gentle guidance were what I remember most of him and his writing assignments. Because of him, I wrote some damned good stories. One of which he liked so much that he told me to “tighten it up” (I wasn’t sure what he meant by that at the time) so he could have it printed in our local paper (he had a friend who worked as an editor or something there). I remember it was a Christmas story of my family. Then I came across handouts he’d given us on the writing process and I share one with you here. Take notes.

the-writing-process

 

I also discovered a booklet printed upon my graduation from high school and, there among the poets, was one of my very own poems. I’d completely forgotten about that booklet, and even about writing the poem. I realized some of my emotions and perceptions have remain unchanged by time.

We take many turns along the road of life but in looking back we can see patterns emerge that shape who we are or will be at any moment in time. I realized this morning that I have been a writer for most of my life and the need to express myself is part of who I am, memories and all.

 

memory-lane-quote

Research: The Monster Over My Shoulder

I finally got some writing “juice” this past week and worked on a fiction novel that’s been sitting untouched on my computer for some time. While adding pages to the second chapter, I realized that certain pieces of information were beyond my grasp until I did some research on the subject at hand. Then I stopped writing.

Research – it’s a lurking monster for me, since I tend to procrastinate until the end of the book to begin the necessary research, filling in the many [bracketed words/phrases/ideas] peppered throughout the story. It’s where pertinent pieces of information need to be inserted – like details on the type of plane used in an aerial shooting, embezzling schemes and how they work (or fall apart), or researching the appropriate lingo used to describe a fire scene. The brackets are notes to myself to go back and finish that thought, get more information on that process, or add a character description. I complete an idea or part of the story best I can, add some brackets where more information/detail is needed, and move on. Most of the time.

Granted, the Internet makes research much easier and more accessible, on most topics. There are, however, still some areas of expertise best shared by experts in that field (for example, the type of plane used in an aerial shooting scene, how it flies, the gears, size of the engine, etc.). This is where I get lazy and it’s probably why some parts of my fiction works could use a little “lift” from more detailed descriptions.

How do you approach research? Do you research as you write? Do you begin your research before you start the story? Do you hire an intern? (Nice to be able to afford that option!) Let us know!

Part of it is I have a bad habit of convincing myself that the experts won’t talk to me, because my work hasn’t made it to the NY Times Bestseller List. I have to get out of my own way and learn to approach the research with as much gusto as I do the rest of the story.

After all, the devil is in the details, eh?

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

Inspiration in the New Year: Simplicity

Now that the holidays are (finally) over, we writers can get back to work (or at least I can, since I seem to have taken too long a holiday from it). As a result of busily working two jobs for the last several months, my writing outside of this blog has all but disappeared and I madly desire to get back on track. My imagination craves an outlet for the myriad scenarios running amok in my mind. But first I need to whittle it all down to a doable list of projects.

That new nutrition book, for example; you know, the one with the first few chapters already completed? Probably going to make its way to the Recycle Bin on my laptop; it was one of the works I referenced in Lay Your Past to Rest. I’ve decided there are already some excellent books out on that very topic, so why try to compete with them? They’re written by successful colleagues with more than twenty-five years of practice under each of their belts (I have less than twelve). What could I possibly say that they haven’t? What would you do?

I’m even re-vamping my workshop. I decided a fresh approach is needed to draw more people in for the all-day class. What’s my inspiration? Boredom, mostly, with the “same-old, same-old”. Time to breathe new life into a stagnant one. Throw out the old, bring in the new, right?

Has your writing become a bit stale as of late? With a whole new year upon us, perhaps it’s time to take a writing inventory to decide what’s still working and what’s not. I like writing nonfiction, but I realized I prefer fiction – more freedom of expression, which to me, is far better (and more fun).

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” ~ Confucius

Where to find inspiration for our writing this new year? With a new presidency almost upon us, I feel we will not be lacking for parody material…it’s as if the situation demands it. There’s a lot going on out there in our big world. How can we be heard? How can we stand out? As always, we must create in a way that is best for each of us, not in a way that someone else thinks is right. Which is why I’m cutting back on following various groups on LinkedIn (and other sites) – it’s information overload. In this new year I wish to simplify my life a bit more. Avoiding frivolous junk news will surely increase the amount (and quality) of work I produce, simply because there will be less interference from trivial events that have no bearing on my life.

Perhaps in this new year we writers can decide to live more simply to create more fully. With less interruptions, we can better focus on what’s important: telling our stories.

“Writing is an escape from a world that crowds me. I like being alone in a room. It’s almost a form of meditation- an investigation of my own life. It has nothing to do with – I’ve got to get another play.” ~ Neil Simon