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Cutie-Pie Doodles

My lovely wife is an excellent artist. You can see her work here: http://lorraineyoung.me/. These sketches are very cute and I woke up yesterday thinking about them and wrote a short story about one of them. Hopefully it transmutes into a children’s book!

Heart and Soul (a Pastel Artist's Journey)

I like to doodle, and sometimes my doodling makes me smile and these make me smile.  I think these “Cutie Pies” will make cute greeting cards.  And – I’ve been asked to use them as illustrations for a lovely little children’s book.  Stay tuned for that! 🙂  For now, and until I begin my next commission works, I am doodling “cutie-pies”.  They might need some work and refinement, but here they are, for now.  (WARNING! They’re awfully cute!)

"Cutie Pies - sketches" in my sketchbook - Lorraine Young - pencil and charcoal “Cutie Pies – sketches” in my sketchbook – Lorraine Young – pencil and charcoal

 

"Cutie Pies - sketches" in my sketchbook - Lorraine Young - pencil and charcoal “Cutie Pies – sketches” in my sketchbook – Lorraine Young – pencil and charcoal

"Sister-Angel" Cutie-Pie - sketch in my sketchbook - Lorraine Young  - charcoal and pastel pencils “Sister-Angel” Cutie-Pie – sketch in my sketchbook – Lorraine Young – charcoal and pastel pencils

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I am faced with a quandary. I want to write. According to my own personally selected Word of the Year, DAILY, I need to write daily. This word was selected to support me in my desire to write.
I also need to exercise daily.
I need to learn something new daily.
I am not sure there is enough day in each day to allow me to do all I wish to do daily.
OR there may not be enough energy in me to do what I want to do every day. I am getting older.
At the end of the working day, sitting in front of my computer all day, I do not feel the energy or the urge to sit in front of my computer at home for an hour or two. (Would that be “urgenergy”? English changes every day).
My lovely wife wants me to visit with her, as she may have been alone and working hard all day at her art business, or on a painting. I am inclined to do this with her. I like visiting with my wife, she is an interesting person and I like her. Also there is the idea of making and eating supper. Some days she cooks and some days I cook, but we must both eat and that takes time. As does cleaning up after dinner. By the time all that is done, it is time to relax for a bit, with either a book or the Ijit Box (TV) We like movies and British TV dramas. Netflix lets us watch several episodes at a time. Without commercials.
And then it is time for bed.
I wonder how much of what I am experiencing is Resistance a la Steven Pressfield? Probably most, if not all of it.
A friend and fellow writer, told the story of working at a local paper and stopping his work each day at noon and writing a part of his novel over his lunch hour. He did this more or less faithfully every day, and at the end of a year had a complete first draft. He wrote on weekends too. Longer on weekends, but on the same project. He also did free-lance work to help pay the bills. That is amazing to me. That is commitment and a terrific work ethic. It is the ability to switch gears from doing “work writing” to doing the “Work of Writing”, and then switch gears back. Almost Every Day.
Commitment is hard. Work ethic is hard. Work ethic involves sitting down and starting. It might have been Neil Gaiman who said, “Writing isn’t hard. Sitting down to write is hard.”
Starting is hard. Sitting down and starting is really, really hard. There is a reason why the word “starting” sounds so much like the word “stuttering”. Words have to be pulled forth with effort. Fragments of concepts  pr…pr…pr…pressed together. Fingers have to be taught where the keys are on the keyboard again. The idea machine needs a good firm kick to get it to cough up some icky hairballs of original thoughts.
Until you start working on something you really want to work on.  Something you are pulled into by your muse. Something you come to love. The words flow, the ideas spark forth, fingers fly, paragraphs build and lo and behold, hours have gone by. Not such a great thing to happen at work, over lunchtime, because it is a wrench to stop. But better if it happens there than to not happen at all.
Ah! Maybe that is the thing to grab and concentrate on. Getting to that feeling, that flow, even for a short time, is better than not getting there at all, because there is “not enough time.”
So. I’ll fit in my workouts at noon. And also use that time to think about writing, or reading about writing (daily learning).
And I will fit in an hour of writing time someplace, in five minute pieces if I have to, over the course of the day.
Every day.
I shall pick away at RESISTANCE, until it becomes resistance. Until it fades away. Until I overcome it.
Daily.

Word of The Year and Lists

Edmonton: A new week. This one promises to be somewhat warmer than the last two. -18C this morning with a high of -6C promised. We shall see.
Quinn MacDonald’s post was about re-examining my Word of the Year.

My word is DAILY.

When I first wrote it down I coupled it with other words: Effort, Habit, Consistent, Commitment. I think it works with all of these and it seems to me to relate to many things in my life. One thing they relate to is lists. Lists are great. Lists are a way to capture things that need to get done, or packed, or put away, or bought at the grocery store. Lists are a way to ensure we are working on the things that are important and not getting dragged down the rabbit holes of distraction and instant gratification. (See this great post on WaitButWhy.com about procrastination. Later. After you finish this short but pithy self-examination.

Lists are good. Here is my list for 2015:

I need to write daily.
I need to exercise daily.
I need to be mindful of eating habits daily.
I need to commit to my job daily.

Lists are great, but for me they seem to stand as silent judgement on all I did not get done, which says more about me than it does about my lists. So now, my list is above.
I still need daily to-do lists, calendar reminders, ticklers, post-it-notes, and “git ‘er done” prompts. They all need to ft into one of those four categories though.

This list seems like a list I can live with.

A list that may assist me.

Daily.

An old house? A nearby ruin? Not me. It was not a building. No, not a building at all. Not even old. A five foot tall, dank, slippery concrete water run-off tunnel. It was built under a road that connected a large park to an equally large cemetery in and old neighborhood in Toronto. We would dare each other to walk through it alone. We entered from the park side and emerged in a low spot in the cemetery. There was a double bend part way through that dimmed the light and there was always a trickle of water running through the tunnel. It sounded like voices whispering in the dimness. The tunnel was round and you had to walk on the slope of the tunnel wall, slippery with water and something green that grew on the tunnel floor. What we called the “slime line” ran partway up the walls of the tunnel, marking the high-water mark from spring storms and snow-melt. It still gives me shivers just thinking about it.

I just dabbed 5-minute epoxy onto the broken Otterbox holster that I broke less than two weeks after I got it from Otterbox. This holster was a replacement for the original holster that came with my Otterbox iPhone 5 case. (I am not bragging about having an iPhone 5. Well maybe a little. But really, iPhone 5 is SO last release!) That holster lasted almost a full year. It broke when the holster got caught in a seat belt getting into my car. The replacement broke when I turned to let someone through a narrow door and caught my phone on the door jamb. The belt clip just snapped right off the holster phone-holder part.

By the way – Otterbox both as a company and as a product is great! I drop my cell phone more often than I think most people do, (or maybe not, but how would I know?) and I am certain my phone works as well as the day I bought it, because of my Otterbox case.

Otterbox probably would have replaced the broken holster again. They were really good about replacing the first one, and their customer service was great. But in all honesty, I felt kind of dumb about how it got broken and so I told myself that I didn’t want to go through the hassle of printing the form, taking the whole case apart, taking pictures of the parts, and sending an explanatory claim email to them.

Actually I just felt embarrassed at having broken another of their holsters in such short order. I could almost hear the ong-suffering customer service person on the return desk making a clucking noise and shaking their head over my klutziness. In my universe my grandmother invented that noise, and I can still hear her make that sound when I do something dumb. It is the “stupid” sound. It is embarassing.

So I looked at the damage and thought, I can fix this with some epoxy and a clamp. It won’t be “as good as new” but it will be good enough.

While I was mixing the Lepage’s Five-Minute Epoxy on a Post-It Note with a generic toothpick, I thought, when did we stop repairing things?

I know. We still repair big things like cars and houses and computers, but how many of us would feel even remotely comfortable trying to fix a toaster or blender or even replace a window pane? Now that I think about it, how many of us even know how to repair our own cars anymore? Can you replace a window pane in a new “modular”window? Put a new battery in a tablet? They have “sealed units” and “computer diagnostics” and “proprietary parts and software” that we, the laypeople who buy this stuff, are not allowed to know about.

Apple invented special screws (pentalobes – Google it!) to keep people out of their products! Not Apple’s competitors, because you know they are getting in somehow, but the average user. Ma and Pa and little Joey and Suzie who purchase and own their products. How many consumer products do you buy these days that say “No user serviceable parts inside.”?

Whatever happened to the neighborhood “Fix-It” shop where that old guy, Fred, used to be able to repair almost anything for a fraction of the cost of buying a new one?

Gone.

Like soda bars in drug stores and drive-in movies. And video stores. Side note: I have now lived long enough to have lived through the entire lifecycle of a product type and its marketing arm: Videotapes from Beta to VHS and the stores where you could once go to rent them.

Gone.

But I digress.

While I wait for the epoxy to set (glue dries, epoxy “sets” – my grandfather taught me that), I think about other things that I used to try and fix myself or used to take to get repaired.

Televisions: TV repair guy used to come to your house because the sets were too big and heavy to carry to the shop. “Portable” television meant a less than 50 pound something you could move if you were a strong, able-bodied person. The repair guy had a tube-tester to check all the tubes in your TV set and replace the one that was dead. Like a light bulb. TV sets lasted for YEARS. Event the picture tube could be replaced for far less than what the total set cost. They were big and heavy and flaky and undependable but you could fix them.

I understand why this changed. Tubes were replace by solid-state transistors and soldered into “modules” replacing whole racks of tubes and wires. Smaller, faster, lighter, more dependable…but somehow less “real”. We could no longer look into the back and see the wonder of technology and understand it.

But even simple things don’t get repaired today. I have a lovely retro-style correspondent’s case from a company called Frost River: (https://www.frostriver.com/shop/correspondent-briefcase/)
I like it because it looks like, and is in fact, the same type of bag carried by reporters, archaeologists, scientists and other world travellers from a time that likely never existed outside my own fantasies. Canvas, leather, and brass. Real materials. That wear out. Clips break, straps wear and fray, canvas gets torn. How do you fix that stuff? How big does your sewing machine have to be to sew canvas to leather? Answer: very large.

I don’t have the skills, knowledge or access to the tools to effect even basic repairs to that bag. Do I acquire them? Do I take the time and spend the money to be able to repair the bag?

No. I buy a new one. Maybe a better version. Or that other bag I lusted for, after I got the now damaged one.

Shoes, belts, clothing (let’s not start about torn jeans bought that way on purpose!) small appliances, etc. are all easier to replace now than to repair. Large appliances are staring down this road too. How much for a repair person (plumber or electrician) to come to your home and fix your dishwasher or stove?

How much stuff do we send to landfills or recycling centres because we are too lazy, or unwilling or unable to fix it ourselves to or get it fixed. Sometimes we cannot even find a person who would be ABLE to repair our stuff. The repair shops and the people who ran them are gone.

Gone.

It seems somehow sad and wasteful that we have left a whole class of people in the past: The craftsman repair-person in no longer a part of the fabric of our existence and the weave of our lives is lessened from that absence.

Well the epoxy has set and the holster is usable again. 60 grams of plastic not going into a landfill someplace. Have a great day!

Thanks to Quinn MacDonald at Quinn Creative for this thought on Creativity: “If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

**************

I was going to post last week about why we have not heard from the Aliens yet (yes, except for those few “special” people who have – you know who you are.)

My reasoning was twofold. First space is vast and we are in a small back-country corner of it and have not yet been discovered. Second, we may have been discovered and they just are not talking to us.

Like those mean girls in high school who cannot be bothered because we are so boooooorrrrring!

But since the fine writer of Wait But Why covered this topic so completely in his post two weeks ago, The Fermi Paradox, I will just direct you there. It is long and totally cool.

I will leave you with the thought that maybe we don’t WANT the aliens to discover our world and us upon it. They might feel the same way we do when we open the wall up and discover termites infesting the woodwork. Maybe we only THINK we are fascinating and worth saving.

Maybe we only think we THINK.

Think about that.

As to why they have not invaded – why bother? If they are sufficiently advanced enough to get here in the first place, what could we possible offer them? Our water? Jupiter’s moon Europa has many more tons of fresh water than Earth does, and no nasty indigenous species to complain about someone stealing it. Metals? Minerals? Natural resources? All exist throughout the solar system free for the taking.

The asteroid belt contains million ton chunks of metal just waiting to be towed and smelted into something useful.

Would they want our arts and entertainments? Only if they see, hear, smell and taste in the the same sensory spectra humans do.

Arts appeal to emotions. What if we are discovered by Vulcans?

We need to look to ourselves and our own world and our ability to expand beyond it, mentally and physically and to stop looking outside ourselves for salvation.

Only we can save ourselves from ourselves.

The question is are we creative enough to do so?

Do we have the willpower to do what is required?

Last week was about monsters. So is this week.

Why create beasts? Some people think they are vestiges of the days when we lived in caves and the world was full of things that would hunt us and wound-poison-main and then consume us. That may be true, but really when you think about it, the period when we were prey animals was an eye-blink in the flow of human history. Pretty early on we discovered pointed sticks and fire, followed by haute cuisine, and then we became the things giving other animals bad dreams. But we need fear in our lives. It is the juice that generates our best creative moments. So we created gods and demons to respect and fear. Note to Fundamentalist religious people (as if any of you types are reading this), this is the point where you shake your head and in a sad, resigned voice say, “That poor misguided man who wrote this. He is doomed to dwell in the lake of fire for all eternity.” Thanks. You may now go about your business.

Mythological monsters are windows into our understanding of evil. Simple generalizations: Vampires embody our dark fascination with forbidden sex, werewolves explore the idea of the best that dwells within us all, non-intelligent monsters dwell in the dark shadowy regions under our collective childhood beds that we never really got over.

Many works have been written about mundane creatures attacking mankind like gorillas, wolves, lions and tigers and bears (Oh My) as well as dragons, basilisks, sphinxes, and various other made-up (okay, okay – for the believers, we’ll keep calling them mythological) creatures. We have also inflated scary beasts into larger than life versions that are our nightmares writ huge. Godzilla is the latest reboot of this phenomenon. Tell me Jurassic Park is not a version of this genre and I will cry, “Liar!”

Monsters are fun, and easy. all we have to do is select some gruesome base critter with large claws and gnashing teeth and pick from column A an assortment of smells, textures, degrees of sliminess or secretions, pick some elimination methods from column B: cutting, crushing, poisoning, squashing, cocooning, injecting, ingesting (whole – eeew) dissolving or assimilating. Assimilating is interesting. Doppelgangers, The Thing and the Borg all use this method – which deals with destruction of the unique “self” with which we all imbue ourselves. This holds a surreal terror for us, especially the newer generations who have all been told they are “special”. But I digress.

Select a familiar locale (leave Tokyo alone for crying out loud), randomly generate a number of victims, and kill them in interesting and monster specific ways that no one in authority will accept,  select a hero type and sketch in his flaws and strengths ensuring a fit with one of your creature’s weaknesses, create some action encounters, discover the requisite weakness, exploit it then use it to kill/dispel/capture/tame the critter and VOILA – monster story complete.

Mythological and Hollywood monsters aside the most fascinating creature we can explore as writers is ourselves. The monsters we create that embody the fears we carry around with us, those things are the manifestation of deep dark recesses of the soul that exist within us all in that place that Frank Herbert described as the place we all fear to look at inside ourselves. These monsters, the real ones like Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy and the made up ones like Hannibal Lector, these people frighten us more than the mythological beast we conjure. The critter-beasts are defeated to provide moral lessons or used to frighten youngsters into compliant behaviour (“Eat your peas or the Yeti will come devour you in your sleep” Gee thanks mom for that one!)

The dark impulses that drive someone to do unspeakable things to strangers or even loved ones is an endless source of fascination  that will keep your readers up late into the night reading your “monster” story. We sense that monster lurking within ourselves. It is the source of road-rage, it is generated by powerlessness and fear and anger. The human monsters you create will see their most feared monsters in the mirror. Because to paraphrase Neitzsche, “When you gaze into the eyes of the monster, the monster gazes back!”

That made a cold shiver run down my spine so I am going to stop now.

Don’t. Turn. Out. The. Lights.

Next week: Why the Aliens are NOT going to invade. Ever.

 

jasonleenorman

I met Jimmy Carter once

pylimitics

simplicity by any other name

Eagle-Eyed Editor

Making you laugh and learn about writing, editing, social media and more!

mybookspage

John Moralee's blog on writing crime, horror and science fiction.

Steven Pressfield

...the most interesting things live in the shadows...

Quinn Creative

No one succeeds without excellent communication skills. Good writing is compelling. Good communication is convincing. Good training is rare. Welcome to QuinnCreative.