Ideas and how to survive them

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I am a creative person.

Ok, so I think that goes without saying to be honest. I write, paint, build, design… It’s inbuilt, unstoppable, like breathing for me. I’m not blowing my own trumpet here (basely put, I’m not flexible enough to even try that). I’m like many people out in the world, it’s a trait I share with many; Unfocused Creativity.

Why “Unfocused Creativity” – because I do more than just write. I paint and draw, I create digital images. I build 3D models of things in 3DS Max (currently I’m building a flying saucer, both the outside of it, and the inside). I design things, mundane things like the layout for my study down to new ways of doing things in the kitchen. Ideas just come, unbidden most of the time.

Sometimes too many come at once, idea overload if you will. My brain ends up being saturated by them. They keep me up at night, whisper to me, distract me – nag me even. Sometimes they come so thick and fast I struggle to retain even a fraction of them.

Sound a little crazy?

Well it is a little bit – I have a hyperactive brain, one that struggles to slow down and process information. Over the decades I’ve learned how to deal with it, how to stay focused so that it’s possible for me to finish something without leaping to the next idea. I actually finish things these days much to amusement and relief of those who know me. Actually it’s a relief to me as well. Being able to say, I’ve done that I can now move on.

I think most of us struggle with idea overload at times, and it can be maddening. Holding on to an idea, keeping it alive… Well, that’s the trick isn’t it?

I use a physical journal – one that I carry around with me at all times. I write ideas in it – anything that comes bidden, or unbidden, to my creative mind. Story ideas, recipe ideas for dinner, design ideas, dreams (I have very vivid dreams), thoughts, feelings, whimsies, sometimes just a message…

Anything and everything.

I tried very hard to limit the book to just story ideas, keep a separate dream journal, keep a recipe book, a design journal – but frankly that was never going to work. Things flash in my head so quickly at times if I don’t write them down I’ll lose them.IMG_20160830_120254

A good friend gifted me a blank journal, and I filled it up. I don’t even think I’ve had it a year yet. I filled it up, with scribbles, thoughts, randomness. Things that popped into my head, and left leaving just fleeting shadows. It was scary to get to that last page, to realise I had in my hands a book that in essence shows how my mind works. (I’m sure a few people and psychiatrists would love to get their hands on it – and don’t worry, I have treated myself to a new one).

But why write them down?

In this day of fantastical hand held technology why take a step back and use a pen and paper? Thousands (maybe even millions) of apps exist for smart phones that allow you to make notes, in the literary sense, audio, pictorial. And there are just as many apps and ways to make sure you never lose that information, that’s stored, synced, and available where ever you are. Hell, it would even make it easier to find things, because you could categorise them. I can think of a thousand good reason to use technology for this – in fact I used to use technology for this. Used to… but categorising, polishing the raw text did something to those ideas/dreams/randomness. It made them cold.

But something about the physical act of writing things down, or drawing things out, the eclectic flow of an idea, the physical rawness of it – keeps it fresh and alive. Having them in no order than how they came to me helps me get back into the mind-set I was in when I had them, it helps me to bring my mind round and the idea back in focus.

It’s not completely disorganised, I date each entry into the journal. I put the time down as well (well, most of the time). It helps with cross referencing.

But it is very random. And there’s something about that randomness that helps keep the ideas alive.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever make the orange, hazelnut and chicken soup idea I noted down (but if you swap out the chicken for chocolate you get a nice pudding). But the dream I had about the elves hunting a group of men, and the choice one of them made, and the child…. Oh yeah, that one will get written out. At some point.

And that’s the big problem, because with all the good will in the world, not every idea is going to see the light of day. Just some of them. Time is the limiting factor. Even if I were to concentrate on just the ideas from the first journal, what about any new ones that come? What happens to them?

Maybe that’s why ideas need to be written out, need to be seen in all their glory and rawness, need to be seen for what they are and what they can be and why sometimes they cannot be. Sometimes the act of getting an idea out, expressed rather than forgotten, helps to make space for the one that is burning like fire in your mind that won’t leave you alone. Helps you to put your focus where you want it to be so you don’t spend all your time being overwhelmed.

And maybe…

Maybe it’s also showing yourself some respect as well, or rather the creative you some respect. The act of noting the idea is a way of saying to the creative you that you respect your own creativity enough to take it seriously, that you respect it, that you acknowledge it.

Sometimes, that’s all an idea needs.

A Year of Hell

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So… Long-time no speak to.

Long-time no update – or for that matter, anything from me.

There are several reasons for the long silence on this journal, many things that happened in a short pace of time that contributed to me having to withdraw to take care of other things. I could make this a long winded post about all the whys and wherefores – or I could keep it to the point.

Last year I nearly died.

I developed chronic appendicitis. Chronic not because it was untreatable, but because the underlying cardiac condition I was born with meant they couldn’t operate. It had to be treated with antibiotics (and a lot of finger crossing). The Appendix Of Doom Saga lasted six months before unfortunately it did the one thing no one expected; exploded (the surgeons word, not mine). Then there was drama of knowing they had to operate, but could they with how bad my heart was and finding someone not only willing, but qualified to deal with somebody as complex as I am…

Things got close, but… But… the Appendix Of Doom was removed.

And that should have been the end of it.

Nope.

Next we had The Appendix Wound That Wouldn’t Close. A three-month saga of misery and annoyance because my body was struggling to heal. For three months I rocked a hole in my abdomen.

Two weeks after The Appendix Wound That Wouldn’t Close finally did close up, I was back in hospital for routine tests on what was going on with my heart. Alarm bells were sounded, things became a little panicky and then the results; without major surgery I’d be dead before the end of 2016. The whole Appendix Saga had prevented the cardiac team from picking up on a problem.

*sigh*

So there was that to deal with.

A month later I was back in hospital to have major cardiac surgery (for the third time in my life) and that didn’t quite go to plan. I have a little too much scar tissue from all the times they’ve had to go in, and it caused a problem – I nearly bleed to death. That was before they could get the work done on my heart.

So once that problem was sorted out they finally got round to fixing my heart and installing some new parts.

I woke up a few days later and once again got back on the Road To Recovery.

And here we are now.

I’ve skipped over a few things, like having to go to hospital on Christmas Day, and the impact this had on the mental wellbeing of not only myself but my partner. But we survived, and life…

Life is going to continue on.

It’s going to continue on for many years to come.

Week 1: Workout 1

Gym Loser

It’s been a bit of a circuitous route but I’m finally going to talk about my first gym session … In summary – it was good … but could’ve gone better!

My regular slot with Mark is 8am on Mondays. (Yes – you read that right.) I leave home dressed for the gym – with trackies over my shorts because I don’t want to frighten the sheep too badly – and my work clothes folded ever so neatly in my rucksack.

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NaNo is a good beginning, but it’s NOT the end…

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Two years ago, I had something of a public melt down about the whole Nation Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and Camp NaNoWriMo.

Why?

Simply put: whilst I agree that NaNoWriMo is a fantastic idea and a brilliant format to get people to write, participants can get too caught up in the whole thing. They save their ideas, they save themselves just for that thirty days in November (or for the two “Camps” held earlier in the year). They get so caught up in doing NaNoWriMo, that they forget they can write anytime – you don’t have to wait for a NaNoWriMo event.

That point may seem obvious; but frankly, it’s amazing how many people fall into the trap of just waiting for November to roll round. It’s amazing how many people will spend almost a year planning for this one event. I know, I’ve been one of those people; I fell into the trap of putting all my creative energy into just doing NaNoWriMo and forgetting I can write anytime I want to.

People (myself included) forget that they can use the format – adapt it even to suit themselves. They don’t need to wait for a specific event. Ok, yes… There is something to be said for writing at the same time as other people.

BUT…

But…

At some stage, writers (amateur or otherwise) are going to have to realise that writing is actually a very lonely thing. You can share the results with groups, but it’s rare to actually compose something as a group. Most writers write alone and we all have our individual quirks when it comes to getting into the “zone” so that we start getting words on the paper (well, for most of us screen – this is the computer age after all).

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic idea, and whether I participate or not, I donate to the Office of Light and Letters each November (the peeps who actually run NaNoWriMo). I think any budding writers who are frightened/scared of taking the big leap into creating there first novel length work can learn a great deal from taking part.

But, after the second or third time you need to strike out on your own. You need to find your way of writing. If you need a format to do it, fine. Adapt, borrow, ideas on how to write. Ask – look around – find out how other people do it.

Ultimately, though you are going to have to find your own way of doing things, of getting to that place where you can sit down, write, and finish what you start. The satisfaction in finishing what you start is amazing. The feeling in sitting back and knowing, knowing, you have written a complete story can be amazingly euphoric.

It has an added benefit; it means you truly are a writer – an author.

Although to be honest, as long as you write, you ARE a writer, and no one can ever take that away from you.

So if you’ve never done NaNoWriMo before or any of the Camp NaNo events – go take a look at them. Join in, take part, let your imagination run free and create (here’s a handy couple of links: NaNoWriMoCampNaNoWriMo).

If you’ve only ever written during a NaNo event – then take a chance, don’t wait for a scheduled event, do your own – one just for you. Write, and enjoy writing.

*sigh* Not Again…

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About a billion years ago, I came to terms with the fact that my health (which is pretty wonky at the best of times) was always going to major factor in my ability to get anything creative done.

The last year or two I’ve been plagued by continuing tummy trouble, and the last few months became a living hell when the pain started to hit. Yeah, I should have seen a doctor sooner… I shouldn’t waited, but… Meh, both of my parents have had bowel cancer. One survived, the other did not. It’s a common killer in both sides of my family. So yeah, maybe I was just a little frightened by what was going on and took the predictable path of NOT seeing a doctor about it.

The pain got too bad, managed to get in to see my GP who laid a hand on my tummy – which caused me to black out from the pain. When I came round the ambulance was on its way.

So typical wait whilst test were carried out. Scans, cameras (could they be any bigger? I’m not just talking about the ones they shove down your throat, but the ones that go up the other way)… And we finally got a verdict that made me and my partner laugh:

Acute Appendicitis. 

Apparently, I’ve been living with a grumbling appendix for the last few years, and it finally decided to pack up and give up. Because my internal organ arrangement is a little unusual (when you have a big heart, things get moved around ok?), my appendix sits right under my belly button, well a little to the left of it. It was last thing anyone expected – even the hospital. But, you know what? It was nice that it was something simple, something normal and something that can be treated.

Of course, it’s never that simple. I have a wonky heart (Fallot’s Syndrome as it’s known now), so no one wanted to open me up and remove the “Appendix of Doom” as we have taken to calling it. Instead, I’ve had enough antibiotics of significant strength pumped into me to probably give me super powers.

Seems to be working. It’s calmed down. It’s behaving at the moment.

And the really annoying part? I’m feeling pretty good. In fact, I haven’t felt this good in a few years (physically). Which just goes to show how a small problem can really mess with you.

Yes, I get the irony of seeking medical help earlier. Fear is a powerful thing, but we should never allow fear to stop us getting help when we need it.

Anyway… I have more to say, more to add, and more to do… But as fate would have it, I’m back in hospital this coming Monday (June 29) for something completely different (on demand pacemaker to stop my heart doing the cha-cha when it’s supposed to be doing the waltz. Damn annoying).

New painting up on dA (Painting: Letting Go) – go look and enjoy. At some point there will be some prose coming as well. Thanks to my bestie (Dom Murray) gifting me a fantastic note book, I was able to outline a story whilst laid up (laying down in a hospital bed and doing NOTHING is exceptionally boring, had to keep my mind busy – thank you many times over Dom, you have no idea how much a god-send that was mister).

Anyhoo, more soon.

Mistake?

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Maybe it’s a mistake, but I’m giving deviantART another go.

I used to be a member – emphasis on used. dA became a little too much self-serving and a distraction after a time, but as a home for my work… Yes, it has that potential.

So I’m giving dA a year. We shall see what comes of it.

For those interested, you’ll find my profile here: http://jrsnaith.deviantart.com/

This doesn’t mean I am leaving WordPress… I still need someone where for the random musings that fall out of my head after all.

Storm

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Indecision.

Wave after wave after wave…

Of indecision,

Never ending, overwhelming.

It’s like being on a sailing ship in a storm, with the wave crashing against the hull, the spray half blinding me as I hold on to the wheel and the wind buffeting. It would be so easy to lose control, so very easy to get lost.

But…

It’s not a bad storm – it’s not a frightening storm.

It’s actually kind of wonderful.

I’m smiling with the sheer joy of exhilaration, the raw energy that’s driving me this way, that way, forward, backwards.

Lost, lost.

But maybe not the bad kind of lost.

There is a joy to the exploration, but a longing – a need to find something.

The crashing of the lightening summons me as it screams out ideas… the wind whispers to me of all I could do, and the waves push and pull me from one part of the storm to another.

But…

Indecision.

Indecision.

Indecision.

It makes me want to scream…

Because the sheer joy of being so overwhelmed with ideas is flooding me, making me sink, and I can’t bail quick enough to keep afloat.

My ship is sinking into a dark mire. I risk being beached upon the shore of the wastelands yet again – that dark pit bereft of inspiration, bereft of hope.

Lightening crashes about me,

Inspiration upon inspiration…

Idea upon idea…

But the waves move me again before I can throw my anchor and stay put. I try to steer back; I try to set my sail… Try to hold on…

But…

The wind escapes my grasp and the waves buffet me again, driving me in no particular direction. Or maybe they are trying to drive me in every direction show me everything at once.

It’s madness to hear the call of so many voices, so much…

Too much.

I need a safe harbour, I need a place I can drop my anchor and stay put.

Not forever, just long enough to grasp, to hold and maybe weave something new.

But this storm…

This storm of ideas

It’s just too much.

Indecision is sinking me, clawing at me, freezing me.

I can feel myself being pulled back to the shores of the wastelands. I can feel that place calling me, taunting me with creative silence.

The cruel laughter of that place haunts me, so I scream at the storm to save me… To carry me somewhere – anywhere

Please, anywhere.

Because I can’t stay lost…

I can’t stay lost forever.

Update on “The Grand Plan…”

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Yes, yes yes…

It’s been a while since my last journal – but rest assured, my time has been put to good use. In fact, I’ve been busy with my “Grand Plan 2015” project (see my previous journal entry >here< for more details on that).

So where do things stand?

I set myself three goals to kick things off; World Building, Fleshing out Characters and Visualisation

1/ World Building;

Here you might expect me to put out a lot of advice about world building, maybe even a How To… sort of thing. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not going to. The reasons why are very simple, world building is a good exercise, but – BUT – it should not be the be-all-and-end-all of the writing process. World building, at best, is about making notes for YOUR use when creating stories about your world. It’s an aid to memory, a reference point – nothing more.

Having had a look around the interweb, there is a lot of decent advice around – but without exception, all of it lacks the most important advice: Any exercise in World Building is about fleshing your ideas out and should only be seen as rough notes.

Ok, so not everyone is going to agree with that. As someone who counts himself as an amateur writer (ok I have been paid for stuff in the past, but it’s not a regular job – yet) maybe I’m not the best authority. On the other hand, I’ve seen so many budding writers get bogged down in World Building that they never did anything with it. Frankly, it’s very easy to get lost in defining the background of your world. Some worlds, some ideas, are massive and defining them… Well, it’s easy to write pages and pages and pages.

If I have any advice, it is; set yourself a limit. Keep it as simple as you can. Do you need to flesh out all the back history in detail? Does everything have to be described done to the most finite detail? No. You need to leave yourself room for changes, because writing a story is a dynamic process.

My own exercise ended up being some 3,654 words long – which was something of a surprise (that’s seven sides of A4 in case anyone is wondering). It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be either. I‘ve never put all the information in one place, never seen it all together – a few things surprised me. I also ended up realising that some things didn’t make sense, so made changes. True to form, I let my bestie have a read of it all and ended up making even more changes after some comments back from him. It was a very fluid process, and one I’m glad I did. Seeing all that information laid out allowed me to explore some other ideas for my story – even come up with a few extra fun plot points as well (more on that later).

2/ Fleshing out Characters;

Oddly, this was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have quite a few characters to “flesh” out – to make notes on. Again, this exercise was all about making notes for reference, to aid the “old grey gloop” in my head. It was also a chance to make sure that the characters weren’t just two-dimensional.

I adapted the character exercise from >here< to answer some basic, and yet important, questions about the people I’m writing about (please note the use of tense there). I have EIGHT main characters, which is more than I normally work with, and I’m up to twelve secondary characters so far.

So, for me, this exercise was not a waste of time.

Having access to some basic notes that I can continue to add to and update as need be is useful.

3/ Visualisation;

Of the three goals I set myself, this was the pointless one.

No, it really is a pointless exercise.

But it is fun.

I started playing around with some ideas of what the “Galadin” looks like. Came up with a couple of maquets as well (ok, for those not in the know a maquet is a small model or study in three dimensions). One of the ideas seems right to my mind’s eye (which, to date, is the only way I’ve seen it before) and I’ll be fleshing it out further, as a “fun side project.”

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Rough idea for the “Galadin’s Pride”

I have a small group of fans on SciFi Meshes who used to follow my 3D work, I may well move this part of things over there. Then again, maybe not… One of the reasons I stopped doing 3D stuff (aside from health) was the small number of asshats on that site. So we’ll see. Again, building a 3D mesh of the Galadin is pointless in terms of getting a story written. The only reason to do it is curiosity – and because, well because I can.

So… That’s the current state of play. What (you may well be asking) is next?

Plotting, because having a rough idea of where the story is going is important. And continuing to write the story.

Ahh, yes… Continuing to write the story…

That was the point of this, after all, to write a long though about idea, put it on paper (so to speak). It felt right to start. Hey, I can do the other stuff on the side. Gives me something else to play with on those days I need to do something a little different.

More… Soonish.

2015, future plans and “The Future”…

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Hail and welcome 2015, a year I once thought I wouldn’t live to see (long story – and my friends may be right that I need to stop saying that and just accept that I’m here and alive, lol).

I’ve been mulling over several ideas and projects recently, some of which I was surprised to find were complete – which is something of a surprise, because I hate finishing things. Not because I can’t, but because I hate to let go of projects… Well, for that matter I hate to let go of anything. I’m a fantastic hoarder, or was. Last year Dave (my soon to be husband) and I decided it was time to clean house and get rid of stuff we weren’t using any more.

I decided to extend it to cleaning out folders on my PC and my creative mind as well. Some ideas are never going to be played with; they are never going to go any further than they have with me.

I didn’t get rid of them permanently… Or for that matter retire them… I found somewhere safe for them, somewhere where they can stay and be out of the way of other things. Bit different to what we did with all the material things we got rid of. (We raised around £300 for the British Heart Foundation with all the stuff we sold off and got rid of, not including stuff we gave away as well. No Dom, I haven’t forgotten about those books😉 )

Suddenly, I have space, not only in my house – but in my mind as well, and that mental space has allowed me to explore some ideas I’ve only just started scratching the surface on.

A few years ago, July 2012 if you want to be close to exact, I dug up a half formed idea and decided to reinvent it. I not only reinvented it, I turned it into a challenge as well. I wrote out a single page giving basic descriptions of characters, a setting and nothing more (other than the instruction to make what you wanted of those basics). For the record, I only challenged one person (other than myself) with all this – my favourite writing buddy Dom Murray.

What we both came back with was… Interesting. Interesting in that the “brain-tubes” had been working and we ended up coming up with a similar plot, and interesting in how we approached a sci-fi setting. Which was all to the good.

Whilst I freely admit to being a big fan of science fiction (film/TV/book/comic/etc) it’s kind of my biggest failing as a writer that I’ve never found a way to express one of the ideas I have. Anything else, horror, historic, erotic, romance, western… No problem. But, the sci-fi genera has excluded me. Well, almost excluded me. There was an exception; Fan-films.

I’ve helped out a couple of Star Trek fan film productions, one in the UK and one in the USA. The one in the UK I was the primary “story generator” – the one in the USA, I did a polish on a script, acted as a sort of technical consultant and also created a few 3D models for them as well:

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3D work has been a side hobby of mine for over a decade. My tools of use including 3DS Max, Milkshape and Lightwave. Game mods, fan-film, cover art are just a few of the things I’ve dabbled in with 3D. (Normally with cover-art I use my digital bush and “paint” the picture). Like writing, 3D art/mesh creation draws on a need I have to build. Maybe it calls on the engineer in me, I dunno. As a child my all-time favourite toy was Lego. There was nothing I couldn’t build with them… No item that couldn’t be built and made… Imagination (and sometimes lack of bricks) was my only limit…

Ok, so maybe creating stuff in 3D appeals to the child in me. But I’m pretty ok with that.

Because of my health, problems with my hands (blah, blah, blah) I retired from creating any more 3D models, instead only using those (expensive) applications for the odd logo or bit of cover art. Look at the image heading this blog; it was created as a 3D image that underwent a bit of arty-farty processing to give it the paintbrush effect. Ok, to be honest it’s actually a redress of a scene created specifically for some cover art:

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(lol, I know, I know… I work a lot with Dom Murray.)

So… Where exactly I am I going with is ramble? Ahh, yes…

Aside from fan-film-fiction sci-fi was a genera I kept away from as a writer, regardless of any ideas that happened to pop into my head. Back in 2012 when I set the writing challenge and sat down looking for how I was going to enter this universe I’d created, I found out why I struggled so much with sci-fi. I kept over complicating it. It’s a setting, not the actual story… Once my brain got that point the story flowed.

Ok, I know that’s a bit of a “duh” sort of statement, but sometimes the simple answers elude you. And to be fair, I’ve not had the problem with other any other genera. It was too simple to a solution to be obvious I guess, lol.

That, and I twigged that there was a romance element to the plot, and when it comes to writing romance I have no problems *sigh*

So…

I guess this is as good a time as any to discuss my grand plan for 2015 and get to the point of this rambling monologue. Basically and simply I’m going to play on my strengths; build on the sci-fi idea I have and the story I started about Doyle Jekric and Co – and use 3D to build something I have only seen in my mind’s eye: the ship that gave the whole thing its title, the “Galadin’s Pride.”

Fleshing out Doyle, Hammond, Shan, Callum, Heather and Cain with the story idea I have will be nice. Maybe they’ll all shut up after I give them an outing, because they are shouting really loudly at the moment.

As for the 3D side of thing… Yeah, it’s been frustrating not doing that stuff.

I want to do something again. Even if it’s just for me. Although I know how anal I can get when it comes to detail… (It’s sad really, but the hero Trek ship I built for the US fan-film? I built all the rooms behind the windows as well. And the furniture in them. Even the pictures on the wall…) But even if I go overboard on detail, so what? This is something from my mind, something original – not ‘Trek, ‘Wars or any other universe out there. That rust bucket of a cargo ship is going to be realised (in one form or another) and a story is going to be told.

I can work around my “impairment,” work within its limitations – and get myself out of the creative funk I’ve been in recently. It is depressing when you have to limit what you do. But I have been finding ways around things, finding other tools I can use. Talk Type is a massive help. Might account for my rambling though… But that means I can save my hands for the 3D work. Split my time, keep them moving (which I need to do, without overdoing it) and stop myself from going insane from not doing anything.

So watch this space… Things are going to start happening again, world building, character building, storytelling, creating, crafting and even some 3D/art building as well. You know? I’ve gone ahead and started this without chatting with my other-half (a lovely guy called Dave) – or even my writing buddy (the indispensable Dominic Murray). Be interesting to see how they react🙂

Don’t know if you can hear my sigh of relief through the interweb, but rest assured it comes with a happy smile as well to be getting back to things.