Story Notes

Story Notes: Shine

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I was so pleased when my short story ‘Shine’ was recently published over at Empty Mirror, a wonderful publication for essays, art and prose with a soft spot for Beat Generation writers.

To read the story just head on over to Empty Mirror!

Because I love to know about the origins of a story from the writer’s perspective, I thought I would share some notes about this story with you.

Spoiler Alert: There are spoilers in the story notes below. So if you want to read the story with fresh eyes check it out first at Empty Mirror before reading the notes.

About ‘Shine’

Once I heard a story about Leonard Cohen’s muse for ‘Suzanne’ living in a trailer park. It wasn’t even true (find the true story of Suzanne here) but it made me think about muses and how they are often forgotten and left behind. As someone who loves to inspire I hold a special place in my heart for my sources of inspiration—whether it’s an orange blob on the sidewalk or an eccentric neighbour. I hold my muses as sacred.

I loved the idea of a muse in a trailer park, forgotten but still powerful, going through her endless cycle, filled with words and melodies that are never shared. I love the juxtaposition of gods and the sacred against the mundane and dilapidated.

So this is my ode to the muses who are lost and forgotten, who inspire then move on and never expect anything in return. The artist needs the muse just as the muse needs artists. Both are integral to the process in whatever form it takes.

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Inspiration Series

Inspiration Series – PLM Sagara

 

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It can and has happened at any time and anything can spark it…i might be on the streetcar or walking by the Greenwood Park dog park, in the shower or lying in bed (waiting for sleep to come)…i may overhear someone calling their dog—“Murder” or “Chocolate”—no this hasn’t actually happened-although i have heard someone call “Laverne!” and “Shirley!”, but this got me thinking too about the names for dogs or even cats—really there are no limits to what you can you can name your pet or even your boat.. .are there(?) and thinking of cats, i’ve overheard and i have written about this too…my neighbours’ cat moving around in its’ litter box…and while riding the streetcar and here’s something else i’ve written about—i once saw a guy walking on Carlton near Yonge pick up a cigarette butt and put it between his lips…so, like i said anything can set my brain in motion and start writing…even those many random thoughts that flit and wander through my mind on my many sleepless nights—like “the minions in “Despicable Me” look like yellow pills or tic tacs or “i’m glad Brad Rutter” won on “Jeopardy!” over Ken Jennings or maybe a purple-people eater only eats purple people…

Having these many thoughts wandering around in my mind is the reason why i carry more than a few pens and paper (you never know when a pen may run out of ink—i’ve written about this too) around with me at all times much to the annoyance and curiosity of friends, family, acquaintances and total strangers since i don’t have a handheld device or portable laptop i can tote around with me (and a lousy memory) because with me i never necessarily know when i may see, (over)hear or think about something that may get my brain going on a tangent (and believe you/me once i go off on one of my tangents, they’re not easy to stop)…

~

plm sagara was born and raised in the wilds of TO. Her obsessions include writing, monkeys, perfectionism and “Jeopardy!” She longs for the day when she can move to somewhere in outer space like Ganymede or Io. plmsagara@yahoo.ca

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Inspiration Series – Paul Valliere

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Interesting timing. I just saw this poem I scribbled on a scrap of paper and lost on my desk a while back and it decided to find me again.
 
 
Writing is like trying to
make love to a beautiful
woman – it scares you
but you have to go there,
 
Wanting to tell the truth
you end up expressing
only what you feel, that
thick layer that needs
ripping to shreds so
your soul can finally
climb from the abyss,
only it can pull you up
into the light.
                         P V

Paul Valliere was born in Belleville, Ontario in 1948 and grew up in Picton, Ontario under an assumed name. He knew he was preparing for something important and “came out” as a metaphysical poet circa 1996 with the self-published “Musings of a Metaphysical Man”.

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Call for Submissions: Inspiration Series

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Inspiration is a fascinating thing.  Sometimes it comes in waves, sometimes in a steady stream.  Some people have complete control over it while others personify it as a fickle muse, appearing and disappearing as it wants, on its own schedule.  With the launch of the Inspiration Series I’m looking for personal stories of writer’s inspiration.  I want to understand the creative process from an individual perspective and to explore the similarities and differences in the experience of writing inspiration.

I’m seeking essays, anecdotes, personal stories or poetry that elucidate the moment of inspiration.  I want to hear about your process, feelings, theories, personifications, struggles and victories in the realm of inspiration.

Details

Here’s how it will work:

1) You submit!
2) I’ll start the series and post a new writer’s piece every Monday (to offer inspiration for the week ahead) until all the submissions have been posted (or people stop sending me submissions).  I will post them in the order they have been received.
3) All submissions will be posted at www.starspider.ca (the Happy Musings blog) and I’ll tweet each post with the hashtag #museinspirationseries from my twitter account @MusingStar.
4) Upon completion of the series I’ll create a summary post where I discuss the series and link all the posts in a table of contents.

Deadline: Ongoing

Contact: E-mail submissions in the body of the message (no attachments please) to: madamspider at gmail dot com with the subject line: Inspiration Series.

Content: Please include your submission with a title (max 1000 words), your bio (max 100 words) and any links to twitter, websites/blogs & facebook you want to include.  Also note that it is limited to one post per writer.

Rights:  You retain all rights to your words at all times.  Your submission will technically count as a guest post on the Happy Musings blog.

Payment:  Unfortunately this is an non-paying gig, however I will be including your bio and links in the post, so hopefully that can send some traffic your way!

Rejections/editing:  There are no rejections here!  I will be reading every piece first and correcting any grammatical errors, but other than that I want your pure, unadulterated thoughts and feelings on your own well-springs of inspiration.

Why:  I love inspiration and creativity and I find it fascinating.  I love talking to other writers about their process and the moments that initiate their acts of creation.  I have heard inspiration described in so many ways and I love the almost spiritual nature of it.  Because of all this and my ongoing desire to inspire people to be creative I wanted to provide a place for people to muse about their muses and collectively explore our shared moments of inspiration.

I look forward to reading your words!

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I’m a manic pixie dream girl (and I’m not shallow)

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This morning Ben showed me this video.

For those not interested in watching it I will summarize: the video posits that the ‘muse’ or ‘manic pixie dream girl’ is a sexist trope and that the character archetype of said girl is shallow, has no life of her own and only exists for the self-actualization of her male counterpart in the story.

In response I say: bullshit.

We were offended while watching this because I am (or more specifically was) a manic pixie dream girl and I am not shallow, without my own life, nor do I only exist for the self-actualization of the male counterpart in my story.

When I say I am a manic pixie dream girl I’m not exaggerating.  When I was younger I travelled the world, footloose and fancy-free, inspiring people (I literally called myself a muse), getting into wild sexual relationships, trying to help people be happier and championing freedom from day-to-day doldrums.  My greatest sorrow is to see people not living their dreams.  I specifically wear crazy clothes (rainbows, tutus, dyed hair) not just because I think it’s cool to dress like that, but to make people look at me and hopefully be inspired to bring a little colour into their own lives.

When I was younger (and even to an extent now) I was drawn to the serious types, the people with problems and the people (both men and women) who seemed unsatisfied with their lives.  I would chat with them, sleep with them and attempt to stir in them a passion for life and adventure because I believe everyone should get a chance to live how they want if they are not doing so already.

My favourite question was and still is: are you happy?

For a long, long time I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  I pursued many different things most of which had to do with inspiring/helping people (I wanted to be a spiritual life coach at one point) or making things fun for people (I wanted to be an event planner who made individualized adventures for people).  I was all over the board.  I worked as a server and told people’s fortunes, I worked as a bartender and tried to inspire the drunks, I even quit a bar job to go to a party once.  Yup, to go to a party.  Finally, now that I’ve found my partner and settled down a bit I’ve realized I want to be a writer, but it took me thirty years to get to that point because I was so…manic.  But during all my wild and roaming days I supported myself, paid my own way and rocked whatever it was a chose to do (and still do, I hope).

Also for a long, long time I was on the lookout for a partner who I could inspire every day.  I literally travelled the world to find that person (it turned out to be a man but could have just as easily been a woman).  I invested loads of time and energy into every prospective partner I met and it was a fun adventure.  Then, one summer afternoon I met my future husband in the forest in the middle of a Live Action Role Playing game.  I had a sword and a shield and I was out looking for love and there he was.  He was an overweight, slightly depressed guy who was in a relationship with the wrong girl.  He was a bit sullen and still lived with his parents, but the second he saw me leap into action in the woods (sword drawn, bleach-blonde hair ablaze) he was hooked.  I dazzled him with my manic pixie dream girl charm and he dazzled me with his ability to love all of me (good, bad and crazy), his sense of humour and his kindness.  Soon his sullenness slipped away (along with the extra pounds), he moved in and we lived happily ever after.  He inspires me every day just as I inspire him and it’s all just a whole lotta love.

Now, in my infinite maturity (yeah right) my manic pixie dream girl ways have changed a bit.  For one I no longer sleep with the people I’m trying to inspire (as I’m sure Ben is grateful for).  Also, I’m a bit more rational (less pie-in-the-sky) and practical, and a bit more hard-assed (forged in the fires of tough life lessons).  But I still wear my crazy clothes and enjoy going into conservative environments in the hopes of inspiring people to wear a little less grey.  I channel a lot more energy into inspiring people to write and love their work, but I also try to generally inspire when I get the chance.  I put a lot into writing stories with a bit of magic in them (I just add a sprinkling of pixie dust) and I focus on helping Ben be the best person he can be.

So that’s me.

I am a manic pixie dream girl.

So does that make me a shallow, sexist trope?

Fuck no.

I am a person and I think all those other manic pixie dream girls are people too.

So maybe they are free-floating ladies who don’t have jobs they care about because what they care about is exactly what they are doing in the moment.  So maybe family isn’t of the paramount concern to them because they are focussed on their non-familial relationships.  So maybe they are muses and they love to be inspiring.  As a muse myself I know it’s not me-centred.  Being a muse means caring about the other person and not getting asked a lot of questions about yourself.  And that’s okay.  So maybe these girls haven’t figured out what they want to do with their lives and when the story is over they will go on to focus on themselves and their goals a little more with the help of their new-found loves.

So what’s my point here?

Just because I’m a manic pixie dream girl doesn’t make me shallow and I don’t think those other girls in movies and stories are either.

The stories are a slice of life and they are based on an archetype.  Just like the sullen men the dream girls love are an archetype (which is just as sexist according to this video’s logic, because it assumes all men are depressed, dissatisfied and should ‘man up’).  Archetypes exist because they are often representations of a type of person and they guide character creation.

 This is not to say I wouldn’t like to see a little variation (manic pixie dream boy?), and for the stories to be a little less cliche (because cliches can get pretty boring).  But overall I think it’s unfair to say that these types of gals are shallow and only exist for the pleasure of men.  I love inspiring people, it’s a passion of mine and I don’t think there’s a problem with it.  Sometimes it came with sexuality, sometimes it comes with pixie dust, but overall it was/is me and I’m pretty damn happy with who I am.

So please think before you go calling a character shallow, because that character may just be a representation of a type of person and us manic pixie dream girls have feelings too.

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Beating Writer’s Block

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In my experience, writer’s block means one of two things.  Either fear of moving forward, or being lost in the woods of your imagination.  I suppose it could just be a bad day too, but those pass more often than not without much ado, so let’s stick to the big two.

Tell fear to fuck off

Ben said a great thing to me once: ‘being angry is better than being sad’.  At the time I was trying to overcome a phobia (agoraphobia triggered by the subway) and it was the best advice I’d ever gotten.  So I started swearing at my fear, under my breath of course.  I tried my best to think of all the things in the world that made me angry and I got pissed.  I told my fear to fuck off and it worked.  Getting sad or low about writer’s block will probably only serve to send you into a funk that ends with you sitting on your bed, watching the ceiling fan and thinking about nothing.  But that’s just boring.  So before you get sad, get angry.  Try giving your writer’s block a few mental kicks and a little bit of rage then settle yourself down and…

Just write

Write anything.  It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the offending novel or story that got you into this mess in the first place.  Write a list of your favorite foods, make up a character and write about him or her, write about a day at the beach gone horribly wrong.  Don’t think too much, just write, no pressure for greatness, footloose and fancy free.  Once you get back in the saddle of free and imaginative writing, you’ll remember why you love it, I promise.

Don’t try to be amazing

While in the midst of this ‘just write’ trance, don’t try to be awesome, don’t try to write the next great novel or story that you want to have published by the New Yorker.  Just write because you love it and it feels good and real and wonderful.  Trying to be amazing is a fool’s errand anyway because everyone has different opinions on what greatness is, so it’s up to you to find out what YOU love, not what everyone else loves.  So after you’ve done the anger, then the free form joyful remembering why you love writing, it’s time to find your way again.

Make a map

Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t want to ask for directions out of pride or the feeling that you ought to just ‘know’ which way is west.  Make yourself a map.  If you’re writing a novel this will look an awful lot like a story outline and if you’re like me and writing a fantasy novel (yes my short story suddenly turned into a novel) then it will be an actual map.  Structure and form can often be helpful for writers, even if we’re used to flailing about and simply ‘being creative’.  Order is good, but remember you only make lines so you can colour outside of them.

So now that we have the big two covered, let’s take a quick peek at the other options for beating that jerky writer’s block.

Exercise

I know you’ve already done your 30 minutes of exercise today, because it’s healthy and you can’t just sit around writing all day long letting your muscles atrophy, but when writer’s block strikes, it’s time to get up and move.  Exercise is awesome for a million reasons.  It loosens you up, gives you time to think, makes you feel good and apparently, makes your brain bigger!  Holy cow, how awesome is that?  Go now!  Run or walk (preferably in nature as that has stress reducing benefits as well) and get your brain working for you!

Talk to someone

Ben is my muse.  We get endless hours of enjoyment from planning out my stories and novels together.  If I’m facing writer’s block there’s nothing like a half hour walk with my honey to get me back on track.  Find yourself someone you can trust and bounce your ideas off them.  Writing doesn’t have to be a stoic, lonely thing and there’s no shame in talking it through.

Have an adventure

Go out there and live, then come back and write about it.  The world is a big place, filled with inspiration and excitement.  If you spend all your time at your computer writing about life, you might just end up not having anything to write about.  Go live it up and don’t be afraid to take a moment away from your writing, it will still be there when you get back…I promise.

Okay that’s all.  If you’ve done all these things and still have writer’s block, perhaps it’s time to switch gears and start a new project.  Leave your old one behind and give it some breathing room, then come back to it in a couple of months and see if it still has legs.

What do you do to beat writer’s block?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!