A Dancing Star

29 05 2012

 

I say to you, on must have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to a dancing star.  – Friedrich Nietsche

A well-known quote by a well-known writer. Whatever you may think of Nietsche, his life is the perfect illustration of his quote.

And who among us doesn’t feel that we have chaos within ourselves? Perhaps there is someone somewhere who can’t identify with that sense. I certainly do. I remember when I found this quote the first time. I had been in therapy for a while, digging deep into my own internal chaos. The combination of depression, anxiety, repression, and codependency felt bottomless at the time – though, of course, it wasn’t. I thought that I was broken. I wasn’t. I was discovering my own humanity.

This quote gave me the hope that someday I would birth that dancing star. And looking back, it seems that I have… or am… or will. Which reminds me of the notion that time is what keeps things from happening all at once. Wait, what?!

[Backspace. I don’t want to go there right now! I don’t have the time to delve into Quantum Mechanics, the Arrow of Time, and everything else that goes into that thought!]

Where was I? Oh yeah.

Do you want to be famous? I have. Or I do. Hard to say, but fame has always been part of my fantasy world. Because if you’re famous, then you must matter, right? Yeah, I know, that doesn’t follow. But to Younger Julia it does, and she wants to matter more than anything. So the quote also hooks me that way. “I have Chaos in me! I’m a-gonna be a Dancin’ STAR!” (said with my best fake-Texan accent.)

Truth be told, we all have within us the potential to be that Dancing Star. Some people will never meet that potential, whether through fear, degrading life circumstance, or other inhibiting factors. Perhaps that Dancing Star is simply the Spark of the Divine within.

What do you think? Do we all have that potential? Do you want to be famous, a well-known Dancing Star? Does this quote appeal to you, or make you shudder? Let me know in the comments!

(Picture of datura bud from here.)

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Carte Blanche

22 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

I wish I could eat an unimaginable dessert in a strange new land. I wish I could breathe twice as deeply as I do now. I wish I could go all the way, never look back, have nothing to lose, feel no guilt, leap across the chasm, praise mysterious heroes, dance in the street after midnight, and worship a wildly responsive female deity.

I the above was written by Rob Brezsny, of Freewill Astrology fame. I remember when I found this quote many years ago, back when I was more bound up in parental, societal, religious, and personal expectations than I am now. Shortly after that time I discovered the phrase Carte Blanche. That phrase resonated with me as I struggled to free myself from the web of conditioning that was a large part of my familial inheritance. I was ‘domesticated’ by that upbringing in the way that women in the 1950s were.

 

In our household it was as though the 1960s never happened. Once I was on my own the discongruency between my domesticated character and my inner true self caused me no end of grief. I was like a time-traveler, vaulted into a future for which I was essentially unprepared.

I have made peace with my history; today the dissonance of my past finds its way into my writing. Steven Canelli lives a life very different from mine, yet with many of the same self-defeating beliefs. He’s as much a prisoner of his ruinous upbringing as I was… but with less psychological understanding of his own motivations. While I started out as a sheep among wolves, he is successful and self-satisfied, until his compulsive habits and addictions destroy everything he holds dear.





In which I Write: Row80 Update

20 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

What. A. Week. Work was absolutely insane this week. We had about 20% more services (that’s orchestra-speak for a rehearsal or a concert), and we’re not done yet – there is a concert this afternoon. At Saturday morning’s rehearsal I experienced something new: sore shoulders from so much playing. It’s not unusual for me to feel pain when playing, it’s a legacy of decades of work as a musician. But most often the pain is in my hands or arms. I suppose this is a good thing, since I’m using my hands so much more for writing… though I need to figure out what to do about getting the Dragon on one of my computers to save my hands.

I was under a tremendous amount of pressure at work on Tuesday, and on Wednesday my writing productivity took off like a rocket. Being a geek, I set up a spreadsheet to keep track of my daily/weekly word count and minutes of exercise back in the last week of January 2012. Given my various health issues, I had a huge slump in Feb/Mar/Apr, which I tried to not beat myself up about. My best week was the first one in which I was keeping records: I wrote 5934 words the last week of Jan, and I never came close to approaching that word count again. Then, last week: BOOM. 6611 words, between the WIP and blogging, and that during a very busy week!

Yesterday I took the day off, or rather, I had to take the day off. Between the morning rehearsal and evening concert I took a nap – because I woke up at 5 am and couldn’t go back to sleep for worrying. That’s really unusual for me, but I got my mojo back by evening. I now have big plans for June. More on that some other time.

As far as my other Row80 goals, it was a mixed bag. My Better Life Habits were both better and worse – I allowed myself to slack off with the kitchen just a bit, and the bathroom is still a science experiment, but I’m shutting off lights and closing cabinets, making the bed, and brushing the dog. I walked almost every day, and spent quality time with the dog.

 

Crafty stuff is off the map, somewhere in “Here Be Dragons” territory – IOW, no time or inclination to do anything with that. I haven’t been practicing that much, either, but with all the writing I’ve been doing I count the Creativity part of my goals as successful.

 

My Social Media goals are coming along really well. I’m closing in on 800 followers on Twitter, and have been #wordmongering with other writer tweeps several times. Not only that, but Ali and Sally and I managed to schedule a get together for tomorrow! We are all so busy that we thought that we might have to skip May, and I’m so glad that we found the time to meet! I also started a new blog series: Tuesday quotes, and have a couple of those in the pipeline, in addition to a third weekly TBD blogpost, and my Sunday Row80 check in.

On the personal side, my Mom and Dad did really well with their respective medical procedures last week. Dad had to have another two stents put in, and Mom’s cancer turned out to be Stage I, and the path report said that the margins were good, so all she needs is a bit of radiation therapy after her (second) lumpectomy. I’m so lucky to still have them!

One other thing: here is an interview with Barry Douglas, done by one or our classical music station’s announcers, John Clare. I thought you might like to hear what he had to say about our concert, our orchestra, and what he’s working on.





Inventing Characters

18 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

Exhibit A: Barry Douglas.

  1. Who is Barry Douglas, this guy from Northern Ireland with two first names? (He was our guest soloist/conductor two weeks ago. Please take the time to check out his website here.)
  2. And what does he have to do with inventing characters? (See below!)

Guest artists are a bit of a crap shoot. We musicians often suggest conductors and soloists to management – many of us play in other orchestras during the summer, and if someone makes a strong artistic impression, whether as a conductor or guest soloist, we are likely to bring them up to management. But it’s not our call who gets hired. That is a management priority, in consultation with the Music Director or Artistic Advisor. This is true all over the orchestral world. We staff musicians come to work, and deal with whatever management has cooked up for us. Sometimes it’s life-changing, other times… not.

Barry Douglas at the Piano

Barry Douglas at the Festival des Nuits Romantiques du Lac du Bourget à Aix-les-Bains – 2011

In the case of Douglas, we thought he was terrific. He’s the yin to our Music Director’s yang: his low-key rehearsal style was a breath of fresh air, as our Music Director is all sweaty intensity in rehearsal. Douglas was unfailingly polite, while our guy ripped a section of the orchestra a new one just this past Tuesday. Our Music Director can get carried away in performance, leaving us stranded, but Douglas kept his head. That’s one thing that I wish more conductors realized – we need them to remain somewhat apart from the emotion of the music, so they can be there for us, to help us when things go sideways, which they do from time to time. And things are more likely to come apart when the conductor doesn’t stay present, because that’s when they make mistakes. But I digress…

I listened to the concerto both nights, with Douglas conducting from the piano, and was mesmerized by the performance. At the piano, Douglas’ Mozart interpretation was unapologetically Romantic, and he drew a brilliant, yet silky sound from the Symphony’s grand piano (which usually sounds like heck). I was moved by the performance, and I liked how the orchestra sounded under his direction… if you can call it that. Far from the usual ‘conductor as metronomic time-keeper’, at times it was as though he was doing Tai Chi, hurling bolts of energy at the orchestra. I loved it! You never knew what was coming next, and that kept you on your toes. No sleeping through this Haydn symphony! It was straight-up collaboration – chamber music – rather than someone standing up in front of the orchestra, waving his/her arms around to impress the rubes in the box seats. (And yes, that definitely happens!)

If you checked out his website above, you know that he was the second non-Russian to win the Gold Medal in the Tchaikovsky competition outright, in 1986 – Van Cliburn was the first, in 1956. I bet you recognize Van Cliburn’s name, dont’cha? And I bet you’d recognize Douglas’ name, if he was an American. Such is the spin machine in the US – all you have to do is watch the coverage of the Olympics. If there’s not an American within medaling range, you don’t get to see the sport. But I digress (once again).

Barry Douglas and Van Cliburn before the judging of the 2011 Tchaikovsky contest. Douglas was on the jury.

As I sat in the hall, listening to the concerto, a thought occurred to me. Here’s this man: friendly, approachable, not an ounce of attitude or ego, Tchaikovsky contest winner, amazing musician, damned good-looking… and even though I have over thirty years in the music business, I’d not heard of him. He’s been living his life, traveling all over the world, playing concerts for decades, while I have made music here in Texas, and our lives intersected the first week of May, 2012.

Besides wondering how many other fascinating people are out there just waiting to be discovered, it occurred to me that when we writers encounter interesting people we may put them on the page, drawing forth details from our imagination a story at a time. We look for inspiration everywhere, and when we find it, we chew on it, toss it in a boiling pot or a quiet pond, and see what it becomes. I could easily conjure Douglas’ doppelganger if I had need for a concert pianist in a story/poem/novel. Take the talent, the looks, even some of the history (make sure that the character you invent is significantly different from the person in real life!) then go for broke: add in a couple of quirky habits, or a wandering eye, or a history of DUI. Bingo – I have the beginnings of a tale I can tell. That’s what we writers do – we invent remarkable people, give them problems, and stand back to see what they do on the page, how they react. Once I learned of a real life college professor, a scientist, a tall man, who had endured tragedy in his life. That was all I needed to come up with the seed that became Steven Canelli, the protagonist in my current work in progress. In the end, they are so different that no one would ever connect Canelli with that other man, the one who’s story grabbed my attention and didn’t let go. Even if that man were to read my book, he would have no inkling that his life inspired the tale.

What larger than life people have you been privileged to meet? What about them surprised you? Have you been inspired to riff on someone’s famous (or not so famous) persona, to flesh out a work in progress? Let me know in the comments!





Tuesday Quotes: A Belated Mother’s Day Tribute

15 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

It says something about my relationship with my Mother that it never occurred to me to write a Mother’s Day post. If you’re interested, I wrote a detailed comment to Caitlin Kelly’s Mother’s Day post. I won’t rehash that here, except to say that today my relationship with my Mother is the best it’s been since I was three.

The following quote was originally part of a 1991-92 Smithsonian article about some kind of seals. I’ll never forget my reaction when I read it, for I cried. At the time my relationship with my mother was bloody awful, and it got worse before it got better. I yearned for the kind of oneness with a nurturing, accepting mother, the kind that the mother seal demonstrated.

Of course, no one has that kind of mother. And the mother seal? The sceptic/realist in me knows anthropomorphism when she sees it. But that need, that desire, is the root of much religious thought: the Loving Father, the Divine Mother.

In the end, psychologists say that the only way to truly get that love is to give it to yourself. That’s a difficult thing to accomplish, when you don’t have good role models. But perhaps, just perhaps, the mother seal can step in to that role. After all, there’s a reason why I thought of this quote today (I’m writing on Mother’s Day), isn’t there?

 

“The pup stayed under its mothers chin, rolled onto its back again and gave her face a flippered embrace. Then its little mouth and white lips came ajar, curling into a self-satisfied smile, and enigmatic smirk that revealed its pink mouth and throat. The mother’s lidded eyes drooped; she looked blissfully mindless. What I saw in the dreamy pleasure of the pup and the fierce, tender affections of the mother was a glimpse of absolute contentment.”





In Which I Become Productive: Row80 update

13 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

This has been a week. Well, yes, that’s true. More than that, it’s been a week that went from OMG to YESS!

Last Sunday I finally got on board with the whole Row80/blogging thing, and it solidified my Social Media preferences. That is, I’m a Blogger. Not a Tweeter, or a Facebooker. I went to the Row80 homepage, and took the time to actually read and comment on a good number of blogs, and while that could have deep-sixed my email (I subbed to all the comment threads!), I kept that window open and was diligent with scanning and deleting comment emails. I discovered that the blogging community means the most to me, and is more to my taste than Twitter. As far as Facebook, I’m keeping my personal FB for friends (including my writer friends, yay!), and eventually, when I get to the point of publishing something, I’ll go with an author fan page. Yes, I found Row80 and other writing friends on Twitter, and will still be there from time to time, but for now, I think that blogging is where it’s at for me.

So, on Sunday I was on the computer for hours – FUN hours. Then work started to intervene. Let’s just say that rehearsals this past week were pretty hellish, and though I played well (mostly), it was damned stressful. Beer helped, specifically the new Shiner brew: Wild Hare. I’ve been alcohol-free for months, but this brew made the week go better. Now that the 6-pack is gone, I’ll get back to my teetotaling days. My stomach acid is relieved (but wishes I’d also deep-six the coffee. Oy.)

Then came Friday, and my muse put her feet back on the ground and started running. 1,100 words, in a scene that I may use. Not sure yet. Because yesterday I fired up Scrivener (which I love with a mad, passionate, and completely inappropriate love) and printed out all my chapters and scene headings. While I’m still not convinced that my WIP is one novel (as opposed to, say, THREE), I went to Starbucks with the file, and organized it into three acts (including three intermezzos and two entr’actes). That took over two hours. When I got home I fired up Scrivener on the iMac once again, and re-arranged the file per my earlier work.

With that, I’ve taken my writing to another level. You see, it’s been driving me absolutely crazy that I hadn’t settled on the shape of the story. I’d written scenes from my protag’s entire life, and there was no way that anyone would buy a chronological book of that magnitude. I hadn’t determined where to begin, and how to incorporate some earlier scenes (if at all), and it had me in knots. I knew that I’d eventually figure it out – though I may not have it completely figured out just yet – and you cannot imagine the relief I feel.

Until last night.

I woke up several times, reminded of scenes that I’d intended to write, that seemed to be quite important to the novel, but wouldn’t fit into this structure. Ahem. But I’m not back to square one. Maybe square three. The important thing is that I have a huge smile on my face. This is such FUN!

Onward to my goals.

This week has been a bust in the Better Life Habits department. Too much stress, too little concentration. In addition to my work stress, my Mom had a lumpectomy on Thursday (she’s fine, just waiting on the final pathology report. Looks like Stage 1 and five days of radiation therapy), my Dad is having an angiogram on Monday (he had three stents in ’03, I’m hoping they’ll just put in a couple more, versus bypass surgery). They are 81 and 82, respectively, and in excellent health, except for the above. All this has affected my sleep – I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. That’s very unusual for me. I’ve walked some, but I live in Texas, and the recent rain and storms put a dent in that (though we really need the rain!). The house is not spotless, and won’t be for a while. Oh. Well.

My Creativity is flourishing, as above. Too much music-making to do any knitting – it’s too hard on my hands. I’ll get back to that soon enough.

Social Media goals are working out well, as above, though I’m not going to meet with my writer friends this month. We are all too busy – or rather, when one of us is free, the other two are busy. June, for sure!

I’m adding a second blogpost series, Tuesdays will be for quotes that spark something in me. I inadvertently started that last week, with my post on the Cambrian Shoreline. I’ve got to get cracking on Tuesdays’ entry in the series, because I’ll be with my parents all day Monday… and Tuesday is full of (stressful) work.

Oh, and here’s a fabulous link for writers. Raelyn Barclay’s current Row80 update has a great link to Jami Gold’s post on Scenes and Sequels that you must read. Oh, and cute pics of Raelyn’s family’s three new members, Sonic, Neptune, and Poseidon. Squee! So cute!





Cambrian shoreline

8 05 2012

I was inspired by Matthew Wright’s post, Worldbuilding: putting it on ice, to offer up a quote from Richard Dawkins’ “The Ancestor’s Tale: a Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life”.

He quoted p. 120 of “Life: An Unauthorized Biography” by Richard Fortey. Can you imagine the utter strangeness of this landscape?

“I can imagine standing upon a Cambrian shore in the evening, much as I stood on the shore at Spitsbergen and wondered about the biography of life for the first time. The sea lapping at my feet would look and feel much the same. Where the sea meets the land there is a patch of slightly sticky, rounded stromatolite pillows, survivors from the last groves of the Precambrian. The wind is whistling across the red plains behind me, where nothing visible lives, and I can feel the sharp sting of wind-blown sand on the back of my legs. But in the muddy sand at my feet I can see worm casts, little curled wiggles that look familiar. I can see trails of dimpled impressions left by the scuttling of crustacean-like animals… Apart from the whistle of the breeze and the crash and suck of the breakers, it is completely silent, and nothing cries in the wind…”

This phrase – the wind is whistling across the red plains behind me, where nothing visible lives – grabbed my imagination, and has never let it go. No animals, no plants, just dirt, and rocks, and volcanoes… no movement, no wind in the trees, nothing but clouds scudding over a barren landscape.

And that was the earth, 500 million years ago, during the Cambrian period. Already the world was teeming with microscopic life, but the sea? It was also home to worms, hard-shelled beasties, and the things they fed on. Life was exploding under the waves, but the first brave multi-cellular beings had yet to make their way to the open air.

If you would like to know more about the Cambrian period, I recommend this link.

Can you imagine how strange the earth must have been at that time? It opens up more and more ideas for worldbuilding in fantasy/scifi novels, doesn’t it?








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