No, I’m not really back

22 09 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Apologies for the two posts that went out yesterday – they were scheduled, unfinished, and I’d forgotten about them. Unprofessional… and deleted.

I can’t stand blogposts that start out, “Did’ya miss me?” Lorinda (Termitewriter!) did comment to that effect (and I appreciate it!), I don’t expect that anyone noticed that I’d dropped off the radar. We are all too busy with our own lives for that.

This summer dissolved into a miasma of depression, endless days of horrible heat and lethargy. It wasn’t as though I suddenly fell through the rabbit hole – it was more like a sinuous slide into the quagmire. We are temporarily laid off in the summer, and though the idea of three months of free time to do whatever one likes is appealing, the lack of any kind of schedule (and accompanying lack of income) requires a lot of discipline… something that I lack when severely depressed. I had a good number of goals – I was signed up for Row80 – but I couldn’t accomplish any of them. I don’t remember the last time I sat down to write.

About a month ago I realized that I had zero interest in anything, which got my attention. I finally accepted that I have two chronic, disabling diseases which exacerbate each other:  sleep apnea, and chronic depression. Both require constant vigilance, because both are very capable of ending my life.

I also realized that I was an idiot if I didn’t take advantage of a sudden opportunity to vacation in New Mexico and Colorado on the cheap, so on August 24th I tossed the dog in the back of the car and headed out. I ADORE driving vacations.

After a week I ended up in Boulder, CO for two days, exploring the University and Pearl Street, seeing where my protag Steven lived when he was an undergrad there. Call it research, it was marvelous. I can’t wait to go to Los Angeles during spring break to explore where the majority of the book takes place!

This photo was taken on May 25, 2009 by Lee Coursey.

Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado

I returned home in time for my fifty-fifth birthday in early Sept, and promptly found myself in a conflict with a colleague (and former best friend) which left me reeling. I cannot abide conflict, and the very notion of taking care of myself by calling someone on their bad behavior gives me (literal) panic attacks. I do not have nerves of steel in this instance. But what’s done is done, what is unacceptable is just that, and I’m glad to have that very problematic friend out of my life… even though we sit next to each other at work every day. Rehearsals don’t start until Oct… so I have another week to steel myself for that uncomfortable reality.

Summer gives way to blissful Autumn today, and with the turning of the year I feel my energy returning. I’ll return to blogging eventually, and I know I’ll write again. Until then, enjoy the changing seasons, wherever in the world you are.

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Addiction and the Soul-Hole

29 06 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

What is the cause of addiction? Bucket loads of research have been done to answer that question. Some think it’s genetic – alcoholism runs in families, for instance – but co-dependency and learned behavior happen in families as well. In many addictions there is a substance that ‘hooks’ the user: nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, while in others the ‘fix’ is a compulsive behavior: gambling addiction, binging/purging, sexual compulsion. In either case, it appears that there is a change in the function of the brain.

Some addictions have met with approval in some circles: workaholism, smoking in the 1950s (think of the Classic Movie channel), and sexual crimes (think the gang bang as a gang initiation). All that has changed in the past 50 or so years, with increasingly restrictive laws governing public smoking, DWI and DUI, and drug incarceration.

More interesting to me is the emerging brain science concerning behavioral addiction/compulsion. In an article posted on November 20, 2011, Hilarie Cash writes:

When we enjoy playing video games or get caught up in gambling, we experience a similar euphoria. These highs are not something to be worried about, in moderation. The addiction begins to take hold, however, when we do it too much. Then the brain is forced to withdraw neuro-receptors in an effort to restore balance. This is what we call tolerance, and we no longer get the high from the same level of activity or drug use. Now, we need more. And if we go without, we go into withdrawal. In the case of behavioral addictions, that withdrawal involves primarily psychological symptoms (irritability, restlessness, poor concentration, increased anxiety and depression, etc).

In this article from June 2011, Alexandra Katehakis writes:

Both Robert and Clarissa suffered emotional deprivation in childhood. Both have developed rituals to mask the wounds that never healed. While their motivation and end result–despair–are the same, their acting-out blueprints are different.

Clarissa’s compulsions are more indicative of a love addict. Her interactive style is labile, with a come-here/go-away emotional charge that is echoed in her chaotic relationships. Clarissa’s “drug” of choice is less about sex than about a particular romantic experience.

A classic sex addict, Robert is more attached to specific sex acts and sexual encounters than to people. His style of relating is detached, aloof, and avoidant–thus his preference for nameless, interchangeable sex partners.

 


I believe that one key to addictive behavior is childhood emotional deprivation. In my protagonist Steven’s case, a series of emotional wounds in childhood and again in later life led to a separation from his essential self. His addictive behaviors serve to mask a deep inner discomfort – he describes it as ‘an itch that can’t be scratched’ – and as long as he returns to his compulsive behavior, that itch will not be healed.

While he is truly addicted to nicotine (and later, alcohol), his sexual acting-out becomes a behavioral compulsion, in the same way that someone can be drawn into out of control gambling or video gaming. While there is societal approval in some circles for the kind of things he does, for the most part men like him are a father’s nightmare.

 

He is a typical liberal college prof, as well as a Cradle Catholic and feminist. If you think that adds to his ‘itchiness’, you’d be right! Even he has difficulty reconciling his beliefs with his behaviors; his logical scientist’s mind rationalizes what his soul cannot accept. This inner conflict further feeds his desire to do whatever he can to bury that primal wound, until he finds himself sucked into the maelstrom called ‘hitting bottom’.

 

And what happens next? It’s a twisty/turn-y story which I hope will keep Steven Canelli in your thoughts for some time to come.





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!





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!





A successful week: Row80 update

29 04 2012

I feel a sense of satisfaction, glancing over my list of Row80 goals. I’m happy with my progress in almost every area under Better Life Habits, so much so that I’m adding a couple of other goals.

While I haven’t been religious about walking every single day, I’m well on my way to establishing the following habits: turning off lights, making my bed, shutting cabinet doors, having a clean kitchen sink, so I’m adding the following: keeping the bathroom clean, and brushing the dog 1x/week. My canine is a miniature poodle, so brushing her is essential… and I’m a bad doggy mom. I let her go, and then it’s a huge chore when I get around to it… which is a task that I’m still putting off. TODAY, Ms. Blossom – I promise! I’m sick of the science experiment that is my bathroom, oy. Enough said, or perhaps too much.

Creatively, I’m now officially unblocked! As I blogged two days ago, I had a major realization, and the ideas (if not the words) are flowing again. Yay! Unfortunately, I haven’t been practicing, knitting, or starting on the mask-making project, because I’ve been rather out of control re: Facebook, Tiny Wings, and Stoneloops of Jurassica. And instead of finishing my scarf, I’m thinking of starting on a sweater. Or a weaving project. I must have creative ADD.

I posted a non-Row80 blogpost (linked above) this week, and have another planned for next week (yay), this is my Sunday check in. I’ve been on Twitter and reading blogs, and did the monthly get-together with local writer tweeps. Come to think of it, we need to schedule one for May.

Next week will be more of a challenge, because my houseguest will be back on Tuesday for 5 days. I hope I can have some boundaries with her, and get some stuff done while she’s here. I know she’ll understand – and she has a couple of projects to work on, too.

Row80 is turning out to be a positive thing for me, this time around. Last time my health issues got the better of me, but that is more or less in the past, and I’m looking forward to the next several months. Except for the temperature part. Summer is tough here in South Texas.

How are you doing, at the end of April? Have you made Row80 or New Years’ Goals that you’re struggling with? What are your success stories?





Quit Resisting the Muse!

27 04 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

The past several weeks have been, for all practical purposes, novel-writing free. As you might remember, I received a sleep apnea diagnosis a while back, and have now completed two months of treatment using a CPAP machine. I’m finally feeling mostly better, having more energy. If I wasn’t superstitious I’d say that I’m over the hump.

:::knocks on wood:::

Most weeks I’d barely managed 1,000 words, and that mostly blogposts, some weeks were a big, fat zero. Then on April 22nd I knocked out over 2,100. What happened? I stopped trying to tell my muse what’s what, that’s what!

I have been trying to hog-tie my (now 116,000+ word) novel into something that made three-act sense. I was looking for that opening scene, that inciting incident which would hook the reader into reading something that I hoped would be around 85,000 words. And it wasn’t working. I was blocked up, unable to move until I figured out where the heck to begin.

Then on Sunday morning, in the shower, my muse hit me over the head. (She has a way of jumping me when I least expect it).

“Just write the damned thing! Tell this man’s story! Damn the word count! We’ll figure it out later!”

Um, yeah. By the time I had dried my hair, I had the beginnings of three new scenes begging to be put on paper, and was ENTHUSED about writing again.

Today? I’m all WTH if it turns into a 210,000 word-trilogy. I’m unblocked, and writing better than ever.

And… I found a website with a novel-writing system that really appeals to me: the Snowflake System.

 

I’m going to take that out for a walk today, going through the steps for this particular novel, and fitting in the scenes that I’ve already written as I find them. Then I’m going to finish this novel, and self-publish it.








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