Looking back on 2012, my personal journey

1 01 2013

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Yes, I’m back.

2012 was a year of extremes for me.

January: In the middle of an incredibly busy month, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I started Row80, but was unable to keep up with it due to my health problems.

February: A young friend who was working with us from time to time stayed with me, and I loved her company. I learned a lot from her! She continued to stay with me off and on through the beginning of June.

March: I continued to deal with shattering exhaustion from years of sleep problems, calling in sick frequently. However, better sleep finally began to turn my health around, and by the end of the month I was feeling almost normal.

April: So normal that I attempted Row80 again. Call me a glutton for punishment! I hit my stride in April.

May: Work was overwhelmingly busy, but I soldiered on.

June: I was still on-point with my blogging, writing about my novel and the science behind it. I also took an audition with two weeks of preparation. I don’t recommend that to anyone! It was an exhausting experience, and I will not fly American Airlines again, until they are out of bankruptcy.

July: The Black Dog of depression came home again.

August: There was nothing memorable about the first three weeks of August. I wasn’t dealing well with the Black Dog. At the very end of the month I went on a last-minute driving trip to New Mexico and Colorado.

mountain-55499_640

The Red Rocks of New Mexico, from the pixabay folder of user Brigitte Werner

During that trip I ended up in Boulder, CO for the first time ever. That’s significant because my protag spends 6 years there at CU, and although those years aren’t a significant part of the book as currently visualized, it does shape the man he becomes.

September: I was barely home when my former BFF bludgeoned me in a meeting about work. Within two days I spiraled into anxiety, which danced with the Black Dog as I worked out how to deal with both. I went back to Al-Anon, finding a home group that’s full of recovery, and considered going back to church. The 27th of the month another good friend had a ‘cardiac event’. Did I ever mention that my number one fear is a heart attack?

October: Much of my friend’s hospital time happened in October: a double bypass, four Code Blues, pulmonary emboli, and an internal defibrillator. I continued to deal with waves of anxiety and depression. There was no question of doing anything creative… it was one day at a time at this point. I went to a church which had been recommended to me a couple of times, but didn’t connect. (My friend is currently on the mend, thank heavens!)

November: Our symphony season was in full swing, and my other BFF was back in the US from overseas. She was with me part of the time here at home, and I went with her to Boulder for Thanksgiving with her cousins. It wasn’t terribly cold there yet, but I loved spending more time there with her… and I also got my desire to live there out of my system. My anxiety finally began to wane this month.

December: I finally got the Black Dog under control, and we had some time off from work. To my delight, I found that my creative juices were starting to surface again! Playing the Nutcracker got me in the holiday spirit, and the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities spurred me to read it for the first time. I intended to study it (and still will) – though I haven’t finished it yet, because I joined a book club at work, and devoured Yann Martel’s Life of Pi in two days for a book club meet. Christmas was spent with my parents, on some of the coldest days thus far this winter. Back home on the 26th, then on December 30th I found my church! I’ve never considered a downtown church, but the moment I stepped into the sanctuary at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church I knew I was home.

Losing my BFF has spurred a spiritual transformation in my life. I turned 55 in September, and made the decision in August to stop coloring my hair. The transformation of the growing-out process mirrors what’s going on inside of me… I’m coming to terms with my age and station in life, now enthusiastic and full of possibilities for personal growth in this second half of life.

I doubt that I will return to Row80 until later this year, but that doesn’t mean that 2013 is goal-less. More about that later on! It’s enough to say that I will be blogging once a week, starting now.

What was 2012 like for you? How did it change you? Let me know in the comments!





Is this a Belated or an Early Row80 Update?

28 07 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Sometimes life catches up with me, and for the past two weeks I’ve been emotionally underwater. Everything has been more than I could handle; I ended up frustrated and tied in knots. I even let a previously-scheduled, unfinished blogpost go out on Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll get around to editing it tomorrow. I made an overnight trip last weekend, and had my cousin here for a couple of days this week, but that’s not why I was immobilized.

I think it was the black dog – depression – once again.

Black dog by Michelle Buntin

In the past 24 hours I’ve taken some steps to once again manage the black dog, and actually got out the flute for some quality time: scales/arpeggios/Mozart. I’m thinking about my WIP, and this blogpost is another effort to pull myself out of this slump. I had big plans in the exercise department – an hour-long morning walk – but that came crashing to the ground last night when I slipped on my carpeted steps while taking the dog out last night, resulting in a couple of jammed toes. Ouch. I slipped because my vertigo came back this week, though it’s manageable for now.

Okay, enough whinging! How about some good news? The house is clean, including the kitchen sink. The dog is happy, and I get a deva-style haircut next week. I’ve been having big fun experimenting with hair gels, and my curly locks are out in full force. As soon as I publish this blogpost I’m heading out for a walk (a slow walk!), and then opening up Scrivener and finish inputting the macro edit that I did two weeks ago, in preparation for sitting down and finishing up that first draft.

How was your week! I’m looking forward to reading others’ Row80 updates!





Row80 Week 2 update

15 07 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Week two is behind us!

I started out the week with good intentions, but by Friday was in a slump. It was as though I had no brain power at all, so I gave myself a break and did little positive, save info/entertainment consuming. Needless to say, the goals have gone by the wayside.

They fall into four categories:

Business: Completely redo my business website, including adding a wordpress blog.

Nothing. I’m aware that I need to do some major work on this… but giving my brain power slump, nada.

 

Creative: Finish HIS ORIGINAL SIN, and get it to beta readers by the end of August.

I am 99% finished with my synopsis, as per last week, and I need to re-arrange my Scrivener file to align with the changes in the plot. I was waiting until I was back home (I’d been visiting my Parental Units™), but here I sit with the iMac, and I’ve not done a thing. 😦

Creative:  Restart work on my second WIP, last year’s Nanowrimo novel.

This is on hold until I finish my WIP.

Creative:  Get started on my Halloween costume.

And I was just thinking, “I need a crafty project!” But this will require thinking, so no dice. Next week? Not likely. I’m back with my folks’ to visit my cousins (and meet my new nephews!)

Daily life: Finish losing that twenty pounds.

This is what’s been occupying me this week. I’m officially down 4+ pounds once again, and the sugar cravings are much better. I’ve managed to ‘just say NO’ to simple carbs and sweets (though Friday night I did indulge in a bit of Endangered Species Bat Bar – dark chocolate with cocoa nibs!! To. Die. For.)

My fav meal is breakfast, and I like to cook my own version of the Traditional Aussie Brekkie – the hearty version.

 

This morning I started out with 1/2 clove garlic + white onion sauteed in butter and olive oil. I added four sliced white mushrooms and a whole sliced tomato. Sauteed the lot with a couple grindings of Alessi’s Dipping Spices. Emptied that on to my plate, then fried an egg in the same pan. I ended up chopping up the egg and stirring it into the veggies – it was delish! I also had 1/2 cup greek yogurt with fresh raspberries and whole raw almonds, and 2 cups of coffee w/half and half.

Another thing I like is to saute baby spinach, or baby arugula, or a mixture of both, in butter and olive oil with a bit of the aforementioned Alessi spice mix.

Brekkie is the biggest meal of my day – it’s getting so hot in the afternoon/evening that I’m not that hungry.

Daily life: Practice every day.

I’ve been practicing. Not every day, but yes.

 

Daily life: Continue my Better Life Habits™ from last round (exercising, house cleaning, dog grooming).

This is going so well! The kitchen and bath are clean, I’m walking every day for at least 30 minutes. The dog is clean (and the grooming goes much faster when she’s not been neglected). After seeing this article I knew that I had to do something about all the time I spend sitting in front of the computer. So I elevated the iMac, and half the time I’m standing when I’m websurfing. It still works for me when sitting, but it’s not optimal. I may rig a keyboard stand so I can type standing up. I’m considering getting a standing desk, but it’s a bit dear for me right now. Perhaps in the fall? We’ll see.

Platform building: Continue blogging three times a week: Row80 update on Sunday, Tuesday Quotes on Tuesday (Duh!), third blogpost later in the week.

I missed the third blogpost this week – as I said, I just couldn’t think. Ah well, that will have to do.

Platform building: Be on twitter, and comment on at least one blog every day.

Twitter = FAIL

My email is overflowing with blogposts to read, and if I don’t see to it every day, I get overwhelmed. I have been commenting, though, and learning a lot!

Platform building: Including platform building for my business.

Oy. This won’t happen next week, either, since I’m back out of town. Perhaps the next?

This past week was eventful, weather-wise. It had been horribly hot (over 100F already!), but evidently El Niño is ramping up, because we’ve had several days of rain! Thunderstorms, daytime heating showers, they are such a relief, even though the humidity is awful.

 

How was your week? If you’re doing Row80, what’s news? Are you managing to stay focused?





July 8 Row80 Update

8 07 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

I cannot believe that the first week of round three is already over. Let’s see how I did with my goals this time.

They fall into four categories:

Business: Completely redo my business website, including adding a wordpress blog.

Nothing. Nada. I haven’t even plotted out what all I need to do for this. Next week!

Creative: Finish HIS ORIGINAL SIN, and get it to beta readers by the end of August.

I am 99% finished with my synopsis, which I needed to complete in order to organize Steven’s life into three acts. I still don’t know what my opening is, but I have a better idea of that than I did this time last week. I hope to get the synopsis to Ali and Sally for their perusal within 10 days. Hopefully feedback from these amazing writer grrrlfriends will help point me in a positive direction.

I have finally some writing and editing of various scenes in the book. However, I still have some scenes to write, so my first draft is technically not complete at this time.

Creative:  Restart work on my second WIP, last year’s Nanowrimo novel.

Though I have had some idle thoughts about the Umgonnan, this is on hold until I finish my WIP.

Creative:  Get started on my Halloween costume.

Daily life: Finish losing that twenty pounds.

More like “Re-start losing the twenty pounds”. Yeah, I gained back three of the four that I’d lost from June, mostly due to my audition adventures. No worries, I’d fallen off the diet wagon for my food addiction of choice: sweets. I’m now on day three of a quasi-Paleolithic/South Beach-style diet. The sugar/sweets cravings have been horrible, but I know that if I persevere they will lessen, soon.

Daily life: Practice every day.

This is coming along! I’m excited about it, especially Mozart.

Daily life: Continue my Better Life Habits™ from last round (exercising, house cleaning, dog grooming).

Definitely on the right track here. Enough said!

Platform building: Continue blogging three times a week: Row80 update on Sunday, Tuesday Quotes on Tuesday (Duh!), third blogpost later in the week.

I heart blogging. This is not much of a problem for me right now, especially since I have more time in the summer. I have a list of blogposts scheduled, up to August in the case of my Tuesday Quotes series.

One thing on my to-do list is to come up with a blogroll for this blog’s sidebar. I have a handful of must-read blogs in a couple of categories that I want to share with the world.

Platform building: Be on twitter, and comment on at least one blog every day.

Twitter is my nemesis! I’m not enjoying it at all recently, since I haven’t been doing much #wordmongering. I will be getting back to that, especially since I’m almost done with the WIP’s synopsis. I’ll be back to straightforward writing soon. I miss my wordmongering buddies!

Then there’s the blogging community. I have been frustrated by the WordPress reader. I prefer for my subbed blogs to show up in my live.com email feed, and recently when you click ‘follow’ on someone’s WP blog, it sends it to the Reader instead of your email like before. I haven’t found an easy way to get to my subscription lists/options, either.

Platform building: Including platform building for my business.

Nothing happening here. ::rolls eyes:: Next week!

Tomorrow I’m having a face-to-face with the awesome Ginger Calem! She will be the fourth area writer that I’ve connected with in meatspace, and I am so psyched! I met her through Sally Driscoll (her link is above), and we’ve been Facebooking for many weeks. We planned to meet last month, but I had a bit of a detour that kept me busy.

There is noting like sitting down with a cuppa and chatting with another writer. If I thought that writing was fulfilling, the connection with other writers makes writing even more so. Facebooking, blogging, etc is a great way to connect with writers across the globe, but face-to-face is the best. I hope that I’m able to take in some of the area writing conferences in the next couple of years, and look up even more of my internet writer friends.

How was your week? Is your summer going well? Or, for you Southern Hemisphere folks, how’s winter coming along? If you’re interested in what other people are doing for Row80, you can find more Row80 updates here.





Row80, Round 3

2 07 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Round Three starts today, woohoo! What is the end date? Because I have a hellacious amount of stuff that I need to do!

My goals fall into four categories:

Business:

Completely redo my business website, including adding a wordpress blog. Oy. This is a big one!

 

Creative:

Finish HIS ORIGINAL SIN, and get it to beta readers by the end of August.

Restart work on my second WIP, last year’s Nanowrimo novel.

Get started on my Halloween costume.

 

Daily life:

Finish losing that twenty pounds.

Practice every day.

Continue my Better Life Habits™ from last round (exercising, house cleaning, dog grooming).

 

 

(Yep, that’s my girl!)

Platform building:

Continue blogging three times a week: Row80 update on Sunday, Tuesday Quotes on Tuesday (Duh!), third blogpost later in the week.

Be on twitter, and comment on at least one blog every day.

 

This includes platform building for my business. Oh. My. I think I needed to get started five years ago!





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.





The Darkness Within

26 06 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Gustav Jung

Such is the theme of my WIP, His Original Sin. Steven Canelli, for all his good points, cannot – WILL not – face the pain that drives him. It’s easier to use – whether it is alcohol, nicotine, work, or women – and, in spite of his prodigious intelligence, he takes the ‘easier’ way out time after time, until he hits bottom. It isn’t that he doesn’t see the endpoint. He uses (that word, again!) his brilliance to rationalize his actions.

That’s the way it always is, isn’t it? People in general won’t face facts until they have to, until they have no other choice. I know that’s been true in my life. I refuse to enumerate the many times that I continued on a particular path in spite of that nagging ‘oh dear, this isn’t going to end well’ feeling, that inner warning system maxed out in the red. Usually when I’ve stayed with a course (never mind the looming brick wall) it’s been because I felt that I had no other options. The truth? I had no other easy options.

In Steven’s case, it’s easier to just pour another drink, light another cig, or chase another skirt. Easier, until it becomes impossible to overcome the consequences of his actions. Perhaps that’s why I adore this character, in spite of his behavior. He’s me, in a different body, making different choices, avoiding different pain… but still running, running, running, until he can’t run any longer.

(And what is he really running from? There’s a hint of it on this page.)

Thanks to my good friend Gayle Greenlea for posting the Jung quote to Facebook. I hadn’t intended this Tuesday Quotes blogpost to become copy about my book, but it fits so well!

What about you? What are you running from? What situations aren’t working in your life? Where could you make other, harder, choices, which might result in beauty? Where are you holding back out of fear of… success? failure? Let me know in the comments.

Oooh boy. I could go on and on with those questions, and probably will, in my journal!





June 10 Row80 update

10 06 2012

It’s Sunday again, already. Last week was insane, with three days of symphony auditions (I was on the judging side of the screen), most of one day spent hanging out with a close friend, a 100-mile roundtrip to meet Irene Preston (Sally Driscoll was there, too), and yesterday I was so tired that I was wondering if my sleep apnea was acting up again. Today I’m back to normal, so I guess that wasn’t it.

I can’t find my list of row80 goals. Perhaps being better organized should be on the list for round 3! (Starting July 2, oh my!)

The house looks like a bomb hit it. In my defense, I spent much of last week exhausted, shell-shocked, battle-weary. The symphony season ended on a high note, and now a vast expanse of four months with no symphony work stretches before me. Said four-month period will also be hellishly hot (90-105F/32-40C), severely limiting outdoor activities. Thank heavens for iced tea with mint! I’m grateful for this free (read: unpaid) time to work on the book and my other business… and it’s also enough time for me to (hopefully) establish the life habits that fell by the wayside in the last two weeks.

Okay, enough with the excuses. Better life habits were down the drain for me, but that will change, immediately.

Creativity abounds. No, really! 5532 words. I started working on my synopsis of His Original Sin. I ended up Macro Editing as I wrote my synopsis (a term I hadn’t heard until I read this blogpost by Jody Hedlund), which was big fun. Here’s Jody on macro editing (my bolding):

I like to refer to the macro edit stage as rewriting. I think the term sufficiently sums up the entire process, which involves analyzing the big picture elements of our stories and rewriting, adding, or deleting major parts in order to make the story more appealing to readers.

It’s that adding/deleting/rearranging that I was doing. The rewriting is coming next, after I finish writing all the scenes. Oy. It seems that I had some kind of row80 goal that the first draft be finished this round. Three more weeks? I think I can do it.

I’ve also added a page to this website, a preliminary blurb about my WIP, His Original Sin. It’s linked above – let me know what you think of it, if you wish. I’d like to add a pic or two to the page, but since I haven’t even begun to think about the cover art, it will have to wait.





Row80 update 6/3/12: I’ve been bad!

3 06 2012

Sort of, that is. Last Sunday I simply couldn’t bring myself to write an update for row80. I had company, so I gave myself permission to skip a week.

To recap the last two weeks: two weekends of amazing concerts, one with our usual guy, the other with the amazing Cristian Maselaru, who stepped in at the last minute for Alondra de la Parra. I would make a comment on the orchestra’s reaction to the substitution, but let’s just say that we can’t wait to see Cristian again.

As far as creative goals, they are blossoming. Here’s my word count.

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: 5/13-5/19: 6611 

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: 5/20-5/26: 933

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: 5/27-6/2: 3416 

Again, it’s obvious when I had company. Late last week I started working on my synopsis, so much of the 34k words was on that. In writing the synopsis I’ve inadvertently done a large amount of plotting and macro editing – I don’t know how many words/scenes I’ve ditched in the meantime, but I’m sure that the WIP’s 116k has been trimmed significantly. I’m aiming for 85k total (and yes, I pulled that total out of my behind), and I’m 90% settled on a title: HIS ORIGINAL SIN. The macro editing has resulted in more shaping of the complete manuscript, with inserted ‘Soliloquies’ in the voice of a couple of important characters. It’s turning into an opera, with the Intermezzi and Entr’actes. Oh! Maybe I should stick with the opera meme and call them ‘Arias’. Hmmm…

My other creative work is at a standstill: no knitting, no mask-making, no practicing. That last bit will change this week. More on that another time.

In the Better Life Habits category, I’ve averaged 112-115 minutes of walking per week. That’s not enough, but given that it’s already summer in South Texas (and bloody HOT), I’m more-or-less satisfied with this. I’m looking into other exercise programs for the summer, after encountering a retired female neighbor who has abs of steel. Me?

Abs of flab. Ahem.

As far as generic household habits, they are coming along much better. Sort of. Actually, it varies from day to day.

Social Media = FAIL.

I missed last week’s check in, I didn’t write a third blogpost (though I have a backlog of Tuesday quotes posts, so I’m keeping up with that.) Between the end of the symphony season, my guest, and the dog being sick (she’s better), I let blogging slide. I did have a last-minute meetup with Ali Dent last week, so my 1x/month get together with writer friends happened, even though we thought it wouldn’t. Yes! And there are plans for more meetups in June, stay tuned for that. My plan is to finish the synopsis and get it to my writing partners for their critique, then finish the first draft – I have a few more scenes to write. Then comes printing out the WIP, and doing a major edit/re-write. My goal? Have it ready for beta readers in August.





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!








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