RIP Ray Bradbury

Did anyone else’s heart sink when they saw that Ray Bradbury had died?

I grew up on science fiction—that projection of current science into a possible future and the exploration of the impact it could have on human society. The genre as a whole strongly influenced my thinking, and probably contributed to my being a strategist and a writer. Ray Bradbury in particular left a mark with his vivid short stories from The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles.

Two stories from The Illustrated Man, with its undulating tattoos shaping disturbing tales, lodged in my brain. In “The Veldt,” Peter and Wendy have become so attached to their technology (in the form a nursery prophetic of the Star Trek holodeck) that when their parents try to take it away, the children murder them via the lions in the African veldt they’ve created. Parallels, anyone?

And in “Kaleidoscope,” after a space ship explodes, the crew find themselves floating in space—away from each other. Their communications last a short time, and in that span their various reactions are explored. Imagine the inevitable end—imagine speeding through space, running out of air with no one to save you. Imagine how that would feel. Bradbury did, and let us feel it too. THAT is a horror story.

Ray Bradbury is one of those giants upon whose shoulders many other writers and thinkers have stood. I think it’s time to pull out my old, beat-up copies of his work and remind myself just how giant he was.

***

A lovely tribute from Peter Sagal at NPR.

Celebrating the Challenge!

This evening we celebrated the successful completion of our May writing challenge. We’ve talked about celebration throughout the month–acknowledging that we weren’t particularly good at it! Thus we insisted on a timely bash at the end of the month.

Good food, good friends, gorgeous weather–what more could you ask for? (Well, perhaps a few less ticks from tromping in the woods.)

Thinking about celebration triggered a memory of singing Kool & The Gang’s Celebration in swing choir in junior high or high school (ages ago–who can remember for sure?). How can you not get in a celebratory mood when you hear this song?? (My head is bopping as I write…)

 

And my literary attempt for the day, in the form of an acrostic…

Capture
Every
Little
Effort
Bringing
Results
And
Take
Enjoyment

 

Yahoo!

The Challenge Has Been Met!

We’ve reached the end of May Manuscripts: 31 Days of Meeting the Muse. My goal was to: 1) produce something daily and 2) publish something daily (not necessarily the same thing).

Mission accomplished!

My stats:

  • Days of writing – 31!
  • Days of publishing – 31!

My unexpected stats:

  • Views during May – 344!
  • Views on my busiest day – 63! (Thanks, Mom!)
  • Followers – 20! (Really? Who wants to read what I have to say?!?)
  • Comments – 46! (Although I have to admit about half are my responses to others’ comments…)
  • Likes – 43 (No, they weren’t from me!)

Now, I know for those of you who’ve been blogging a while, all that is no big deal. But, gosh, don’t you feel a little bit of pressure as the number of Followers grows?? What if they don’t Like your writing anymore??

I started this challenge expecting to write for me, myself, and I—and my challenge buddies Linda and Wendy. What a great surprise to find all the support out there—THANK YOU!!!

I also found myself exploring other people’s blogs, so I’m now following blogs from 14 people that I’ve never met. They’re from all around the world. Some are writers, some artists, some musicians. Wow! I never knew how fun all this creative sharing (and learning!) could be!

Halfway through my challenge, I did a lessons learned post. To continue the list for the last half of the challenge…

Lesson 5: Challenge brings growth.

Like fasting for Ramadan or giving up chocolate for Lent, sticking with your challenge even when it is annoying or irritating or uncomfortable and you just don’t want to do it…stretches you. And when you’ve stretched that far you can say “Oh. That wasn’t so bad. I think I can do even more!”

In 2011 I wrote about 12 poems all year. This past month I wrote 10 poems! Most of them aren’t worth pursuing much further, but 3 or 4 are. Not bad!

Lesson 6: Support is essential.

Besides the unexpected followers noted above (again—yay!), my cohorts Wendy and Linda were tremendous. We checked in with each other via email almost daily. As all three of us are the introspective type, we frequently made observations about ourselves, our responses to our challenge, the shifts we felt, the resistance we ran up against. A debriefing session mid-way through the month, and a writing retreat 2/3 of the way through added to our sense of community.

Thank you, challenge buddies—you were my muses!!

Lesson 7: Just SHIP!

I read Seth Godin’s blog on a daily basis. One of his core themes is “Ship!” In other words, don’t just write and never share your writing. Don’t try for perfection – get the 80% solution out there. Ship frequently and make adjustments based on the feedback. Get your ideas or products out there for the world to use, enjoy, criticize.

The month of May provided a great lesson in shipping. Now that I’ve started, I’m not sure I can stop…

When to trim and when to chop

Am I the only one who grew up in a household where holidays meant extra house projects?

Our yard work has continued through this 3-day weekend, primarily in the form of hacking at bushes. My husband hesitated at first, timidly shearing the azaleas, then realizing the futility. The azaleas put on a spectacular show this spring, perhaps due to the gentle hand-clipper trimming last year, but now they had taken over the front yard.

“Are you sure you want me to chop them?” he asked. “I don’t think you’ll like how they’ll look.”

“Do it! Chop away! They need it!”

He hacked mercilessly and now they are indeed quite hideous, half the size and scraggly if not downright naked. Not to worry—they will grow back in a flash. (This is, after all, North Carolina—land of humidity and heat. Plants love it.)

Likewise, the privet hedge in the back yard shrank by half if not two-thirds. It had grown to the unmanageable height where the trimmers had to be held overhead. (The last time we tried that, someone ended up in the ER with a chopped finger.)

The privets look even worse than the azaleas. Spindly sticks with a few scraggly leaves. Like a bad comb-over. But at the same time—much much better.

So when to trim and when to chop? Well, as the non-plant-scientist in the family, my answer is this: when something is out of control, no longer serves its purpose, or requires a new form, hack away mercilessly. If it’s well-behaved, a trim will suffice.

When I write, I’ve learned that I do better when I generate more words rather than less so I can hack away—not indiscriminately, but unflinchingly—to find the right ones. I’ve learned that sometimes a trim is just fine. And I’ve learned that sometimes you have to hack away until the result is naked and ugly, but the space has been made for new words to grow.

Keeping Life Fresh

I bought flowers today, as I do many Fridays, taking advantage of the neighborhood florist’s TGIF half-price sale. I usually get two bouquets, one for the living room and one for the dining room. Today, instead of filling two vases, I decided to make one big arrangement. Hmmm. What made me do that? Hey, it looks good!

Then it struck me that I have been doing a lot of little things—very little things—differently lately.

I bought a new kind of sandwich bread this week. (Remember, I did say very little things.) Not the Oat-Nut-Multigrain-Whole-Wheat-Wheat-Berry brown bread I usually get. Oatmeal bread—whiter and softer than what I’m used to. Hey, it tastes good!

And…I bought a new salad dressing. And new mustard. (What can I say? I’m living on the edge.)

And…last weekend my husband and I walked to the art festival downtown—we didn’t drive or take the bus; we walked the 1.5 miles each way. It was a beautiful day.

And…on the way back from the art festival, we stopped at the new wine shop and bought bottle of wine—just to sit and sip on the porch that evening. Aahhh. It was a beautiful evening.

I realized today how infrequently I divert from my routine. I make the grocery list and follow it. I don’t like to grocery shop, so I want to get in and out. Efficient. Easier to stick with the tried and true bread, turkey, apples.

I wondered why I was noticing this very small shift recently. I wondered if maybe possibly perhaps it was related to writing every day in May, forcing myself to come up with something to post, looking at the world (sometimes frantically) to find something new to write about. I wondered if this shift started when I first sat in the bedroom chair—rather than the office chair or the living room chair—to read and write in my journal.

Perhaps letting go of routine and efficiency creates space for a little more playfulness. Perhaps it relieves the tedium of routine. Perhaps the tiny little changes keep life fresh.

So. How else can I keep things fresh? Hmmm. Maybe it’s time for different annuals in front of the house…vinca are so last year and the year before and the year before…

Small actions

After Sunday’s weeding of the vegetable garden, my husband and I scheduled more weeding projects throughout the week. Monday was the strawberry bed. Today was the flower garden along the front and driveway. After weeding comes trimming the bushes in the backyard, trimming the bushes in the front yard, then replacing the languishing pansies with vinca for the summer. Small 1- to 2-hour projects that we can complete in an evening without feeling overtaxed.

All the small efforts throughout the week lead to a well-tended, pleasant outdoor environment. And over the the weekend, we’ll do a goodly amount of front-porch sittin’—while admiring our handiwork.

I realized again how small actions add up as I’ve been compiling my poetry into some semblance of a book. I’ve written sporadically over the years—with an apparent gap of nearly a decade between any serious volume of writing if my computer Save dates are to be trusted. But I wrote. A poem a year, a quarter, a month, or even four in one week—huge variation. But small actions add up like compound interest.

As I’ve weeded through my poetry portfolio I’ve come to the conclusion I am quite well “diversified.” In fact I’m so well diversified that I’m not sure the collection as it stands hangs together as a complete whole. The upside? I now have a better sense of where to focus my writing to create that wholeness.

Bit by bit, small action by small action, poem by poem, I will get there.