My view from the cheap seats

I write a lot.

Oh, I may not write here, but trust me, when I get into a groove I write like a hypergraphic squirrel on cocaine.

I generally don’t talk about writing. For me, it’s a lot like fight club. The first rule about write club is you don’t talk about writing.  Most likely because I’m self-actualized enough to know that I’m hardly an expert at this, and I’m more likely to follow a plot bunny down a rabbit hole than steer someone in the right direction.

no idea who created this but I thought it was appropriate

Besides, there are other writers who do a much better job writing about writing. And that’s all right by me.

A friend’s tweet this past week made me think about how long I went on hiatus from writing fiction, and I figured it was about 18 years.  18 years, people!! That’s a lot of time! How does one go from daily manic scribblings to nothing? I wrote when all I had were lined paper in three-ring binders. My grandparents gave me one of those funky typewriters with a pre-correct window when I was a teen. My parents bought me a 3rd-hand 8086 computer that ran on DOS and 5.25″ floppies when I was in my early twenties — all because I would hog the “family” computer with my furious scenecrafting.  How do you stop doing that?

It’s easy. You get laid off from your first creative job out of college and find work in the tech sector. It took 18 years of trying to be technical at both work and home before I realized that it was burning me out. Now work is for work, and home is for writing, piano, knitting, and drawing. Not necessarily in that order (though I do try to make my word count every day). Keeping those two things separate has really helped my mental health. Really.

The husbeast is also a writer. He insisted on having a space of his own since he’s easily distracted. The folks who owned the house before us had an office on the second floor and a craft room in the basement. We decided to keep the status quo, and he moved his writing gear into the office. He has a pretty nice view of the garden. We recently relocated a sofa from the living room to his writer’s den, so he now has a place where he can write and stretch out to read.

This is where I lurk
This is where I lurk

My ‘studio’, however is in the craft room in the basement. It’s dark, and chilly, and packed with everything that doesn’t have a place elsewhere. It’s less an office and more a hidey-hole. I have two old IKEA desks and one of the two original hutches for book storage. The attached magazine rack is great for filing temporary paperwork and things I’d like to have within reach. The attached whiteboard has a tendency to become non-erasable, so I use it just for magnetic reminders. There’s a repurposed armoire or pantry that was left with the house that serves as storage for art supplies and computer storage, and a tall plastic drawer pedestal full of skeins of yarn.

The room was originally intended to be a washroom. There’s a  fixture for a toilet hidden under the far desk. I’d say that the basement was finished with the idea that it could eventually be turned into one-room flat. We’re more the single-family type, so for now it’s a rec room, yarn storage, and studio.  My office is great for those middle-of-the-night writing sessions, but not so great on nice sunny days when there are green things budding on the trees. I’m pretty sure that when summer comes, I’ll be retreating to it just to get away from the inevitable repressive heatwave. I’ll slip down the stairs, slink into my office, turn on the lava lamp, and hide from the heat.

The view from the kitchen table
The view from the kitchen table

Today is not that day.

I camp out at the kitchen table on my laptop and watch the birds at the feeder while I write. There are green things starting to take over the trees, and plants in my window that catch the sun and shadows in interesting ways. I get to see the neighbour let her dog out into the backyard, and hear the folks next door playing loud music while they  fire up the grill.

I get the bulk of my writing done in the evenings before work, so I move around between paragraphs, starting dinner and getting food on the table while mulling over the next scene that will take me from point A to point B. It’s a fairly zen method.

Creative Distractions
Creative Distractions

I also keep a few creative distractions lying around if I’m not fighting for space on the table. My knitting output has suffered greatly since I decided to shoot for a 1000-words-per-day goal. That doesn’t mean that I can’t do a couple of rows while I mull over the direction a scene is going. I’m also trying to clear my Goodreads queue, so I’m working through the books still on my current list. Every so often I get distracted by something like Hellboy or a new novel, but otherwise I’ve been doing well at sticking to my goals.

It makes me wonder, though…what do the creative spaces of other people look like? How do other people organize their craft? How does it fit into their lives?

If you have any answers, feel free to add them to the comments. I’d love to know 🙂


Testing the RSS feed…

Awhile back, my webhost did some upgrades to his server(s), and tried to also do some improvements. The best plans of geeks and men fell flat, and we wound up with some weird bugs. One of which was some busted permalinks. Next, I noticed that the hit count had gone down significantly. What this translates to is either I’m being more boring than usual (and thus my ego takes a bit of a punch) or what I’m writing isn’t getting out to the rest of the world.

Maire enters debug mode (and starts talking in the third person). Debug mode is annoying because it means I lose valuable knitting and vegging time to actually working, but things get done and despite my best efforts, I actually learn something useful (damnit).

Because my custom permalinks were pooched, I’d gone back to using the default permalink structure That means nothing to you, dear reader, but somehow it changed my RSS feed.  This DOES affect you, as you might be using something like Google Reader to get the heads-up that there’s a new post instead of checking my website every day. And that’s OK. I use Google Reader too. I love it. I became concerned when I didn’t see my own posts in it (and there have been a few in the past couple of weeks!).

I turned plugins off and on, and checked the web for help, and finally figured out that the website had changed a bunch of things all on its own and hadn’t told me about it. You’d think it had gained sentience and was playing coy.  It took about 2 hours, but I found the changes and have updated things, so hopefully this post (and possibly the last 2 weeks worth of posts) are now syndicating again.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I haven’t been avoiding you, Internet (and real life) Friends. My blog has been b0rked.

Just as an aside, I was considering giving my poor web host a break and just transferring everything to a pre-canned WordPress or Blogspot blog. Any thoughts on the matter? Also, if anyone is a self-hosted WordPress guru and has any idea why I might be having issues with permalinks, rss, etc – even after reinstalling WordPress – I’d sure love some feedback! I’m all about the tips & tricks, yo 😉

Goodbye February

I’m not going to lie and get all wishy-washy about the month coming to a close.  February and I have been at odds for a couple of decades now, so I’m not going to be too heartbroken about it ending.

Yeah, you heard me, February.  Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.

That may sound a little harsh, but February and I have history.  Not all of it pleasant.  It’s lucky it’s a short month, because even by the second week, I’m getting all Februaried-out.  By the end of the month, I’m glad to see March striding into the room.

February is generally the month of broken promises.  It’s when it dawns on you that you totally did a 180 from all of your New Years Resolutions.  It’s when you’re positive that you put away all the Xmas decorations…and then wonder why there’s a Rubbermaid tub full of ornaments still camping in a corner of your living room. It’s an emotional tug-of-war, as half the people you know go crazy over the love of their life, and the other half get violently ill at the Hallmark Holiday.

Robin wanted to make February a happier month for me this year….and got sick.  We’re still working through the aftermath of that.  It interrupted our plans, and we’re still trying to recover.

My hopes going forward?
– Clean up the diet
– Start working out again
(These might seem like a no-brainer, but in a world of convenience food and electronic entertainment, it gets more difficult every day)
– Get a podcast not only recorded, but edited and released to the public
– Clean the basement, organize the craft room & get the workout equipment in the same room as the TV

Here’s hoping March treats us a little better.  Maybe with an 11-month hiatus, February will learn to smarten up and clean up its act…

Missed it by *that* much…

There have been so many things going on around here lately, that something got away from me entirely, and wasn’t remembered until I had a moment to stop and think.

I’ve been blogging for about eleven years now!  My 11th Blogoversary just passed, on February 21st.  At that point, I had the domain for, but I was using it just as a portfolio and personal website.  Nowadays, a site isn’t complete without a blog.  Back then, who wanted to see a series of essays on a theme, or a run-on journal?  Most folks wanted just a small place to showcase their personality and, if they were talented enough, their work.

I started off with Blogger.  I think there were a few of us in the office who were giving it a try, mostly the women.  After awhile, I tried getting our web host, the wonderful Colin, to whip something up for me in mySQL and PHP (which he did, but it was less than elegant, I’m sorry to say).  I fought with the manual coding for awhile, and I think that’s about the time I installed Movable Type.  That was a sort of halcyon period for my designing…I was living with Robin and Mike (very creative atmosphere!), and Movable Type was very easy to design for.  It had the necessary tags to call the back-end coding into play, but you could get away with just plunking them into a fairly static template.  Wordpress was still in its infancy.  A lot of Web Design chicas cropped up and made the community on the MT boards a lot of fun.

It didn’t last, though. I next moved to Livejournal.  I still keep a backup of this site over there.  Movable Type was going to a more commercial scheme, and those of us who didn’t want to pay for it basically went elsewhere.  I went to Livejournal, made most of my posts “Private”, and stayed there until I decided to resurrect inkyblack with a better sense of direction.  Thank goodness for importing.

We’ve been using WordPress since then.  As mentioned, LJ is the backup, in case things go haywire (which they did last year when Colin lost the server to old age).  It was a reminder that sometimes you just have to try and plan ahead for contingencies. I’ve been using standard templates while I try to figure out the tagging and PHP system that WordPress uses.  Hopefully I’ll have that figured out soon enough.

That brings us here, though, eleven years later and hopefully older and wiser.  Don’t bother going and looking for those really early posts…they’re still locked as “private”, and that’s probably a Very Good Thing Indeed.  I tried reading some of them earlier and wound up wincing so much that I thought I might develop a permanent squint.  My writing has developed a LOT since then.

Many bloggers hold contests for events like this.  Sorry to say that I’m not one of them!  For starters, we missed the blog’s 10-year milestone, and secondly, I have nothing to give away!  Might as well wait for the 15th Blogoversary for that!  What I *can* offer is better writing (hopefully), a fairly nicely produced podcast, and the knowledge that I’m working on making the site prettier and more navigable as time goes on.

Happy Belated blogoversary folks, particularly to those of you who have been reading for the past eleven years.  You know who you are!  Thanks for the comments, the constructive critiques, and company!  You have no idea how much I enjoy all of them 🙂

A post per day?

I belatedly came across the knowledge that November was NaBloPoMo* (National Blog Post Month).  There was a part of me that was a wee bit upset that I missed it.  After all, posting every day and actually having something to share is one heck of a challenge.  I suppose that it’s a good thing that I missed it, because I don’t think I was quite up to the challenge.  It’s taken me a while to get back into the writing habit.

Today, though, one of the web development blogs I read mentioned that WordPress has decided to start up a “blog post per day/week” topic service called The Daily Post. I’m somewhat familiar with this concept…there are memes that provide you with topics, and Livejournal had some topic prompts that you could use if you were stuck.  I always thought that this seemed a little cheesy, mainly because it was always something like “What’s your favourite colour?”  That said, I’m considering giving it a try.  I’m not going to promise that I’ll be able to post every day, but I’m shooting for about three days per week.  It’s all practice, and practice makes perfect.

And now, apropos of nothing, a picture of the kitty.  D’awww… 🙂

*Apparently NaBloPoMo is now available *every* month, not just November.  This is not a bad thing.  It means that if I can’t think up a topic and the Daily Post is too cheesy, maybe the NaBloPoMo topic will be a good backup resource. I’m sure that there’s an archive of past topics to pick & choose from.  Whee!

Sometimes it’s the simple things

Remember that whole pretending to be grown up thing I was talking about?  We’re making a pretty concerted effort to be more aware of what’s going on, and it’s really paying off.

This is what it looks like around here tonight.  We’re finding that with both of us working on our respective writing, we can actually find ways to do so together.  I’m blogging on the laptop while he enjoys writing in his notebook with his new fountain pen (a Lamy Safari, for those who are curious).  We’re both enjoying the music from the stereo and sipping our tea, and munching on biscuits.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that make you happy.

My co-worker Jean surprised me a couple of days ago.  His wife is a spinner, and quite awhile ago I had expressed an interest in knitting with handspun.  Before I knew it, she had sent along a gorgeous 2-ply of merino/silk.  I still haven’t knit anything with it, but I think it will likely become a shawl(ette).  I mentioned to him recently that since I started spinning last year, I need to start hoarding stashing accumulating more fibre.  I’m sure the husbeast would disagree with me, but nothing keeps you from spinning like the threat of running out.  Next thing I knew…Jean was handing me a large shopping bag full of wool.

You could have coloured me “flabbergasted”.  In addition to a book, there’s some beautiful burgundy Corriedale, some gorgeous blue silk/merino, and a huge 1 pound, 4 oz of what I suspect is processed fleece.  I’m not certain, though, but it sure looks like quite a bit to keep me spinning for awhile!

Even better?  Cassy is getting into felting, and sent along “soap in a coat”, some hand-made soap in a felted case that Jean swears lathers up really well *and* looks nice on the soap dish.  It smells lovely.

Oh yeah.  I owe someone some Christmas Cookies at very least.  Probably the ones that every claims are as addictive as crack…

(If you somehow manage to find my website, Cassy, please know that I am totally bewildered and hope to actually meet you in person sometime so I can let you know just how much I appreciate all you’ve done to encourage my wool addiction hobbies) 😀

Press Release

Today’s post is courtesy of Chelsea, who started making up stories when Robin switched to another Rockband character (not his usual Lance  Pyston) in order to make her some monies to buy clothes to make the backing band look cool.

Lance Pyston

Lance Pyston’s meteoric rock career looked like it was due for a stall when the renowned guitarist reported a repetitive stress injury to his right wrist (eff you, he got it playing guitar) and a strict six months off the axe in the midst of an 81 date international tour.  But rather than cut a tour short, Pyston hired a series of stand in guitarists and took on the role of lead vocals for the tour, introducing the rock world to unsung stars.

Frankly, Rolling Stone doesn’t know what to make of it, as all Pyston’s choices for chops have been chicks.

But the big surprise of the international tour has been an online run of Lance Pyston-endorsed wrist braces, styled with studded and tooled leather depicting nautical tattoo motifs. Braces have been flying out of the warehouse and command sums in the thousands on e-bay. In six months, Lance Pyston has generated more income from medical devices as he has in the last two years of the extensive, gruelling tour schedule he’s maintained since superstardom.

Last night Lance appeared on stage long enough to tune a guitar and strum a few chords. Fans went mad, and the 17 second YouTube video has netted a half-million views.