Influenced While Writing

I was finishing up a meeting today when a friend called to break the news about Linkin Park front man, Chester Bennington.  I hadn’t received any notification via CNN or ABC News on my phone and when I went to their webpages all I saw was news concerning the upcoming release of OJ Simpson.  I had to run to another meeting so I hung up the phone and continued my search for news about Chester.  All it took was a quick visit to Twitter and there it was, a tweet from Mike Shinoda letting everyone it was real news.

I’m not a die hard fan of Linkin Park but I did see them during their Carnivores tour and I’ve bought almost every album.  Honestly, I knew them as the band where the lead guy screamed the lyrics and I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to be screamed at for a long period of time.  After my own small identity crisis (that can be more for a later time) I started listening to Fort Minor which led me to Linkin Park (thanks Mike Shinoda), right in time for Minutes to Midnight.  It’s not everyone’s favorite but it definitely sealed my love for LP.

I was excited with LP’s latest release, even if it has a strange, sad undertone.  Heavy was released first and I wondered what would cause such dark struggle.  My depressed characters gravitated towards it and also wanted to push it away, there was something which hit deep for them and their own internal mind games.  And then, when their tour was announced I was thrilled to buy tickets and see them at Citi Field.  And now, everything changes.

This song was my ringtone for a long time, it wasn’t that I was depressed or thinking about loss, I just thought it was beautiful.  Now, it’s fitting.

“And the shadow of the day
Will embrace the world in gray
And the sun will set for you”

Thanks, Chester and Linkin Park, for the lyrics and for being an influence on my writing.  Rest in Peace.

Shadow of the Day – Linkin Park

Finding Motivation

Quote: You fail only if you stop writing. - Ray BradburyI’ll admit it, I’ve been through a writing dry spell lately.  At least, novel writing.  I still get the same old clips and phrases and prose, which tend to roll out of me when I’ve been inspired by a song or visual stimulation.  (Have I mentioned before I have a love of landscape photography?)  I have started more than 2 novels and have a notebook full of ideas for more novels.  So, why then can’t I settle on one idea?  There are numerous excuses I could post here, including many which would explain my blogging hiatus.  But, at the end of the day, it’s just that I have not cracked my knuckles and felt the keys fly under my fingers as I get a solid idea put on screen.

It’s been a year since I finished my first novel.  A book which took me 5+ years to pluck from the depths of my dreams and believe it was worth telling.  My goal was to complete it by the time I turned 35, the bonus would be if I could find representation and/or a publisher to start the ball rolling on getting it out there to readers.  35 is right around the corner…  I’ve finished and I had Sunday Submissions set aside and somehow, I submitted to Sunday and the craziness of life.  Time to whip myself back into writer shape.  It’s time to really focus and get this going because this dream isn’t going to just come on a fluffy pillow presented by some footman from the days of old.  Nope, this is an elusive one I’ve got to chase down.  The chase is on, my friends.

Writer Wednesday

In speaking with my critique partner, or maybe it was more like grilling with questions, lol, I found out they wanted more about one of my secondary characters.  Granted, this secondary character is crucial to the story and eventually, no matter how much I want to stuff the character in a box, they would eventually get their own book.  I can’t say they’d ever get a happy ever after, it’s just not my style, but they would certainly get a fitting end.  I asked my CP if they thought a novella explaining the character’s circumstanced might have helped them understand the character’s positioning in the book.  My CP said yes and the secondary character lunged for their turn in the spotlight.

I went back through the book, to ensure I got the character’s details correct, and all of a sudden big new ideas started to form.  I heard dialogue first and definitely had curiosity about what my character wanted me to know about them and hear in the scene.  I could glimpse in the distance the cinematic feel to the opening.  And then my character opened their mouth to confront someone and my whole perspective on the character changed.  I’m excited to dive in and see what happens next.

Friday Reading – The Beatles

Ob-la-di Ob-la-da Life goes on - The Beatles*Side note: A little late posting, but thanks to scheduling it’ll still look like it was posted on Friday <grins>.

I love The Beatles.  Quite a few of their songs are my “go-to” songs when I need a pick me up or need to find a little inspiration.  From their early songs, like “Love Me Do” to the latter ones, like “Something” their catalog is diverse and I love it.  I picked up The Beatles Lyrics, Edited by Hunter Davies, this past week and I’m really looking forward to digging in.  Maybe not to some of the speculation around what John or Paul or George meant by a certain phrase, that’s a bit like interpreting poetry without asking the poet if you ask me, but definitely to the parts where the editor actually knows what the musicians were thinking.  I love seeing all the rough drafts and all of the thought process and creativity at work.  Makes me feel a bit better about all my napkin ideas!  I’m crossing my fingers it’s not a bust.  Happy Reading!

Differentiation

Write from the soul, not from some notion about what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal. - Jeffrey Carver

I absolutely love this quote.  Not because it’s from some famous author or millions of other people have photoshopped it and shared it for inspirational boards on Pinterest.  I love it for the simple fact it echoes everything I feel when I write.  I have never been one to conform to anything and when pushed, I almost always go the opposite direction.  My first novel is, at least to me, a bit unconventional in I can’t put it in one genre.  I fought a few rounds of editing, trying to rewrite passages I’d already poured blood, sweat and tears into, in order to make it fit more into a mainstream genre.  It was rather tortuous and almost all of those changes where tossed out for the original plot.  The characters were not happy, I wasn’t happy and I’m certain the muses were not pleased as I tinkered.  But, how else will I be able to sell it?  For publishers the book needs to be marketable but also differentiate from all the other books on the market.  It’s a tall order when really I just wanted to give some love to characters who have been developing in my brain for, at least, the past 15 years.  I’m ok with it not fitting squarely in one genre though, it’s the story I wanted to write.  So, as I get ready to start the next project, I’ll take this advice to heart.  I’ll write what I feel is best and what makes me happy.  At some point or another, someone besides myself will love it.  Right?

Friday Reading – With a Twist

If you show someone something you've written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, 'When you're ready'. - David MitchellI handed over my manuscript to my critique partners last week, it’s been a long ass week.  I am a curious person by nature, I love to be in the know, so it’s extremely hard for me not to be asking questions about how their reading progress is going.  I’m also not the most patient person, waiting around for feedback may be my downfall.  I’ve had people read sample passages, chapters or contest submissions before, but this is possibly the worst.  It’s my first time, so I know I’ve got to cut myself some slack, but seriously, cue the self-loathing and anxiety meds.

Just a Smidge About Me

It’s Writer Wednesday.  Since everyone has been nice enough to read the first couple of posts where I have shared some embarrassing facts about myself, I thought I’d share a little more about me.  So, who is SH Burgess?  Well, read on.

Imagine your favorite coffee shop, breathe in the smells of the freshly brewed coffee and the music being piped over the speakers on some unique-to-the-coffee-shop station.  There is the typical amount of chatter in the room as people take conference calls, squirm in the faux leather chair or squeak their metal chair across the floor to peer closer into their phone or laptop.  You observe from your corner of the room an average-height female, yoga toned and blonde hair piled in a messy but perfectly coiffed bun.  You strain to hear her order a cup of coffee and find she’s ordered a tea, her accent a surprising but pleasing Irish lilt.  A foreigner in the States, maybe on “holiday” as she’s most likely to call it.  You try and hide behind your cup of coffee so she doesn’t notice you continue to watch her as she collects her tea, adds loads of milk and sugar to it and then sits at the bar in the front window.  She pulls a laptop from her bag and you notice she’s busy writing what appears to be a manuscript.  An author, you think.  She must write wonderfully magical tales about rolling green hillsides and music filled nights of sitting around a pub.  Satisfied with the career choice you’ve given her, you sit back in your chair and continue to drink your coffee.

The Irish woman, that’s not me.  I’m short and non-athletic and would most likely be the person screeching their chair across the floor and spilling my coffee while trying to observe everyone else in the room.  So, why the quick visual?  Well, because everything on inside of me screams, “aye, you’re Irish” while the genetic makeup on the outside would say “have you checked yourself in the mirror?”  Friends who read this will laugh and most likely shake their head as I’ve told everyone for well over half my life now, I’m Irish.  I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with this and I can tackle all the fun I’ve had with being Irish in a future post, but for now, we’ll just leave it at, it took a while for me to find an identity when I was young.  The Irish, they danced and sang their way into my heart, not to mention their food is just incredible.  Oh, and they have Guinness.

What is true?  I’m a thirty-something writer who lives in the great state of Virginia.  I’ve lived here almost my entire life and I love it.  I’ve just completed my first novel, see my first post, and now I’m working on feeding the muses and picking out my next project.  I’ve been a writer for the majority of my life.  I’m always escaping somewhere, whether it’s through my own quick creation or through movies or books.  I’m an avid reader and shameless book hoarder.  I have worked a variety of jobs through the corporate world as well as had some of the best summer jobs possible.  I love music and I constantly have it playing in my house.  I have to write with music, right now I’m listening to Gregory Alan Isakov’s “The Stable Song”, love it.  Once I find a song I love, it’s put in my collection and played to death.  And that’s about it, just a normal, everyday person who loves to write and can’t wait to see her book sitting on a shelf somewhere.  Yes, I know.  I actually want a printed book, not an e-book.  Maybe I am weird?  I am definitely Irish.

Creative Spark

I’ve often wondered how the creative spark knows when to strike.  Is it really the Muses?  Do they sit back and watch us poor struggling writers and then go BAM (ala Emeril Lagasse style)?  I imagine they then switch to their best Oprah impression and declare everyone a winner of some new idea, whether it’s a fabulous one or not.  Whomever is responsible, I’d like to request inspiration wait to hit me until I’m out of the shower.  I do receive a lot of late night inspiration, so I’m going to assign those ideas to the Muses and assign my poor mal-functioning, un-caffeinated brain the responsibility of shower ideas.

Perhaps I’ve trained my brain to create in response to the sound of rushing water and like Pavlov’s dog response to a bell, water equals ideas.  I, of course, think all of the ideas are genius and curse at myself for not having thought of it sooner.  Some arrive fully fleshed out!  Characters show up and engage in witty conversation and I know it’s dialogue for some project I’m working on.  If my neighbors could hear me they’d certainly think I’m mental.  My family doesn’t count; they’ve already heard about many of these conversations and they’re stuck with me.

There’s only a small, tiny problem.  There’s no way to write it down fast enough.  My brain powerwalks to the next idea like I do when I see cake put out at a function.  Not only is my brain excited and devours a new idea, it aptly forgets what it was doing beforehand.  I come out of the shower sparkling clean from triple hair washes and frustrated from lost ideas.

I’ve rushed out to write something down before, but soggy paper and especially a soggy phone are not ideal.  I also have a cat whom I feel finds perverse joy in tripping or swiping at me to show her love of being adopted.  I remember another author once saying she had the same problem, so she took to writing on her mirror and shower walls with lipstick and an eyeliner pencil.  Her partner questioned some of the notes left behind when they described fight or murder scenes.  I’m pretty certain I’d run into the same thing.  Not to mention I hate cleaning and it would take daily elbow grease to clean it all up.  There’s a possibility it would look like a crazy person’s stay in a psych ward.

So, dear Muses or sleepy brain or the person supplying the creative spark, now that I’ve harassed you and complained about your visits.  Please don’t stop.  But, if I could have tiny wish, please just alter your visitation plans.  Or drop me some memory exercises so I can retain all the good ideas, not just the well cleaned hair.

Finished!

I’m done.  I’m finished. I can’t quite believe it. After several years of writing, editing, re-writing and toiling over my first novel, it’s completed.  I know there will be room for more edits, I feel as though I find one every time I review it. But, I have to put the pen down or rather fingers off the keys and allow others to toil and fret over it while I nervously chew my fingernails and wait for feedback.  I figure I’ll take a moment to breathe before embarking on the next story path, so why not fill the time and start an author blog, because yes, that’s what I feel like I am officially now.

I’ve dreamt since I was a little girl of being a writer. No, of being more than just a writer, I’ve dreamt of being an author.  Perhaps for many there is no difference between the two, they’re synonymous, but not to me. A writer is someone I’ve always been; the creative spirit has needed a channel to flow forth from within and writing was an escape for that river.  I loved writing stories in elementary school and creating new worlds with talking animals.  In my angsty pre-teen and teenage years I found how cathartic journaling could be, and I had my first visits from characters who wanted to tell me their secrets.  I also fell in love with brooding, tortured, leading male characters, but that’s certainly a post for another time.

Towards the middle of high school, I found poetry. The non-rhyming, passionate and storytelling kind.  I was so shocked at the way it broke all rules and was so powerful in a modern way.  I became obsessed with conveying character points of view through pages and pages of poetry.  Most of it is in the bin, never to be recovered. And then in college, full blown characters would come and sit and distract me in the margins of my college ruled notebooks. They’d whisper a simple phrase or show me a certain look and my imagination stuck to it like glue, clearly not interested in urban planning or constitutional law.

I entered the corporate world, ready to tackle anything and do my best and to succeed like all of my friends in their careers.  Only, the characters in my brain kept multiplying and spinning new worlds.  They raised a ruckus and it started to get a little crowded.   So, I gave my most cherished characters life on paper.  And thus began the book.  I’d write a snippet here and a passage there, mostly after midnight when I had free writing time. I wrote when the mood stuck and when each character wanted to talk.  Their timetable was never convenient, nor were the muses very kind some days and months, gifting me with dry spells and writers block.  But the call of the author still urged me on.  I read other books and just knew I could do it too; I could join the coveted author ranking.  I was able to quit my job and in between focusing on domestic goddess status and wasting time on social media, I wrote a book.  And even if this is my only book, which I doubt, I can still say I’m now an author.  SH Burgess, Author. I’m not going to lie; it feels pretty damn good.