Broken…With New Growth

Chopped tree trunk

Do you ever have one of those days where you’re all set to get work done, and you actually do get work done, but once you get all the very important things done, you just lose all motivation?

That’s exactly where I’m at right now.

I should have walked away from the computer, but I’m still compelled to feel like I’m doing something – so why not blog?

I woke up late and ever since then, I haven’t been able to really function at a normal human level.

I got up and headed out to take some pictures, and not one – not ONE – was suitable for a Zazzle product.

In fact, the only picture I really liked was the one I posted here – out of the 50 or so that I snapped.

But who wants a dead tree stump for a card?

I guess you can’t win every time.

But, I gotta say, this photo really reflects my mood today.

Not because it’s Halloween.  We live out in the country.  If there were a trick or treater that came to our door, I imagine it would be some kid with a BB gun dressed up as a ghost with his redneck mom’s sheets.

Oops.  I didn’t just say that.

We already went to a Halloween party the other night so I’m not that anxious to go out tonight.

But back to the photo.  See, it’s a tree stump from when the electric company came and had to cut down a bunch of trees to make sure that they don’t fall on power lines when it snows.

It wasn’t cut all the way and the little fibers that held the tree broke off as it fell, which is what you see in the picture.

Growing on the stump, already, are two different plants – and maybe young leaves from the original tree.

Cool how life does that.

I think I need to regenerate.  Feeling a bit devoid of the creative juices.

It doesn’t help that NaNoWriMo is starting tomorrow.

Yeah, I’m supposed to write 2,000 words as the start to my novel in the morning.

I’ve told people I’m doing it.

I’m gonna do it.

But, um, how are you supposed to open an epic novel?

I’ve been thinking about it for weeks.

I found a little relief in a book I’ve been perusing called “Becoming a Writer” by Dorothea Brande.

She and I could be friends.  She tells me that I’m the “uneven writer” whereupon I’ve actually started a novel before, but couldn’t sustain the story line after a few pages.

In my case, I started with a story about a Native American boy.  Went for 40 pages.  Then, I fizzled out.  I actually lost interest in my own story.

Now, that is sad when I can’t sustain my own interest.

But, that’s what an “uneven” writer is: “the inability to carry a story, vividly but perfectly apprehended , to a successful conclusion,” according to Brande.

One remedy to overcome this obstacle – which mostly afflicts newer writers – is to learn some tricks of the trade.

Can I hire a magician?  I want his tricks. Like now.

It’s a good thing I’m not employed as a tightrope walker.  Given my tendency for the “uneven” I would have fallen off that rope and (hopefully) hit the net.  The people would have demanded their money back and my sequined tightrope suit would be marred with the embarrassment of bad balance.

Whoa.  How did I end up talking about circus characters?

So, on the eve of novel-writing mania, I’m going to promise myself one thing: to keep writing, come hell or high water.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re not supposed to edit the story until December and beyond.

Crap.  What if I’m on p. 75 and I need to go back to p. 30 to add a foreshadowing scene?

Well, maybe I’ll just make it all part of the story anyways.

Oh lordy, I fear there will be many days I’ll be writing gibberish.  At least they’ll be words.

GULP.

One last note: I’ll be setting up a “photo log” of pictures I take after I’ve completed my writing task for the day.

It could be me, my notes, my insanity (if you can capture an image of that) or whatever other thing is relevant.  Not sure how that’ll work, but it’ll be an interesting experiment.

Happy writing into novela oblivion…

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Autumn Maple Leaves

Fall and Autumn

This is the photo I worked with today as I made Zazzle products.

It’s interesting what makes me “like” a photo. I mean, since I got my *fabulous* Sony camera back in June, I have taken thousands – and I do mean thousands – of photos.

Only a few ever make the cut, though.

On the day I snapped this photo of the maple leaves, I took 63 pictures.  Of all of those, I used 2.

Yes, just 2.

So what is it about all the other images that get nixed?

Well, I’m a perfectionist for one thing.  There’s no WAY I’m going to show the world less than my best.  I mean, that would be like some stranger seeing me waking up in the morning with wrinkled pajamas and hair that rivals the styles from the KISS band.

Then there’s the matter of framing and coloring.

If the image is askew, I might make you dizzy.

If it’s not colorful and I upload some drab-looking thing, well, you might think I myself am drab.

I most certainly am not.

I got pizzazz…

…and my photos will reflect that.  Even if they’re scenes from nature.  Even if I’m in a little bit of denial about my pizzazzable qualities.

Then there’s the whole blurriness factor.

It is amazing how I’ll think an image is perfectly sharp on my camera, and then when I open it on my computer, it’s blurry.

That drives me nuts.

I have lost so many images that way.

Actually, most of them are still on my hard drive, gathering virtual dust and clogging up the circuits.

Just like those papers you can’t seem to throw away that accumulate in dusty piles on your desk (well, my desk anyways), I can’t bring myself to delete them.

I mean, they just might come in handy sometime.

Why someone would need or want a blurry image of a dead leaf I’ll never know, but still.  I might have a need for a blurry, holey, brown, incapacitated leaf.  Sometime.  Maybe.

In any case, this photo was a winner because of the reds and the way the onset of decay reminded me of the fragility of life.

I’m sure you, the reader, have your own interpretation – hence the 1000 words idea for a photo.

You know one is good when you can think of a lot of things at once – right when you’re looking at the photo.

So, be honest.  Does this photo make you think of a lot of things at once?

I think of: red, autumn, fall, death, rebirth, cycle of life, sharpness, beauty, nature, last burst of life, maple, syrup, going to sleep, oncoming winter, silence, majestic, majesty, close-up view, cold, decay…and that’s just off the top of my head.

I admit, I’ve been staring at it all day, working with it on my Zazzle stuff.

If you can’t think of 1000 things right of way, that’s okay.  I won’t tell anyone about how you’re photographically challenged.  Your secret is safe with me.

And…I think I’ll end this post now, because, GULP, I need to be thinking of NaNoWriMo.  Good grief that’s some pressure.  I still have no idea how I’m going to write the opening scene of my book.  Um…maybe I shouldn’t do this after all.

 

Waiting

This pink weed is waiting…winter is coming and it’s still holding out with its beautiful flowers.

I generally try to post every day, but with family visiting and baking dishes yesterday, I didn’t get a chance.  My other excuse is that I didn’t know what I was going to write about.  It’s not for lack of having something to write, but figuring out if some of the things I want to write about would really fit here into my blog.  Eh, I guess I’ll just post what I’m thinking, right?

So I’ll post two today! One now, one later.

The picture above was taken just a couple days ago in my yard.  It’s a common weed, though I don’t know the name of it.  If you do, please let me know in the comments.

As I write this, Hurricane Sandy is moving up the coast.  I live in western NC, so I’m safe, but I have friends and family who live up and down the east coast and I feel for them.

I thought this picture would be fitting because it’s so symbolic of what’s going on in my life right now (and for a lot of people).

I’m in a “waiting” period.  If you know and follow this blog, you’ll know that I quit my regular-paying teaching job a few months back.  Like this flower waiting for winter, with the leaves falling all around, it continues its life cycle, waiting until winter will force it to start anew.

I jumped into the abyss.

I think “jumping” wasn’t actually the hardest part.  You know what’s going to happen with the actual jump: you’re going to land…somewhere.  In my case, I’m going to use a “water” analogy and say I jumped into the sea.

Years ago, I read this book called, “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow.”  I read it as I was thinking about going into teaching.  I was years younger – only 21 – and it didn’t really pertain that well to what I was doing.  I already knew what I was going to do: go back to school.

I suppose there was some measure of courage required, but I just figured I needed to go back to school to get my certifications.

Well, I didn’t dislike everything about teaching, but it changed me.  I couldn’t really “be myself.”  It wasn’t what I thought it would be at all.  Let’s just say that it wasn’t my life’s calling.  Somehow I knew that even as I finished student-teaching and secured my first teaching assignment.

But toward the end of my tenure, due to the recession, they kept telling us that we might get a pink slip.  They did that for four years.

I worked harder and longer to not get that pink slip.

Then one day I thought, this is so not what I want to do with my life, and I don’t want the school district to determine my fate – whether I get the pink slip or not.

I took my life into my own hands and jumped ship.

But now I’m revisiting that book, “Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow.”  It’s much more relevant to my life now.

I am in what’s called the “waiting period” – the time it takes between when you start your new gig and you start making a real income from it.

The waiting period is probably what’s hardest part for most people.  It’s one thing to jump ship and start swimming in the sea.  It’s another thing to maintain your stamina and stride until the lifeboat comes along.

That’s when most people quit because they can’t sustain themselves or they measure their success by the monetary gains.

I do not intend to quit.  I’ll repeat that: I DO.NOT.INTEND.TO.QUIT.

My life depends on it and I do need monetary gains.  But I don’t need to be rich.

I’m confident in my abilities.  I’m confident in my work.  It’s the treading water part that’s hard.  I guess I’ll just have to keep treading, and make a big splash when the lifeboat comes.

This is where I get to be creative.  While I’m waiting for the lifeboat, I’ll grab pieces of driftwood.

I’ll work on training and improving my abilities.

I’ll build my brand and take stock of my accomplishments along the way.

When sharks come, I’ll punch them in the nose.  It’ll be scary.  I mean who wants to look at all those rows of razor-sharp teeth while facing a formidable adversary head-on?  Besides, does punching a shark in the nose really work?

When I get tired, I’ll float on my back and rest up, and then continue treading.

Maybe I’ll find an island and not just a lifeboat.  Oooh.  It could be one of those legendary Treasure Islands…I might get to draw a treasure map!  “X” marks the spot.

Whatever the case may be, this waiting period, I know, will be the hardest.

But, I also know that there’s so much I can do while I’m waiting, and my photos are the result, as well as my writing.

So, enjoy the wait with me.  Take a look at my “scenery” and enjoy a writing rant here and there.  Look at my RSS feed for HubPages.  I DO enjoy some wacky grammar articles.

And don’t forget a life jacket!

Something About the Weekend

Took this photo yesterday – I just love the look of the wood against all the colors.

I am not sure if it’s the fact that the skies were very grey (due to Hurricane Sandy off the coast of North Carolina) or if it’s Saturday, but nearly half the things on my to-do list today have gone un-checked.

Of course, you’ll have days like that.  For the past month, however, every Saturday and Sunday, I seem to get less done than other days, even if I sit working at the computer all day.

I’m sure it’s all in my mind, of course.

We all know I’m slightly askew.

Maybe it’s just the autumn air.  How can you not take time to enjoy all the beauty in the colors and the bark on this tree that I photographed above?

Yeah, the plan was to work on Zazzle.  Check.

Write a hub.  Half a check.  It’s somewhere around halfway done.

Do some photography.  Nope.

Write a blog post.  I’m doing that…

I think I’ll just go watch a movie.

We’ve had this movie from Netflix sitting on the coffee table for about two weeks.

It needs to be watched.

And, apparently, the more I’m on here, the less productive I get.

So, I’ll just go enjoy the soup I made in the crockpot (pictures to come tomorrow…) and wait to finish that hub tomorrow.

Sometimes you just have to throw your hands up in the air and just say, “life is calling.”

You really gotta answer.

But before I go…

I wanted to share a few thoughts about that photo above.

My breath caught when I happened upon this tree.  Anytime you see the bark peeling off like that, you know it’s dying.

But, it’s dying alongside the leaves and with the season, to make room new growth, come spring.

It’s funny how that all works.  We all know it’s a cycle, but this image sort of slapped me upside the head with that notion.

I was walking along when all of a sudden, I looked up and stared.  Suddenly I thought, “whoa, that’s pretty cool.”

It was hovering over a small cliff at the edge of the road near where I live.  I definitely was being careful about where I was hovering.  You have no idea how accident-prone I am.

It was silently telling me that while it simultaneously reached for the heavens, it was pulling back toward the earth.

Somehow, I was very thankful I saw that tree.

Not that standing near a poor, dead tree is good.  But for that second, it reminded me to savor every moment.

I have to interject that I’m looking forward to moments of savory, buttered popcorn in just a bit.

Speaking of enjoying nature, though, I’m going to sign off and get unplugged for awhile.

Let me know in the comments what this photo makes you think of when you look at it.  I obviously thought quite a few quirky things – am I the only one?

New Developments and Some Pretty Colors

A pretty leaf near my yard.

I’m thrilled. At about 12:45 this morning, I was logging off (yes, I have a blog to maintain…I spend a lot of time on the computer) and I had this sudden revelation.

It was like a light going off (or on…why do we say “off”?), lighting up my brain.

I rubbed my eyes as if I was looking right at this bright light.

My posts are going to be changing a bit. Each day when I post, I’m going to include a photo that I’ve taken and will probably include in my Zazzle shop.

That is to say, I’ll include a photo that inspires me to write, or find a photo that coincides with what I’m writing about.

Well, today, I was on a walk and saw this leaf.

It got me thinking that as a creative person, a writer and a photographer, I need to spend a lot of time alone, contemplating and thinking about how I’ll compose an image or how I’ll create the next piece of written material.

So, yes, every post will include a photo that is intertwined with my writing – somehow.  Even if I find some crazy, inept clown on the road with a red nose, there will be a photo.

To that end, I’ll add that same “daily photo” to my gallery in case, you know…Ansel Adams’ grandson stops by and is like, “whoa!”  It could happen. It could happen.  Now just stop chuckling at me.

The next development is that as NaNoWriMo gears up November 1st, I’m going to start a photo series of my progression through the month.

Some days I’ll include a self-portrait, OR some sort of reflection of my progress. It’s a personal challenge to hold myself accountable – both with the written word and photographically speaking.

I’m not sure where all that will go, but since that seems to be the theme of my life for the last six months, well, I’m just going to run with it.

So if you find a picture of me hanging upside down dangling from some monkey bars, I’m sure it’s just a creative attempt to get the blood rushing back to my head in an attempt to be unorthodox.

If we’re going places with the written word and with the photographic journey, I’m also going to have a grand old time sharing tips, tricks, and writing funnies along the way.

Prepare for a wild ride.  Hold on to the handholds, keep your arms, legs and noses in the car, and don’t scream.  You can get some cotton candy after the ride is over.

Thoughts on Writing

T-minus 6 days til I start NaNoWriMo.

Wheeewwweeee!

I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.  I’ll tell you that right now.

But,

and it’s a big but,

I’m going to try.

I went to their website and funny, they had the following advice:

It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Really. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do it! But it’s also fine to just wing it. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what that story might be right now.

I actually posted that to Facebook because I thought other writers would benefit from that statement.

This is a photo I took the other day while on a walk. I feel like it fits with today’s post – I want to write a novel that I would want to read…and it starts with some…natural inspiration.

I have to say that that particular advice totally resonated with me.

When I was younger, my mom would always tell me, if you have a question don’t ask me.  Go read about it.

I love her for that.

She’d take me to the bookstore.

For some reason, she didn’t take me to the library – I don’t think she liked the idea of “borrowing” books and then trying to keep up with them.

But, whether it’s due to my mom urging me to read, having a natural inclination to reading, or a combination of both, I began a love affair with the written word.

I remember in 6th grade, I wanted to read the novel “Dances With Wolves” before I saw the movie.  I used it as an excuse to read a large novel for my book report – due in 1 week.  I didn’t like the book I was currently reading, so I switched.

I never, EVER, told my mom that I stayed up til 1 am reading that book for a week!  I remember being tired and irritable the entire time.  I completely ignored the fact that my bedtime was 8pm.

I would take my reading lamp, and my pillow and hide in the closet and read until my eyes would glue themselves shut.

Yeah, and I got an A on that book report.

When I was in 8th grade, I begged my mom to drop me off at the book store – for the thousandth time – so I could get some more books.

I bought this one called, “Mother Earth, Father Sky,” by Sue Harrison.  It was about a Native American girl in 5000 B.C. who survived incest and terrible abuse at the hands of her father.  It taught about many beautiful Native American rituals and fantastic stories that endured the tests of time. There were even words from the ancient language to learn.

A very insightful book.

I gave that book to my much older sister-in-law who, very perturbed, told my mother that I had read it.  She thought it way too much for a child my age.

I had to explain myself.

“I wasn’t scarred or scathed or even upset by the book,” Mom.  “I found it very educational and I didn’t even think anything of those adult scenes.”

It was the truth.  I just liked to read and I naturally knew some stories were more profound than others.

Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m constantly trying to keep track of 17 or more books from the library, and if I don’t know about something, I’ll check out everything I can on the subject to find out about it.

I have a long wish list at Amazon, too.

I even worked at a bookstore all through college.

Heaven only knows why I didn’t major in English.  Okay, well, I know.  I was afraid of writing papers.

Can you believe that?

At that time, I wasn’t very mature at writing, yet.  I was the first person in my family to go to a 4-year college.  My parents didn’t have the time to really read to me…or check my homework.  They were always interested in my studies, but they each worked 2 or 3 jobs at a time.

So, it was up to me to be a good student. I had to essentially teach myself to write well.  I didn’t arrive at that milestone until I went back for a second degree…in Spanish.

I actually began to enjoy poetry and writing better in Spanish than I did in English.

I finally found my writing voice.  I also learned a lot about English in the process.

During that time, I filled volume after volume of journal entries and regularly wrote long papers only in Spanish.

So now, more than a decade after graduating college the first time, I’m tackling the novel writing experiment.

Sure, I have characters in my head, and an idea of where I want the story to go.

No outline whatsoever.

I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I don’t know why.

Maybe I just want to see where the creative process will take me.

But maybe I am secretly thrilled that I have no idea where the story will really go.

I once read  in J.K. Rowling’s autobiography (of COURSE it was unauthorized) that when she wrote Harry Potter, she just wrote about what she wanted to read.

Awesome.

I want to read about a Mexican romance where some girl gets swept off her feet but there are forces at work that will threaten the relationship.  The guy is wealthy because he owns vineyards and the girl is a bookworm and works in a bookstore.

I want to read about twitchy characters and overcoming villainous nimwits.

I want to read about a strong heroine-type character who overcomes terrible odds.

I want to read something that will move my heart and I’m changed because of it.

Crap.  That’s a tall order.

Well, as long as I can go to various bookstores and get my fix of peanut butter milkshakes and a glass of wine in the evening and listen to some palladio music, I should be good.

 

 

Distinction

Earlier today, I read a post on a favorite photographer’s blog.  She talked about resources for bloggers, and how photographers are a dime a dozen in the blogosphere.

Then, another friend of mine was talking about niche blogging vs. personal blogging.

This got me thinking.

Thinking.   I am often caught thinking.

How in the hell do I distinguish myself from all the other photographers, all the other bloggers, and all the other people that seem to blog about everything that I’ve ever thought about?  Egads, sometimes I even dare to think I’m original in my thoughts.

Okay, I get that all human thoughts are pretty much recycled, save for the slang and gadgets that reflect the times.  (Google THAT!)

But, I don’t know the right answer to tackle the above question.

And I’m okay with being extraordinarily ordinary.

I’m not insulting myself, I promise.  Just bear with me as I walk you through my thinking process and wind back through time.

Once upon a time, when the land was still barren…

Oh, wait.  Not that far back.

As little as a few years ago, there were so many things that I didn’t embrace about myself: I wasn’t creative enough or I wasn’t a good enough teacher or I wasn’t kind enough or I wasn’t smart enough.

Then one day, some inner voice got really pissed off and just started yelling at me:

YOU’LL NEVER BE ‘ENOUGH’ IF YOU COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS.

Because, really, someone will always do things better and more creatively or whatever.  On the other hand, I will always be better than someone else and more creative, too.

The key is: run…but with yourself. 

This isn’t about self-esteem or unlocking the Pandora’s box of blogging, writing, or photography.

No, it’s about figuring out how to distinguish myself so that I can really build a following, so a little tiny bit of comparison might be okay.

It’s about being real and not fake.

It’s about creating a personal brand that people will recognize when they think of Pictimilitude.  Studying and reading other blogs is really a part of that.

I haven’t been in the blogosphere too long.  I’m a young chicken in that regard.

Many photography blogs that I’ve seen only deal with photography or photography tips.  I’ve seen quite a few, actually.

Many writing blogs deal with writing and writing tips.  I’ve seen lots of those, too.

Many personal blogs deal with personal stuff that is often uninteresting to read.  In equal measure, if you look at my blogroll, you’ll see that I have found a number of really interesting personal blogs to follow.

Um…somewhere along the line I made a decision to cross this blog with a bit of the personal, with a bit of writing and a bit of photography.

Can a blog like that make it?

Um…I haven’t come across one yet that’s quite like it.

So this is going to be a little experiment.

I’m going to plow forward and combine a little business with pleasure.

In my defense, I took one of those Myers-Briggs personality tests awhile back.  I remember the results actually resonating with me, even though I don’t always like the idea of “standardized tests.”

There was a line in there that said that whatever work I do has to mesh with my values and has to be an extension of what is important to me in life.

For awhile, it was teaching.  I loved helping people to become better than they ever knew they could be.  That gave me pleasure.

The stress of teaching, however, has driven me out of the profession. I personally don’t think it’s ethical to make a person work that hard and under that much pressure for such low, crappy pay.

That’s partly my fault: I’d say I’m very self-motivated and expect the same in others as I do in myself.  I’m totally an INFJ.

Yeah, I can be a little judgmental, but it’s etched into my genes.  Even science (with all its flaws) says I can’t help it.

So I’m thinking that when a person comes to my blog, they’re going to see that extension of myself: that discovery I see when I find a strikingly beautiful plant to photograph, or a beautiful river that is iridescent with color.

They’ll see that writing and the writing process is as integral to my very being as is breathing.

They’ll see that I’m often rather unorthodox in my approach to life.

And maybe they’ll buy into that idea.  Well, call me a cool cat and give me some kibble!

I love the idea that I can share my world and ideas and if someone wants to support that by buying a thing or two, that’s incredibly flattering.

But here’s the thing.  I owe it to myself to just be myself.  So, sometimes I’m going to get up close and personal.  I’m not going to apologize for it.  Customers and readers and hell, even the world will know exactly who they’re dealing with.

It’s just me.

Me with all my highs and lows.  Me with my aspirations and imperfections.

Me, vulnerable and standing proud.

Me, a writer, photographer and a blogger who values verisimilitude.

Because that’s Pictimilitude.

Of course, I would love to know your thoughts on all this.  Can you combine a little of the personal with a little bit of business?