When It’s Good, It’s Very Very Good; When It’s Bad, It’s Horrid


Post Cards From the Muse

When It’s Good, It’s Very Very Good; When It’s Bad, It’s Horrid

By Nandy Ekle

 

And, of course, I’m ranting about the computer. In today’s world, a simple pen and paper, or even a typewriter are archaic and hardly even worth thinking about. The corporation I work for during the day loves to think of itself as paperless, except for the actual letters we print to send to our clients. For old timers like me, those of us whose favorite things in the whole world are gel pens and Big Chief Tablets, this has taken a lot of work to appreciate.

And so, everything in the world is on a computer, out in cyberspace, up in the cloud. And in most cases this is very convenient and freeing. I especially like being able to do my research for a story sitting own my couch in the living room. I love being able to have all my tools in my lap because it all weighs less than five pounds. And most of all, I love having unlimited books, unlimited blank sheets of paper, and unlimited kegs of ink to use whenever and however I want. For these reasons, I love my computer, at work and at home.

But then there are the times when the computer refuses to work. These are times when my day job is totally crippled, even completely shut down. And the things available on my home computer are a distraction to my stories.

And those are the times that remind me of the poem of the little girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very very good. But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

 

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

R.I.P Brain


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

R.I.P Brain

By Nandy Ekle

The alarm rings at a mythical a.m. time. You rub your eyes and roll yourself to a sitting position. Then you hobble to the bathroom with one eye partially open. After your bath/shower and all your other bathroom duties are done, you style your hair, apply your make up, and head to your car.

The sun finally peeks over the horizon just as the traffic thickens and slows. You turn into the parking lot and race for the space closest to the door. As you trudge into the office the sun turns up the heat and your keys twist on your finger.

The computer is sulky and the programs are glitchy. The requests you deal with are confusing and you’re far behind where you should be in your duties.

By the time you get home your characters are screaming for attention. But you still have to prepare a meal and clean up. When the time comes for you to sit and talk with your characters, they have gone to bed.

Welcome to brain dead exhaustion. How in the world do we continue to write in this state? One thing we can do is to read the last couple of pages of the last thing we wrote. This will usually get the voice whispering again. Another thing we can do is read a few pages of a book we enjoy. This also turns on our creative juices. Deep cleansing breaths of oxygen, and maybe a few calisthenic exercises to get the blood to our brains. Set a word count goal. try your hand at some free verse writing.

If none of that works, start a new story. But whatever you do, write SOMETHING.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

D’Wannas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

D’Wannas

 By Nandy Ekle

The alarm rings and my eyes open long enough to turn it off, then they close again. I turn over and force my eyes open and feel the sand under my lids pull my eyes closed again. I roll out of bed, stumble into clothes and start my day. I look at the stove and the breakfast foods and all I can think is, “I d’wanna.”

I get to my desk at the office, turn on the computer and look at my tasks. The voice inside my head speaks up again. “I d’wanna.”

“What does that mean?” I ask the voice.

“This is not what I wanna do today,” it answers back.

“I wanna sit on the couch and play games.”

“We can’t do that,” I say. “We have things to do.”

“Oh, yeah? Like what?” The voice is insistent.

“We have to make our living, then we have stories to write.”

“D’wanna.” It stamps its foot like a toddler.

“Here. I’ll show you how fun is it.” The voice turns its head with mild interest. I put my hands on the computer and mentally open a door inside my head. A third voice joins the conversation as my character steps out of the room and begins to tell me her story. I type as fast as I can to keep up as the character’s voice gets louder and faster and pretty soon I’m having a ball.

Suddenly I realize the toddler’s voice, the one with the d’wannas is gone and my story is written and I feel satisfied.

Congratulations.  You have just received a post card from the muse.

Dreaming the Impossible Dream


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Dreaming the Impossible Dream

by Nandy Ekle

 

This is not a political rave or rant, but I will be talking about the night of the election. We sat in our living room watching the news reports on the television and the computer at the same time. When “the fat lady sang,” we migrated to bed since we had to get up early for work. I lay there for a while with my eyes open, then they closed and I fell asleep. That’s when the adventure began.

Behind my closed eyes a dangerous new character made his presence known. It started with a knock on my front door. When my dream self answered the knock, he pushed the door open, entered my house and began to ransack my living room. As my night wore on, this character continued to wreak havoc.

The next morning I woke up feeling like I had visited another planet. I went to work and tried to do my job efficiently, but the new character stayed in my head all day. He had messed up my night and was now effecting my day.

When I got home I grabbed my computer and began to write. I had the beginning of a story that I started, but then it went nowhere. My new character fit perfectly in this story.

Congratulatioins. You have just received a post card from the use.

The Zone


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Zone

 One of my favorite places to go for lunch every day is The Zone. I take my lunch and my computer and I sit listening to words without any distraction.

The Zone is not a quiet place; in fact, there’s a lot of commotion and conversation going on. There’s so much happening that sometimes I have to struggle to get it all down before it’s over. Emotions and feelings float around the room as well as thoughts and ideas. It’s a place I love dearly and always feel a little surprised when I get to go there.

The Zone is inside my head and it’s a place where the real world ceases to exist. I can listen to what my characters have to say and why they say it. I can watch what they do and why they do it. And I hear their thoughts and why they think it. When The Zone happens I feel as though I’m watching a movie in my mind and simply taking dictation. And usually, this is when I do my best writing.

I wish I could give you directions to get to The Zone. I will give you some, but it’s the kind of place that hides in shadows, like an island covered with mist. Sometimes your ship lands there with no problems, sometimes the island jumps around hiding from you. But there are some steps you can take that will help you find it.

First, take advantage of the time of day you are the most creative. Mine happens to be during the lunch hour. Sometimes I really don’t feel like writing anything until I boot up that computer and open up the word processor. Occasionally this is all it takes to get to The Zone.

Next, write a sentence. I’m not being contrite or snotty. Writing a sentence, not even necessarily a good one, but any sentence can be one of the hardest parts of starting a new story. You know the story, or at least you know some of it, but that first few words can be so intimidating. So show them who’s boss by writing them. If they aren’t the right ones, fix them later.

After you get a sentence written, close your eyes and listen to the character your story is about. If he/she is talking, the rest will fall into place.

Before you know it, you will discover that you only have thirty seconds left to clock back in to work. You’ll feel as if you just woke from a dream, only there will be pages and pages of words on your computer screen. That’s when you’ll know you’ve had lunch at The Zone.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

Why Do I Write


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Why Do I Write

From time to time I run across a writing exercise that asks the question, “Why do you write?” I have read other people’s answers, and they are as varied as face shapes. Some people write to make money, some write for release, some write for therapy.

I thought about my answer. Why do I write? I write to tell a story. I write to connect with people. I write for the fun of it. I write because I can’t stop. However, I think my favorite reason to write is the rush I get from creating. I love to sit with my hands on computer keys and my eyes pointed at the monitor. I get a thrill to feel a rush of words flow from my brain to my hands and then onto the screen. I get a little giddy when I come out of my “zone” long enough to realize that several pages have appeared and I had no idea I was even doing anything.

So, why do you write? Do any of the reasons mentioned above describe you, or is there a new one?

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

The Partner


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Partner

“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.”                      — The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

 You’ve written a masterpiece. The words flowed from the halls of your brain to your fingers and the story unrolled in perfection. Every symbol, every metaphor, every description is as shiny as a new penny lying on the sidewalk in the sun.

But what difference does it make? You push “save” on your computer, close the lid and lock your brilliance in the dark innards of technology. At this point you might as well have written nothing.

Along comes your partner. This is not a person who helps you do anything. This partner is not in on the brain storming or character naming, has nothing to do with the plot or setting, but they are every bit as necessary as your dictionary. This partner is your reader.

Without a reader, what are we writing for? Without someone to travel to your created world so they can fall in love with your created people and hope with them, endure with them, work with them, cheer or weep with them, what do any of our words mean?

Don’t be afraid to share your work with your readers. Send those stories off to be published so others can appreciate and enjoy the same journey you went through to bring the story out into the world.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle