Saturday, December 29, 2012

Feel Good Friday: Panda Slide

                     Yeah, yeah, I know I'm a day late.  What with Christmas and all, I kinda forgot about it until yesterday morning, and then I wasn't able to find something I wanted to share before I left for work.  That said, have some playing pandas.
                      From the Chengdu Panda Base website:  The Chengdu Panda Base was founded in 1987, with six giant pandas rescued from the wild.  Today (2008) our captive population has increased to 83 individuals from that founding population of only six.  Genetic diversity in the population is sustained by the exchange of preserved genetic material with other facilities.  We are very proud that we have not taken any giant pandas from the wild for 20 years.  This demonstrates our unique and uncompromising commitment to the conservation of the wild (in situ) population and the healthy growth of the captive (ex situ) population.

Lots of Love,

Monday, December 24, 2012

Celebrating Christmas

                  As Christmas has drawn steadily nearer, I have found myself, somewhat to my own surprise, honestly excited for the coming holiday.  My surprise stems from the fact that I have not identified as Christian for a couple years now, and with no traveling to do or small children to plan for, I fully expected that Christmas would pass more or less like any of the more minor holidays, save for the inescapable music.  Yet the closer the day in question, the more I have found myself anticipating it.  Never mind that I knew I would be working through the holiday, or that I would be unable to do much in the way of gift-giving - somehow the approach of Christmas filled me with a child-like joy I have not experienced since leaving home.
                  Earlier this month, I saw Rise of the Guardians in theaters.  While not a Christmas movie, it does have Santa Claus in a major supporting role.  In one of my favorite scenes, Santa explains that at his core, his purpose is to bring wonder into the world: Seeing the world with new eyes; giving a fresh look to the possibilities and magic contained in everything around us.  This, I think, is what I have been feeling since Thanksgiving: a renewed sense of wonder.  I still do not understand why, but frankly, I don't think it really matters.
                  Merry Christmas everyone.  Have a wonderful holiday, in every sense of the word.
Lots of Love,

P.S.  If you haven't yet, I really encourage you to see Rise of the Guardians before it leaves theaters.  Here, have a trailer:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Feel Good Friday: Life Vest Inside

                 Today I'm trying what I hope will be a new weekly tradition: Feel Good Fridays.  Every Friday, I will find an inspiring story, poem, or video, and share it with you.  The only criteria?  When you are done reading the blog or watching the video, you should feel warm-fuzzy happiness.  If I'm lucky, you may even be inspired by them.  So without further ado, here is your first Feel Good Friday, a beautiful video by the non-profit organization Life Vest Inside.
                  From the Life Vest Inside website:  Charity work and community service are invaluable tools for bettering our world, but kindness is more than good deeds or volunteerism alone.  Kindness is empathy, compassion, and human connection; it's a smile, a touch, or a comforting word.  Even the smallest gesture can brighten a dark day or ease a heavy burden.  LVI works to cultivate the awareness that individuals can effect real and positive change in the people around them, simply by 'living kindness:' by embodying empathy and compassion in our day-to-day lives.  LVI seeks to spread kindness and goodwill through the sharing of Acts of Kindness Cards, connecting our users to various inspirational media through film and the Internet.  And further through the implementation of our Social Emotional Learning Program.

                  What do you think?  Shall I keep doing Feel Good Fridays?  Do you have a story or video you'd like me to share next week?  Leave a comment or send me an e-mail!  I look forward to hearing from you.

Lots of Love,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Power of a Memory

                    After sharing my memory of one of the harshest parts of my depression, I have been thinking about the power of sharing personal experiences.  Mental illness is one of the least understood problems in first world countries (possibly in the world), and it is made all the more difficult because the average person who does not have a mental illness may have no context to understand what a sufferer is going through.  Add to that the huge variety of mental and emotional illnesses, and the dozens of symptoms which may or may not present in any given case of even a single illness, and it becomes nigh on impossible.
                    Especially in the United States, where terms like "psycho" and "retarded" are tossed around as casual insults as well as to describe people with mental illnesses, there is an enormous stigma and shame that tends to be associated with any one who admits to needing mental help.  I don't mean to imply that there hasn't been great progress toward closing that sympathy gap, because there has, especially in the last decade.  But most people, if they have any non-personal exposure to mental illness at all, know merely a list of signs or symptoms.  The transition from knowing that list, to being able to imagine experiencing it, for many people, is simply a jump too big to make, despite their best efforts.
                    This is why I have been considering a long term project to write a book that would allow those who suffer from mental illnesses to share their experiences in their own words.  I know that right now I am not really qualified to attempt to compile such a book.  I would have to be much closer to my counselor's license, if not actually holding it, and I would have to be very careful about disclosures and conflicts of interest.
                    But I think that a book of first person descriptions like the one I shared might make it a little easier for others to understand.  And it wouldn't just be personal accounts:  In this vague idea I have for a structure, I would introduce and follow each memory with information about the illness and how to find appropriate resources if the reader or someone the reader knows might have the same illness.
                    What do you think?  Is this a horrible idea?  Is there already a similar book on the market of which I am simply unaware?  Am I being vain and egocentric to think that I could pull this off?  Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an e-mail at the address at the top of the screen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Compassion for All

                    As I'm sure you are all aware, tragedy struck Newtown, Connecticut last Friday.  Everywhere you can see expressions of grief as the nation mourns the loss of twenty of the most innocent members of our society and six of their caretakers.  Yet as horrible as this tragedy was, I cannot agree with all those who have labeled the shooter a monster.
                    Adam Lanza was only twenty years old - the same age I was when I had my own crisis with my depression.  The pictures I have seen of him show a young man with wide eyes below an almost comically large forehead and full, slightly parted lips above a narrow chin, giving him a perpetually surprised expression.  Some of the news reports suggest he might have had a mild form of autism, a disease which is poorly understood, at best.  His family have expressed shock and regret for his actions.
                    This was a boy who reached a breaking point and did a monstrous thing, but I don't think that makes him a monster.  For twenty years he was a "shy, awkward boy" who was loved by his family.  A family that must now cope not only with the loss of their young relative, but also his mother, whom he shot to death before going on his rampage in the school.  And unlike the families in Newtown, they must do it not with the support, but with the condemnation of the nation bearing down on them.
                    Very few people are truly monsters.  So despite his monstrous actions, please, think twice before you label someone's cousin, nephew, or child a monster.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

                  Any of you who have read the previous post on this blog know that I am currently going back to school to study psychology.  My ultimate goal is to gain a counselor's license, though I'm not completely sure right now what type of counseling I want to do.  Lately though, I've been ruminating on a particular memory, which I will be sharing below, and thinking that I may want to work with high school or college students.
                  Some of you reading this blog know that I have struggled with depression.  The narrative below is drawn from the darkest, deepest part of my depression.  I want to assure my readers that this memory is over two years old, and my mental health has drastically improved since then.  I have a better support system now, and more importantly, I am much better at letting myself use the support when I need it.  Nevertheless, my experience with depression was a life-changing one, and in many ways is the root of my desire to seek a counceling license.  The account below is as true to my memory as I can make it, and as a result it includes graphic descriptions of not only what I experienced, but what I contemplated while in a very dark place.
                   Consider yourself warned.


                  I sat down on the edge of the futon, letting it sink beneath my weight as my backpack slipped off my shoulder to land on the floor with a heavy thud.  I gripped the side of the mattress, but I didn't feel it.  There was no sensation from the thick fabric under my hands.  I could feel nothing but the dull ache deep in the center of my chest, which I had long since learned to ignore.
                  I stared blankly around the empty room.  I had deliberately stayed in the dining hall until I knew my roommate would be in class, but now I wasn't sure why.  The silence was oppressive.  I couldn't hear any of our neighbors, though I had seen at least one other girl returning to her room at the same time as me.  I couldn't hear myself breathing, or even my heartbeat.
                  Everything around me appeared dull, washed out, and faded, like a photograph left too long in the sun.  It was as if nothing was quite real.  Or I wasn't.  Almost, I could believe I was a ghost.
                  Something on my roommate's desk caught my attention - a flash of silver.  Without thinking, I stood and took two steps forward to pick up the object.  It was a straight edged razor, the kind used in utility knives.  The metal felt cold, almost icy to my touch-starved flesh; the metallic reflection seemed blinding against my sepia-toned fingers.  Unbidden, a question rose in my mind: If I cut myself, would I even feel it?
                  I don't know how long I stared at the blade in my hand, envisioning exactly how it would happen.  In my mind's eye, I could all but feel the sharp steel slicing into the soft underside of my forearm, leaving a thin, clean line of pain.  I could see the tiny, crimson drops that would well up in the track, each one a perfect, beautiful sphere: a proof that I still lived.
                  That thought brought me up short.  Slowly I turned the razor over and over in my hands.  The cool metal had warmed by now, but the edge whispered across my skin like a silken band.
                  What if I cut too deeply?  That was how people committed suicide.  I knew, suddenly, that I didn't want to die, not then.  Until that moment, I hadn't even realized that I was unsure.
                  Half-formed scenes flashed through my head, of misjudging and bleeding out alone in my dorm, or waking up with bandaged wrists in a hospital.  Of judging correctly, only to be accused of attempting suicide by friends (or worse, family) who discovered the marks.  Of being forced to try to explain why I did it - reasons that seemed simultaneously to be both obvious and impossible to me.  And interwoven over and through all these images was a bone-deep, gut-wrenching shame and terrible nameless fear.

. . .

                 I wish that I could say I thought of how my self harm would devastate my family, or of all the things I still had left to experience and learn.  But it was neither the people who loved me nor the things I loved that made me put down the razor that day.  In truth, my depression had driven me too deeply into myself, disconnected me too much from the world for those arguments to have even occurred to me.  The only thing that kept me from self harm or worse was a blind, selfish, primal desire for survival.
                 According to recent data, about two million cases of self injury are reported annually in the United States alone.  Millions more go unreported due to the secrecy which participants in self harm tend to maintain around their injurious activities.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men engage in some form of self injury, up to and including suicide attempts.
                 In a way, I was fortunate that my depression had no focus, no conscious reason for my misery, or else I might not be writing this today. If my will to live had been even slightly diluted by such a reason, I might well have made the ultimate gamble, and lost.  I had the means and the opportunity to become one more datum of that horrifying statistic.
                  This is why I want to be a counselor.  If I can help even one lost, lonely young person out of the sort of dim, lifeless place I found myself in, I would consider all the time and money spent on my education to be well repaid.  If I can show just one young man or young woman that they don't have to face that terrible choice alone, support just one person through the sort of crisis I survived unsupported, I will be well satisfied with my investment.
                  No one should have to live in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


                        It's been a while since I updated the blog, I know.  I'd blame writing for National Novel Writing Month, except that I got about seven hundred words in and realized that I was writing garbage just to make a word count.  That's not how I want to write.  I write because I have something to say, something to challenge others with or make them think about.  I write because it lets me get into another mindset, see things from a different angle, and hopefully show other people that same view.  Having a story is nice, but it's merely the vehicle for the ideas I'm exploring.  That is what inspires my writing, both fiction and non-fiction.
                        I realized this while talking with a co-worker about my short story "Rose Briar."  To my embarrassment, I discovered that I had monologued excitedly for almost ten minutes about the themes and twists on conventional thought that the story explored.  This got me thinking about other subjects that I am passionate about - things that I can talk or think about for hours at a time.   Specifically, I started thinking about my interest in psychology.
                        This interest started over ten years ago, though only within the last two years did I realize the subject that occupied my internal pondering had a name.  Way back then, a stranger complimented my thirteen year-old self on my lack of accent.  The seemingly innocuous comment sparked a deceptively simple question: "What do other people sound like to themselves?"
                        Of course it is impossible to know exactly what other people sound like to themselves, though you can get an approximate idea by comparing your own voice recorded to how you sound to yourself.  But the question got me thinking about how people think about themselves and others, and the things that influence those thoughts.  For years I made quiet observations of myself and the people around me, noting wherever possible what assumptions were made and why.  In college I learned everything I could about other cultures and religions, fascinated by the way two people could literally think in different ways about seemingly very basic concepts, such as what made something morally right or wrong.
                        Then two years ago I took Psychology 101, and it was like discovering Mozart after years of never knowing music existed.  For the first time in my college career, I had a class that I was always eager to do the homework for, work that never bored me or frustrated me.  Not to say that the class was easy, but occasionally the text would cover a concept that I had already worked out for myself, but simply never known had a name.  Those moments excited and encouraged me when wrestling with other, more difficult concepts.  Even more exciting, though I didn't realize it right away, was the fact that at last I had found a subject that I was truly passionate about, one that could lead to a degree and ultimately a career I could be equally passionate about.
                        It took two years of bouncing around the DC area before I settled down enough to seriously start looking into going back to school, but a few days ago I decided it was time to stop stalling and get serious.  Last night I submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  I don't expect them to offer me much, if anything - for some reason I am still considered a dependent and my parents make too much money for me to be likely to qualify for any grants.  But it is still a good starting place from which to negotiate with the Financial Aid departments of various colleges.
                        For the first time in my adult life, I think I might actually know what I'm doing with my career.
                        Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Big Decision

                        As some of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month.  Thousands of people are taking this month to write a 50,000 word rough draft, no editing, no "but that paragraph would go much better further up", just writing a novel in the roughest form.
                        I have decided to take this challenge.  I will be focusing on Jack, the character I introduced in yesterday's post.  I'm off to bit of a late start, I know, but with some determination and a lot of denying my inner editor, I am confident that I can do it.  In addition to this blog, I will be updating my progress at so you can take a look there if you like.  While you're at it, explore the rest of the site!  You might just be inspired to take up the challenge yourself.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Jack: The True Story

                         "The stories are wrong of course.  It did all start with me selling a cow.  And it did end with a giant dying.  But that's just about all they got right."
                         This is the beginning of a story about a man named Jack, the same Jack that turns up in all the stories.  But he's here to set the record straight, because whoever circulated the stories (possibly that singing harp he's accused of stealing) mucked them up something awful.
                         What exactly did happen?  I don't know.  He hasn't told me yet.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

                        As you are doubtless aware, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast yesterday.  I, and most people I know, are fine.  Most of us came through without significant property damage, and many of us never lost power, or lost power only briefly.
                        But nearly everyone included in those statements were also out of the path of the worst of the storm.  It is humbling to realize that there are parts of the country not far away from me where people have had to abandon their homes to protect their lives.  In Ocean City, a mere three hours drive away from me, Hurricane Sandy demolished beach-front property and flooded hundreds more homes.  Further north, in New York, dozens of people have lost their lives in the storm, and estimates put the property damage at twenty billion dollars.
                        One bright spot in all of this is the response of the presidential candidates to the disaster.  President Obama immediately put his campaign on hold to ensure that emergency crews had the resources they needed and that citizens in the path of the hurricane were kept as safe as possible.  Romney used his visibility at prearranged rallies to encourage people to contribute to or volunteer with relief organizations that would be helping mitigate the effects of the storm.  It is good to see that even so close to election day, the candidates can put aside their political differences to work for the safety of those affected by this natural disaster.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Frustrating Dreams

                       The past few nights I have been having a series of odd dreams.  Odd for me at least, but then, my dreams are usually fantastic adventures that have little or nothing to do with everyday life.  These dreams, however, are actually more like memories.
                       So far, I have had only one memory-dream per night.  But the memory repeats over and over, a different memory each night.  Each one is a moment that I wish I had handled differently, usually because I ended up hurting someone's feelings.  After the first two or three repeats, I start to be able to change things, but the changes are never for the better.  I wake up miserable, feeling guilty and vaguely as if I made things worse somehow, even though it's just a dream.
                       I assume that this has something to do with unresolved feelings about those moments, but I don't know what more I can do.  It's not like I can go back and change things, even if I managed to not make things worse as I do in my dreams.  And most of the people involved I'm no longer even in contact with.
                       Dreams are frustrating.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Warning: Political Rant Ahead

                    Okay.  I know we in the United States are in the middle of a Presidential campaign.  I know that people tend to feel very strongly about politics.  That's fine with me.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and frankly, of all the things you can get worked up about, the leadership of your homeland is definitely one of the better ones.  What really cheeses me off, though, is that the things that my friends and co-workers choose to harp on are either not relevant to the candidate's ability to do the job (Biden smiled too much during the debate?  Really?) or else are parroting party lines without acknowledging, much less seeming to care about, context.
                    Our electoral system isn't perfect.  I'll be the first to admit that.  But whatever deficits it may have, I'm quite certain that it was never intended to be a glorified popularity contest.  Yet that is exactly what I see unfolding around me.  Obama ads that bash Romney for his forty-seven percent comment, because it makes Romney unpopular.  Romney ads that focus on Obama's poor debate performances, because it makes Romney look better by comparison.  All around me I hear and see people talking about how this candidate was rude, or that candidate was too aggressive.
                    Whatever happened to researching the candidate's positions and making a logical, informed decision?  Is this idea merely the fevered product of my imagination?  I don't even care which candidate a person supports, as long as their conversation indicates that they have actually thought about the matter.  Unfortunately, few of my acquaintances seem to have given it even token thought.  Am I really the only one who doesn't just swallow their preferred political party's propaganda?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This One Epic I Know

                       It has occurred to me that if people *cough*AuntVivi*cough* want to get to know me through my writing, I should probably spend some time talking about Ironheart.  You see, about four and a half years ago, while I was still attending College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, I started looking for online Dungeons & Dragons games to join.  I had been introduced to the game by a college friend, but no one on campus (that I knew of) had the time and motivation to run one.  So I turned to play-by-post internet forums, hoping to gain enough experience with the system that I might be comfortable running a game myself.  As it turned out, I did find and join a number of short-lived play-by-post D&D games online.  I also found Escape from Ironheart.
                       Escape from Ironheart was a free-form role-playing game, loosely placed in a D&D setting, but with no dice rolls and a much higher emphasis on characterization and storytelling.  It had already been running for six months, but due to several players dropping out, the DM, or storyteller, was looking for fresh meat  players to round out the group.  The concept was that Ironheart was the name of a prison, and all the players were prisoners attempting to Escape from Ironheart.  I submitted a character, Pyrene the Temptress, and was accepted into the game.
                       Little did I know, I was embarking on a literary journey that would last for years, meeting people who would become good friends despite, in most cases, never knowing each-other's real names.  There was Umber, one of the seven original vampires on a mission to save the love of his life.  Little Mar, an amnesiatic archangel trapped in a child's body.  Tare, the thief with a heart of gold and hidden powers.  Korram, a revolutionary who gave up his own arm for the power to oppose an evil ruler.  Ander, a holy paladin the gods returned from beyond the grave to cleanse the corrupt church.  And Sohssal, a mage who's search for immortality lead him to steal power from demons.
                       Together we wrote our way through Escape from Ironheart, and discovered that we had actually completed only the first part of a trilogy in the mind of Inspectre, the masterful storyteller who had woven our disparate tales together.  Invested as we were by then in the characters and the overarching plot, we all chose to continue.  As of this writing, we have completed the second part of the trilogy, Flight from Ironheart, and are a few months into the final installment, Return to Ironheart.  Other players have joined us, some only to fall away again, others staying for the long haul.  Those of us who have continued together have become a family of sorts, supporting each other through life events big and small, good and bad.
                       I have enormous respect for Inspectre and all my fellow players.  Every one of them has awed and inspired me with their writing.  Knowing them has challenged me to keep pushing the boundaries of my own ability, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Setting of a Future Race

                         Yesterday, I posted the mythology of a race from a science fiction setting I've been working out in my head.  Since no one commented with ideas about what the setting might be, I'm going to assume that either I didn't drop enough hints (very likely) and/or people were too busy to particularly care (also very likely).  So today, I'm going to explain the background for that post, both for anyone who was curious and for my own record.
                         The setting I have in mind is our own world, but it is at least a couple hundred years from now.  Somewhere in the first hundred years, humanity entered World War III, and a biological weapon was deployed.  Consisting of a water-borne virus with a long incubation period, it was designed to go unnoticed until an entire population was infected, before inducing hallucinations and ultimately a state of coma-like brain death.  However, it was accidentally released into the atmosphere, and within weeks had infected all open water sources.  Within a year, every human in the world had been exposed to it.  Within eighteen months, humanity was effectively extinct.
                         But the world went on.  Most mammals were unaffected by the virus, occasionally serving as immune carriers, but little else.  There was, however, one notable exception to this rule: dogs.  Domesticated dogs, starving and with few other sources of food, started eating the human bodies that were literally lying everywhere around them, ingesting the virus in the process.  In them, the virus interacted differently (perhaps mutating in the process) to form a symbiotic relationship with the canine brain.  Over the course of a few generations, this resulted in the species becoming dramatically more intelligent, to the point of sentience.  The newly evolved Canis sapiens quickly became the dominant species on the planet, forming unique cultures, technologies, and at least one religion.
                         The mythology that I posted yesterday was the creation story of that religion - based on tales passed down from ancestors who's memories and understanding of the human part of history were blurred, at best.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Mythology of a Future Race

                      In the beginning, there were the gods.  And the gods were many as the hairs of the coat, and covered the whole world.  Yet still the gods were lonely, so they said to one another, "Let us make companions for ourselves, who shall be as Children to us, and we shall love them."
                      So it was that the gods took Beasts of the land, and raised them up to be Children of the gods.  And the Children of the gods flourished and spread across all the land, until they numbered more than even the gods.  Many of the gods loved them, but certain of the gods were Corrupt, and began to fear and to hate them, for the Children were many, but they were innocent, and in their innocence showed the Corrupt their own evils.
                      And the Corrupt began to mistreat the Children, saying, "They are only wild Beasts."
                      And the Pure gods admonished the Corrupt, saying, "They are our Children, do them no harm."
                      But the Corrupt would not cease, and soon there was a Great War over all the world, as the Pure and the Corrupt fought for the fate of the Children.  And the Great War was as a Beast which devoured the land for many generations.  Then the First of the Pure looked at the world and wept, for the Children suffered by the Great War, even where the Pure reigned.  So the First gathered the Pure and said "We must combine our power, and take the Corrupt out of this world, so that the Great War will plague our Children no longer.  But such a miracle will require a Sacrifice, for we too will go out of this world."
                      And the Pure answered with one voice, "We will Sacrifice for the good of the Children, and our Bodies shall sustain them."
                      So the Pure joined their power, and they abandoned their Bodies.  And they hunted the Corrupt, and took them out from their Bodies, so that in all the world the gods were no more.  Then they created a new world, where the Pure could dwell in peace.  But the Corrupt also created a new world, and they began a Second Great War between the worlds.
                      Then the Children ate of the Bodies the gods had left in Sacrifice, and they grew wise as the gods were wise, and knew good from evil.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This Space Reserved

                   When I can think of something to write, I will fill in today's blog here.  Unfortunately, if I intend to do anything besides sit at the table and stare at a blank screen before I leave for work, I don't think I'm going to have a blog post up before I get home.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vampires and Rapunzel

                   Today is a test of my resolution to write every day.  After a ten hour shift worked on five hours of sleep, I am finally writing something.  With the help of my wonderful boyfriend, who has been pestering me to quit being distracted by webcomics and work on my blog post, of course.
                   He says I should write about vampires, but I don't really have any ideas for vampires - not so much as a character quote or story concept.  I don't like working with a subject that has been done so many times unless I feel I have a unique twist to add to it.  And while I may personally hate the Twilight conception of vampires, I do have to admit that Stephanie Meyer at least gave an old idea a new life.
                   Lately, I feel that most of my best ideas have to do with reinventing classic fairy tales.  For instance, what would happen if Rapunzel was actually a spoiled teenager, and not the innocent captive so typically portrayed?  How does it change the story, and the characters, if the moralities are reversed in that way?
                   The first problem I run into with this concept, is that I don't know how to write a spoiled teen without making her sound like a child.  Every attempt I have made to script this Rapunzel, even just in my head, makes her sound about six years old.  Since I imagine that this would probably be a third-person perspective following Rapunzel, that makes her speech a crucial part of the story.
                   I also don't know the setting.  Is it a classic medieval fantasy setting, or a more modern one?  If I attempt a modern (or even science fiction) fairy tale, how do I incorporate the sense of isolation that is so crucial to the storyline?  In our ever more connected world, how can that isolation be anything but illusory, and how can the character of the prince fail to notice it?  But in a classic fantasy setting, the prince should be able to spend five minutes with Rapunzel and decide that she's not worth rescuing, causing him to ride off on his white horse and never return.
                   With a little luck, I'll glean some of those answers from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, the book I am reading right now.  The character of Estella is not dissimilar to the Rapunzel I want to create, though unlike Miss Havisham, the "witch" character should not actively encourage Rapunzel's worst qualities, simply fail to curb them.
.                  .                 .
                   And with that, my train of thought has reached an abrupt end of the line.  Perhaps tomorrow I will have more to say on this subject.  Or perhaps I will end up talking about something completely different.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Fairy Tale Storeroom

                 The door to the storeroom is nothing special: just a rough wooden door, the wide boards ill-joined and ill-fitted to the frame.  It might be the entrance to any random broom closet.  Yet, when opened, a golden radiance streams out, one that ought to have been impossible to miss through the gaps and cracks in the door.
                 Should an observer, eyes watering in the sudden glare, summon the courage to step inside, he would see an assortment of priceless items tumbled in careless heaps under the magical light.  A pair of glass slippers, one with a broken heel, perch precariously upon an enormous mound of braided blonde hair.  A red woolen riding cloak, sized for a child, hangs from the spindle of a large spinning wheel.  The spinning wheel, in turn, balances atop a large stone bearing an inscription, the words half-hidden by a large black cauldron with three clawed feet.
                 This is where the discarded odds and ends of fairy tales ultimately come to rest.  Forgotten and abandoned by the heroes that relied upon them, they make their way here, waiting to be needed once again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thinking VS Wanting

                Lately I've been thinking a lot about dreams, and the things that block them.  I have heard professionals in various fields - people who have already overcome obstacles and made a name for themselves - say that if you didn't make it, you didn't want it badly enough.  I'm not sure that I agree with that completely, but they do have a point.  If you want something badly enough, even believing you can't do it doesn't stop you from trying.  This blog is a case in point.  It is me dusting off my self-esteem and giving writing another chance.  Do I honestly think that this will in some way lead to me being published?  Probably not, but at least it is an outlet for the desire.
                I think most people go through life having given up on a dream, to be a writer, or a lawyer, or a singer.  We start to learn what it takes to fulfill our dream, and comparing ourselves to the leaders in the field, and we commit the error that kills all dreams: We think "I can't do that."
                At least, that's how it worked for me.  I can remember a number of dreams I've given up on: singer, teacher, and artist being just a few.  In each case, there was a point, or many points, where I looked at the work of someone who had been doing it far longer than myself and thought, "I can't do that."  Whether the statement is true or not almost doesn't matter - the fact is that by saying it, I sabotaged myself.  Instead of letting the achievements of those people inspire me to do better, I gave up, in my own mind, the possibility of improving.  I let what I thought I could do stop me from doing what I wanted to do.
                Now, the phrase also implies that anyone can achieve any dream if they simply want it badly enough, and I disagree with that.  Not everyone is cut out to be an Olympic gold medalist, or a brain surgeon, or an attorney general.  One of the problems with our culture, in my opinion, is the idea that if you are not one of the leaders (however that is defined) that your work is inherently less valuable.  This not only causes the culture to look down on entire classes of employment (construction, sanitation, retail, etc) but also to marginalize the value of those who do basic, necessary tasks in "more respectable" classes of employment.
                Anyone can be a leader, but everyone cannot.  A world full of CEOs would collapse, with no one knowing how to raise crops, maintain sewer and water lines, or repair any but the most basic structural damages.  The example is extreme, but the principle holds true in any field.  The singer who puts out one album, or none, is no less intrinsically valuable because she gives pleasure to a smaller audience.  The teenager flipping burgers has no less right to self-esteem and to respect from others because he is not the store manager.
                It is good and necessary to have dreams of better things, but we as individuals and as a culture need to take the time to acknowledge and respect the role of the followers as well as the leaders.  As individuals, we need to not be intimidated by what we think we can do, but rather strive to be the best we can be.  Equally, we need to be content if, reaching the peak of our ability, we are not the leaders of the pack.
                Don't let what you want to be undermine your pleasure in what you are.  And don't let what you think you are keep you from becoming what you want to be.

EDIT Jan. 4, 2013:  Feel Good Friday: The Lion in the Mirror is a sort-of follow-up on this post.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Beginning

                Welcome to One Writer's Workshop, a snapshot of the many and varied paths my mind wanders along!  I will be attempting to post *something* here on a daily basis.  It may be story snippets, character ideas, or just whatever I happen to be thinking about when I start writing.  Regardless, you can be fairly certain that if I'm posting it here, it is, at best, a rough draft, so please be patient with any grammar errors, redundancies, or other such "first draft" issues.
                To be honest I'm not sure what I am hoping to get out of this blog.  Partly it is a way to kick-start my writing habits, which have fallen into rather serious neglect of late.  Partly it is a way to record the often interesting (to me) places my mind goes when my body is occupied with routine tasks.  And perhaps partly it is a way of exploring the deep and tender places of myself.  Why I would choose to put that exploration on display I still don't fully understand, but nevertheless I cannot help but feel that this is the right decision.
                I hope you enjoy this meandering tour of the inside of my head.  I look forward to discovering many wonders with you.