Carnival season is here!

Carnival season kicked off last week with the first in a series that makes its way around to every county fire company from late May through August.  The stroll around the carnival grounds the same night as the Midnite Run show was a welcome chance to try to get that coveted carousel shot I've never gotten, simply because, well, we don't usually go to the carnivals. 

Rule #1 of living creatively: To get what you want, you have to show up!

I enjoyed wandering and spent most of my time cradling my camera in the crook of one elbow, which gave me a steadier shot than if I'd tried to handhold a, say, 1/13 shutter speed in normal position and wasn't too unhappy with the results.

I'm still as mesmerized by the bright lights and vivid colors as I was as a tweenager at the county fair.  I punched up the images a bit to try to convey that sensory overload of being surrounded by all that color and light against the night sky.  The colors feed off their contrast with the sky and the sky appears darker against all the colors; each is stronger because of the other.  Interpret that as you wish.

A little nite music

While it's rare for me, I do get out to listen to local bands once in a while.  I had the pleasure of seeing Midnite Run last night at the first fire company carnival of the season and, though I got home past my (embarrassingly early) bedtime, I was relaxed and rejuvenated from being away from the house, away from homework and even from writing (gasp!).

An article making it way around social media today listed 33 ways to boost creativity, one of which to listen to new music.  Listening to old music I haven't heard in a long time is just as effective.  Anything that's different, out of the daily routine, serves to shake up the routine and jog loose those thoughts that get me stuck and incapable of seeing from a different perspective.

Thanks, Midnite Run, for an impressive performance, a trip down memory lane, and for shaking up my Sunday night routine.  

While there, I also wandered and took photos along the midway and around the rides. Grabbing that opportunity to get creative behind the lens also shook up the monotony of spending every evening staring at the screen and waiting for writing to magically appear on it. It was nice to be freed from that mental obligation for an evening and I had an easy time getting up and finishing a research book this morning, then finishing the current novel's outline set-up in Scrivener.  Now that I've run my errands for the day and gotten these pictures done for the band, and a huge pot of split pea and ham soup is simmering on the stove, I'll move on to do some actual writing.  It's been a day of working up to the writing, but I'm going to get there.  

What can you do to shake up your routine, remove the 'stuckness' that might be holding you back?

The band does a very cool benefit for Wounded Warrior Project every year.  Check it out and buy tickets here.  (No, I'm not getting a kickback.)  You can follow them and see upcoming events on FB, too. 

Blooming where I'm planted

Every year, I get outside to take pictures of what's blooming in our yard.  While I watch petals pop and trees bud, I don't get overly excited about it until a gentle rain hits the blossoms.  Then, the light refracts through the drops, makes leaves and blooms glisten, and catches my eye in ways a dry day can't.  I have a penchant for shooting in the rain.  

This year, that gentle rain came on Earth Day.  Though I'd just gotten home from an informal outdoor shoot that already had me soaked and a bit chilled, I clicked on the macro lens and went outside.  

A gentle rain that comes in April nourishes the now-soft soil, encourages whatever's under the surface to continue its upward climb.  In our case, that means a lot of dandelions and spring onions and sow thistles and creeping charlies and you get the picture.  So while our yard is filled with more weeds than I'm sure most of our neighbors want to be neighbor to, it's wildlife friendly.  No bird and its fledglings will get poisoned by herbicides.  We're probably helping the bees, too.

It was refreshing to have something new to photograph right in our own yard, no need to go anywhere to find something beautiful to spend time with while the spring rain washes away the remains of winter's dreary spell.

Here's a bit of what was blooming on this little corner of the earth where I'm planted.



On possibilities in unlikely places

The Hub and I took a meander today through the hangars at Massey Air Museum, where a friend's birthday celebration was being held.  I'm not a fan of planes - I don't know squat about them except that they're convenient for getting from one place to another in quick order - but I do see the importance of preserving aviation history, which is what Massey does.  Their focus is on the rural airports of the early 20th century, before the massive LAX and MSP and BWIs of modern air travel became the norm.

It was damp and chilly out, a truly bleak day, but we braved it and took a walk through the  unheated hangars and played in the DC-3/C-47 out in the yard and - as always - I found something to take a picture of.  Then I found another.  And another and another.  Despite my disinterest in vintage planes, I found enough to keep me going.  That's what photography does for me; it lets me get lost in the moment even when I'm someplace I haven't the slightest interest in, or when I've developed a bit of boredom in a place I've been to many times.  Once I drop my preconceived notions, what's around me becomes interesting.

The same happens with writing.  It's the willingness to find something interesting that creates the finding, much like making a space allows a writing idea to grow whereas sitting still and expecting it to hit me over the head never works.  

Willingness opens the door for an active seeking, which finds new possibilities.  Every time.  

On going backward

Sometimes you have to go backward to move forward, and today I was able to take time to visit Historic London Town and Gardens, where they recreate 18th century life.  I needed to get a feel for the place and for the scale of its reconstructed buildings, as part of the current novel in process is set in the early 1700s.  

I've always loved Williamsburg but, as focused as it is on the revolutionary years, it necessarily gives short shrift to the late 1600s/early 1700s.  London Town is one of two places on DelMarVa that fill that gap (the other is St Mary's City, which covers the years up to 1695).  While London Town's imposing William Brown house kicks off the mid-century interpretation, an early 18th century style interpretation of a carpenter shop and home, plus an original 1720 tobacco barn reconstructed on the site in 1980, are also on offer.

I bought some books in the visitor center, because buying books at an historical site is something of a law, then had a snack out in the sunshine before I grabbed the camera and strolled the grounds.  The buildings (other than the visitor center) weren't open today; they open next week.  But it was nice to have the place largely to myself.  I took lots of pictures and tried to imagine, as I do at every historical site, what the town's original inhabitants might have thought and felt, how they spent their time, what conditions were like in the heat of the summer and in the brutal cold of the darkest months of the year.  As I wandered, I asked one of my characters (yes, I do that; a lot) what she thought about the chill, strong wind that belied the deep blue sky echoing the South River.  Her response was instantaneous: Our home is only a hovel but I'll be relieved to get back inside to the shelter from the wind and the warmth of the fire.  

The simplest answer is often the best one, isn't it?  The first thought I imagined my character having was a practical one.  No lofty thoughts buried in that pragmatism, except maybe to remind me that gratitude, in its simplicity, is essential to daily life.

I went backward to get a feel for a certain time and found, within that step backward, a continuous thread to tie a character's thoughts to mine.  I can make that work, and that's pretty cool.

Historic London Town  #historiclondontown



On opening up space

“If you build it, he will come.”  So says the voice that whispers to Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams.  So what does Kevin’s character do?  He builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield.  And what happens? The 1919 Chicago White Sox, or, rather, their ghosts, show up.  He creates an open space and it gets filled.

Every one of my writing classes energizes me for my next step, whether that step is another synopsis rewrite, expanding the latest synopsis into a fuller outline (the current prospect), writing or revising scenes, or literally standing up and acting out scenes to get inside my characters’ heads.  I was fighting with that outline prospect one night last week when I was too tired to think.  Not wanting to retire without at least trying, though, I picked up a small notebook about the size of a 3x5 index card and jotted notes for a photo project idea I’d had in the car that day.  Yeah, I know.  Not about fiction.  But what that page did was allow me to get that idea out of my brain and onto paper so I didn’t have to worry about forgetting it. 

It opened up space for thoughts about fiction to bubble to the surface.  I turned that page and wrote at the top of the next: “TGR ideas for plot structure” and started brainstorming.  (TGR is the acronym for the novel’s working title.)  It only took a couple of minutes of staring at the grey lines on the page before I started scribbling.  Ten minutes later, I’d covered four of the small pages and had a clear picture of what scenes I needed to write next, and new thoughts on how to work the storyline.   

I finally put the notebook down, satisfied with what I’d written, happy I’d taken an admittedly brief length of time to do something creative.  It was proof one doesn’t have to dedicate hours upon hours to create something, that some days all that’s needed is a commitment to creating and a few minutes to act on it. 

Opening the notebook and writing titles on the pages seemed to be all it took to jot one idea down and open up space for each next idea to make itself known.  

So tonight I’m raising my cuppa’ to acting upon creative commitments and opening up space for new ideas to grow.

What actions allow your imagination to thrive, and how do you make and keep your commitments to yourself and your creativity?

A sneak peek at a few filled spaces