Posted by: alegra22 | March 30, 2009

Back-handed Inspiration

The Chest Cold Fairy decided to land in my lungs last Monday. She spread her dirty laundry all over my To-Do list and kicked her feet up in my brain. Her demands and general mischief-making slowed down my pace but as it turns out, slowing down was exactly what I needed this week.

I achieved the major things but not exactly how I envisioned them:

1. I learned a few things about rejection after resubmitting Vigil to an online journal specializing in ‘flash fiction’. When I submitted the story I knew it was a long-shot because of the style of writing the journal favored (less poetic/more traditional story format) but I thought ‘hey nothing ventured, nothing gained.’

I am glad I did it.

They sent me the editorial comments from the four editors. It taught me how diverse  reactions to a story are and that rejection always has a pearl of wisdom to be pried from the oyster of personal opinion. The feedback was summed up as: good writing, good mood, but not enough ‘real’ story. This made perfect sense to me. The narrative was not straight forward because the resolution was more in the tone of the story, it wasn’t spelled out: Mother makes peace with death of child. The statement of peace happens more in imagery. Matching imagery with a sustainable and powerful storyline is an ongoing challenge for me, so I have decided to confront it head-on and assign myself several story exercises while I continue to work on the synopsis.

2. I have also learned this week to “read what I write, not try to write what I read” as my friend Kemari summed up. What this translates into is: I read a range of novels and short stories, some of them give me a glimpse of what I might be able to achieve if I work really hard, others are simply out of my league.

The advice, “Write what you like to read” doesn’t necessarily apply. Some writers are there for me to enjoy as a reader without the pressure of trying to emulate the writing.

At the beginning of the week, I read a short story in Glimmer Train that took my breath away, “A Hole in the Soup” by Stephanie Dickinson. I think it was so beautiful that it made me understand the pleasure of reading it didn’t have to be ruined by the inevitable question,”Will I ever be able to write like that?”

Short answer: nope.

But I can roll around in it and love the genius of it without anxiety.

3. Stillness has actually become a part of my routine. No, seriously, I mean it. Stop laughing. You done?

Okay, so I have been noticing as I prepare to launch into the rewrite, I have been seeking more stillness for inspiration. I am making an effort to quiet my mind, breathe, and observe. I was doing this the other day, taking a break from everything and the end of the novel came floating into my mind. I think the quiet works as bait.

So this week:

1. Finish the synopsis (for reals)

2. Write the blog for Maria that didn’t get done this week

3. Go to the used bookstore and stock up on some fiction

4. Stock my cupboards with some gluten-free ingredients and try some new recipes

5. Have an attitude of gratitude, yo.

6. To remember that what might seem like a set-back is only back-handed inspiration.

How did your week go?

this picture is worth more than a thousand words

this picture is worth more than a thousand words



  1. First off…love the picture! Little boys know no fear! (Well, except for bugs…my Blaine will jump in the deep end of the pool with no floaties, knowing very well he’s going to sink and he’ll do it with a smile…but the kid won’t go near a butterfly…)

    Second…I’m surprised to think of you having those little nagging ‘not good enough’ feelings…ok, ok, everyone gets them, I suppose…but you write so well! You have a beautiful ‘voice’ all your own. Seriously. Don’t ever forget it, missy! 😉

    Goals, goals…blah…I’ve become such a slacker. Don’t even wanna talk about it. 😛

    • I have been a slacker this week too. One week I might actually make it my goal to do NO-THING.

      And thank you for the encouragment. I *know* in theory that this is part of the writing path but in my heart, I secretly believe that it is deeply personal and proof that I should tuck my tail and run away. I am learning tho’…slowly but surely.

      That made me laugh about the butterfly – Sol is the same. Dan, being a Kiwi boy through and through, doesn’t know what to do with ‘creepy-crawlies’, I have to be the great Spider Hunter in the family.

      • “great Spider Hunter in the family”

        Girl, I feel ya…in our old house, we’d get mice in our laundry room. My husband wouldn’t even set a mousetrap…I think he was afraid one would sneak up on him. ~rolls eyes~ Honestly, afraid of a little mouse? What is it going to do…nibble him up?!

        Something’s gone wrong with the world when I’m more ‘manly’ than my 6′ 4″, 230 lb. husband. ~snicker~

        Psh…you weren’t a slacker…you were sick. You’ve got an excuse…I’m still trying to think one up. 😉

  2. First off, that picture is pretty awesome. It’s mischievous innocence. Next, I had sent you a gluten recipe website last week, but I think your blog ate it. Lastly, after babysitting both my brother and my nephew, one of them is guilty of getting me sick too. Because of this, my goal is to live through today.

    • Thanks for the effort Pete!

      Yes, I love this picture…it brings everything home for me. Priorities and all.

      Ally Skalicious the great and beautiful sent me a recipe for gluten free waffles and Kemari hooked me up with some other recipes as well – now I just need to go buy the ingredients.

      If it helps, we are sharing the misery on the cold…cheers to Theraflu!

  3. “attitude of gratitude”I like it.

    I didn’t even know there was a Chest Cold Fairy.

    • There are ALL kinds of fairies…and while they may look pretty they are a surly lot.

  4. My to do list is up around my ears. I find myself saying “next week” more and more often.

    Thank you, as always, for the inspiration.

    • So is mine m’dear. And sometimes, next week is a viable option yes? I am trying to cut myself some slack now and then, I find it makes me more productive.
      And thank you for continuing to show up here, I appreciate it more than you might realize :o)

  5. “[I have also learned this week to “read what I write, not try to write what I read”] ”

    This is a constant challenge of mine, and the primary reason I get so little actual writing done. I find that I have to write from a voice. Not “my voice” but the character’s. The one telling the story. The problem is, so many of the voices are in emulation of genius storytellers. How in the world can I hope to maintain that pseudo-fraud for anything more that a sentence or two? Can’t be done – yet.

    Thing is, I keep trying. I guess one of these days it’ll take.

    Glad to hear you OWNED the Flem Fairy and are still among the day creatures.


    • I am slow study and it has taken me this long to grasp that basic truth…while I am learning to understand the wisdom of that saying “Good writers borrow, great writers steal…”
      (or something like that)
      I am understanding this, “Don’t steal inspiration from sources that don’t match your style.”
      As in, I am not going to pull off a diamond tiara, even if it is handcrafted by yours truly, but if I study the technique and design, I might just pull off my own version of a garnet choker.

  6. Last week was a roughy. I seem to be undulating each week – one great, one horrible, one great, one horrible. I’m now on a great week, so I’m hoping to get that veritable pile of goo known as “stuff” done.

    I did not write 2000 words as I’d hoped. I was running with my idea, head down in bull-butting form, only to find about 10 feet down the track a brick wall no smaller than my torrential, universe-consuming black-hole of self-confidence. So that was fun. I had a little panic, a little break down, had a peantbutter and jelly sandwich and went back to panicking, and realized that I have no scope on my project.

    So little adam sat down with his head between his paws and thought in the most thoughtful way he knew of

    “Think… think… think…”

    I’m currently in debate with myself about setting specific texts and all the various thoughts involved and complications and such. But I wrote an electronic publishing company a few days ago and they sent me a response with buckets of information relavent to my thesis, and I’m convinced the guy must’ve somehow read my proposal or he is the living Holmes of digital literature.

    Anyways!! So, having some confidence back in hand, I’m carefully treading down the course-way with hands in front of me, thinking I might have a direction, but approaching it with more trepidation than a chubby kid in a high school locker room. So we’ll see how that goes.

    So goals for the week – I really don’t know. I’m feeling a bit aimless and not sure how to quantify or qualify ‘success’ and I may need to do a small period of just intaking before I can begin… extaking?

    Other goals that I did accomplish
    – write blog
    – Isolate wed and Fri for thesis
    – Not stress about finances (sorta)
    – Finished reading and noting “Translating Media”
    – I’ve worked a little with “Loving What Is” – it’s a tricky process, and definitely requires patience, but I’m hoping to keep going with it when I can get some time.

    So goals for week:

    1) Order several digital stories from Eastgate (the staggeringly helpful digital publisher)

    2) Read though some of the library books on my shelf before I have to return them and feel ridiculously wasteful.

    3) Read through a few digital texts and take notes on them.

    4) Reserve Wed through Fri for Thesis

    5) Find out how to access my “PhD allowance” so I can spend it on yummy books

    6) Try to be more patient with myself and trust that I am making progress, however minuscule or non-existent my previous steps may seem

    Best wishes with the Chest Cold Fairy. I think last week she was coming after me too, but I think I managed to dodge her powerful shit-beams with only minor congestion. Soothing and mentholated hugsies!

    • I think it has been one of those weeks for most of us…I had a talk with a friend the other night that you will have to remind me about ‘ala imposter syndrome’, it was very enlightening.
      Let me just say, “We are not alone in the universe, you and I.”
      Big hugs

  7. Done? What got done? Well, a little bit. The scholarship paperwork is nearly done – deadline, Wednesday.

    Finished my Egyptian test. Hmmm…now we wait and see.

    I don’t even know what else was on my list…oh yeah, quality time with family…even managed some of that.

    For this week, the objective is to survive and dodge the laser beams that are pinging around my universe…beyond my direction and all must actually be volleyed instead of dodged. If I can make it to Saturday…just make it to Saturday…

    1. Study for another midterm.
    2. Finish major graphic design project at work.
    3. Get those scholarship applications in on time.
    4. Sleep, yes, sleep…haven’t done much of that lately.
    5. Quality time with family.
    6. Personal solitude and reflection time…maybe at the beach? Yeah, that sounds good.

    I think that Chest Cold Fairy tried to take me down last week, but I blew that gnarly critter out of the air…actually round here I think it was the Pesky Pollen Fairy…cousin of the Chest Cold Fairy.

    I’m glad you settled your self down and found the space to focus in on what you needed to see. Even if you were forced into it by that nasty little fairy…


    Love the picture! Little wild man!

    • Quality time is always on the top of the list. Dan and I have been thinking about this a lot: Really, the success of any of these other ‘goals’ while they are important for the future, there is no worth in that future if we do not have one another…it all comes back to love.
      I can’t wait to see you in August! HOpefully I will be pouring out the chapters by then.

      • You might even be almost done by the time we get there!

        You’re right, quality time should be put at the top of the list in any list…and since I frequently stop what I’m doing to spend that qt with others, that’s probably why I’m always lagging behind on finishing my other stuff!

        Who needs sleep anyway…I think it’s overrated!

        You should send my girl a little, “Hey, what’s goin’ on e-mail…” 🙂

        Got to go! My wild and crazy day is in full gear!

        Love and Hugs! We are very excited about the trip and already making plans….


  8. That Kemari chick, she sure is a keeper. 😉

    I need to make a list of things to make a list about. Damn.

    Okay, so that picture is just awesome. It reminds me of the Fool card of the Tarot deck. The Fool card represents innocence and enthusiasm. Here’s a meaning I cut/pasted:

    The Fool represents the “everyperson” – the essence of us all embarking on the journey of life, self-discovery and mastery. He is the innocent, the whimsical, the “inner child” mixed with the “inner sage” that lives down deep inside of us all. He faces life and his journey unafraid, trusting, the perfect example of total and utter faith that all will be well, that every experience has a deep essential meaning. He trapses along the crags of life, regardless of any hidden peril or disappointment, his eyes are turned to the heavens and he knows that he will be kept safe and whole along his travels. Key words associated with the Fool are new beginnings, important decisions and optimism.

    The Fool is sometimes known as the most worthless card, yet also as the most valuable one. He is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. It represents both the fledgling beginner and the adept master. The Fool reminds us of things, sacred things, that we have forgotten or repressed. The Fool knows his or her own ignorance, thus is seen as the most wise.

    So, totally awesome.

    I miss being productive. I need to find that ‘thing’ again, that little ‘it’ that keeps me going. I seem to have misplaced mine somewhere.

    • I want to blow this picture up and put in on the wall. Actually, there are so many of Dan’s images that I want to have surrounding me. He has a way of capturing the essence of a moment.

      You do need to make a list and come here and post it. Woman.
      That’s about all I’magonnasayaboutthat.

  9. Wow, I don’t know how you do it all like you do!

    I am trying to give myself some ‘stillness’ time now no matter how busy things get. I still want to read this Vigil. Hope you are feeling better. I am still coughing, faintly though, after a month of being sick.

    Well I am contemplating ditching this Pepsi in front of me and going for the real thing right now: COFFEE so I can get lots done right now!

    • I am finding stillness essential. In fact, I am craving it lately. if there were an easy to attend yoga class nearby I would definitely be doing that as well…just to destress my body.

  10. Wow.
    That’s it really, just wow.
    (and that’s about the picture and about you)

    my goals for the week:
    1. Try to finish my attempt at “smokelong fiction”
    2. Try not to let my flatmates get to me.
    3. Learn how to read minds, cause apparently that’s important when living with two strangers. . .
    4. Remember number 2.
    5. e-mail all of my family back in NZ (extended and blood)
    6. Survive both jobs through to the end of the week when I can collapse and have a holiday.
    7. Keep remembering number 2.

    Anyway, thank you for bringing a smile to my face on a weekly basis 🙂

    • Are you talking about SmokeLong Quarterly? I love some of the writing they have on that site. I just recieved a rejection from them but I am determined to try again…the one I submitted was toeing the line in terms of ‘meh, might not be suitable’ but you never know, so I thought I would make an attempt.

      I am so glad to not be living with strangers. i was just saying to Dan this morning that I have grown so accustomed to our sweet little bubble of compatability that I have forgotten what the big bad world can be like. i hope you are able to work it out.

  11. About eating well.
    See the site below- an exploration into healthy cooking, beautiful photos and deliciousness.

    She also has lots of gluten free recipes:

    One I love and have made several times:
    Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quinoa Recipe


    • I love photos, they inspire me to make the dishes. Thank you for this, I have been really getting into preparing food for the first time in my life – I suppose this is the plus side of having to do it out of necessity.

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