Sunday, March 30, 2014

The care and feeding of new ideas

Starting a new project is a strange thing, a thing like dreaming. You don't know where the idea is going to come from—it might be something you see, or hear, or read, or is said. It may even start as a joke, but it sticks around. And you have to feed it, because it's so hungry and it needs to grow. It wants attention, it wants inspiration—before it starves.

I don't get a lot of ideas. Well, that's not true. I do, but they're often force-directed at other things. Things that aren't stories. Sometimes I get ideas that people think are great, but to me they're only jokes on Twitter. I can't spend the amount of time it takes to write a draft with something that's a punchline.

I have ideas that I only manage to do something with years later—they're slow cooking. It's not that I can't churn out quick-serve commercial ideas, it's that I don't find them interesting.

I start with a playlist for audio atmosphere and a pinboard for images/places, because I can't write it if I don't know who is in it and what it feels like. That comes before the plot. Even when it's something that starts with the concept/action. It's still about the people in it and the world/circumstances that made them that way. 

I've been playing with something over the past week, week and a half. Yesterday, I sat to try and put it on paper—capture it in a pitch or a synopsis or something before it escapes and then realized I couldn't. Not yet. I don't have a plot, because that's always what comes last and it's always what I struggle with the most.

But that's ok. It's still hungry, and I'm still feeding it, and I can't get frustrated that it doesn't want to talk to me with its mouth full.

Here is the song that it first devoured:


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hello, world. I feel obligated to blog because I haven't done so in the past month.

What have you been doing, Chandra?

Working. Traveling. Revising the Magpie Book. Having an existential crisis. Working. Going on a writing retreat. Revising Something That Isn't The Magpie Book. Working. Trying not to be that person. Revising some more. Working. Having another existential crisis. Reading my new favourite book. Wondering if I'm any good at writing at all and having another existential crisis. Realizing I'm just exhausted from working and revising. Listening to a lot of music. Going for brunch. Failing to not be that person. Feeling bad for being that person. Promising to go for more brunch. Enjoying the sun. Fighting off a migraine. Wondering why everyone is incapable of using common sense. Tea. Coffee. Sugar. More music. Getting enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep. Feeling itchy and impatient for spring like there's something pacing in my head and my heart. Making jokes on Twitter. Launching an Indigo Teen Tumblr. Making a lot of jokes about wolves eating the sun. Because there is sometimes a wolf pacing in my head and my heart. Not talking to people. Talking to people. Promising to get more sleep.

Not necessarily in that order.

That seems like a lot.

Yes, world. When I have not been busy feeling the magnetic pull of depression that goes double-strength in winter, I have been fighting it with standing dates with friends on Saturdays and using up my vacation days.

It is cold again today, but at least it doesn't look like it and there's sun streaming in through the windows at long last and I have music to keep me company.

I told a friend that I expect nothing less than excellence with my words. Well, I implied we both did which might've been overstepping but I was making a clever-serious-joke-observation reply. Because that is the person I get in the winter, sharp and defensive against the grey overhead; restless against the cold. Unable to shrug things off, because when presented with the choice to care or not care I gotta care whenever I can manage it because it's that much harder to do so.

So missteps between someone else's joke and my inability to find it funny at the time happen. When I moved to Toronto, I came from living with people who knew how to tell when something was wrong and so I never had to ask for help. They offered comfort—sometimes intrusively—when they saw I needed it.

I got a text from my mother about a week and a half ago, to let me know that they'd taken Nero, the family dog, into the vet. Nero had been listless when I was home in February compared to when I'd been there in December. The one day he'd snapped at me—not seem to know who I was—and I was told that it happened to other family members, too.

He was 15 and all but blind, he could barely hear and his sense of smell was going, too. He was spry most days, and loved, and seemed to have a good life. But he hadn't been feeling well, and when my mom took him into the vet, they told her he had Kidney disease. The tests showed it was pretty serious and the vets recommended putting him down.

So that happened and I don't know if I've really processed it yet. I probably won't until the next time I go home and he's not there.

The thing about pets is they never let you feel lonely. It's harder to be lonely in the winter.

And excellence is damn hard to maintain. There's a lot of work left before the Magpie book will be ready for others to look at, because my process is to write a rough draft and then completely rewrite the manuscript at least once before anyone else sees it.

But the teeth-bearing snarl is creeping into my undertone and I feel the prickly under the skin need to create warning—is that inspiration's manifestation—and so back into the forest we go.

I am on Twitter if you need me.