Where Is Your Home?

Source: purpleshadow13.hubpages.com

Source: purpleshadow13.hubpages.com

Everyone has ideal work and home environments, places where they can be their most productive and authentic. I wonder where these preferences come from. Is it an attempt to recreate a childhood home where one felt safe and loved, is it just a matter of convenience and lifestyle or is it a link to the way our ancestors lived that is stored in our DNA that makes one person hanker for city life and another for the quiet of the country?

As an introvert, I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit into an extrovert world. I tried to convince myself living in an apartment in a big city was what I wanted and working in a government office was the thing to do. Then I got older and wiser and just plain tired of trying to be something and someone I wasn’t.

If I had just listened to my child self and followed what made her happy, I would have saved myself a great deal of time, grief and moving expenses. Children always know their preferences especially when they are young enough not to care about what society says.

I’ve always preferred a forest, and not a forest view but being amongst the trees, down in the understory. As a preschooler, I would head outside and straight for the hedgerow that divided our property from the neighbour’s. I would spend hours tucked underneath the branches where it was cool and dark making up stories about magical animals and places. Once I started attending school, every recess I would scoot down to a small dell where a poplar forest stood. I loved that tiny green palace with its shimmering leaves that shivered with the slightest breeze breaking the sunlight into moving sculptures of dark and light.

It wasn’t until my forties when I would finally own a property that was nestled in the trees and for five years I lived in my dream environment. Even on the brightest, hottest days of summer I could find a cool, dark spot of shade where my light-sensitive eyes could enjoy looking at the sunny day from a comfortable perspective.

When it comes to work environment, a softly lit, quiet room with the sound of the rain outside is when I feel the most energized and productive. A sunny day does the opposite for me; I just want to find shade and read all afternoon or have a long afternoon nap. Give me an overcast stormy day, soft glowing yellow light and even better a fire roaring on the hearth and I’m a very happy camper.

kitchen fire

I am also a morning person, a very early morning person. Before sunrise, I take my coffee outside no matter what time of year. I go outside to experience the brief moment when the night creatures have all gone to bed and the day beings haven’t gotten up yet. The silence that exists is like the earth holding its breath and it feels as if all things are possible in that fleeting period of absolute silence.

So, I prefer the sun dappled shade of a forest and my home needs to reflect a sense of calm, warmth and dreaminess. I contemplated why I hold such preferences and I think I unconsciously try to recreate in the external world what my internal one looks and feels like.

My imagination and inspiration live in a place of shadows where characters and stories emerge from the half-light of a flickering candle flame, where the brooding clouds create a blank slate for my characters to act out their stories. And the in between places of my mind are where I catch glimpses of another world that ask to be placed on the page.

candlelight window

So what is your ideal place to live; the stark beauty of a desert, the vastness of an ocean view, a cottage in the forest, the open vistas of a prairie, or the exotic flora of a jungle? And what environment allows you to feel most comfortable, the hum and buzz of a city, the quiet of the country or something in between?

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Blogger’s Block

stonewall

I know this is a strange confession for a writer but when it comes to writing regular blog posts, I struggle. If you check my archives I post about once a month and that is a great accomplishment for me. So if this is such a difficult task, why do I do it? Three reasons really. One, I love connecting with other writers and readers, two, as a novelist I need a website where people can find me and three, there are times when I have something I really need to say.

So when I mentioned my peculiar reticence to posting more frequently to my writer friend, Claire, she challenged me to write more often. I protested, I dug in my heels, I threw a temper tantrum but she wouldn’t be put off until I accepted. The challenge: to write a post once a week. Gulp. The thought of that is making my palms sweaty and I think I’m having heart palpitations even as I write this. So why do I have such an aversion to doing this? Is it because I write fiction and this is non-fiction? Do I think I have nothing important to say? Do I fear rejection? Is it low self-esteem? Is Mercury in retrograde?

I do love a good mystery so I did what I always do when faced with a question I don’t know the answer to; I pondered it for a few days. And the answer is quite simple.

I’m an introvert. And on the introversion/extroversion scale I sit on the far left of centre. I’m not a hermit living in a cave but I probably would be if not for the fact I still have a day job I have to go to. I have often joked with Claire that in a previous life I was a monk or a hermit living in seclusion.

And if you have read anything on introverts you will know it has nothing to do with being shy but everything to do with how I process information and the world around me. Contemplation is a natural place for me to dwell. And that is why writing full-length novels is what I do. I love the time it takes to delve into a story, spending months with my characters and seeing what unfolds. It takes me six months to a year to get a novel ready for publication and in that time I write three drafts and that doesn’t include the revisions once it is sent to the publisher. And I know this sounds daft, but I enjoy working on revisions and edits too. When I write novels there is less constraint both in subject matter and time compared to blogging. I am more turtle than hare.

This way of being is also the reason I am drawn to gardening. In order to have a successful garden you need to take it slow, get a feel for the land and the soil, for how the wind dances over the land and how much sun the plants get through the changing seasons. It is important to understand the interconnectedness of the plants, insects and soil that make up the garden. The only way to gain this knowledge is through observation. And growing things takes time from planting seeds to harvest, several months in fact. There is nothing fast about gardening, except for how quickly weeds can spread.

Claire writes short stories; beautiful, evocative short stories. She also worked for a time as the editor of a village newspaper. She had a few reporters on staff but she had to interview, write and put together the paper mostly single-handed. And she had to do it every week. I have told her several times how her ability to do this was beyond my comprehension and just the idea of working on such a tight deadline and writing non-fiction is my version of hell. Why? Because it would be way outside my comfort zone. More like being pushed out of a plane without a parachute than stepping over an imaginary line into the unknown.

I trust Claire. She knows me and what makes me tick. I value her assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. We also share a desire to grow and to stretch who we are and who we aspire to be. So here I go, the first post of the challenge is almost done. And who knows how I will feel in three months if I keep this up. Perhaps, over time it will feel less intimidating and become a comfortable way of being for this introvert.

I love the word comfort for it is derived from the Latin word meaning to strengthen. So with fingers crossed, this blogging thing may strengthen my ability to sit down once a week and put my non-fiction thoughts on paper so that I truly will feel comfortable and comforted when faced with a blank screen and a really short deadline.

 

 

She’s Here – The Enchanted One

I am excited to announce that November 15, 2014 is the release date for my next novel,

The Enchanted One, published by World Castle Publishing.

The Enchanted One 3D book coverYou can pre-order your ebook copy right now by clicking the link here. Or if you would like to order the paperback you can order it now at this link.

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I’ve got some great giveaways in the works so keep checking back or watch my posts on FB at Lora Deeprose Author and Twitter.

Building My Home on Solid Ground

brokenhouseblogpxRecently, I watched best-selling author of The Signature Of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow-up presentation on TED talks called Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating.

In this seven minutes talk, she provides examples of the pitfalls of pursuing a creative life and a sure-fire remedy to keep on track and maintain your equilibrium during the inevitable ups and downs.

She explains why both success and failure can wreak havoc on your life:

“For most of your life, you live out your existence here in the middle of the chain of human experience where everything is normal and reassuring and regular, but failure catapults you abruptly way out over here into the blinding darkness of disappointment. Success catapults you just as abruptly but just as far way out over here into the equally blinding glare of fame and recognition and praise.”

The solution to both of these extremes, Elizabeth states is:

“. . . you’ve got to find your way back home again as swiftly and smoothly as you can, and if you’re wondering what your home is, here’s a hint: Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself.”

“You’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it.  So addiction and infatuation don’t count because we all know that those are not safe places.”

I would add that along with addiction and unbalanced relationships another unsafe place to build your home is people pleasing. It’s just as destructive to the body and soul as any street drug out there.

I came to be the consummate people pleaser as a way for a child of five to keep myself safe and protected while growing up in an abusive home. It made sense as a little girl with no protection to adopt this strategy, it was the only tool at my disposal that would secure a small measure of safety.

Focusing on pleasing others meant I was constantly putting my energy into someone else’s dreams, needs and desires. In essence willingly giving away my power and energy in the hopes of securing love, security, safety.  This destruction of the soul is very seductive because I could convince myself that I was being noble, helpful, a good girl, a great partner whenever I would drop what was important to me to please others but at the core of it, this behaviour in an adult is a cop-out because I could always use it as an excuse to never fully invest in myself and thus never really have to fail or succeed.

So a strategy that kept me safe as a child morphed into the most unsafe place on which to build my own dreams of being a writer. I had placed my home, my desire and dreams on an ever shifting trash heap of pain and unloveableness.  What is more, I willing kept abandoning work on my own house of dreams (usually when I just started laying the foundation) to put all my time and effort into building someone else’s.

So I recently moved my home onto safer ground with a clearer understanding of how to set boundaries in a loving way and to refocus my attention on myself.

dreamcottage

This process of reclaiming who I am at times can be both exhilarating and frightening but I am determined now that I have found a safe place to begin building my home, I will not budge.  And when old habits crop up and I am tempted to abandon my writing to give energy to someone else in an unhealthy way I will do as my favourite author suggests:

“And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then you job is to fight your way back to that home, the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next.”

Thank you Elizabeth.

The Hand Written Word

JournalsI wrote my first novel  longhand in a plain coil scribbler and later transcribed it on my clunky PC that lived in the basement office. A decade later, even though I have a skookum laptop, I still use notebooks as part of my writing process. Invariably I have three notebooks on the go at any given time each with its own purpose.

One is for my personal journal. My writing routine includes a morning date with my journal to get out all the random things pinging around my brain. For me it is the most effective way of gearing up to focus on my current WIP. Three pages of personal writing clears the mental decks to allow the story full reign in my thoughts.

The second notebook I use for new story ideas that I don’t want to forget but don’t have time to explore, character sketches and blog post topics.

And the third scribbler I use for my current work when I come up against a plot problem or the characters’ motivation seems a little murky. I simply write down questions and answers with no attachment to whether the answers fit the problem. And more often than not, I come up with the solution, or find where I am pushing a character to do something they wouldn’t do.

Cursive writing; connecting my thoughts through my hand to the page creates a magick allowing possibilities to emerge that I wouldn’t have found stabbing away at my keyboard.

Recently there has been debate in both the US and Canada whether to scrap cursive writing instruction in schools. Proponents believe this mode of communication is no longer relevant in an age of texting and keyboarding. Arguments for the other side reveal that cursive writing is more than just a means of putting words on paper.

A recent article by William Klemm, D.V.M., Ph. D, professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University for Psychology Today addresses the importance of cursive writing and its positive effects on brain function.

In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.

Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.[4]

There is a whole field of research known as “haptics,” which includes the interactions of touch, hand movements, and brain function.[5] Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity.

So what I felt intuitively about the power of hand writing to unlock ideas and engage the whole brain to a problem and its solutions seems to be backed by science.

Is cursive writing an archaic method of communication whose time has past or is it a necessary link to developing all our mental capacities?

Will the next generation of writers who haven’t been taught the most basic skill of hand-wrought words be able to generate ideas and feelings in the same degree as past generation of the pen enabled?

In the future will novels be written in an abbreviated language of texting and twitter posts and if so will they be able to convey deep emotions and complex ideas? Is eliminating cursive writing just the next step in our evolution as a species? Or will something of our humanity be lost without it?

Author’s Note: The day after I finished this post I came across Andrew Fitzgerald’s TED Talks entitled Adventures in Twitter Fiction. The talk is fascinating on its own as he explains how some authors are exploring new ways of storytelling using Twitter as the medium but what caught my eye was when he spoke of  Jennifer Egan’s Black Box which was published  as a serialization on twitter by The New Yorker. It took her a year to condense the story down to the 140 characters that Twitter allows. And how did she write the first draft before it was posted online? She wrote in a notebook using longhand.

The Perfect Writer’s Chair

The other day, I dropped in to Masterpiece Pools and Spa to get my hot tub water  tested when I spotted  something in the store’s backroom that made me stop in my tracks. It was a solid oak swivel chair. It looked completely out-of-place amidst the pool hoses and hot tub accessories. I let out a sigh of longing catching Al, the owner’s, attention.

I asked him where he got the chair. He said it was his father’s from when he was promoted to an office job for BC tel in 1958. The chair dates from the same year as it’s marked on the bottom of the seat. The solid oak chair and its companion desk were  brand new office furniture for a man’s new position and office. Al’s dad used that chair until a few decades later when the company was updating all the office furniture; out with the solid wood, handcrafted furniture in with the new prefab grey metal desks and fabric covered chairs.

When the company was getting rid of the old furniture they asked the employees if the wanted to take any of it home because if they didn’t it was all going in the trash. So Al’s dad rescued the desk and chair, so at least a few pieces of history and a testament to craftsmanship were saved.

Like all  writers I spend a great deal of time with my butt parked in a chair for hours at a time and the right type of chair is essential. It’s like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears; the perfect chair should be neither too hard nor too soft but just right.

Chair03

This vintage chair is not too ergonomically correct; not so soft that you can write for too long without getting up to stretch and get the blood flowing. It’s not too hard like the cast-off kitchen chair I’m currently using which is so uncomfortable I have to force myself to use it.  It is just right; solid and substantial. It has a weightiness that keeps one grounded in front of the desk. The swivel mechanism  allows you to tilt back ever so slightly which is the perfect position when your mind needs to wander and explore plot twists and character motives. One day perhaps I’ll buy one myself but for now the old kitchen chair will have to do.