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Inspiration

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I haven’t been writing lately.

It isn’t that I haven’t been thinking about it – I’m waiting to hear “any day now” on a manuscript, so it’s on my mind, believe me. But there are other things going on; the everyday drama that arises when you have a bunch of passionate volunteers, a big change on the horizon that is going to be good, but is still a change and therefore scary, and any number of other things that distract me and use up my creative energy.

And then, on Saturday night, there were northern lights. I know, the picture doesn’t look that spectacular, but they were. Spectacular. Best I’ve ever seen them, dancing across the sky for an hour, mostly green but with flashes of yellow and filling the whole northern sky and part of the east. Amazing.

I thought about how I would describe the lights in a story, and how the lights could play a pivotal role.

My manuscript in progress was sitting at 53,000 words and though I opened it up nearly every day, I hadn’t made a change in longer than I care to admit. On Sunday, the morning after the northern lights, I sat down and read/revised the entire thing, fixing the plot points that had been holding me back.

Monday, I wrote 3500 words.
Tuesday, 2000 words.
And today, Wednesday, I wrote another 4000 words to finish the story.

The aurora borealis came right when I needed it, and I’m am so grateful. So is Evie, who I’m sure was wondering if I was ever going to finish her story.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in writing

 

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Training Your Muse

In Love, Actually (possibly the best movie EVER, but I might be biased), Colin Firth’s character (hence, my bias) is a writer. After he finds his girlfriend in bed with his brother, he heads for his house in France, where he works on his latest novel, his typewriter stationed on the shore of the lake in his back yard, presumably whenever inspiration strikes.

If real writers waited for inspiration, they’d never get through a first draft.

There’s a lot of discussion about when you can call yourself a “writer”, but the truth is that real writers write. Published, aspiring, beginner or bestseller, the common denominator is that they write. Every day. Whether the muse visits or not.

Most of us have jobs and families and hobbies that fill up our waking hours. If you’ve got a 45 minutes before you have to leave for work, you can’t afford to gamble that muse will stop by at that moment. I don’t know about you, but mine prefers to visit while I’m driving or while I’m supposed to be sleeping.

So what can you do to train your muse to show up when you tell her to?

  • Make a soundtrack for your work in progress. Let the music pull you into the world of your manuscript.
  • Light a smelly candle, or make a cup of herbal tea. Last week I caught the smell of World Champion Pepi in a tack store and felt like I was standing in the aisle at a horse show. Smells have a strong memory association.
  • Keep a routine. Just like training a horse, consistency is key. If you write at the same time and place every day, the muse will get used to showing up.
  • Just write. Especially when you’re working on a rough draft, just make sure that during your schedule writing time, you’re actually writing. This is where I have trouble – email, Facebook, Twitter, I always want to click away. But you can’t edit a blank page. The most important thing is to just write.

I’m off to follow my own advise … feel free to share your muse training trips for next time I find myself staring at a blank screen!

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in writing

 

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Heart isn’t Measured in Hands

Reminds me of a quote I read: “I drive a Miniature Horse because heart isn’t measured in hands.”

I love the pony that keeps going over the jumps, even after he loses his kid! You can’t tell me he doesn’t love to jump, that he isn’t in it to win it! I’ve shown horses like this, who were even more competitive than I am – and that’s saying something!

Sittin Bull was a sweetheart of a horse who did not look like an athelete. He had this giant belly that we couldn’t get off of him with any amount of exercise or diet, and when we did manage to get him to lose some weight he just looked ribby – with a big belly. We let him be chubby after that, because it also disguised the fact that his head was big enough for a quarter horse even though Bull was 34 inches tall. It was a very pretty head though, capable of the very best “I need a cookie!” look I’ve ever attempted to resist. Bull had his quirks; He absolutely could not be ground driven, or he’d throw himself over backwards, and he was a cribber and um … recycler. Ew.

He was smart though. Often, when you started to lunge him, Bull would be lame. We’d stop him, pick out his feet again, feel up and down his legs, try him again … eventually we figured out the magical cure: a crack of the whip behind him! As soon as Bull realized that it wasn’t working, and you weren’t going to give up and turn him back out, he’d trot out as sound as he could be. He also didn’t believe in working hard while practicing at home, it was simply a waste of time and energy. In the show ring though – that was another story. In the showring, when it mattered, then he was willing to put in the effort. And if there was a crowd to cheer for him? Then the competition had better look out!

We were in a Youth Jumper class out in BC once. The horses gradually were eliminated, until there was just Bull and one other horse still in it. The other horse was well known out there as a jumper, and from the reaction of the crowd while Bull was keeping up to him, I don’t think he’d been beaten in a while. Every time Bull cleared a jump, the people would clap and cheer, and Bull would make sure to clear the next one too, so he could hear it again. Finally, they’d raised the jumps as high as they would go, and dropped it down to just two jumps, both 42″ tall – eight inches taller than the horses that were jumping them! Once again we jumped off, and once again, both horses went clean. With no way to further raise the jumps, the management decided to time the next jump off.

This wasn’t a move in our favour. Just in case you’ve never seen a Miniature Horse jumping class, we don’t ride (obviously), but run alongside, in my case, trying my darndest not to screw up my horse’s chances. Bull, as I’ve said, was built for comfort, not speed. As for me, even though I was a teenager at the time, I’ve never in my life shown a smidgen of athletic ability, and falling on my face was always a distinct possibility.

The course was set so that the jumps were nearly side by side, and we had to jump one, then turn around in a tight loop and jump the other. The other horse went first, and well, he was built for speed. He tore down the arena, going so fast by the time he’d gone over the first jump that his handler had a heck of a time getting him slowed down to make the corner and head back to the second jump. He had a clear round, but I knew that extra distance had given Bull and I a chance.

I ran as hard as I could (which isn’t saying much, I’ll admit), and as soon as Bull’s feet hit the ground after the first jump we hit the breaks, turned, and jumped the second 42 inch jump from nearly a standstill. With the promise of another ovation, Bull heaved his giant belly off the ground, and cleared the second jump, leaving nothing to do but run for the finish line. I’m sure that Bull enjoyed the gasps from the crowd when they thought I’d screwed it up for him nearly as much as he did the thunderous applause.

The stop watch didn’t work. The judges decided that the two horses had done so exceptionally they both deserved to win, and called it a tie. I collapsed in the hitching ring and tried to remember how to breath after all that running. Bull begged for (and recieved) a cookie. Or six.

It was one of the cookie providers that gave the best description of Bull ever. “His belly has to be that big to make room for his heart.”

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2010 in horses

 

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