Stroke of Genuis ~ Lost to the Cosmos

“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea forever.”  ~ Will Self, novelist


idea (Photo credit: Tony Dowler)

The fact that our short-term memory can only retain information for three minutes explains a lot. Sometimes this can be a good thing, as there are things we would rather not even retain for three minutes. But how about those other things—those things that we want to remember?

On the rare occasion when I come up with a good idea, I am sure it is so good that I will remember it forever—no need to write it down. Inevitably, I am left with later trying to piece together just what that good idea was. And if I cannot find it in my short-term memory, then it probably got filed in that vast vacuüm (at least in my brain) called long-term memory, never to be excavated at will.

Why do we never get good ideas at convenient times? Why is it when we are weeding the garden (okay, this is just an example—and yes, I have weeded my garden—just not lately)or burning—err….I mean cooking dinner, or hiking in the Appalachians? (No, I have never hiked in the Appalachians—I am not even sure people do hike in the Appalachians. And second: No, I have not hiked all that often—but I am using my imagination here.)

Amy Peters, in her book, “The Writer’s Devotional”, says that: “Ideas can—and do—surface at any time, and sometimes at the most inopportune moments. Chopping onions when the next great thought arrives? Put down your knife, pick up a pen, and jot it down. A stroke of brilliance arrives while you are en route to the store? When you stop at a red light or pull into a parking lot, take a moment to write it down.”

I am not sure what world Ms. Peters is living in, but if I am chopping an onion, I am probably doing it to create one of my wonderful gastronomically and palate pleasing creations, and could not possibly stop the artistry to write down an idea! And anyway, my eyes will be streaming because I did not take one of those precautions you are told to take when chopping an onion, so I would not be able to locate a pad and pen anyway because my eyes will be gushing onion tears!

A stroke of brilliance on the way to the grocery store? Stop and write it down? I am lucky to have remembered the list I took painstaking time to create and probably left at home on the dining room table (and thus will forget something basic like eggs and have to make a trip back to the store, and on the way to the eggs go by the bakery and pick up something verboten that I bypassed heroically on the first trip.)

The other advice Ms. Peters gives is to keep a notebook by the side of the bed, and “When you wake in the morning, record any thoughts that may have come to you in your dreams. Many writers find inspiration from their dreams.” Those who find inspiration from their dreams do not have the kind of dreams I have. When I wake up from a dream, which is usually confusing to start with, I am generally in no mood to write it down.

My dreams consist of three themes: not being able to find my geography lab in Windsor Hall at the university I attended almost four decades ago (I think I found it three times the whole semester of first year); believing I am awake while I am dreaming and wondering if I could do things in this dream that I would not dare do in real life, but not being convinced totally that I am dreaming; or having some kind of nightmare—and who wants to remember that?

Having said all that, I do carry a notebook with me almost all the time. But I do not use it to write down random thoughts. Whenever I have done that in the past, I go back to the notebook, find the supposedly “good idea” and cannot make heads nor tails of it. In what I thought was a stroke of genius, like “the red dog never dies” or “why can birds sit on electrical wires and not keel over”, I find the stroke of genius not so brilliant.

So, I am left with all those “good ideas” swirling around, lost in the cosmos. And you are left to read this. Sorry.

Published in: on August 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm  Comments (58)  
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Day 17 ~ 200 Words

This is in answer to the Writing Prompt: “If I were suddenly rich….” on page 338, week 48 of “The Writers’ Devotional” by Amy Peters.

English: Plastic Pitcher for Milk Bag

English: Plastic Pitcher for Milk Bag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been practicing being rich for a long time so I do not think that it will be a shock to my system. I would keep up the lifestyle I have, but ramp it up a bit. Instead of buying milk in those floppy plastic bags, I would buy it in jugs, even though it is 89 cents more.

This will make life so much easier. No more having to find a pitcher to put the milk in, then dig around  for something to cut it open because there are never any scissors around (I think we have a gremlin that steals them in the night).  No more spilling milk all over my cupboard, me, and the floor, and totally missing my cup of coffee because the plastic bag drooped out over the top of the pitcher.

Then I would go out and buy ten pairs of scissors and hide them, even though I no longer need them to cut open the milk bags. Just because I can.

English: A picture of a milk bag. Taken in 200...

English: A picture of a milk bag. Taken in 2008 in Sarnia, Ontario. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Published in: on July 23, 2012 at 12:41 am  Comments (40)  
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Keeping the Faith: Week 3 ~ Writers’ Devotional

Cover of "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"

Cover of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies

“Confronted by an absolutely infuriating review, it is sometimes helpful for the victim to do a little personal research on the critic. Is there any truth to the rumour that he had no formal education beyond the age of eleven? ”  ~ Jean Kerr

Week 3 of Amy Peters’ book, The Writers’ Devotional, is the best yet because it features Jean Kerr’s humourous quote up front and centre, setting the tone. Kerr was the author of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies published in the late ‘50’s and her book became what I want my phantom book to become:  a bestseller, a movie, and a television series. I love how Kerr deflected a bad review—putting the blame directly into the lap of the critic. That, to me is called survival.

Week 3  provides some  enticing  tidbits, of which I will only give you a taste—we have to honour authors and buy their books and not just be satisfied with some hack’s opinions (in this case-mine).

Monday of the third week tells us to balance the role of the critic and not give them so much power. Tuesday is an ode to positive thinking and poetry; Wednesday suggests writing a blog on a recently released movie,  giving it a “zippy” headline to create interest; and Thursday honours the word “said”. Enough said.

Friday features O. Henry, whose real name was William Sydney Potter. Teaser: he spent three years in jail. Saturday, Amy provides her read of the week: A Room of One’s Own by Geraldine Page. Just seeing  if you were paying attention here – of course it was Virginia Woolf’s “book-length essay”.  And Sunday, well, Sunday, which is writing prompt day provided a prompt I will not give away, but neither will I be using.

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles B...

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford Deutsch: Die zwanzigjährige Virginia Woolf, fotografiert von George Charles Beresford (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am treading a fine line here in not giving too much away and trying to keep your interest up. So I wlll be brave and bare my soul to you again, but this time in poetry. If any of you have read the “About LouAnn” section, (where I call myself  “a poet of little merit”) you know that my poetry skills are not my proudest endeavours, but nevertheless, I plug on.

W. H. Auden (I learned in the Tuesday motivational entry in Amy’s book) was asked if he wrote poetry and when he said he had never thought of doing so, he was prodded to try. So he did—and look what happened. Now, I am not saying that will happen here, but here is a humble offering of mine:

Holding the Faith

The slender bare tree limb

laces itself among its brethren

reaching its spidery fingers to the sky

Leafless, exposed

facing unguarded the winter chill

it survives the heavy snow

and icy tentacles that hold fast until

they slowly drip away

in the fading sun

A little boy drapes lights on the tree that

bears the slender limb–

Once dressed:

it glitters in the night sky,

lighting up the drab midwinter

as it reaches for the heavens

like a candle in the wind:

Holding the faith.

# 2 – Writer’s Devotional or What’s up Doc?

“In a time of universal deceit—telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”                                                                                          ~ George Orwell

Cover of "Animal Farm: Centennial Edition...

Cover of Animal Farm: Centennial Edition

What did I learn from reading the first week’s entries of Amy Peters’ “The Writer’s Devotional”? The Monday entry declares that “there are many reasons to write”. I agree–I write for many reasons, not just one. Journalistically, I report the news or write magazine articles on topics that in some way hopefully enlighten; creatively, I write to express myself and in the process I try to make people laugh or stop and think for a moment. Writing is a way to get your voice heard, and I guess we have to decide what we want that voice to convey.

On Tuesday, I was encouraged  to come up with an “end goal” to decide what I want to achieve as a writer. Wednesday or writing class day provided a little blurb on using illumination (or concrete examples) to write a biography about your best friend.

Thursday provided a great gem of knowledge—“good writers are not always good editors” and vice versa. Friday, or writer biography day, gave me new insight into the author who wrote Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair and he was born in India. Who knew? Not I.

Saturday is book day, and the first book, author of The Writer’s Devotional, Amy suggested is one written in 1962 called “Silent Spring”- a book she declared is a “wonderful example how clear and forceful writing can effect change.”

Sunday, or prompt day—shows that writers apparently do not need a day of rest. The first prompt in the book wants us to “write about a place where you’ve always fantasized living” a la Peter Mayle, who gave us Provence–a place he  lived a ‘fantasy’ life.

These are just some little snippets from the book—she elaborates on each of the subjects I just touched on—but she has me thinking –where would I like to live if I could live anywhere? This book provides some great food for thought, to use a much clichéd but apt phrase.

Writer's Stop

Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

#1 – The Writer’s Devotional, Amy Peters

Writer Wordart

Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

In my eternal quest to expand what is left of my mind, I bought a new book called “The Writer’s Devotional” with some birthday money I had received that was just burning a hole in my pocket , or to be more authentic (shades of Oprah) a hole in my pink wallet. It has contained within its brown suede-like cover (which is why I suspect I purchased it, as I just love the soft beautifully etched surface) a promise. Actually 365 promises. The subtitle of the book by Amy Peters declares that the book contains: “365 Inspirational Exercises, Ideas, Tips & Motivations on Writing”.

Now, according to the sketchy instructions at the front of the book, I am supposed to read one of the tips, exercises, ideas etc. a day, absorb it, meditate on it, or use it to write something profound. But seriously, I know myself and cannot stick to that prefab routine. I have already completed the readings for the first week, and I suspect that very soon I will finish the book. I am not a page-a-day kind of girl. I am also not really a girl, as I have several decades under my belt past the stage of girl, but I refuse to call myself a gal, and woman is a bit too formal, and well….mature.

The book is set up with a Monday to Sunday format. On Mondays you hear some words of wisdom from a writer; on Tuesday you get motivated; Wednesday is writing class day; Thursday is about editing; Friday provides a biography about a great writer; Saturday gives suggestions on books that writers should read; and Sunday, well on Sunday you are given a writing prompt. So, all in all you get two prompts over the week, learn some unusual biographical info about writers, as well as a few words of wisdom, and get to give your muse a bit of a reprieve.

One of the things I do as a writer is write a weekly column, and I always need ideas. I plan on taking some ideas from this book, and elaborating on them both for this blog and my column. I invite you to join me on this journey, which I will number,  and include in my “Off the Cuff” section so you can distinguish it from my other contributions. I will be providing a little info from the book, but not enough to spoil it for you should you want to buy it (or enough to get me sued)—just enough to whet your appetite. Comments would be appreciated if you have something to add to what I hope will not be a one-sided conversation.  This is not just a journey for writers; I hope to make it interesting to all.

Published in: on May 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm  Comments (2)  
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