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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Not so random random thoughts on Christmas.

So, yesterday was Christmas. Everyone seems to get a little batty in the weeks leading up to this holiday. Scrounging up all the money you can to purchase gifts so you can give them to people, worries over hosting Christmas family banquets and negotiating schedules seem to drive even the most mild mannered person into a frenzy. People frequently exclaim how fast the holiday is coming, though it’s truly not any faster than any other year. The inevitable sigh and new frenzy to make New Year’s plans begin. 

I like Christmas. Of most memories I have, Christmas and Fourth of Julys probably reign supreme as the “best.” Many more positives, fewer negatives. I like Christmas because even though I’ve grown to adulthood, I’ve still managed to hold a bit of the childhood wonder over the idea of Santa and the other magical gifts Christmas could bring. I have a few required items to make Christmas Christmas. Some of my Christmas random thoughts/memories for you:

1. I Need my smelly-thing. I know, sounds like a horrible thing. I assure you, it’s pleasant. My mother bought wax potpourri figurines for each child and gave them to us as adults. Mine happens to be two children kissing under a wire held mistletoe over a stack of presents. After all these years, the fragrance is still pretty potent. It goes on my stand in the living room every year. It’s not Christmas until I smell that figurine as I walk into a room. I actually exclaim, “It smells like Christmas!” because, well, it does!

2. I have to watch a minimum of four movies before Christmas is over. They are: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, White Christmas and Scrooge (the musical version with Albert Finney). For one, I watched these with my family growing up (and A Christmas Story was watched by us well before it became a day long marathon on TV), and thus share memories of us all narrating and repeating the lines. It’s also just not Christmas without them.

3. I remember Christmas eve parties with my family. We’d usually host, and my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins would come and we’d all eat way too many chips, dips, cookies, snacks, and top it all off with way too much punch. We kids would be louder than loud, invariably my grandfather would flip someone off (usually whomever held a camera or camcorder), and I would actually get to stay up late. When everyone left, and my parents would want us to settle down, I frequently remember White Christmas playing on the TV. If we were good and it wasn’t too late, we’d get to stay up and watch the end of it before rushing off to bed for the magic of “presents appearing” to begin.

4. My sister, who demanded “Tree” whenever we’d have it set up, sometimes was the first up and out. One Christmas, she managed to be the last one out. This was unheard of as there were two college aged guys in the house at the time. She was hilarious to watch open presents: usually she forced one of my older brothers to start playing with every single gift she got unless they were clothes. Then, she’d look at them, grab them out of the boxes, and throw them over her shoulder. 

As I’ve gotten older, Christmas has really changed for me. For the last near decade, I’ve been one of the many who work the holiday. Only one year in my current employment have I not worked it, and that was last year. There is a different perspective to gain when you look as one who literally “Schedules” Christmas versus as a kid, Christmas kinda  just comes to you.  Probably the closest I got to Christmas of memory was actually observed on Sunday, and I happened to be missing a brother and his family at that time. I still enjoy it, but a little part of me misses being all together. 

I worked yesterday, so I spent my morning there. It’s not as bad as one thinks. Sure, I’m working, but usually everyone is in such a good mood because it is a holiday.  This year, I also found out how appreciated we are. I had a customer buy my coworkers and I flowers for working the holiday. Often, I was thanked for being there. I heard several say, “It sucks you have to the work the holiday.” Our only response was, “If we didn’t, you couldn’t come and get what you’re here for.” Often, I think, that’s forgotten.

One of the big hullabaloos this year was that retailers were making associates work Thanksgiving to boost sales. Yes, it does kinda suck that when in retail and service industries, you usually end up working holidays. But, to be honest those who bemoan this corporate greed: If you didn’t shop, they would take advantage of it and extend hours, thus making those employees you feel bad for work. It all ends up to the statement in the above paragraph. If someone wasn’t working, there wouldn’t be someone to be there for what you need. While retail is an unessential service (unlike medical, law enforcement or public safety positions), the only reason stores started having hours at these times was because the overall public necessitated it.

 

But think people: For every outcry you make on behalf of retail associates, remember they aren’t the only ones working. No: Cops, doctors, paramedics, nurses, fireman, and dispatchers also report to work, and their job is far more important to the public good. They do not ask people to bemoan their predicament. They accept it. It’s part of the profession, and truly, they are the ones we should salute for working holidays. Not the people like me who, if the businesses wanted, wouldn’t need to be open the holidays. We need the emergency providers. 

I really don’t know where I’ve gone or where I’m going with this post. I guess a lot of it was wallowing in my brain as I worked yesterday. I guess where everything stems from is that some of the magic of  Christmas I recalled above is very diminished now because everything has to be so scheduled and determined. Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas this year. Here’s to hoping 2014 changes all that.

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Posted by on 12/26/2013 in Uncategorized

 

Writer’s process…or how my mind controls its creativity, part II: Writing for writing’s sake.

Last time, how I think through the inspiration led to me getting to write about something. Today, we talk about what comes next.

I don’t like to take an idea and control it from the start. For me, it stifles any hope of the characters, plot, and personalities to develop. Just because I can see what my female protagonist looks like, sounds like, or how she sits in the world I’m about to put on paper, doesn’t mean I know who she is. I don’t have characters that just appear to me fully revealed. They don’t trust easily. They want to be able to see the relationship to develop between us is worth it before showing me who they are. Outlining at an early stage makes me feel like I’ve put my characters in a certain personality construct, and they get loud when they get locked up. (Did I mention they’re a little like me? Stubborn as hell!)

So, I free write. I don’t know if they’re going to stay good. Maybe just maybe the evil bloke I saw at the beginning starts showing a softer, more vulnerable side. Maybe that character that everyone starts to like decides he feels like doing some really bad things. Heck, maybe the world explodes and they all end up in Central New York mooing at cows (see, just like me!). I want the story to tell me what’s important. I want to get to know my characters, and start to love or hate them the same way I want those reading to.

The best part of this, for me, is that I am constantly motivated to come back to the document I’m writing because the most curious part of me is waiting to see what comes next. The worst part is that when you go to further parts of the process, you sometimes are confronted with the reality that you might not always write some brilliant things.

So, I write. Chapter after chapter, thousands of words, deepening my understanding of current characters, watching new ones pop up. About a third of the way into what would end up the finished product, something changes, and I start changing with it. The mercurial Lauren, always true to her Gemini nature, decides it’s time to do it a little different.

Then, a new sort of fun begins.

This is when I start needing a direction to move in. My mind starts to realize that, like in most things, it can always run away with itself and this writing idea, and if I want any of it to make sense, I must make it make sense.

And so, now, I start to outline. It starts pretty simple. At this point, I can see the end game, even if it’s well off. I’ve started to see that this character loves to leap before looking, the other is too busy being a flirt to pay attention, and the personalities of all the others have developed to the point I start feeling they’re real people telling me their story. I know what sort they are; now, I just need to know where they’re going.

I plot out the plot as loosely as possible to allow for creativity to still flourish. I get nervous if I don’t know the story has a point. I also like that these ideas developed in the outlining lead on to bigger and better plot ideas. More often than not, the outline leads to future book ideas, and then I start overwhelming myself with the history involved.

During this outlining period, I’m still writing. However, now I feel like I’ve an actual purpose with it. I’m more determined than ever to have a productive output, and I feel rather manic. The ideas start pouring in because I know the structure they’ll be contained in is there. I also know that, as the architect, I’m still able to manipulate as the characters and stories need.

I’m probably my happiest, most productive, and best in this stage. I’m always that mercurial sort mentioned above. I do love being in control…and losing it. It’s so very hard to decide what I think on so many things because of this, the least of which is writing.

But, to where do I go after the outline?

 
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Posted by on 12/13/2013 in blogging, writing

 

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