Friday, January 30, 2015

Things With Which I Am Currently, Shamelessly Obsessed

1) Strid by the Oslo Kammerkor.  It's choral music.  In Norwegian.  That combines folk songs with liturgical music. And it is so much awesome I can't even handle it.

I realize I'm nutterbutters for my love of choral music, but if you're even a little curious, give it a listen and be inspired.  And wish you could speak Norwegian.  This one is admittedly on the odder side, with a traditional shepherding call leading it out:



2) Vintage Travel Posters.  I love film posters, but they're so intimidating.  How do you choose a film poster for, say, a guest room? That's appealing and unique but not pushy in your taste palette?  Enter travel posters, which just feel so much less commital.  They don't declare "I LOVE 1950s scifi schtick starring John Agar, like The Mole People!" the way my living room does.

3) John Agar.  Journey to the Seventh Planet.  Revenge of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I'm only half-kidding in my love of Agar, and the rest being actual, pure, unadulterated enjoyment of wacky sci-fi and the actors who made it possible.

4) This Flourless Chocolate Cake.  With--wait for it--This Blackberry Balsamic Sauce.  I'm, um, just practicing for Valentine's Day.

5) Being jealous of the Northeast for getting The Snow. I want The Snow.  We just have piddly leftover snow and it's...sad.

All right--exciting, embarrassing, or otherwise noteworthy obsessions of late! Go!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Painting and Priming and Writing

I've been hard at work in my House of a Thousand Windows, re-doing the guest bedroom.

When we moved into the House, this particular room was painted a dull periwinkle grey and the trim was done in a forcefully average medium blue.  If chronic, unyielding depression needed a place to stay, it would have chosen that room.  Seasonal Affective Disorder was born in that room.  Guests seemed to emerge noticeably...puny the day after sleeping in that room.

It was awful.

So I decided to repaint it a pleasant, pale yellow and make that horrid dark trim white.

Do you realize how much primer and paint it takes to get medium blue to crisp white?

I've been recoating a lot.  I'm on my second can of primer.  This may be due partially to the fact that I bought something on the cheap end, but it was Killz brand, and since that was pretty much what I wanted to do to that room, I thought it was fitting.

The secret to a good paint job, as any painter (or page on This Old House's website) will tell you, is priming first (and keeping your edges wet, which I fail at completely).  In the hours I've spent doing so, I found myself wondering if the same applies to writing.

Do you need to prime before you write?

The natural discussion that comes out of that question is probably the "plotter vs pantser" debate, but maybe that's not quite what I'm talking about.  The complete, detailed, intensively plotted outline will not necessarily yield a better book than the frantic, inspiration-coming-as-a-thief-in-the-night totally pantsed book.  (Note: Need better term than "pantsed book."  Sounds like a bullied novel...)  I believe that plot vs pants is a spectrum, with good writers falling all along it.

But starting with a blank slate, building a rich base, and getting in the right headspace to write all seem like priming to me, too.  I find myself trying to mentally immerse myself in my writing before I try to sit down at the computer.  I'll consider the questions I'd been chewing on, think about the way the scene looks, run through the dialogues I might want to write.  And even if I haven't mentally pre-written a scene, clearing my mind of distractions (say, getting my head out of work or parenting or prepping the roast chicken for dinner) before writing makes my work more productive.

So I do think priming matters--priming makes the work of creating go faster.  It makes the work itself better, richer.  It makes the process more seamless--there's no warm-up to writing, just the deeply entrenched writing itself.

And that brings me back around to painting--it's been a fantastic, quiet way to prime myself for writing.  After an hour of daubing whitewhitewhite paint on trim, all the while ruminating on characters in my WIP, I'm ready to write.

Plus, thinking about writing keeps me from plotting ways to Killz the creator of Benjamin Moore Rainy Day Depression Gray paint.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Perfection is the Enemy of...well, everything.

I'm sure you've heard the adage, "Perfection is the enemy of good." And it's completely true for a perfectionist like me--stereotypical over-achieving only child.  Hi, I'm Rowenna, and I'm a perfectionist.

There are most definitely times when the pursuit of perfection has me either avoiding starting something to begin with ("What if it's not perfect?") or giving up too soon ("Gah! It's not perfect!").   It's a trait I've tried to curb as I've gotten older, especially as I look back and consider--what things did I avoid because I knew I wouldn't be perfect at them?  What might I have enjoyed or discovered I was actually pretty ok at?

I've never been afraid of writing for that reason--writing was that thing I was good at, even as a kid, so it didn't give me the "What ifs" the way other pursuits did.  For instance, say, sports.  I avoided things I was afraid I'd stink at.  As an example, sports.  When I was in high school, my friends convinced me to join the lacrosse team.  I did, for three reasons: 1) The sport actually seemed pretty cool; 2) We got to wear kilts and 3) It was a club, not varsity sport, so you couldn't get cut from the team.  Did I mention I was really unsure about my prowess in sports?

I wasn't great, but I wasn't terrible--I was a starting midfielder on our equivalent of JV and learned that I can actually run pretty fast.  But moreover, I learned that there's value in things that you're not perfect at, and value in imperfect work.  I had fun.  I stayed in shape.  I'm sure I improved some kind of coordination.  I kind of understand sports, which means I can participate in sportsball conversations in social situations.  Valuable.

Beyond being the enemy of the good, the perfect is also the enemy of progress.  Period.  You'll never start if you're paralyzed by the perfect.

I'll never be one for sloppy work.  There's another old adage that I can't get behind, not for my own work--to just write, even if it's crap, because you can edit crap later, but you can't edit a blank page.  I fear crap far more than I fear a blank page.  But that's just me--and accepting that there's a lot of range between crap and perfection helps me fill the page with something that approaches good, even if it's not perfection.

So I'm aiming for even less dedication to perfection.  The good is valuable, perhaps even more so than the perfect--because if we're honest, the perfect is pretty elusive.  As far as old adages go, a good bird in the hand is worth a perfect pair in the bush.