Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Things That Make You Go "Ah!"

How good are you at pushing your own buttons?

I mean it in a good way. Like sitting in the shade and popping open a can of root beer. Not in the horror way, where you are running for your life from a zombie who wants to eat your brain. Just so we're clear.

There is much power and joy to be had in knowing the little things that can constitute toward your own happiness. Changing nay to yay can save a day.

Today I decided that I would share a few of the little things in life that tend to pick me up. Feel free to give this some thought and add your own.

1. Mini Wheat & Coco Puff.

Nope, I'm not talking about cereal. Those are the nicknames of my schnoodle, D'Argo and my bichon frise, Coco. Pets make awesome writing buddies. They lower your stress level when you pause to pet them, they lick your hands or face and force the inner critic to take a hike and they always listen to whatever you read. No fear of rejection here. They are always ready to cheek you on with an emphatic woof and a joyful wag of their tail.

2. My iPod

Best. Investment. Ever. I have no use for a smart phone, but I wanted all of the bells and whistles that came with one. This baffled me for many years as I contemplated what I would actually do with a phone plan that I knew I would never actually use. Then Apple made the iPod. It took me a while to warm up to the idea of owning one of these. Mine is a 3rd generation and I bought it in December of 2009. But I love the thing. It does everything I wanted it for without making me pay for the primary feature of a cell phone (making calls) that I totally didn't need. In a word, its perfect.

3. My Toys

Not those kinda toys, you pervert! I collect dolls and stuffed animals. I started about a year ago. I was hugely into these when I was a kid but after my grandfather passed away I gradually gave them up. (I was about 14.) People tend to look at you strange if you still have this kinda stuff past 12 or so. I say too bad for them. I'm not here to impress anyone. I use my dolls and build-a-bears as one of the ways that I reward myself for writing milestones. I also tend to theme the toys that I buy based on whatever I am currently writing; I find it helps my creativity. Most important? It has taught me to rely on my own judgement, something I feel every writer needs to eventually master.

4. Cute Writing Gear

If you have a choice, you should make a choice. It doesn't matter how small the decision is. If you do not decide something, I can promise that someone will choose for you. I can't promise you'll like what they pick. I'm an incredibly slow decision maker. I agonize over every tiny little choice. I want to pick the "perfect" thing. I have had to learn to relax this. I can't ensure I am going to pick the perfect pink or sky blue mouse any more then I can ensure I will always pick the perfect adjective or noun in every sentence I write. If I try, I'm not going to have a mouse or a novel. If I want the finished thing, I have to settle for doing my best. But that does not mean I have to settle for 'the default'.

5. Villains Seeking Redemption.

This is something that will draw me like a moth to a flame every single time. I love seeing someone dark and dangerous being redeemed. It can be a rather unhealthy obsession. Mastered, though? It makes for great storytelling. My favorite example currently is Rephaim from P.C. & Kristen Cast's House of Night series. I absolutely adore reading about him & Stevie Rae. (Doesn't hurt that she is totally into country music. Though I'll take Brad Paisley over Kenny Chesney. But I'll get to that...) I think the most valuable thing that recognizing my interest in this theme is that I can watch for it in my own writing. And that is something that applies to any underlying theme or idea.

6. Josh Groban and Brad Paisley

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. What are those two names doing in the same heading? Yikes! Well, they are -- currently at least -- my two favorite people to listen to as I write. Why? Because they cover two ends of a very large spectrum. Josh Groban, in my opinion, takes intimate concepts and makes them larger then life. Songs like "Mai" (That's "Never" in English, apparently) which covers the feelings of rejection and betrayal, "My Confession" which is about changing your mind about someone, etc. (There are a ton of songs I could go into detail on here but I'll trust that you have the idea.)

Brad Paisley does the opposite. He will take a small contained idea and make it universal. Songs like "Online" about being a total geek and wanting to escape into the fantasy world of the internet, "She's Everything" where he describes various details about the woman he loves, or "Letter to Me" where he thinks about what he would send to his 17-year-old self are all full of short little word images that make the song people feel real and authentic. It is also important to note that Brad Paisley tends to have an awesome sense of humor which, while it can add a shade to his music, does not overwhelm it. (He does not have the issue that tends to plague The Barenaked Ladies, in other words.)

I suppose in the long run it could be argued that Josh Groban is very relatable when thinking about plot, whereas Brad Paisley is who I am more likely to listen to when I think about characters. (Sorry Josh, I love you to death, but it's the truth.) The bottom line, though, is to find the right music for whatever I am working on right this second. For Moon Dance, some of the other stuff on my PlayList includes "Grenade" by Bruno Mars, "F*** You" by Cee Lo Green, "Bad Romance" and "Judas" by Lady GaGa and "Maneatrr" by Shwayze.

7. My Purse

"I think, therefore I am". I run around with a pretty nice Dolce & Gabanna brown leather purse. When we looked it up online we found out its worth roughly $850 USD. My mother got it for me at Value Village when a bunch of runway purses were brought in as a unit. She paid $35 Canadian. Hmm... $800+ in savings, I still have a looks like it's totally brand new purse and for the first three weeks I had people around here stopping to ask where on earth I got it. I'm a far cry from a material girl, but once in a while it is fun to have something out of the ordinary. Especially when I (or my mom, in this case) did not have to pay an otherworldly price to own it.

8. Video Games With Story

It wasn't a book that convinced me I wanted to be a writer. It was a game. I was 11 or 12 when Square released Final Fantasy II (technically FFIV) for the Super Nintendo. I wanted that game so bad that my father ended up driving in a snow storm on Christmas Eve to six different Toys R Us to ensure that I got it. (Not sure whether its the game or the thought, but I still consider it my favorite Christmas gift of all time.) FFIV was one of the first RPGs that had a real, honest to goodness, story. It was a story of redeption, a story of betrayal, a story of love, a story of forgiveness...

I'll be the first to admit that it probably has one of the largest spheres of influence over what I write, even today.

I realize that not everybody who writes games. And not everybody who games writes. But he's a thought: Do you know what stories, regardless of their medium, have most deeply shaped you as a writer? What issues cut you most closely to the core? The ones that make you shout with joy, seethe with rage, or break down into gut wrenching sobs of uncontrolled sorrow? I think it is really something worth thinking about.

9. The Original Mortal Kombat Movie

This is probably my favorite movie of all time. I hunted to find a copy of this on DVD for something like 12 - 15 years. I recently had the good fortune to pick up a copy when they released it alongside the new Mortal Kombat game (9, I think?) earlier this year. I've already watched my DVD six times.

What I love about this movie is how it blends so many things together. The game mythology was handled extremely well and the various settings made the movie come alive. The fight scenes are exciting and even after all this time I still enjoy them. But what separates this from many other "fight" movies for me is that the characters are so carefully drawn out and that who they are is every bit as, or even more, important then what they are doing (fighting). There is also a fair amount of humor that threads through what is going on, that (yet again) does not take away from what is happening.

10. My Favorite Foods

Come on. You know you have one. At least one.

That "thing" that satisfies every time, that always tastes perfect. That there is always time for. That cheers you up no matter what.

Forget, for a moment, the calorie counter, the carbohydrate check, the % of fat... Think, for a moment, of food as nourishment for the soul. Here are a few instant wins I can think of for me off the top of my head:

-- #2 Combo with large fries and a frosty at Wendy's
-- Cheese Capaletti from East Side Mario's
-- Jelly Belly jellybeans
-- Cucumber with a light sprinkling of salt
-- Delisio Garlic Bread Pizza -- Bruchetta or Garlic Chicken
-- Tetley orange peaco tea
-- President's Choice hot chocolate
-- Poutine (french fries with shreded cheese / curd and gravy)
-- Anything that mixes peanut butter & chocolate

In Conclusion

Well, there is the first aid kit for my soul. If I am down there are a ton of little things that I can do, use, think about, etc. to make sure that I bounce back. But I don't just reserve my favorite things for those times. I feel that the best way to avoid ending up like a bruised banana is to integrate the things I love into my daily round. So now I think I will head off, have a hand full of Jelly Belly while I make a cup of tea and then listen to some Josh Groban and Brad Paisley.

After all, I have a novel to finish. :) Thanks for reading.

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