The Girl with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Her Kindle

I am in the midst of a passionate love affair with my new Kindle. I’m not the only one in love with a Kindle, I’m sure of that. Before any of you think that I’m on the payroll of Amazon, I’m not. I’m just the kind of person who likes to read more than one book at once, and having many books on one device gives me a lot of joy.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is what I’m reading right now. It’s not my standard fare, but I’m enjoying it greatly. I’m only five chapters in, but I can’t stop. The characters, the plotting, and the intrigue are thrilling. One small problem I have with it, though, is the large amount of exposition. Speeches almost a full page in length, where a character is simply relaying information to another character, and the reader, seem surprisingly prevalent.  Maybe some interjections from the listening party to break up the monologue and bring it back to a dialogue would have helped.

This is not a book review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Nor is this a criticism of Steig Larsson’s wonderful book that has me completely hooked. But, I believe quite strongly that being a writer has colored the way I read. I find myself thinking about what I would have done differently. I find myself wishing that I’d have thought of such a great character or story idea. I find myself disappointed that a story hasn’t gone the way I hoped it would, and I find myself giddy with joy at an unexpected turn that catches me by surprise.

Trying to see these emotions as writing lessons in my own writing is something that I continually strive for. Of course, I’m not talking about re-using ideas, or taking a character like Lisbeth Salander and re-creating her under a new name and face. I’m talking about searching myself as a reader and striving to understand the “why” behind my reaction (positive or negative) and to take that information and use it as a writer.

I believe that it is an important skill, and it’s one I work continually work to develop.

There is a pitfall to this, however. That would be, comparing myself to other writers. It’s a habit that I have. I think my natural inclination, when I read something I think is really wonderful, is to think that my work is not or never will be as good.

I’m not sure I’ve found a good way to avoid these thoughts entirely. But, once I do have them, I find it comforting to remember that everyone is their own worst critic. It’s a horrible cliché, but sometimes things become clichés because they are the truth.

Now, back to reading…

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Of Cats and Keyboards

So, as some of you who follow me on my Facebook may know,  and as those of you who read my poem in my last entry may have guessed, the reason for my hiatus in my posting here is the birth of my niece.  I traveled across state to visit my brother and my sister-in-law, and got to hold their new little daughter when she was only about eighteen hours old.  Unless I have children of my own one day, I can’t think that there is much that can match it.

This has been my primary distraction of late. There are, however, much more trivial things that keep me from writing.  Getting caught up on episodes of “Downton Abbey” proves effective enough at keeping me away from the precious page. Another thing that manages to distract me is BCITW, as he is know on this blog.

BCITW, or Best Cat InThe World, is a surprisingly active part of my writing life. Since one of my readers was good enough to ask me to write more about the role my cat plays in my creative life, I decided pets and distractions would make an excellent entry.  Writing about a new life coming into the family is a bit overwhelming and emotional for a blog like this. It’s too big, and too personal. So, writing about BCITW seems to fit the bill.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my cat and my writing life, is an incident that happened three years ago in November.  I was participating in Nanowrimo, like I do every year.  I was experimenting with a program I’d just discovered called “Write or Die.” Now, what “Write or Die” does is give you a text box to type in, and plays annoying sounds at you whenever you stop writing. I find it useful for banging out first drafts and tricky sections. Yes, you have to edit a lot later, but at least it gives you something to work with. The audio clips include things like babies crying, loud alarms, and songs that are famously regarded as being annoying. I was writing some, using this program, and BCITW began to cough.

I paused, and turned towards him cooing, “You okay, kitty?” “Write or Die” began blaring Hanson’s “Umm Bop” through my speakers at the same instant my BCITW vomited spectacularly onto the carpet.

Needless to say, I did not meet my goal for that writing sprint.

After I cleaned up the kitty barf, it would have been easy to throw up my hands and quit writing for the day. But, it was November and I was participating in Nanowrimo. I’d done two things that help me overcome distractions.

  1. I’d set a goal for myself.
  2. I had other people involved in my goal.

I was even in a chat room that hosted writers doing Nanowrimo together. After all was clean again, I told the story in the chat room, we all had a good laugh, and I went on writing.  Had I not had that support system in place, I probably would have just thrown up my hands.

Nanowrimo and “Write or Die” just happen to be things that I enjoy doing. They may or may not be for you. The point is simply to set a goal, and make sure that others know about it and can be there to support you and hold you accountable to it.

Also, brush the cat regularly to prevent him from coughing up hairballs while you’re writing.