To Reach for the Stars

“White Castle” by Yuri Shwedoff. Caption at bottom was added by someone else.

​I pray this picture will not foreshadow the embers of space exploration and colonization, slowly fading until we lose interest and forget we once had the opportunity to walk on other worlds.
Once upon a time, we listened to the sky’s siren call, and answered it. As it was with the sirens of myth, so it is with the heavens. They are unforgiving, more so than anywhere on Earth.
But that very danger is part of what beckons us. It is improper to overtly romanticize exploration, but exploration does carry more than a touch of the romantic, an urgency and necessity we cannot quite put into words. Some deep and fundamental part of us knows it is worth the risk, when we look up and drink in the sight of countless stars.
To stand any decent chance of surviving such a journey, your body and mind and spirit must be of the highest durability. They have to be tempered by demanding tests and adverse circumstances, not to mention incredible persistence and strength of character. Many of us need an enemy, as well. Whether it’s a competing empire, or an authority figure who said you’d never amount to anything, or even our own selves, we often wait until a voice tells us “You’ll never do that,” before we say “Yes I will.”
A famous passage in the Bible says that the heavens declare God’s glory, night after night pouring forth speech and displaying knowledge. And what knowledge! What rewards we have gathered from taking risks and pushing ourselves.
May we reach while we still can.
[Previously posted on Facebook]

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Willingness to Learn

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you.

If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.

~ Unknown

For entirely too long, I have allowed myself to quit learning, quit innovating. And not surprisingly, creativity took a great blow, and it’s been a nightmare trying to formulate new ideas. I kept locking myself in what had come before, and then tried to shove myself forward.

No longer. I will let go of past frustrations, grudges, and disappointments. Instead I will grab ahold of the opportunities and promises of today and tomorrow. The only cure for living in the past is to move. The past cannot be helped. Only the future can still be molded.

Yeah, I know that sounds like a bumper sticker or obvious advice from the latest self-help book. Nevertheless, it is a fact that demands my attention. And I will do my best to adhere to it.

Never stop learning. Never pause to tell yourself you no longer have need for listening to others. Work tirelessly, vigilantly, to keep growing, to keep seeing new things. Allow yourself to be surprised by joy, delighted by greatness, and thrilled by the mystery of what lies beyond the next door.

Writing Prompts for the Holidays

Many writers are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, so I’m offering you some writing prompts for (hopefully) inspiration and keeping you tapping away at that keyboard. Even if you don’t feel like doing 50,000 words of fiction in a month, maybe you can still find these helpful for devising a new story, looking at something from a new angle, or simply getting unstuck. I need to do all three myself, so I plan to use each of these at least once

1. “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

2. Lots of characters face conflict because they are late for their engagements. What about a character who is always early? How can being early create conflict?

3. What’s the worst that could happen during a nice afternoon chat?

4. Many fight scenes with dozens of combatants occur in a bar or tavern. So, what if a crowd of “normal” people got into fisticuffs in a more unusual place? A museum. An auction house. An observatory. The Louvre. The nearest Village Inn. A train station. Anyplace where you’re not expecting to step on someone’s recently dislodged tooth.

5. How would a big battle scene change in the transition between night and day? Whether they’re fighting at sunrise or sunset, think about the changes of mood, the tactics each side would switch over to, the soldiers having to adapt to the new environment. Contrast the features of nighttime combat and daytime combat as much as possible.

Hope these are of some use to you. Thanks for your time!

Writing Suggestion: Fictional Gambling

Having trouble coming up with new ideas for a story? Here’s one possible solution: Gamble.

But not for money. Almost certainly, the spinning roulette wheel is just going to be the accretion disk around a monetary black hole. The house always wins, and writers make little enough money as it is. So instead, gamble for ideas. All you need is a little bit of creativity, a die (with any number of sides you want), and a list of possible outcomes.

Let’s say you’re having trouble finding the personality and occupation of a character to write about in your story, and you have a six-sided die. You can write a list that might look a little something like this:

1. Hard boiled bounty hunter.

2. Optimistic surgeon.

3. Big-hearted bouncer.

4. Alcoholic florist. (Don’t ask)

5. Kleptomaniac plumber.

6. Philandering cyborg.

Then, of course, you start developing the character that the die rolls on.

One advantage of this is the variety, both in outcomes and in the aspects of story creation it can be applied to. Thousands of combinations can be found if you write similar lists for possible plot developments, character fates, worldbuilding, possible villains, subplots, inciting incidents, and possible stakes in the story.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of this game, however, is that it can be ignored. If the die rolls on the philandering cyborg but you really wanted to write the alcoholic florist, then of course you can dispose of the bucket of bolts and overactive flesh. Sometimes just thinking about different options gives you the push you need.

Now go create, and may your imaginings never run dry.

What Are Your Goals as a Writer?

No real advice or musings here. Rather, this is a post of inquiry. I’d like to hear from my readers who are also writers. Specifically, I’d love to know, what keeps you going? Do you dangle a carrot before you that encourages you to keep typing, revising, submitting, or even thinking? Heck, it doesn’t have to be a writing-related goal.

It seems we all need incentive of one form or another. For myself, I have an agent expecting the full novel whenever I can send it to her. So, I have sworn off on watching certain movies until the book is finally revised and sent off (if you’re wondering, the movies are The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and even the beloved John Carter).

So, how about you? Any goals you want to try speeding along by giving yourself a reward at the finish line?

Pikes Peak Writers Conference: Coming Up Fast

Well, as I have stated before, the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is coming up fast. Slightly under two weeks until we are there. Right now, it costs about $450, but I’m passing along the word that it’s one of the top ten writers conferences in the country, and is the friendliest overall. Seriously, a Marriott with a great view of Pikes Peak, you’re surrounded by professionals – writers and agents and editors with years of experience – and quality dining and service from the hotel. What’s not to love about that idea?

There’s still time to register. If you are a writer who wants to expand their career, make connections in the business, and meet with hundreds of other writers, this is the place to be.

With people like Robert Crais, Jeffrey Deaver, Donald Maass, Susan Wiggs, Kevin J. Anderson, Bree Ervin, Ronald Cree, Angel Smits, etc., there will be hundreds of fellow writers, either going for the first time to give their professional careers a shot of adrenaline, or returning veterans who have stayed with the conference since it was formed twenty years ago. And you will be hard-pressed to find a more pleasant city to hold an event like this.

Hope to see you there!

A Motivational Manifesto

Need a little motivation to keep writing these days? I know I do. That’s why I appreciated this manifesto from K.M. Weiland, for those hard times when a storyteller needs a little shove in the right direction. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

http://www.wordplay-kmweiland.blogspot.com/2012/02/wordplayers-manifesto.html

Be sure to check out the rest of Weiland’s website. It’s a very helpful place to get more advice from a fellow writer, and her kindness and professionalism are unparalleled.

Catch you all tomorrow! I’ve got a little something in the works…as soon as I figure out what it is, I’ll let you know.

-John