The F-Word, in haiku

AtoZ-LetterF-2016
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“Desire if the key to motivation”~Mario Andretti, American sportscar driver
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Today’s Alphabet Haiku is brought to you by the letter F.

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Today’s Thursday Throwback link is also brought to you by the letter F.  Hop back in time to revisit the A to Z Challenge from 2015, which is all about writing, procrastination and fish.

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The fun #AtoZChallenge 2016 Theme Reveal

“Do or Do Not; there is no Try”~Yoda, Jedi Master

It’s the first day after the first day of Spring. That means it’s the end of March. That means bloggers around the world unite in mass hysteria for the phenomenon:

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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Every April, participating bloggers write daily posts–except on Sundays–that correspond to that day’s letter of the alphabet.
AtoZ-BlogChallenge-2016-AprilBadgeApril 1 is for the letter A, the first letter; April 2 is the letter B; April 3…well, you get the idea. The topic is anything you want, or nothing at all. Bloggers will pre-write and schedule posts so they can better blog hop while others just write on a whim each day. Photos, recipes, favorite books, villains, teddy bears…you name it, and the theme is probably there. It’s November’s NaNoWriMo for bloggers.

Last year was my first time participating, and it was quite a flop. I only completed half the month’s worth of posts because I created a theme that just exploded into a delicious mess of complications. My theme “26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer” was designed to be a humorous look at the ways we writers procrastinate, and how we allow others to enable us in distractions. What started out as short tips led to longer, detailed explorations. Then Jayne came in. She was my flash fiction to show by example what the distraction can do to a writer. Her life developed in a soap opera.

See? Complicated. Way too much for this talent-yet-unplanned writer. My April 2, 2015 post should have been “B is for…Blogging from A to Z” because I buried myself in expectations.

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This year, I’m keeping it simple–simpler, at least–with:
Alphabet Haiku

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The idea did not spring forth because April is National Poetry month, although that’s a nice happenstance. This theme came from a haiku challenge I had started on a now-defunct (?) social app community called Heyku. Later renamed Ku, my app stopped working, and I haven’t confirmed its non-existence on Facebook, since FB is the only place people actually communicate with others. Anyway, I did an alphabet challenge where every word of a haiku began with the same letter. I almost reached the end–“W” for werewolves never posted on the app site–but I never got to Z. Old photos on my phone reminded me of this, and it seemed like a good thing to revisit.

I will NOT reuse any of those old haikus. That’s part of my challenge. I may mix it up a bit: all words begin with the same letter, end with the same letter, rhyme somehow…I’m not sure how things will shake up.

If you followed last year’s adventures, I will also be finishing up those Procrastination posts of Jayne and her Writeself. They’ve been a weight hanging over me, one I cannot let go of. I need to finish them. Knowing that many of them are mostly-written makes me feel somewhat positive about completing. Again, I’m not sure how things will shake up; as my husband says with annoying regularity: “We’ll see.”

If you want to see what other bloggers are doing, check out the Theme Reveal here. As of this post, there’s almost 500 bloggers participating.

On Zentangle and (impatiently) waiting

“When a thing is done, it’s done. Don’t look back.”~George Marshall, American soldier

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

My NFPW 1st-place entries have moved onto Nationals. How did I do? I’m waiting to hear.

I’m fortunate to have a strong writing background, from the encouragement my high school English teacher gave me to the subjects I explored obtaining my English Minor degree in college to the sentence-by-sentence guidance my first newspaper editor gave me. That last one is the most valuable, and I’m still amazed that she took the time–made the time–to teach me how to write strong text. She saw something in me and believed in me. I always believed in myself, too; I just needed the opportunity to show my creativity. I got that, many times over.

I learned about NFPW when I moved to Delaware with my fiancé-now-husband. I was already an established “professional” writer, meaning I had bylines in print media, and that was enough for me to join NFPW and the local chapter that still bursts with amazing, strong writing and more. I entered contests. I won. I entered again and again. I won again and again. It was pretty cool.

Jump forward years and my move to Michigan. Writing opportunities were scarce, but I found a few outlets. I entered the NFPW contest as At-Large since there was no local chapter, and I won. However, I wasn’t just submitting column assignments. I was entering my personal writings: my books, this blog. Now I was being judged on my personal writing, and it’s hard not to take losses personally. Now I value these awards and recognitions on a much higher level.

Three out of this year’s four entries are being reviewed and critiqued by industry professionals as I type. The other day, I thought about that. When are the winners announced? Last year’s email came June 26. That’s two weeks, 11 long days from now if the calendar remains similar. This year I’m super-impatient.

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Di’s Diva #222: Color explosion

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.My 10-hour fiction book moved on, and I’m still dazzled by that. I’m confident that my Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine articles will place again. My blog, this one right (write) here…well, we’ll see about that. I want to know about Jimmy the Burglar. I don’t want to know about Jimmy the Burglar. All I can do is wait.

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Who doesn’t love a little bling?

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The Diva’s weekly Zentangle Challenge #222 is perfect for me this week: it’s all about color. Feel colorful, be color-full. I wanted my Zentangle to sparkle.

I didn’t have any black tiles on hand, so I pulled out my Gelly Roll Starburst Meteor pens. I haven’t used glitter in…well, far too long. This made me smile. Still feeling a smidge impatient, I used several of my go-to tangles to complete my Zentangle tile. I’m happy.

With nothing to do but wait for results, I can feel positive by focusing on other works in progress: my memoir, my Zentangle stories, the next installment of Jimmy the Burglar, my haiku chapbooks. Might as well have some productive thoughts while I wait.

X marks the sauce in the A to Z Challenge

AtoZ-LetterX-2015
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Welcome to Day X of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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24. The 24th way to procrastinate a writer is cooking with XANTHAN gum.

When writers need a break from their writing, cooking food gives them the nutrition needed to continue in a writing frenzy. Homemade foodstuffs take more time than prepackaged mixes, but that creates a healthier product. The extra time taken away from writing is countered by the health benefits of natural ingredients. Xanthan gum is a food additive used commercially but is often found in health food stores. It adds a thickness to sauces and pudding, and it is popular in creating gluten free recipes.

If xanthan gum is not available in the writer’s area, finding the raw ingredients to bake homemade cookies, for example, is an acceptable alternative. Regardless of the product, the key aspect of this action is to make time for the reinvigorating smell and taste of food. The writer may choose to make a homemade stew, thus giving the writer a sturdy meal for dinner and leftovers for the week once carefully portioned. If there are not enough containers in the household, a separate trip to the grocery or variety store is necessary at that time. Everything must be neat and clean for uncluttered writing. The writer may choose a lighter fare, like chocolate muffins or banana bread, to reward writing milestones and provide a late-night snack or early-morning motivation.

Jayne is beside her Writeself

Lettuce fell on the floor as Jayne tossed the salad. With a grunt, she stopped and picked up the green strands. One by one by one. Suddenly, using shredded lettuce was not such a good idea.

Jayne moved down the counter to the bowl where she was making the salad dressing. This recipe was handed down from her great-grandmother who grew up in Italy. Fresh ingredients made all the difference, and bottled salad dressing was a curse if brought into the house.

“How’s it going?” Tom said, walking up behind her and grabbing her waist.

“Fine, considering you almost made me spill the salad dressing just now,” Jayne said. She grabbed the bowl firmly, hovering over it, shielding it with her body.

“Okay,” Tom said, releasing her. “I’m ready to go.”

“The dressing’s not done yet,” she said.

“How long until it’s done?”

“I don’t know,” Jayne said. “When it’s done.” Tom had no taste standards. He didn’t understand.

“It’s not like it’s some witches brew,” he said. “We go through this every time.”

“Exactly,” Jayne said, stirring some ingredients into the bowl. She added a pinch, studied the bowl, and added a pinch more. “This can’t be prepared too early or it’ll get sour. It needs some time to marinate, too.”

Tom sighed. “Okay,” he said, “but I’m ready.”

“It’ll be about another seven minutes.” Jayne swirled the mixture once, then twice. She sprinkled something else in, and with a “ta-da” she stepped away from the counter.

“If you want to help, put the salad mix into the container,” she said, indicating the plastic tub on the counter. “And don’t spill any.”

Tom splashed the lettuce-tomato-carrot-special-veggie-mix into the bowl and some pieces fell onto the floor. “We’ll get that when we get back,” he said. “I’m ready.”

You can’t rush perfection; Tom knew that. He knew that and still they went through this hurry-up dance every time. She had to rush to finish, but she couldn’t go too fast. Perfection. And she would not disappoint.

Even the salad carafe was special, bought by her mother when she and Dad traveled to Italy 20 years ago. When it was passed down to Jayne, she kept it wrapped in the same cloth her mom gave her. It was on the middle shelf of the curio, not so high that it might fall and not so low that it might be kicked over by a cat. Not that she had cats or ever wanted cats, but she had to plan for the unexpected.

“I’ve got the salad. I’ll be out in the car,” Tom said, closing the door. An empty thud; at least that’s what Jayne heard.

She shuffled around the kitchen, picking up the lettuce and waiting as long as possible before pouring the salad dressing into the container. She figured she had about four minutes before she received the “Let’s go” text from Tom.

Not only would Jayne go to the party as an established writer, but she would also be admired for her culinary skills. “What a well-rounded woman,” people would say. “Tom is a lucky man.” Jayne would nod, bow her head and say thank you in a modest voice. As Jayne grabbed her coat, her cell phone beeped its text sound. Dressing in one hand, keys in the other, she ignored it. She held the dressing close to her chest as she locked the door behind her.

Totally into TV for the AtoZ Challenge

AtoZ-LetterT-2015
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Welcome to Day T of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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20. The twentieth way to procrastinate a writer is by watching TELEVISION.

Television is one powerful medium for distraction. Any good writer will immerse themselves in the story and approach the TV show in one of two ways.

The writer could look at the show objectively, studying it. Good story elements are found in TV shows. If your writer is stuck on a humorous scene, for example, watching sitcoms is one way to find inspiration. You can’t watch just one show, however. To properly study a genre, a writer needs to watch several episodes of one show, thus seeing different elements of how jokes are portrayed. Does a director use visuals? If so, how can that be translated from pictures into words? Are there specific catch phrases that a writer can use as a private joke to orient readers to a particular time and place? With plagiarism always a concern, a writer must be careful about using official words or taglines. Watching numerous episodes night after night, mingling current seasons with past ones, will demonstrate that to the writer. Television is vital to the writer, and it should be treated as such.

TV is important for use of characters. If a writer’s antagonist is, say, a strong female character, then drama shows become a valuable research tool. There are a variety of shows in different genres that feature such a character, and they should all be explored. Whatever your character and his/her traits, there are sure to be numerous daytime, prime-time and “after hours” cable or satellite shows. Every opportunity to expand the writer’s character should be explored.

If a writer focuses on a particular and ever-popular genre–say, vampires or zombies–research must be done so as to ensure originality is maintained. This is one area a writer should spend hours and hours on. After all, ideas can be gleaned from such immersion and plagiarism can be avoided. It is important to know the rules, if any, of defined genres. If you know the general accepted scenarios, then you can break them. Since the writer is crafting a story on an evergreen subject, there is a wealth of visual information out there, often running at overlapping times. Use of a DVR, On-Demand or subscription service should be utilized for constant content. It is important to stay current with the latest and greatest.

The second way a writer can approach television shows is as pure escapism. After all, the writer has worked hard and deserves a break, so TV provides the appropriate release. The mind absorbs, the eyes are entertained, and the brain is distracted by background noise. This can provide the rest needed to rejuvenate the writer for a productive day tomorrow. Television’s relaxation value should never be undermined. Utilize this as much as possible.

Jayne and writing for television

Jayne grunted as Tom reached over her lap and grabbed the remote control. “Let’s see what’s on,” he said.

What was on TV had been Jayne’s Thursday Night Splurge. She developed an affinity for this particular crime show, one that balanced a bit of law and legalese with drama of the unrequited desire between two of the ensemble cast while solving stories of intrigue and crime. It also had a hot, floppy-hair main character. Jayne decided she should watch that to gain insight into strong male characters and their interactions with coworkers and potential partners. What was now on TV was Thursday Night Sports.

“I was watching that,” Jayne said, brushing her hair behind her ear.

“But the game is on now and I want to watch it,” Tom said.

Jayne knew from his tone that the decision was made and she’d lost the discussion before it began. She walked to the dining table and picked up her notebook.

“You can watch the game with me,” Tom said, looking over his shoulder. “I like your company.”

“I can see it from over here,” Jayne said.

“Okay. I tried,” Tom said and turned back to the game.

Jayne wrote a bit of backstory of her protagonist. She sketched the apartment of her antagonist. She swirled lines and abstract shapes and drew little patterns. The sound of sports was not conducive to her writing. She had certain requirements for background noise, and this was not it. In fact, she shouldn’t even have background noise; she should be watching her show, the only program she mentally scheduled into her week.

Jayne sighed and shuffled back to the couch. She reclined on his chest, but he pushed her up, saying “That’s not comfortable.When Tom went to bed, she knew she had to stay up late and catch the rerun of it.

It had been comfortable for Jayne. Not anymore. She shifted over, hunched down over her sketchbook. She’d be up late tonight watching her show when it repeated in two hours.

Ooooo… the A to Z Challenge 2015 continues

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Welcome to Day O of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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15. The 15th way to procrastinate a writer is with OREO cookies.

The Oreo cookie is perfect to distract your writer because there is a flavor for any mood. There is classic chocolate cookie with vanilla cream filling. Golden Oreos are for those rare, bizarre writers who do not like chocolate. For those writers who like a thicker, sweeter snack, Double Stuf Oreo cookies are sure to satisfy. For the writer who wants an extra chocolate boost, consider the fudge covered flavors. If your writer wants creme variety, there are flavors for everyone which include: mint; berry; extra chocolate; cookie dough; red velvet; caramel; candy corn; lemon; candy cane; birthday cake; peanut butter; and reduced fat for those mindful of their weight as they snack lazily at the computer.

‘Nuff said.

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Jayne Writes Right

Jayne tapped the ENTER key and hit Save. She finished her paragraph.

That’s worth a treat, she thought.

She sipped her cup of coffee and wandered into the kitchen. The cabinet was full of chips that Tom bought and a bag of honey wheat pretzels for Jayne. That wasn’t much of a treat. She spotted the cookies bought for the party next week. No one would miss one cookie from one package, right? Jayne pulled them out and lined them up.

What flavor? She could try one of each, but if she liked one best, she would have to all the way back to the kitchen to get more. She should definitely get two of each, at least. Maybe a third of a few flavors, in case she wanted to mix some flavors together. Jayne wasn’t necessarily in a peanut butter mood, but the squooshed creme on the inside plastic was too enticing. She could be in a peanut butter mood after all, but if not, a mint cookie would clear the taste out of her mouth. Definitely grab an extra one of those.

One package was almost empty. Tom must have dug into that one, Jayne thought. It would be embarrassing to show up with just about seven cookies of that flavor, so she should get rid of the cookies in there. They could always get a new package.

There was one flavor Jayne had never seen before. Tom found some limited edition cookie boxes. That would be very good for the party. However, if guests liked those special flavors, they might be disappointed because the cookies won’t be available in stores anymore. Jayne should try them out first to make sure the cookies were good flavors.

After a pile of cookies ended up on the plate, Jayne realized that there was no milk in the refrigerator. She had her coffee, but what were cookies without milk?

There’s something Fishy about the AtoZ Challenge today

AtoZ-LetterF-2015
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Welcome to Day F of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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6. The sixth way to procrastinate a writer is with FISH.

Fish are Zen in motion. They go where they want, flip around and continue on a different path at a whim. Writers identify with this path as they look for the directions to lead their characters. Writers must be deliberate in their choices while fish swim and sway in a random dance. Writers struggle and think and overthink the events that move their characters forward while fish stare at writers, maybe blink, and move on. It’s an indifference that makes cats jealous.

Take your writer to a pond or an aquarium. A Chinese restaurant or doctor’s office with a large fish tank will do in a pinch. Small schools of fish scurry from reed to reef between sauntering sharks or stingrays. The writer will follow their favorite fish in a playful hide-and-seek peek inside whimsical treasure chests and rock tunnels. The mesmerizing color of coral buried in gravel. That water, it’s own relaxing self, swirling in the trail of a fish’s tail. A writer may close their eyes to savor the sounds of tank filters’ bubbles and burps. Their heart beats to the rhythmic gurgle-plop-gurgle of pulsing water. The writer returns home relaxed and soul soothed. The thought of sitting at a laptop or picking up a pen is disturbing. The writer curls up in a chair or on the couch, their mind a pool of ripples that swirls in hypnotic memory.

Jayne and Her Inner Mermaid

Jayne could not think inside her apartment anymore, her writing stuck. She shoved a paper pad and some pens in her writing bag, grabbed her smaller floppy beach hat from the closet and marched to her car. She started the engine and realized she had no idea where to go.

A coffee shop felt stifling; she wanted to be outside. It was after the lunch rush, but Crate Park’s outdoor food court might still be crowded. Crate Park Mall. Local. Outdoor. Sun, trees. Park. Pond. Fisher’s alumni pond. That’s where she would go.

Riverview Park itself was not a large park, but the trees were tall and shady. There was just enough room at the center of that space for P.S. Fisher, hometown business developer, to design a pond and sitting area. A perfect place to sit and relax beside your thoughts, inspiration for the taking.

Jayne found a partly shaded wooden bench. She pulled out her yellow notepad and favorite good-grip blue pen. She stared at the paper. She stared at the pond. She listened to the birds and the bubbling of the small waterfall. She stared at the water.

Lazy goldfish swayed around the pond. Two together, then one swam away, then another fish floated in and swam in a circle. A circle, round and round. Going nowhere.

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Jayne pulled out a small, square piece of paper. She recently discovered a drawing technique called Zentangle, and she thought this area would be a quiet place to practice.

Inspired by the fish, she sketched a fish shape and drew the designs inside that. These “tangles” are simple repeated lines drawn in a particular order. She challenged herself to try a new tangle today, Fanz. It was bumpy like the rocks at the bottom and reminded her of flecked fish scales.

I am those rocks, Jayne thought, stuck at the bottom. My story, my characters aren’t moving. I’m not a flowing fish. They’re smooth. How can I relax when I have no path to travel down?

Her Zentangle filled out into an underwater fish scene. Although she focused on the lines she was drawing, Jayne didn’t feel as calm as she should be after tangling. She tucked all her papers away and watched the gliding fish. It didn’t matter that they had nowhere to go but the pond; they didn’t know there was anything else out there beyond their world.

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I wish I was a fish, Jayne thought.

Everything distracts a writer

AtoZ-LetterE-2015
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Welcome to Day “E” of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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5. The fifth way to procrastinate a writer is to EMOTE.

Some writers find inspiration in silence, while others need background noise to focus. Whatever personality your writer is, a regular thematic beat is enough to seep into the writer’s brain and kick their muse out the window. Tap a pencil, click your chair can be thought of as a nervous tic and therefore ignored. A vocal beat, however, is deliberate act, annoying to writers as much as hypnotic and compelling. Hum the same three beats of a song and they will hum back, now with the song stuck in their head. Whistle. Call to them in that familiar attention-grabbing grunt, and the writer will turn their attention to you, wondering what you want. Sing a doo-wop-diddly-doo, and your writer will howl a wa-ba-zoo back at you. A writer craves a connection, so they will participate, their mind now focused on matching the verbal outburst and not on their character’s motivations. Before anyone realizes it, an hour has passed and it’s time to eat or run errands.

Jayne Emotes Her Writerself

Across the room, Tom said, “How’s it going?”

Jayne leaned closer her laptop and kept typing. “Mmmmph,” she replied.

“What’s that mean?” Tom asked.

Jayne concentrated on the words that were slipping away because of Tom’s voice. She typed faster. “Umph.”

“Okay, humph back at’cha,” Tom said. He looked down, pressed his smartphone’s screen with deliberate taps. He paused, looked over ay Jayne and grunted.

At his third grunt, Jayne stopped typing, her fingers hovering above the keyboard. “Well, humph-humph,” she said.

“Humph-humph-humph,” Tom replied.

“What is it?” Jayne asked. “I’m busy.”

“I wanted to know how it’s going,” Tom said.

“It’ll go better without you distracting me,” she said.

“You want distracting? How about this?” Tom broke out into the theme song from Together Buddies: “Along the road, take off your load…”

He knows I like that TV show, Jayne thought, smirking. She looked over at him with a half-smile and sang back, “You’re not alone when you’re at home….” She paused at the break and snapped back from her memory. “So there. La-dee-doo,” and she turned back to her laptop.

“Doo-wop-a diddy-doo, doo-wop-a-doo,” Tom sang.

“You love me, and I love you,” Jayne sang back, smiling at the computer screen.

“You and me forever….”

“…and ever and ever….”

Tom stood up and walked over to Jayne with his hand extended. He stood above her, his voice deep as he broke out in a different, softer song. “Come dance with me, babe, you know you wanna.”

“It’s all that I ask for, all I want now.” Jayne stood up and took his hand. They swayed in the living room, and Jayne gave a heavy sigh.

“Everything’s all right now, I have all that I want now,” Jayne whispered, and they shuffled away from the table.

Dream of an A to Z Challenge

AtoZ-LetterD-2015
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Welcome to Day D of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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4. The fourth way to procrastinate a writer is to focus on the DREAMS they have.

Every writer daydreams about the successful future they will have. There will be book signings that writers have to turn down because their schedule is already filled with commitments of other book signings and talks. They will be invited for interviews on television shows. Social media will explode with praise of their current book and recommendations from national, reputable book clubs. There will not be enough space on the writer’s walls in their house to hang all their book awards. The author’s Superfans will clamor for the writer’s next book series and demand to know its release date. Bestseller lists. Guest blog requests. Publishers pounding on the door.

Some writers have simple dreams. Writers want to be justified in calling themselves “an author,” and such validation requires a book or three. Writers dream of paying the monthly bills with their income, with enough money leftover to buy a new car and take a vacation. Vacations, however, present a difficulty for the successful writer because they are instantly recognized and will be swarmed for autographs.

The more that a writer spends time dreaming and thinking abut the future-to-be, the more motivated they will be to complete their works of writing art. However, writers must first find inspiration in those dreams, especially when their muse has left them coughing in the dust of writers block. Dream big. Dream often. Take breaks to dream. How else will a writer finish that novel?

Jayne the Dreamwriter

There was a scream. Dark. Hands. Spinning. Cold feet.

Jayne woke up, shivering. She was in bed and her feet had slipped out of the covers. No, Tom had just rolled over and swarmed the covers. No sense in trying to steal the covers back; Tom had a master grip on them, always did.

She slid into her slippers and shuffled out to the living room. 5:23 am. Light was barely peeking over the hills. Still chilled, she brewed a cup of tea and sat on the couch.

Green tea usually calmed her, but at this moment, it did not. Jayne dreamt her character came to life, threatened her to write his story in a different direction than she had already typed, and then he pitched her off the cliff to crash into her laptop.

That, and he stole her shoes so she couldn’t run away.

She looked over at her laptop, yawning open. She should go over there and write, just write, chase her evil demon of a character back into his dwelling. Cupping her hands around the teacup, she wandered over, guided by the nightlight of the screen.

Why should I bother? she thought. My character is right; I can’t write a good story. Of course the story should go in that direction–hey, I better get these ideas down.

Jayne opened a notepad and typed, listening to the dream remnants of her character sitting on her shoulder. Walk this direction. Perform that action. Say these words. Her hands typed with a purpose, her eyes focused on the keys. Keys! Yes, the character needs to open a door. And behind that door is–

Jayne woke up. She knew it was real this time; her feet were still snuggled under the covers. She couldn’t remember a thing about her dream, but a grunt next to her made her think–and hope, and believe, for just a moment–that her character was beside her, ready to whisper his tale in her ears. It was just Tom shifting in bed beside her. Jayne looked at her bedside clock. The time just blinked over: 5:24 am.

It’s hopeless, she thought. Her character was right. Better to go back to sleep and dream of the success she would never have. She was never going to write her story.

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