May 13

Just Enough of Everything

I was putting ink to paper in my journal the other morning and wrote the following –

“Balance. That’s the key here, I think. Not too much of any one thing, but just enough of everything.”

I think that balance is something we desperately need in our lives, but very few of us strive for it. What I mean is, our brains have a habit of fixating or focusing on one or two things. When that happens, the everything else takes a back seat. While it can be useful to focus on a couple of big, important things at one time, I feel that it can overwhelm us and prevent us from accomplishing more.

Of course, I’m not saying we should allow ourselves to be distracted by every shiny thing that catches our attention. I’m talking about moderation. To me, moderation is the ability to have multiple projects going on, working on each one a little bit as time allows, and not getting too caught up on any one thing.

Some creative types only work on one thing at a time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s just their work style. For me, however, I often have several creative projects in progress at any given time. I have several short stories in progress, a novel, a podcast, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces. But I find that I when I focus on just one project, I begin to feel guilty that I’m letting the other ones gather dust. Must be my Catholic upbringing.

What works for me is to seek balance with my creativity. A little writing one day, a little podcasting the next, maybe some drawing practice or fiddling around with my guitar in between. I feel like working this way keeps my mind fresh, allows me to experiment a little more, and gives me the opportunity to approach each project with fresh eyes.

I know that when I’ve gone on a writing binge, like the first draft of my novel, I worked on that beast every day for three months. It was nothing but the novel. And towards the end of that run I felt as if my brain was drained and I had to struggle and push myself to make it to the end. It wasn’t fun. Or at least, the initial love I felt for the project was tempered by exhaustion. I didn’t like that.

With finding balance, I maintain that higher level of creativity, I stay in love with my various projects, and I seem to have a constant stream of ideas and things I want to try.

Do you try to keep your projects balanced, or do you work on one thing at a time until it’s complete?

RB

May 12

Book Nerd!

I love real books, especially hardbound books. There’s something about them, the feel, the weight, the smell of the paper. And don’t get me started on how I feel about walking through an old bookstore or library. If heaven exists, I hope it’s an old bookstore with a little coffee stand in the corner.

For the other book nerds out there, I found this image on Reddit and thought I’d share. It explains so much…

Explanation of book smells

Once this pandemic is over, I’m heading to the nearest bookstore. What about you?

RB

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May 11

Misbehaving Characters

I posted a question on Twitter recently asking other writers if their characters had minds of their own. The answers were overwhelmingly “YES!”, with a few exceptions.

It’s funny to think about our characters coming to life like this. When I begin a first draft I usually don’t know much about my protagonist or the other characters. I have a vague idea of who they are, a gender (if pertinent), but rarely do I know their name, race, sexual orientation or identity. I’m basically working with a mannequin.

It’s not until the later drafts that this info comes to light, and even then, some of it doesn’t make it into the story. This is due to my writing style. I don’t like to plan things out in advance. I prefer to let the story dictate itself, along with the characters. In fact, the characters often change the direction of a story and send it off down some path I never would have considered.

To me, that’s more natural, more organic. Over-planning before I write makes me feel like my stories are sterile and generic. It’s like a lot of current music – overproduced, auto-tuned, sterile. Besides, knowing everything that’s going to happen before I type the first words ruins the surprise for me. This isn’t to say that planning is wrong. For some writers it’s the only way they can build a story, and I respect that. My personal preference is to go with a more improvisational approach, which is precisely the reason why my characters do their own thing.

Characters are like children in a way. We bring them into the world, set them on a path, the watch helplessly as they scamper off on their own accord. All we can do is chase after them and try to keep up. I’ll admit, the majority of my stories do not end up the way I thought they would. My characters see to that. I see a rough outline in my head, maybe a possible ending, then halfway through one of the drafts my protagonist decides they want to do something other than what I want them to do – turn left instead of right – and before I know it I’m writing a new scene and that original ending I hoped for is cast away on the wind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. In fact, I think it makes writing more enjoyable. I like spontaneity. I like surprises. There’s a quote that goes something like, “no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” I agree with that statement. I like my characters to act up, to disobey, to forge their own path. More often than not, they help me to write a much better story than I would have originally.

I guess I own them for that.

RB

May 9

Review – One-Hundred Years of Solitude

What can I say about this novel that hasn’t already been said? It’s amazing, truly, and funny and sad and full of wonder. Gabriel Garcia Márquez is one of those authors that thrills me. When I read his works I feel giddy, excited, like the world is fresh and new.

I’ve been a fan of Márquez for many years. The first book of his I read was Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which completely blew me away. I hadn’t been exposed to magic-realism at that point, and his writing – even in an English translation – was like reading a painting…if that makes sense.

In fact, whenever I read one of his books or a collection of his short stories, I end up wanting to relearn Spanish just so I can read him in his native language. (Note: I learned Spanish in college, but it’s been so long and I’ve barely used it, so I’d have to start over again.)

But I’m not going to break down the story and try to interpret the themes. I’ll leave that to the academics. However, I will share one passages that stood out to me. (I underlined them in pencil. I’m not a monster.)

“She had just finished saying it when Fernanda felt a delicate wind of light pull the sheets out of her hands and open them up wide. Amaranta felt a mysterious trembling in the lace on her petticoats and she tried to grasp the sheet so that she would not fall down at the instant in which Remedios the Beauty began to rise. Úrsula, almost blind at the time, was the only person who was sufficiently calm to identify the nature of that determined wind and she left the sheets to the mercy of the light as she watched Remedios the Beauty waving good-bye in the midst of the flapping sheets that rose up with her, abandoning with her the environment of beetles and dahlias and passing through the air with her as four o’clock in the afternoon came to an end, and they were lost forever with her in the upper atmosphere where not even the highest-flying birds of memory could reach her.”

This passage is so beautiful. I think this best encapsulates what I noted above – it’s like reading a painting. I don’t think you can go wrong with a Márquez novel or story collection. I recommend them all. He’s an author I always return to when I need to be reminded of how wonderful storytelling can be.

RB

May 8

Everything is Green

I think Spring is my favorite season. Not that the other seasons aren’t nice (except maybe Winter…not a fan of the cold), but there’s something about his time of year that makes me feel almost giddy. I’m happy, I feel this restless energy coursing through my veins, and I want to spend all my time outside.

First, I like the cool nights and warm days. The coolness is great for sleeping, and it’s not that extreme cold of winter that gets into my bones and stays there for months. It’s a nice, easy coolness that requires open windows at night. And the days are warm but not ridiculously so, like it gets in August. Just perfect temps.

Second, everything is green. With Fall I can also enjoy the warm day/cool night experience, but that is also when everything begins to turn brown and yellow and die off. Sure, there are some pretty landscapes with the leaves changing color, but it’s fleeting.

In Spring, however, all that brown turns a vibrant green, even more so after a good rain. The grass, the tree leaves, the bushes, all coming back to life. And I don’t want to forget to mention the flowers. I think that beats the colored leaves in the Fall. Flowers of every shape and size and color popping up in yards and parks and highlighting the sides of the roads and sidewalks. It warms my heart.

Plus, the arrival of Spring means that Winter has packed it in for a while. No icy cold winds, so chill in my bones, and no bundling up in twenty-seven layers of clothes. I’d much rather wear some shorts and a t-shirt, or if I’m out on the Gulf of Mexico, just my swim trunks. I love that salt air and the warmth of the sun seeping into my pores.

I know, everyone has their favorite season. Some prefer cold, some prefer hot, but I like the in-between. Spring is a season of change, a season of rebirth, of coming back to life, of waking up from hibernation. It’s a season that inspires my creativity more than any other time of year.

Do the seasons touch you this way, too?

RB

May 6

Podcast Update

I’ve decided to begin embedding a podcast player into the Prometheus Project Podcast episode updates I post here. While I always include links to the various platforms that host the podcast, I thought it would make it more convenient for listeners to have a player right in the post.

With that said (or written), here is Episode 29 – Exploring the Senses. Enjoy!