Mental Cobwebs

I must apologize to anyone who has an intense fear of spiders, but I feel led to confess that I have a brain full of cobwebs. They are at their thickest in the morning, and it seems as the sun warms the dew from real spiderwebs, making them less apparent, it also helps to fade my mental cobwebs, making it a little easier to function. I don’t always want to wait for the sun, though, and sometimes I can’t.

Winter is creeping closer and as much as I love to watch everything change with each season, including the way the light seems to move through my house on a different path with each season, my mental cobwebs have a smaller window of time to be cleared by the sun. And that doesn’t include the number of heavy grey days ahead. Snow and rain work, too, to wake up my brain, but they seem to speak to my right side a little louder, and as much as I would love to spend my days wallowing and rolling in my active imagination (it’s crazy fun in there) I do have to function as a well-intentioned human for a majority of my day.

I requested last night that our family have a screen-free day today. I’m looking forward to it, but I hadn’t posted yet this week, and my commitment to post once a week is still strong enough that I must pay attention to it. With great effort I pulled myself out of bed early this morning so I could finish a post before our son wakes up. The day doesn’t really begin until the kids are up, right?

Cobwebs are most visible in the morning, and my brain isn’t any different. I stared at my computer, I doodled on a piece of paper. I read over some poems I have, which I would love to share someday, but today didn’t feel like the day. I gulped a cup of coffee, and tried my best to ignore the sounds of my husband playing with my daughter. I put on some music.

Ah, the power of the right tune at the right time. The cobwebs started to clear. I am very picky about my mornings. I can be a beast from another dimension if things are not right. I need a few moments to myself, time to pray, time to stretch out the cerebral knots my brain has danced itself into as it dragged me through dreamland the night before.

Music with lyrics often serves as an abrasive distraction in the morning and when I am trying to work. But this morning I put on an album by a French artist named Zaz that I fell in love with a couple of years ago. I do not speak French, so her voice moves in the music like another instrument, and the music itself is the right amount of upbeat to clear some of those cobwebs away without leading me to want to squash flat any living creature that dare come near me. (I’m saying a beast. From another dimension. I am not fooling around.)

Isn’t it interesting how unique the human mind is, one from another? And even at different times, my own mind has it’s own varying needs that must be met in order to function. Stephen King talks of the dark metal music he blares when he writes, and that music would send me into catatonia before it would spur on a creative uprising.

I will leave you with a link to Zaz, but I’m curious, what helps you with your mental cobwebs? What music? What rituals? Share with me! I am always willing to try something new.


Challenge (Accepted?)

I looked up the word “challenge” in the thesaurus today. Turns out I am challenging myself a lot these days, and I needed a new way to describe it. All of the other words are not quite enough, though. Straining myself. Sounds too…digestive. Stretching myself. I did that yesterday, among other ungodly things, while I did yoga. Warriors one, two, AND three were all disappointed in my showing. I keep trying to “be forgiving” of my performance, like the nice lady yoga instructor on the DVD was telling me to do. If she could have seen the situation herself, she would have added, “Forgive also your son, who is using you as a hurdle as he plays real-life Super Mario around your yoga mat, imagining you are a man-eating plant trapped in a pipe.”

This week’s challenge (contest? no, that’s redundant, you’ll see why) was a writing contest. (See?) The Writer’s Digest Short Short story contest. The deadline was today. I submitted last night. Digital files are a friend to procrastination royalty. I am the Queen of Delays, especially reactions. I might get really angry about something you said or did, but you won’t know it, nor will I, for a couple of days. Ask my patient husband.

The contest was to write a fiction story no more than 1500 words long. Some people might think this is easy. For some it might very well be, but for me it is a small nightmare. So why do it? To dare myself. (That one’s not too bad.) Keep moving, keep writing, even if I don’t like it or understand it. Only the last half of that one describes me and short fiction. I do like it, but I do not fully grasp how it works. It’s like a light bulb. I can see and appreciate when it works, I seek it out at certain times, and when it doesn’t work, it is quite clear to me. I will seek out something that does work. This week I sat down at the desk and attempted to create a light bulb.

I think in long formats, daydream in them. I am working on two novels now, well, working on one, staring at the other in dejected consternation. My first thought was to cheat. What from these novels can I take out and use? “Honey, Mommy only wants your hand for a bit, can you just hold still while I cut it off?” Nope. Wasn’t going to happen. What kind of test would that be anyway? Alright, Allison, just get to work!

I took most of Tuesday just trying to get any picture to come into focus in my noggin. If I can’t see it, I can’t share it, plain and simple. I landed on a boy and his grandpa hiking in the woods. And after much labored writing and wandering around my house (this is why I find it hard to work when my family is home) I finally finished the story.

I am not super tech savvy, so it took me about 30 minutes to submit the story, but it’s done now, and I am pleased. I am pleased not just because I finished it, met a deadline, and pushed through to the end, but because the result is something with which I am happy. I’m pretty sure I won’t be winning any prizes, but I found a rhythm, a reason, a shift in both characters’ lives, and all in that small amount of space. I’m proud of that. Not in the way Leonardo Da Vinci was perhaps proud of the Mona Lisa, but maybe more like Ms. Mona Lisa herself. I have a dull ache in my back and bum from sitting so long, but I also have a slight grin on my face. I’m okay with that.

I Apologize, Arty

Apparently my dog Domino was snuggling with Arty

I had a great post all lined up this week. I took pictures, I edited, I was proud. Or, at least, satisfied. But the bulk of the post was based on an article I read more years ago than I could remember, which ultimately proved a hairy problem when I sat down to find the article. I thought an easy internet search would unearth it. I was mistaken. I searched for quite some time, about 2 hours. Couldn’t find it.  I was faced with a quandary. I could re-edit so that my post was a more vague referential kind of thing. I mean, I’m not exactly a fact-finding hard-core journalist, right? I am campaigning here to be President of the Ramblers. I could post a poem, one I have already written, and find a couple of pictures to match. Not too hard. I could go to my idea bank and make a withdrawal. I have had many ideas since I started blogging so long ago. (3 weeks.)

You can gather from the evidence before you that I am a writer. I have a blog. (Look, Ma, I’m writing!) But what you may not know is that I am working on a novel. This is the number one reason I am not doing NaNoWriMo. (If you don’t know what this is, see here) I feel like nothing good could come to a novel in process by joining the masses sweating over their keyboards. I see it like this: I have made a commitment, and rushing headlong into a short-lived affair that I know will end in heartache, though it be filled with passion, would sacrifice something I hold dear, that being the story my characters have to tell. Another way I see NaNoWriMo is akin to handing your characters, your story, a bomb. When it explodes, you will see the ins and outs (and innards) faster, but you will spend the next year piecing it back together.

Which brings me to tonight, and how I already feel like my characters are starting to lose their patience with me. “What gives?” they say, though I don’t think any of them talk like that. “This blog gig was supposed to bring you closer to us, to your commitment to us, and yet here we are again, set aside, ever-so-gently, in order to be ignored. While you do what? Troll the internet for some historical relic?” I hold up my finger, but say nothing as I sit hunched over in my internet-search posture, eyes squinting though I see perfectly fine, the whole left side of my face resting on my left hand, so my cheek is squished up and my palm is starting to sweat. It never occurs to me to scoot my chair closer to the desk so I don’t have to lean so far over.

Have you ever had someone meet you at your house, and you are late to meet them, and they have to sit outside in their car, or on the front step, in the cold? That’s how I feel right now about this. I’m late, I know. I said I would be there by now. Because this is a matter of self-punishment, I also must imagine it is snowing on their heads, and they have no hats. Not one of them. How could they have? I have not written any for them.

These past couple of weeks it has been Arty wanting my attention. I have been desperate to know more about Arty. For quite some time, I’ve only had first-date knowledge of him. I know facts, I know tidbits, I know his wife, Lou, and I even know their story. But Arty and I need some more time together before I can pick up those quirks that you don’t see until you’ve spent a lot of time with someone. Arty has been waiting outside my door. (Do you want to know something really shameful? The other day I called Arty by the wrong name. I called him Andy. It is a direct consequence of spending too much time on the Pinterest geek page seeing pictures of all kinds of movie characters with “Andy” written on the bottom of on of their boots, like Woody has in Toy Story. There is even one of Han Solo. It’s funny. But shameful.)

I promised Arty some dedicated time tonight. It was going to happen, I told him, my post is already done. But, lo, I would not concede after hour one, I had to push to hour two of trolling for the little-remembered article. And now, even while I write this, I imagine him sitting behind me in the green recliner, playing with the lampshade on the table beside him. He is quiet, and bored, and I keep thinking, let me just finish this. I made a commitment.

For some more great thoughts on NaNoWriMo, see this post by Olivia’s Opinions

Laundry Day

No amount of digital editing can make laundry appealing.

When Sean and I first married, our cute but cockroach-infested apartment had no available laundry facilities. And when times got tight, my dear parents let me come over and do our laundry at their house. We had just one vehicle at the time, and this became our routine: Sean would drop me and our piles of clothes at my parents’ house on Fridays, where I would do laundry until my mom got off from work at noon, then she and I would go and do something together, be it lunch, or running some errands. Sean was a teacher then, which meant some very early mornings for this cranky, grouchy, growly-in-the-morning girl. So I would throw on some comfies, sweats, whatever, bring something cute to wear later, and reluctantly head out before the sun fully rose.

Here is the miracle of doing laundry at someone else’s house, in the era before a smartphone and a tablet kept me shackled, I mean, connected: there’s not much else to do but watch hours of guilt-free television, or read a book or magazine, or write. Looking back now I could have maybe helped out with some of my mom’s chores, but she is one of those naturally neat people who dances and sings when she cleans. She once managed to mop the floors in the amount of time it took for me to round up my kids and get them out the door. So there may not have been much to do anyway. On these days, I mostly watched movies, all my parents’ old tapes that I used to watch when I was a kid and stayed home sick from school, like “The African Queen,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “My Fair Lady.”

I loved laundry day.  Despite the laundry, it felt like a day off. I have a really hard time conceptualizing what a day off is supposed to look like now. I live at my job. There is always something that can be done. I feel itchy when I sit down to watch TV. Surely I should be, I don’t know, knitting something. I don’t knit, but I can sure as heck make myself feel guilty for not doing it. (Let’s have a cheer for neuroses!)

Fact is, I hate laundry. It is a never-ending curse of dirty clothes and clean clothes and folding and it never feels done. SEAN sees it as something that can be done while watching sports. And he is never disheartened when putting a dirty shirt into a newly-emptied basket. Sigh.

In an effort to help out, Sean had done all the laundry a few times in the past. But I am a tall lady, and my laundry requires some special attention. Some things shouldn’t be dried, no matter what the label says. Just ask my much shorter sister who got many unexpected brand-new hand-me-downs when we were teenagers and something came out of the dryer seventeen inches shorter than when it entered. It was just too complicated to explain all these things to Sean, so I seemed doomed to remain on the heaping laundry train for all of eternity. Until we had a baby girl, and I came up with a plan. Would you, sweet dear, consider being in charge of boy laundry (we already had a son) while I do girl laundry? I asked. Sure! he responded. Yipee! I yelled.

I have watched him on his laundry day more than once whilst simmering in a stew of envious slime. He puts a load in, and sits on the couch. Then gets up to switch it, and sits down again. All of this sitting reminded me of something. Ah, that’s right. This is how laundry day used to look to me, too! What bliss once was my laundry day!

I have since made an effort to regress to those simpler times. Sweats? Check. Couch? Check. Movie picked by me and me alone without regard to anyone else’s opinion and/or interruptions of sarcastic grunts and comments? Check, oh, checkity check. Is it enough to make me ask for more laundry? Heavens to betsy, no. But it sure makes me look forward to Mondays.

It also makes me wonder, what other ways can I purposefully waste my time, guilt-free? How do you waste yours?

Titling Myself

My head is full of pictures, words, movies of my own imagining, that keep me fully entertained at all times.  If ever you are with me and I seem distracted, I am either being beckoned by one of my many characters, wanting to let me know something great that happened to them, or, more likely, I am mentally turning you into a character I can use later in a book.  How would I describe your hair, your eyes, the gestures you use when you talk?  (I am a very observant person, and as such I am also a little paranoid.  As my husband says, “Your problem is that you think people are paying as much attention to you as you are to them.”)

I have always imagined having a career as a writer, and so I have also imagined all the ways my name might be used as an AUTHOR.  First, middle, last? First and last? First, middle initial, last?  (That was my favorite for a long time.) Not so long ago I made a decision that I would use my first and middle initial, and last name.  A.C. Odom.  Or just AC Odom?

My reason for this came straight from a fear. I was afraid my books would be marketed to only those of my own gender. I didn’t want the marketing to be limited that way. Any old adages aside, I, like many, tend to make sweeping generalizations about books based on their covers.  Big, block letters on a big blocky book? Some kind of formula fiction. Pass. Uneven writing on a cartoonish background? Children’s. Bullet points with rhetorical questions? Self-help.

Books have covers for reasons beyond protecting the pages within. So I had nightmares of soft-focus pink and purple swirls with calligraphic lettering. You know, LADY books. This seemed to be the big artistic plan for books marketed to female peoples. Pink and purple block letters on a pink blocky book? LADY formula fiction. I would not in any way describe myself as a feminist. I am not against “gender-izing” some things. But for a long time there LADY books were marketed in a similar fashion as lady hygiene products, and I find that to be unnerving. I also wanted my husband, or any of the other clever fellows I know, to want to read my writing, and pink or not, guys tend to not read books by LADY authors. So Allison became A.C.

When I sat down to build this blog, I faced a crisis.  I wanted to build my “platform,” like a well-intentioned writer is supposed to do, but if I started it in my name, Allison Odom,

would I then have to publish in that name?  I felt suddenly like I had to decide just who I was going to be. It was easy to imagine A.C. Odom as this other being, this writer-creature, who was somehow “other” than me, outside of me, and as such, it was easy to set her aside as some imagined, future me, some destination point.  When I reached her, I would know, I had arrived. But A.C. Odom wasn’t taking any responsibility; it was only Allison’s to-do list I had to deal with, only me at the keyboard each day.  A.C. was too far away to conjure.  So there’s my name on the blog, and my picture.  And even though those things are both great big “look at me!” kinds of things, and I want to cringe, and I am blushing at asking for your attention, I have to do it.  I have to take responsibility for what I expect of myself, for what I want, what I feel I have been called to do.  I have to stop imagining someone outside of me is going to get it done for me, that I alone am somehow not capable.

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