Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Unfortunately I have bad news to share. My wife was in a car accident today. She is in the hospital under observation. They haven't found anything seriously wrong and she should be home in a few days. Our son was in the car also but not hurt. I will have to postpone writing for now.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

About Creativity

Over the course of the years, and based mostly on my experience with the Indeterminacy blog I have developed several ideas about creativity and the creative process. At the very least, they seem to apply to me. This is what I've learned...

1) When you have an idea or inspiration, act on it immediately. Act on it five minutes later, and it will already be too late. Once I find my inspiration, the process of writing the rough draft goes rather quickly. But if I wait, the flair seems to go out of it. Photos have been a wonderful catalyst for immediate inspirations, usually some devious idea that I want to follow through to the end. However the more I do this, the more difficult it becomes to find a photo that stands out in ways that others before it have not. The first 100 or so stories went fairly well in this respect. Examples where the photo delivered strange and powerful associations might be Story #6 and Story #23.

2) Spontaneity plus afterthought is a powerful combination. On rare occasions a story will come out perfect the first time. Of all my stories, there were only a handful that were completely spontaneous. One example is Story #30 written in just about the amount of time it takes to read it. I didn't change one word of how it came out.

But usually, the result needs a little twisting and tweaking to add dimensions that bring it past the ordinary and into the extraordinary. During the period that I posted daily I would write the story on the train home from work (I carried a few potential images around in my head to ponder over during free moments) or at home in the late afternoon or early evening. The next morning I'd take the rough draft with me in the train, read through it again and again, fine tune and polish until I thought it was ready to post. At lunch I'd type in my edits and post. Most of the time my edits made something that I thought was boring into something that I was satisified with.

Story #19 was actually a complete rewrite of the original draft (which you can read in the comment section). Story #385 was one in which the initial version was written rather quickly, but which I polished quite a bit afterwards. The sequence with the "99 Bottles" song was something I put in quite late, as an afterthought.

3) If you write something good, it will seem better to other people than it will to you. You know what is coming, the others don't. They have the pleasure of watching something unknown unfold before them for the first time, whereas you can only read and wonder, will it work the way you intend it to. This is my conclusion from the positive comments I received about stories that to me were fairly ordinary. It's the only way I could explain it. Also I've read stories, posts, etc. by others and been truly impressed, whereas they in turn seemed surprised. I thought my Story #43 was rather simple, but I got some nice feedback from some people I showed it to.

4) If you are true to your art, the process of creating will become more and more difficult, the more you have created. I do not want to write the same stories over and over again, so I find myself discarding ideas because the intended story is too similar to something else I've written before, or is too similar to something I've read elsewhere. I want to create something completely new, but of course I'm aware that this is extremely difficult to do - some claim it's impossible.

To avoid repeating myself, I've allowed the stories to become more and more extravagant. In the beginning my ideal was the one paragraph short story. The first stories were probably more like synopses for what could later be written out in more detail. There was little or no dialogue, just densely packed plot description. Two earlier stories that broke out of this mold were Story #81 and Story #158.

A few other stories were new in the sense that I hadn't read anything like them before, not to say that something similar hasn't already been written and I just didn't know about it: Story #128 (Adam and Evelyn), Story #204 (Solomonic Wisdom) and Story #327 (Extreme Poetic Justice). In any event I strive to be original to the best of my knowledge.

5) Spontaneous creativity vs. planned creativity. Which is better? This could depend on the person. Or maybe it's a matter of taste. I think in general, a spontaneous basis for creativity will win out. In the stories beyond #200 and up to #360, when I stopped posting daily, I found myself having to stay up later and later to find the right idea. The best stories, I think, were written when I was very tired, and unable to reason clearly. Story #377 and Story #359 came into existence when I was half asleep and hardly knew what I was writing.

6) Read great works and allow yourself to be inspired by them. In other words, if you reach for the stars you may not reach them, but you'll reach higher than you might otherwise have been able to. For example, when I was in high school and college I used to read Stephen King. Somehow I got tired of him, but now, in that genre, authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Gustav Meyrink are my idols.

7) If you get stuck, take a break, watch a TV show, do something else, and then return to finish the writing. Many of my stories were written in two parts. I wrote a beginning, got stuck, watched a Dark Shadows episode, then went back to write the conclusion. One of my non-Indeterminacy stories, "A Fairytale for Elves and Clouds" was written over the period of several weeks. I wrote the first two paragraphs, got stuck, then came back later with a sudden idea of how it should continue. I think the break forces one out of the rut one might have been in, and allows a return with a fresh, completely unrelated idea.


I've probably learned more, but this was all I could put down on one Sunday afternoon. For the interested reader, I point out two pieces I've posted with advice about writing / blogging out of the mouths of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain.

Note: My muse has published her own statement about blogging, indepedent of this one, and I really like what she wrote. It's called "I am not a good blogger"

Note 2: Viruswitch has posted a piece "Write in concepts or write in pictures?" and Shtikl writes "You don’t need a plan, you need skills and a problem" - both posts have bearing on the creative process.

Now I remind myself that I still owe you Story #408. It seems I do put myself under pressure to write something that is better and different than anything I've written before. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Kate looked into the mirror, but the face looking back was not hers. It was one she had ever seen before. As she stared it woke out of a reverie like a match igniting. Then came a nasty grin.

"Not what you expected, is it?" the voice of the face lashed out at her.

"It's impossible! You can't be there! You have to be me!" Kate answered spontaneously. Of course the statement changed nothing. The face continued not to be Kate's.

"I got tired of being you, so I became me!" the face answered, and folded arms asynchronously to Kate's, which hung limply, in stunned immobility.

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall?" Kate tried in desperation.

"Nah, that won't work. I'm prettiest. Men will smash themselves on the glass trying to get to me. You can sweep up the mess though, deary" - the visage grinned meanly.

"This is turning really weird," Kate thought to herself. Out loud she spoke to the mirror: "Wait a moment, please." She stood up, left the room, returned with a cloth and some window cleaner which she sprayed straight onto the face.

"I'm melting!" the voice screamed as Kate wiped the reflective surface. As the thin film of water evaporated Kate saw her own face again, smiling back at her, eyes blinking at just the right moments.

Story #409

Coming next: an introspective post about the experience of writing these stories over the years. I've been putting that off since story #360, which I had intended as the final story.

Thank you everyone who contributed a story for this and for the last photo (#408). I'll also post my #408 story sometime this week - but it's not written yet - and then read and comment all of the contributions.

Mindful Mimi is a new blog that linked to Indeterminacy during vacation. I found her posts to be thought provoking and nice to read. She has a contest going which you can participate in. The prize is a copy of "A short history of tractors in Ukrainian" by Marina Lewycka. It's supposed to be a wonderfully funny book. I've read the reviews.

Important message:Madeleine left a comment about a new literary magazine she is involved with which is looking for submissions. For more information please read the post from August 20th at

Other Extremely Important Breaking News: Shtikl is back!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Marla was a girl, but she was also a seed. She had limbs, hair that tossled and flowed, and all the anatomy that boys found so tantalizing. Yet she was also a seed, body enclosed in a bulbous capsule, room only to stand and to sit and to walk in a circle. It was snug. She had a peephole to look through, to watch for the rain or the germinating dew. Thin strands grew from her, thicker than hair, but slight - they pushed their way through the skin of the capsule, bursting it in places - they shot outwards where the sun was known to while. Their one thought was to hurdle into the sky and wrap their tentacles around the warmth of that illuminative body. But their attention was diverted by the boy lying in the meadow, watching the spot in the earth where the plant suddenly appeared. He emanated warmth, as well. The stem advanced, leaves unfolding, and bud appearing at the end of the stilt-like extension which grew at a visible pace. The bud swelled and burst with petals, and in the center of those petals was an eye that sought the depths of his brain.

Story #408

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thoughtful Blogger Award

Originated by Christy at Writer's Reviews:

For those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping others bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.

Seiche was kind enough to award me the Thoughtful Blogger Award, as I've mentioned previously. I can think of enough instances of thoughtlessness to disqualify myself, and I hate memes, unless they're for a good cause, like this one. So here goes...

1) The most thoughtful blogger I know is The Lady at Not Quite Love and Light. You might notice that this blog is fairly new, but The Lady has blogged before, and is the first person to find my blog on her own in its first days, and to encourage, advise and support me in ways too numerous to list. She made me feel at home at my own blog, as well as at hers. The sense of community and sharing at her own site was a shining example to me, and it is she who made the one suggestion for Indeterminacy that so many people tell me they like the most: the open participation. For The Lady, the Thoughtful Blogger Award needs to be the size of a movie marquis.

2) Santiago Nemec of Mundo en Llamas is a blogger I don't know very well yet, but I saw a beautiful comment he left at a blog I adore, a comment that struck me for its thoughtfulness and personability. Santiago is from Argentina, and his site is primarily in Spanish and Engish. I hope to get to know him better in the future.

The Big Three of Creative Blogging: Doug, Mrs. Weirsdo, and Tom (& Icy):

3) Doug has to be the master of building community and making his visitors feel at home. Just look at any one of his posts to see an example of this. Additionally Doug has taken a lot of time to help me with feedback and advice on a number of issues, not all of them blog related, so I say he's a thoughtful blogger.

4) About Mrs. Weirsdo I can say pretty much the same. She's created a blog which is homey and gemütlich all in one, a very pleasant place to visit and stop a while. There used to be some rather thoughtless characters there like Pansi and all her friends, but Mrs. Weirsdo has shipped them off to other bloggers, and now it's even more thoughtful than ever.

5) Tom is a master of putting other people in the spotlight, as you can tell by some of his various blogs, which create something of a meta-universe:
Icy's Playground
Asinine News
Asinine News 2

It's not unusual to find oneself making a cameo appearance in one of his posts. In addition Tom has given me and others valuable advice and feedback about blogging, and as a graphics guru has gone to the trouble of creating icons for all of us. Icy is thoughtful, too.

6) Cooper is another blogger who has done an impeccable job first of all, of posting thought provoking content, and second, of serving as the moderator of the discussion that invariably follows. She takes time to draw attention to other interesting posts she has seen, and has always been there for me with valuable advice on issues I couldn't decide for myself.

7) I've known Mushroom since I began blogging but for a long time he didn't blog, so it's hard to call him a thoughtful blogger. But has been extremely thoughtful and helpful with just about any technical issue I've had. His site, where he does monthly posts of found photos along with his own captions is Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul.

I think I'm only suppose to do five - so I should stop now, but when I think about it, I only seem to know thoughtful bloggers, so where do I stop mentioning them. Just click any one link in my blogroll and the chances are you will find yourself visiting a thoughtful blogger.

Here are the rules, if you'd like to repeat this meme yourself:

1) If you have received an award simply choose either the dark or light background image and save it to your files, then post it proudly on your blog!

2) Pass the award on to five other people, you can choose any of the awards from the series, you do not have to pass out the exact award you received. Choose whichever of the awards below that you'd like to give out. You can give out one of each or five of the same one, whatever you prefer.

3) You can change the size and color of awards to suit your blog, that's up to you, it's your blog, just leave the titles the same.

4) Please link back to this post so that people can read these rules and so that the meanings of the awards will not be lost.

5) If you feel that you or a friend are deserving of an award and no one has given one to you yet then email me at sayhitochristy(at) and tell me about your website.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It was destined to become an urban legend. Maybe it was the matter-of-fact way the two girls invariably crashed even the most secretly held parties, barged their way to the kitchen, where they sliced themselves one piece of cake each, and then, instead of nibbling the tasty dessert, proceeded to rub their faces in it. Afterwards they fled, leaving a fog of bemusement behind. The continued evening of wine and what remained of the cake resulted in the wildest speculations as to what this all could have been about. A Duncan-Heinz publicity stunt? An over-baked post hypnotic suggestion? Last survivors of a flash mob decimated by starvation? The new cult of Marie Antoinette? Some suggested they must be possessed by demons not diabolic but diabetic.

No one knew.

In a related incident which was never connected with the relevant pre-occurring event, an officer in a top secret military installation tested the new satellite night-vision zoom technique. He watched mystified as two ladies in the new moon darkness of a park tenderly licked cake from each other's face.

Story #407

Thanks for the stories! And of course more are welcome! Anyone landing here is invited to leave a story, caption or impressions as a comment...

Postscript: Some random surfing led me to this extremely delicious photo by Donavan