Category Archives: Imagination

The Noveling Cycle

I’ve been working on novel since middle school. Even though I’ve crossed into 30, it still isn’t done yet. Every time I think it is, it reveals  just a little more about itself. It’s a cycle that happens every 8 or 9 years. And it’s been 9 years since the last major changes. Every time, the cycle is the same.

Phase 1: Hmm… Why am I telling the story like that?

It’s a dangerous question. Sometimes, I have a good answer. But if the answer is just, “I’ve been telling it that way for a while… but I’m not quite sure why,” there’s a danger that it’s about to be turned on its head.

Phase 2: I don’t like that anymore.

The frustration that builds at this phase is a great motivator. I want this novel to be the best that it can be, and what I have just isn’t good enough. Yet.

Phase 3: Hey, what if…?

It starts like a light rain, but eventually turns into a sudden and torrential downpour. The story starts telling itself to me all over again, showing me what to change and what to keep and why things should be the way that they are.

Phase 4: Time to write it all down!

A blank document quickly turns into the newest version of the novel. It all starts to fall together. Sometimes it takes a little while. Other times, it practically appears overnight. (And not just because I sometimes do this during NaNoWriMo.)

Phase 5: Revise like crazy.

And then, after a few years, I find myself back at Phase 1.

Right now, I’m knee deep in Phase 3. My characters are changing and becoming more complex. And I like it. I’m glad I never published what I had before because this is how the story was meant to be told.

Or maybe I’ll find myself in the cycle again after Phase 5. I guess we’ll just see.

Do you find yourself in a similar situation? Does your writing go through predictable cycles? Is it always different?


The Mystery of the Alarm Clock: An Update

In early December, my beloved alarm clock took on a life of its own. I’m not sure if it decided that it would rather communicate with words, if it had an odd obsession with the letter j, or if it decided that it fancied postmodernism. In any case, here’s the weird story of what happened.


A few weeks ago, the alarm clock’s story took a new turn. After functioning fine (besides refusing to show the other), the alarm itself stopped working and the numbers and the j had vanished. It showed that it was playing the music with a red light, but there was no music to be heard. It was like a silent death knell.

I wandered despondently into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Where would I find another alarm clock that could take its place? Not only did it play music — which is my preferred way of waking — but it represented years of memories. What was I to do?

When I came back into the bedroom, my husband was just walking away from the nightstand. Behind him, the alarm clock glowed green again. Not just that, but it was all numbers. No more j.

I asked him what he did.

He had done what I was too afraid to do. He unplugged it and plugged it back in. And it had worked. This is the second time he’s saved it while we’ve been married. Fortunately, this time was much easier than taking it completely apart and reassembling it. That’s true love right there.

Now, the alarm clock is back to working normally again. Hopefully, it’ll keep working for a long time to come.

The Mystery of the Alarm Clock

The older I get, the more I realize that I like old technology as much as the new at times. Case in point: my alarm clock. I’ve had the same one for at least fifteen years because it knows how to wake me up properly.

I’ve never been much of a morning person (and it has only gotten more pronounced with pregnancy), so the abruptness of regular alarm clocks kills a little piece of my soul. There’s no easing into the morning with them. They just start shouting mercilessly.

Enter my alarm clock. Stick in a CD. (I think most kids still know what those are.) Set the time. In the morning, I’m eased into the day with gentle music. Yes, my husband’s alarm goes off a few minutes later as a precaution (and as the signal to the cat that he can finally start begging for breakfast), but at least I’m at some level of alertness instead of being startled awake.

The trouble, though, is that things have recently changed with my alarm clock. Does it know that my sleep schedule will soon fall under the dictates of a crying baby? Is it showing some resentment because I missed a milestone anniversary that I’m not aware of? Has post-modernism taken over? Or does it just prefer words now? I’m not sure. But now the display always looks something like this.


The hour has been transformed into a J, regardless of the hour. As minutes tick away, they look like secret messages. Joy. Jog. Jes. Jig.

The clock still knows the hour. The alarm still goes off faithfully. It’s like time is a secret it’s chosen to keep to itself for some unknown reason.

I feel conflicted about what to do. I should take the batteries out, unplug it, and see what it does when it gets power back. But part of me is afraid that it won’t work properly again if I do (and I’m not thinking CD player alarm clocks exist anymore), and part of me would miss this strange phenomenon.

So I put off doing anything about it for a little longer and enjoy this strange phenomenon. Maybe I’ll figure out what’s going on eventually.


Musings on Storytelling

Story inspiration comes from everywhere. A trip to the grocery story. A conversation with a friend. People watching at a restaurant. But one of the most inspiring sources are often the stories I love most.

Obviously, Tolkien’s Middle-earth has had a huge impact on the stories I write, but it’s certainly not the only source. In fact, right now I’m playing through one of them: The Legend of Zelda. (And, yes, this means that Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be better than I anticipated.)

Like with The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and so many other great tales, it all starts with someone who starts off (usually) rather ordinary, finds that he (or she) is the answer to a desperate need, and goes on an adventure to fulfill that need. The call to adventure, the selflessness of heroism, that touch of magic… they’re all the things that I love in a story.

One of the things that I think is most interesting about Zelda is the storytelling. According to The Hyrule Historia, there is a timeline and the stories do fit together. However, I have always had my own view on it.

Cultures around the world tell the same story over and over again. Tales of creation and great floods, faithfulness and betrayal, heroes and sacrifice. And that’s how I’ve always seen these stories. The hero and the princess face incredible evil and defeat it. It looks different every time it’s told, but it’s always, in essence, the same story. And that’s okay.

After all, that’s what we do. The stories come in different shapes and sizes, but most of the stories are retellings of things that have been told for years.

Years ago, I worried about this, but a CS Lewis quote fixed me of that fast: “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

That, and seeing that Zelda tells the same story over and over again and somehow it never gets old.

Rip It, Write It, Draw It: Cactus

The theme is cactus, yet somehow everything always takes a sharp turn towards cats. Maybe I really am obsessed.


In case the story above is too small to read clearly (which it probably is), here it is:

Once upon a time, there was a cactus. It sat in a sunny dining room window. From there, it watched the world. It watched the cars and people who passed down the sidewalk. It watched the family in whose house it lived and who always watered it just the right amount. But it especially liked to watch the cat. The cat was a strange creature that liked to spend its time up high, like the cactus. But unlike the cactus, it never minded its own business. It climbed on everything (even the counters when the family wasn’t looking), it chewed on the curtains, and it knocked things over. The cactus dreaded the cat coming onto its shelf.

One day, though, that’s exactly what happened. With an unexpectedly graceful leap, the cat landed right beside the cactus. Since this creature seemed to defy all the laws of physics, the cactus expected the cat might try to eat it and dreaded that it might succeed. Instead, the cat nestled in closer than anything had to the cactus, started purring, and watched the world go by.

Rip It, Write It, Draw It: Cats

Since NaNoWriMo has been on my mind for the past month, it’s been a while since I’ve actually done an exercise. When I flipped through in search of one, this caught my eye: Fill the page with as many words that rhyme with “cat” as you can think of.

Rhyming has never really been my forte, but I decided to give it a shot. It was definitely harder than I was expecting. And I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to give myself an indefinite amount of time, so after about 20 minutes of pondering on and off, I set it aside.

Of course, rhyming gets easier when you remember the old poet’s trick of sight and slant rhyme. Sight rhyme is when you use words that look like they should rhyme, even though they actually don’t when said. And slant… well, those are the ones that kinda, sorta rhyme. Like orange and door hinge…


As I was looking for options, I also remembered something that my linguistics professor taught me back in college. Our ears are trained to either listen to the final consonant or the vowel in a word. Depending on what you hear, you might choose your slant rhymes differently. For example, if someone asks for a “copy” shop, there’s a possibility that someone might point you in the direction of a “coffee” shop because that’s what they heard. So, I played with that a little bit too.

Oh, and remember back in the 90’s when people tried to make phat into a compliment? I got a good laugh out of adding that in there.

Can you think of more words that rhyme (truly, slant, sight, or otherwise) with cat? Are you good at writing, or are you bad at it like me?


Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

The old saying always goes that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. While that certainly describes my life of late, I find that when the going gets tough, rest and rejuvenation is more important than ever. Few things are as refreshing for me as exercising my creativity and imagination.

That’s why I picked something up during my most recent Barnes and Nobel stop: a book of prompts promising to get some creative juices going.


I was sort of looking for a Wreck This Journal, but when I couldn’t find one, this caught my eye. It’s the same idea, but I knew it might be the one for me when one of the pages said to have tea on it. Right up my alley, considering that tea is part of my daily routine.

With 240 different prompts to complete, that’s nearly a year of madness. Sounds like the perfect way to add some randomness to my creative routine.

Have you done a book with different prompts like this before? What are your favorite ways to get your creative juices flowing?