Creativity in Quarantine


I would love to say that I am #StayingAtHome, but I found this situation more complicated—and emotionally loaded.

When we first arrived in Peru, we were staying in a hotel. This was where we were when, halfway into our trip, a quarantine and curfew were set; all of the stores closed. Any place that we might have gone to have fun has been shut down for weeks.

After that, we left the hotel to spend the remainder of our trip at our grandmother’s house; there is still nowhere to go except for the grocery store.

Boredom can be painful.

I expected that quarantine of such a nature would give me inspiration to finish a book. Instead, I’m writing a few chapters, but they are good ones.

It’s hard to focus on creative writing when the media makes you so hyper aware of the bad things happening in the world. We are all feel a little out of place. We are all celebrating small victories, like finishing a chapter or reading a long book.

As we wait out the last three days, hoping the U.S. Government will get us home, I’m allowing myself to feel the negative feelings. They can lead to clarity. They can serve as inspiration. Ultimately, they can guide us.

I hope you’ve found something to keep you sane during this time. We are all seeing the world in a different way; how have these events changed your viewpoint?

Imagine Success


2020 is young, and sweet progress is being made. I’ve written 10,000 words towards my first novella of the year. I am hoping for four of them.

As I wade through the tale of Isolde and Gareth, I can’t help reflecting on how my writing process has changed since I began. It’s more mature; for instance, though I do not outline much, I need a checklist of events. I sort through scenes in my head, and try to pick those that are absolutely necessary.

With a goal of 30-33,000 words max for The Price of a Unicorn, it is important to choose the most necessary scenes.

My writing prompt app said today, Imagine success. That sent a wave of excitement through me. Though success comes in many forms (for instance, writing 10k is success) the prompt made me think of what I want from my stories.

I have a mermaid series in the works, and a fantasy trilogy loaded with magic; now, I have my side project of novellas. These novellas play out in my head like television shows, more than my books did. I might rewrite them in screenplay form.

When the new year began, I made plans for the next ten years. I want to read all the classic novels, including obscure ones you won’t find in bookstores. I want to be decent at the piano.

Most importantly, by the time 2030 comes around, I want to have plenty of stories published. I have all that I need to succeed as a storyteller; until this year, I only lacked motivation.

You ask me to imagine success; I see a shelf full of books with my name on them. I see journals of poetry. I see memoirs of my travels, articles, and anthologies.

The next ten years, God willing, shall be full of ambition and learning. It’s possible, when I quit procrastinating. It’s possible, when I believe in myself. I have so many stories to tell!

When you imagine success, what do you see?

Thoughts on the Louvre


I mourn that I was unable to see all the works in the Louvre and appreciate them. It would require a lifetime studying each piece from every possible angle. I would have to make my home in the halls of the museum: each piece of art offers hours of contemplation.

I cannot live in the museum; this is the reason that art books exist, so that we can take the pieces home with us, in a sense.

However, books do not give us chills in the same way as the real works. Gazing at an original painting, we imagine the artist before his canvas, working to shade an eyelid or smile, or chiseling the look of agony on a statue’s face.

Books will not give us the same connection with the creator. Museums have this power: walking from frame to frame, statue to statue, goosebumps rise on our skin.

We feel mixed emotions. First comes hope—because such beauty is possible and can come from the human imagination, can be created by human hands.

Then follows a sense of despair, because to create such glorious pieces, we must dedicate our lives to practice. Most of us give up too easily.

But there is another despair: many of these artists had no way of predicting their work would be loved centuries later. They died in obscurity.

Does this not also give us hope? Art is not about fame, but fulfillment.

I choose to hold onto the positive feelings that gave me chills at the Louvre. My writing might seem scarce at this moment. I sense I am not doing enough to create something immortal. Fame is not the point. Perhaps my words will become famous after I have left this world.

What to do in the meanwhile? I will continue to create—because it heals me and fulfills me. I will not worry about fame.

In peace and in love, I will live a life of creating and learning.

The Lady of Paris


Yesterday, the Eiffel Tower stood before me.

All my life, I had wanted to meet her in person, wanted it desperately; I pined for it, as if anxious she would one day walk away. I feared she would vanish to a different spot if I kept her waiting, for no lady likes to wait.

But there she was watching, steady with wisdom from years she had seen go by, years of revolution, heroes and tragedy. Only the stars could compete with her light. No diamond can outshine her.

She stood in the same spot she’d been all the time I had wanted to see her. I like to believe she waited for me patiently. Perhaps she knew I would one day arrive and bask in her great shadow.

She stood as if I were the reason she had kept to that spot.

As the taxi made its way up the street, her light beamed over the city, settling on me. In that moment, I nearly cried.

Her light settled on me and she seemed to say, “Welcome. I’ve been waiting for you.”

The 2019 Reading List


In this post, I spoke about my New Year’s Resolution: to read 30 classic novels—or at least attempt to read them—in order to work through my bookshelf. Collecting books is a beautiful thing, but that’s only half the fun; the magic is in reading them!

I said I would post my reading list when it was assembled, however there has been a change.

The original plan was to read 30. While planning my reading list, I took into account the length of some of these books and the time I will have available. I also reminded myself that, following the death of my grandmother, I’ve been having problems sitting down to focus on a book.

The number has therefore been lowered to 25, and I’m not going to beat myself up over it if I can’t read them all. The point is to be trying.

I have already finished the first book on the list—it was The Mayor of Casterbridge, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. A post about the novel will follow. I took copious notes of the first chapters but stopped halfway through, when the book became too gripping to jot my thoughts every ten pages.

Here, then, is the list. The books are to be read in no particular order, and I have chosen these titles on the basis of owning them; there is no theme, even though you can tell classic literature is my favorite category. Also, some of these books are novellas or anthologies; they are thick books I haven’t gotten through yet.

  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Dubliners by James Joyce
  • Heart of Darkness & Other Stories by Joseph Conrad
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • The Sagas of Icelanders (anthology of folklore)
  • Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Russian Fairy Stories (anthology of folklore)
  • The Story of King Arthur and His Knights
  • The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
  • Sons and Daughters by D.H. Lawrence
  • Adam Bede by George Eliot
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather
  • The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • TBA

I have left one spot empty because I know myself, and I know a classic will pop up sometime in July or September that should be in this list.

I am not limiting this year’s reading to the books listed above. I’m positive there are other lighter works that will provide modern respite. The point of this challenge, in the end, is to make progress, know literary history, and develop my vocabulary. Most of all, I look forward to doing something I enjoy. Reading old books has always been a favorite pastime of mine.

Have you set any goals this year? What are they?

l’automne


Your bookshelves are empty.
Outside, the leaves fall.
We’re waiting through
The saddest autumn of all.

Your piano is sleeping—
Too great for my hands.
Still, I will play
‘Til my heart understands.

I took home your paper
To sketch out your face,
But you have a smile
That art can’t replace.

The trees out your window
Have all become bare.
So I search my heart:
You will always be there.

I’m thankful to have this beautiful woman for a grandmother. And I’m thankful to have her for another Thanksgiving.

Life & Flowers


I stepped out today to find all of my flowers had bloomed.

Gathering some into a vase, I realized why it’s important to wait for certain things—and to appreciate what’s going on during the wait, even in moments when it seems no change is happening.

The flowers are stunning, aren’t they? If I had rushed them, if I had not waited out the long hot summer, if I had not endured August weeks of dryness during which no flowers grew—I would not have gathered so many colors today.

The cliche is true: the best things are worth the wait, every moment of it.

A Night of Mist and Questioning


I walk in mist
One chilly night,
When sorrow-clouds
Eclipse the light.
They fill my lungs
In every breath
With loaded air
Tasting of death.

The street lights wonder,
“Who is she?”—
They’ve never seen
The likes of me.
Behind their thick
Church-veil of cloud,
The stars, too, gossip—
Not aloud.

The cobblestones
Beneath my feet
Send questions up
And down the street;
Yet through it all,
I pay no mind.
I walk in mist;
They stay behind.

The Grudge


What am I going to do when the season ends and my flowers begin to die?

How will I cope when I go outside in the morning and, instead of seeing a new darling has bloomed, I find the stalks becoming dry and crinkly—these gentle plants that brought butterflies and bees and joy to my days?

I have a grudge against death and its habit of taking things. I know it’s unreasonable and part of me believes death is not the end. But usually all I feel is fear that the end will come.

Now it’s a flower, later a loved one. Eventually, it will be all of us. Let’s hope we inspire people to plant new flowers in the years to come.

The Breath


In Hozier’s Work Song, I noticed a point in the beginning when the chorus catches a breath. It’s difficult to hear if you are caught in the beauty of the song, but now that I’ve heard it, I think it’s one of the loveliest moments.

Have you ever thought of the pause before a note? The sound is full of promise and effort. By it we realize that the people behind the songs we love are human; they, like us, need air.

When we know these artists are creatures like us, we feel closer to them. If we wanted to, we could also make art that would leave an audience breathless. True beauty comes when we lose the fear of letting our humanity show.

How Books Resemble Flowers


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Writing a story is like growing a flower in the sense that you can’t rush it. The plant won’t bloom if you don’t give it the care it requires: some need more water, others wither if you give them too much.

I learned through gardening and writing that it’s best not to control things too much. If you smother anything, it will suffocate. The blooms in my garden prove that the wait, though taxing, is worthwhile. So do the drafts on my hard drive.

Flowers that take longest to grow are not necessarily lovelier. The zinnia and the Morning Glory both take my breath away. In this way, long stories are not better: a thousand-page Dostoevsky immerses me, as does the short A Christmas Carol.

The same is true for poetry, even free-verse. I have gained much from fantasy novels as well as history books. There is no point trying to control everything because, if loved enough, flowers and stories are always lovely.

I’m familiar with the sensation of wanting to finish writing sooner. Rushing a story will not make it better. A seedling must be tended with patience if we want flowers; good novels require the same care. We should let each novel grow as tall or bold as it wishes.

We cannot control everything–if we do, we risk destroying it.

I’m turning away from methods that promise a novel in thirty days. Instead, I’ll focus on watering the flowers: nourishing the story and treating it as if it were alive. I know the story will be happier in the long run, and so will I.