Friday, December 05, 2014

The Creativity Desert and Getting My Groove Back

I am in desperate need of a vacation. This has been a rough year for me, and there hasn't been nearly enough down time to allow myself to recuperate and get my mental vitality back in order! I have been working on it, but it has been a challenge this year. I felt like I lost any kind of creative drive I had, and I really struggled with that over the last year. It is a horrible feeling for a writer to feel that blocked and shut out of her own mind. But the good news is that I am slowly coming back to myself. I think that so many things have happened over the last decade...graduate school, my dad's health issues, graduating grad school, new job, relationships (good and bad), blah, blah, blah. Life, basically. But, the biggest change of all was suddenly not having a project to work on anymore.

Looking back, I realize that I had spent nearly 10 years working toward a single document. There was always a project and goal: finish the dissertation...defend it...graduate. I did those things, and I am glad that I did. In my last twelve months of grad school, I watched my town be destroyed by a tornado, experienced the death of one of my closest and dearest friends, dealt with the death of my grandmother and dog Casey, and started a full time job. I kept going. I finished the dissertation, defended and graduated.

And then I had this moment of euphoria that lasted a little over a year. I had all of this free time! I could read whatever I wanted, and I wasn't being held accountable for any of it! So, I did. I read and read and read. I had to retrain myself to read for pleasure, forcing myself not to underline, highlight, or make notes. I couldn't pick up a Victorian novel for over a year. I didn't write. I just read. I read whatever I wanted...genre fiction, classics, history, biographies...whatever I wanted. And it was great--at first.

But sometime over the last year, I realized that I was starting to panic. The reality of not having a project I am working on started to make me a little crazy, so I decided to dedicate myself to finding one. But this didn't work. So many things happening in work life and personal life took me to the point of exhaustion, and this killed any kind of creative urge I  had. Even more horrifying, I discovered that I had a serious block when it came to creating something fictional. I have always written fiction. But, after grad school, I stopped. It has been killing me. I will get a great idea, but then I feel so blocked and am overcome with exhaustion. I couldn't understand why this was happening. I even decided to do "The Artist's Way" program, which I am still going through. I have to say that I think it has helped in some ways. I am writing more--though not fiction at the moment. I am having more ideas and feel stronger mentally. So, any improvement is a good improvement, in my mind! But going through all of this and trying to reflect on all of the things I have done/been through/experienced in the last decade, I realized that graduate school is a dangerous thing for the creative mind in some ways. I'm not saying my creativity can't be brought back--it is--but I am having to open up my mind to some of its older ways of operating.

For so long, I had to analyze and take apart what I read. I was destroying instead of creating. I realized this during the process, but it is the game you play and what you do. I hadn't thought about it until I read the most recent chapter of "The Artist's Way" where the author mentions this exact issue. And, for me at least, it is true. In the process of getting my degrees and writing for academics, I buried and tamed part of my mind--the most vital and important part of it for me. I did love doing analysis (I think it was fun), and writing academic papers was never a chore. It all came naturally, and I liked it. But, I also lost something. But that loss is temporary. I am coming back to myself, and I am writing every day now. It might not be fiction yet, but it is moving in that direction. I have two writing projects I am pursuing, am actively involved in my writing circle, and am dedicated to feeding my curiosity again.

Feeding my curiosity and making time for all of my crazy interests is something I am dedicating myself to these days.  I am really addicted to documentaries and podcasts. For me, these two forms of media feed into that part of my mind that needs stimulation. After being in an office all day, these things allow me to experience the world in a doable way. You see all kinds of people; hear all kinds of ideas. And this is great for me, because I love thinking and learning new things.

So, anyway, that is where I am right now. Like I said, it has been a really hard year. But I feel like Susie is getting her groove back. :)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Book Reviews: Just in case you are interested

Just as an FYI: I am only posting book reviews to my Goodreads page these days. I don't review all the books I am reading, but I do review any I get from NetGalley or ones that seem really powerful to me. I just posted a review for Reconstructing Amelia -- BUT TAKE NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS

So, if you are interested, go to my Goodreads page:  Susan's Goodreads

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What I have been reading since January....

WELL, I doubt that I will make my Goodreads challenge goal this year, even though I lowered it to 50 books. Pathetic for me, I know. But I have had so much going on this year that my reading habits have suffered. I plan to get back on track with that and with writing over the coming months.

Still, I did manage to read some books, and I managed to listen to others on audiobook...something I am surprised to find that  I love.

As for audiobooks, I have listened to:

A  Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night (am currently listening to The Book of Life, the last book in the trilogy) by Deborah Harkness. There are things about this series that I like...and things I really hate. I love the secondary characters, and I really like the vampire Mathew. I really don't love the heroine Diana, though. She irritates me to death. And sometimes I feel like she can be "too stupid to live." I was ready to give up after the second book, but I had invested so much time into listening to this series that I wanted to finish.

My Life in Middlemarch -- I found this to be a fun review of George Eliot's life. The author can be a bit condescending at times, and that irritated me.

Actually...I am finding that when I listen to books I discover their flaws. Repeated phrases...Mary Sues...etc...all much easier to notice when listening.

As for books I read:

A Speckled Bird by Augusta Evans Wilson. Actually, I found I liked this one a lot more than I expected.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Ingram. LOVED THIS. If you liked Little House on the Prairie, you should check it out.

Below the Root by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. This might be my favorite read of the year. It is an old children's book, and it is the first book in a series that launched the famous early video game of the same title. I used to play it as a little kid (never got far), but I loved it. When I discovered the series, I decided to download it and find out the background. I remembered so much from the game, but this book is so beautifully written. I love it. There is something so soothing about it, and it is so complex.

Then Came You by Jill Shalvis. A romance, and the first I have read by Shalvis. I really loved this one.

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton. First in the Anita Blake series. I liked it, but it took me a while to get into the narration.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I know I am probably in the minority, but I absolutely hated this classic.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I didn't hate it, but I found it tedious. But, then, I rarely like classics by American authors.

Henry and June by Anais Nin. I liked this one, even though I had to stop and start at times.

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington. A good American classic. Enjoyed this one a lot.

Felix Holt, the Radical by George Eliot. Liked this one a lot.

I know I have read other things, but I can't think of them right now.

What am I reading now?

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory and A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nothing ever changes...

From "The North Platte Semi-Weekly" paper (North Platte, Nebraska), April 19, 1898.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

What am I reading?

Well, at the moment, a lot of things. I am listening to the audiobook version of Shadow of Night (by Deborah Harkness). I am reading a biography of Virginia Woolf (the one by Hermione Lee), and slowly making my way through The Untethered Soul (by Michael Singer). The Harkness book is good, but there is a lot that could be easily left out and it is trying my patience a bit. And if there is mention of another "nudging glance," I will scream. I just started the Woolf bio, and I imagine that will take a long time. The final book on this list results from the fact that I have had some turmoil in my life recently, and I find this soothing to read. So, here's hoping it rubs off on me. :)

My Great-Great-Great-Grandmother was a "Mean Girl"

Always fun to find out your third great-grandmother was causing trouble for Ulysses S. Grant and his future wife. Sounds like my great-great-great grandmother was a "mean girl." (Her name is Fanny Morrison, and her sister is Georgia Morrison.) AND I really want to know what is going on with the apple seed incident...:

From a letter from Ulysses S. Grant to Julia Dent (his future wife)...

“The happiness of seeing you again can hardly be realized, and then like you I have so much that I would like to say and don’t want to write. –Julia do tell me the secrets that Georgia M disclosed to you—I think I can guess them from what follows in your letter—Georgia M is a very nice modest and inexperienced girl and can very easily be made to believe anything her oldest sister tells her—I know very well that Fanny has told her that I was in love with her and she founds her reasons for thinking so upon what followed took place at your house—You remember the occurrence of the apple seeds? Fanny has tried to find out from Mr. Hazlitt which I loved best Georgia or Julia—Mr. Hazlitt would not tell her which he thought because to please her he would have to tell what he believed to be a story, and to have said you (as he believed though of course he knew nothing about certain) he thought would give unnecessary offense. Hazlitt told me of the conversation he had and it displeased me so much with Miss F. that I said things of her which I would not commit to paper—Believe me my dear Julia what ever Miss Georgia may have told you she no doubt believed herself, but in believing she has allowed herself to be the dupe of one older than she is, but whose experience in love affairs, ought to be worth a great deal more than it is.”  

Friday, March 07, 2014

What to do with this blog?????

So, yesterday (March 6) marked the nine-year-anniversary of this blog. I began writing on here in 2005, near the end of my MLIS degree, as an attempt to keep up with friends and family as I moved on to PhD work in Florida. When life changed my plans (location-wise, anyway), I ended up continuing the blog. I wrote fairly regularly until the end of my PhD.

Admittedly, I haven't written much since.   :(

What to do? I just don't know. Should I keep this "space"...whatever I use this "space" for? Should I let it die in cyberspace? Should I print a copy for myself and delete it? I just don't know. And, yet, part of me doesn't want to give it up.

I don't need the outlet anymore, and I  have no interest in doing more book reviews. I don't mind keeping it as a space where I can vent about what I am reading, but it won't be a "review" space exactly. Ugh. What to do???