Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Well, that picnic may not have been the brightest idea I've ever had. It was a very pleasant setting, but this may not be the best time of year for it, as I could smell the ragweed pollen in the air (on the weather report that evening, ragweed levels were listed as "very high") and even at 75 degrees, you'll get really hot sitting in direct mid-day sun. So I ate my lunch and hurried home, and then had much the same effect I get from going swimming, where I'm groggy and lethargic the rest of the day. Still, I actually did it instead of just talking or thinking about it. I may give it another try later in the year after ragweed season and when it's even cooler. It would also be an amazing place to watch a sunrise, so maybe some day if I find myself waking up strangely early, I'll put some tea in a thermos and walk over there to watch the sunrise.

This is all part of my latest attempt to shake up my routine and avoid getting into too much of a rut. That time management effort of recording what I do and when I do it has revealed that I'm very much a creature of habit. I do the same things in the same order at pretty much the same time, every day, and I get a little freaked out if something comes up to shake up my routine. Meanwhile, during my occasional fits of organizing, I came across a "creativity tool" I won in some staff meeting trivia game in one of my old jobs. It's a deck of cards with each one having some kind of suggestion about shaking up your thinking or trying a new approach. There are all kinds of different games you can play with it for solo or group brainstorming, but I thought I'd use it as a starting point for daily journaling/thinking. The very first card was about shaking up your routine as a way to make your brain work in different ways and be more creative. So yesterday's effort to do something different involved having a picnic lunch instead of eating lunch while watching the news. Today I think I might go to the cafe at the library for lunch, since I have to return some books.

I'm afraid the fall TV season has already seen its first casualty. I found myself sorting through my mail mid-way through Fringe last night, and then fifteen minutes before the end, I realized I didn't care what happened, so I turned it off and took a shower. That would be a bad sign. I'm rapidly losing interest in House, but it's on at a convenient time to use as background noise for writing radio scripts, and I live in hope that they'll get their groove back. I'm utterly bored with the new team, and House himself has become more of a spoiled toddler than brilliantly unconventional.

Or maybe I'm just being picky. I also gave up on two books yesterday. The first one, I got mid-way through and discovered that it was centering around one of my personal hot-button discomfort issues, something I find very unpleasant to read about, and I didn't care enough for the characters to put myself through that, so I put that book aside. Then the next one I picked up, by an author whose other books I've liked, I didn't make it past chapter one. It was a perfect illustration of how important motivation is in making a plot work. The more odd or outrageous the thing you're making your characters do is, the stronger the motivation has to be. You have to make readers believe that the characters have no other option or convince readers that in the same circumstances, they'd do the same thing. If in chapter one the readers are groaning and saying, "Why did you have to go and do that? That's just stupid!" the book won't work. I was wondering if maybe this book went in this direction out of an attempt to be more high concept, to really raise the stakes, but even if you're raising the stakes, you have to make it work. The professional and reader reviews at Amazon agreed with me, so I don't feel like I'm totally out of touch, and it sounds like things will only get worse. I may flip through it to see what happens, but at least I'm prepared for it to make me want to scream.

Normally, I take this as a challenge to come up with my own plot and find a way to motivate the action that seems senseless, but I haven't yet been able to come up with a good reason for a character to do what this one did or to take it to the extreme this one did.

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