What Have I Been Up To?
I appear to have disappeared from some of my blog sites, especially Blogster. I have not given up on blogging. During the last six months I have been doing a lot of reading and a lot of listening to audio books. I have been reading several books on the art of writing fiction. Writing fiction is the latest hobby that I have taken up. I enjoy writing for the most part but have learned that it is not easy. It is hard work. Some of the fiction writing resources that I have been using include On Writing by Stephen King, Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, The Successful Novelist by David Morrell, Writing Fiction for Dummies and How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey. I have found all of these books to be great resources for the beginning writer.
I have started reading two classic novels from the sixties, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe and Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. I have found it interesting to re-read these books forty years later.
Since January 2012 I have been working as a substitute teacher. I had a good year and had a lot of fun. My favorite grade to teach is grade eight.
I have been trying to get some physical exercise in this summer. I have been taking my dogs to the dog park just about every day as well as going for my daily ride on my mountain bike. I have also been trying to get to Shapes whenever I can to get in a work out. It has been a great summer so far.
Flying By the Seat of Your Pants:
When I first started work on my fiction writing around the beginning of 2012, I basically took a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ approach to my writing. For several months ideas for stories and scenes were coming to me quite easily. I was finding my writing times to be a very enjoyable time of my day. I was working alternately on one novella and one novel. When the ‘well started to run dry’ or I faced a ‘mental log jam’ on one writing project, I would switch over to the other writing project that I was working on. For a period of time I found this to be an effective method for working on my two writing projects.
I was able to complete a first draft of my novella, Lake Mariposa, by employing this technique.
When it came to my novel in progress, The Cover Up I found that I would need to change my strategy. I found that the ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ method was resulting in a ‘freeze up’ of ideas. Having trouble coming up with new ideas and then not knowing how to use them when they did come, was starting to frustrate me.
I found that I had to change my approach. I stopped working on individual scenes for awhile and starting to study some books on writing fiction such as “Writing Fiction for Dummies’, ‘The Successful Novelist’ by David Morrell,
The Discipline of Writing Part One
I have only been writing original fiction for about five years now. I have at times found writing to be exhilarating and very addictive. There have been many days when I wake up looking forward to hitting the keyboard. Other days getting motivated to write is not so easy.
One of the negative forces that an aspiring writer must push against is self doubt. At times you may read over what you have written and say to yourself,’This sounds pretty good. Not bad at all.’ Other times you may re-read some of your writing and ask yourself, ‘Would anyone actually read this stuff or more to the point, would anyone like your writing?’ Self doubt about your talent and abilities may be a hard challenge to overcome. The only solution I have found is to keep writing anyway. Tell yourself that you are a good writer and are getting better every day. One must tell oneself that all the reading, studying and writing practice will pay off some day
The Department of Education Library. Drake would often use his off work time to look for resources to use in his classes at The House of Hope.
Evening class usually didn’t officially begin until about ten after seven until the last of the stragglers arrived. There would often be one or two residents that didn’t make it to class at all. These clients couldn’t work up either the energy or motivation to get out of the beds in their rooms. A lay person might say that the ‘no-shows’ were just lazy. This might be true in some circumstances but there is more than mere laziness at work. The residents that don’t make it to class are often experiencing the standard negative symptoms of schizophrenia such as lack of motivation and energy and the tendency to isolate themselves. Often, the psychotropic medications that they were required to take made them lethargic.
Drake Stephens was more surprised that a majority of the residents did bother to show up for evening classes. This was a confirmation for Drake that he was on the right track and must be doing something right. As the residents really weren’t coerced into attending Drake’s classes he had to think of some reasons for what could be motivating his clients to show up regularly. One of the reasons was that nearly all the residents liked Drake both as a person and as a teacher. After a few classes his students realized that Drake would never do anything to embarrass his charges in evening class. Drake treated his students like family and was very careful not to do or say anything that would hurt his clients’ self esteem. Drake put a great deal of thought and preparation into is his lessons. He was always careful to come up with a lesson plan that would have a very good chance of succeeding or ‘going over’ as Drake liked to put it.
During the ten minute period in which he waited for the students that would arrive to class late, Drake would keep those who had already arrived entertained. He would tell a few jokes, ask a couple of residents how their day was going and both praise and thank them for being so diligent in their attendance in evening class.
This evening the residents were very curious about what Drake had in the large plastic bag on his table. The students were seated at long tables that were moved together to form a U shape. Drake liked this seating arrangement as he could easily move around the inside area of the U and could walk right up to where a student was seated. He liked to keep his students involved in the lesson by always being in close proximity to them.
The Rabbit Series by John Updike
I have just started re-reading the Rabbit series of novels by John Updike. About two years ago I read Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, Rabbit at Rest and Rabbit Remembered. I often alternate between reading the text and listening to the audio book versions. Rabbit Run was initially introduced to me in a history class back in the seventies. Even then I found that there was something very special about John Updike’s writing. Updike has a way of making his characters very real to his readers. The reader may start identifying with some of John Updike’s characters especially Harry Angstrom other wise known as Rabbit. This series of fiction novels make the reader think about themes like, ‘what is important and meaningful in life?’ They also raise the question of whether or not a rather weak individual has any reason for hope in modern society. I am now re-reading John Updike’s work in order to learn more about his fiction writing techniques.
What was in the large plastic shopping bag? Approximately a dozen plastic, Medieval period swords. On Saturday afternoon Drake had been in a Dollarama store and had found the swords hanging up on a wall at the back. Drake was almost always thinking about his classes even on the weekends. His daydreams were often filled with new ideas that he could try out with his class. In this way Drake was no different than a lot of professional school teachers. Teachers are notorious for spending their own money to buy resources for their classrooms. Most people don’t know this unless they work in a school or are married to a school teacher.
Why did Drake think that his students absolutely had to have these plastic, replica swords? Because his drama class was working on the play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Drake thought that his students would be more likely to pretend that they were living back in Elizabethan England, or Scotland in the case of Macbeth. Drake had been a double major in both English and history when he attended The University of Winnipeg. Drake was often able to blend his training from both academic disciplines into his classes.
In the fall Drake had completed some individual reading tests with the residents in order to determine their reading levels. When he was finishing up his assessment and evaluation of his client’s reading abilities, Drake was not surprised to find a vast range of reading scores. When looking at assessment and evaluation according to grade levels, Drake found that some students were reading at grade twelve level and beyond while a few were just barely literate.
There was also a significant range in his mid level students. Such a wide range of ability and skill levels in groups of people who have schizophrenia is not unusual. As schizophrenia usually manifests in the person’s adolescent years to their early twenties, many students had to drop out of school early as their symptoms made staying in school nearly impossible. Others, who were more fortunate in that the severity of their symptoms presented at a later time were able to complete high school and some even went on to university.
Drake had determined that a standard version of the text of Macbeth would be much too difficult for the majority of his students. The answer to this problem was to find an interpretation of the play that used modern contemporary English. He was able to find such a translation of Macbeth at The Department of Education Library. Drake would often use his off work time to look for resources to use in his classes at The House of Hope.
Lately I’ve been suffering a bit of writer’s block. To deal with this affliction I stopped writing altogether for approximately a month. I started taking my dogs to the dog park every day. Many days I would include either riding my mountain bike or going to the gym for a workout in my new routine. Most evenings I would give my guitar and Crate amp a good workout. I also did a lot of reading, listening to audio books and studying books about writing. Two books that I found very helpful are Writing Fiction for Dummies And On Writing by Stephen King. I found Stephen King’s book to be especially encouraging. I have also starting listening to Last FM again. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of their Grunge station. I loved grunge music during the nineties.