Friday, July 25, 2014

Squirrel!

Distracted? Who me? Photo of our dog, Dustin, by N. Halin,
used with permission

Once upon a time, I had the ability to focus and concentrate.

Really. I did.

Stop laughing! That's not nice!

Well, at least I seemed to be able to focus on my writing and get words down on the page in 20-30 minute writing sprints. These days, I'm about as flighty and distractable as a golden retriever puppy on speed. 

Partly, I blame the stress of last year, which left me unsettled and unmoored. Partly is likely the dubious joys of peri-menopause. Partly to blame is the siren call of always-on internet devices and the irresistible ping of notifications.

I know it's not possible to be creative and productive while multitasking. Hell, I know that neurologically, multitasking is, in itself, impossible. We just single-task serially, some of us more seamlessly than others, giving the illusion of multitasking. But the truth is, each interruption costs something in terms of performance.

I know this, and still, I let myself get seduced by checking email, Google Plus notifications, my Amazon sales page, all the while deluding myself that I'm actually writing.

So I decided that the first step was admitting I had a problem and needed help.

Then I found "Freedom". It's a program originally created for the Mac, now ported to Windows, etc, that lets you set internet free stretches of time. I used to think I had the self-discipline and scoffed at such controlling external measures.

I'm not scoffing anymore.

I shelled out the 10 or so bucks for the program and have been using it to return to 30 minutes of focused writing sprints, scattered through my day. It's frustrating to sit with a difficult scene and a blinking cursor, and my prior strategy would be to check email, or surf over to G+ rather than be with the discomfort. And I KNOW that clicking into another window just drained away all my creative energy. Yet, I did it anyway. Repeatedly. For much of the past year. Honestly, it's a wonder I got anything completed at all.

So now you know my dirty secret.

I am slowly rebuilding my 'concentration muscles.' And you know what? It feels good to work my brain in this way. I've missed it a lot.

And I think I'll let the dogs worry about chasing the squirrels.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's Full of Stars

Sunset, Rock Hall, July 2014

This is the view from my in laws' backyard. They live on the Chesapeake Bay's eastern shore in one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. We come for a week-long holiday every summer, and this year was the first time since we became parents nearly 21 years ago, that we have come here without our kids.

Both boys have summer jobs and while they will always be *our* kids, are no longer children. At 18 and  20, they are responsible, emerging adults. So they stayed home with the dogs this week while my husband and I are here, staring out over the water, doing very little of anything. It is glorious. And would have been excruciatingly boring for the boys. They are home, well rid of their parents, alternating between work and killing zombies or somesuch on their computers.

While I spend my time reading and writing, (I got past the sticking point in the climax of TIME AND TITHE yesterday! Yay!)  my husband is playing with his camera. Last night was the first perfectly clear night since we got here. Our first several nights were exciting, with thunder storms and spectacular lightning shows. Last evening, my husband set up his tripod and camera to attempt to take long exposures of the night sky. I am looking forward to seeing the photos he took. The evening was bright with more stars than I have seen in one time since our last trip to Montana. Where we live outside of Boston is too thick with light pollution to do much in the way of star gazing.

One of the things I love to do here is document my observations with little poems. They are written on the fly with very little revision in an attempt to capture a moment in time. This was last night's attempt.

Rock Hall, Evening

Chased indoors by mosquito bites,
I watch my husband's silhouette
lean over his tripod, camera lens open
to the sky. He traps ancient starlight
like fireflies in a jar while I curse
the universe of insects
and the strange chemistry
of their attraction. 

          ~LJ Cohen, July 16, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Odds and Ends; Things and Stuff

Old dock, Chesapeake Bay, MD
Hullo all! We are down on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland at the peaceful retreat that is my in-laws' place.

For the next week, I plan on reading and writing and staring out at the bay, watching the osprey chicks fledge.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be on the program at Readercon and had a totally lovely time. I was on several really interesting panels, including one on the science and logistics of space colony living and one on dealing with discouragement. Great conversations ensued. I also got to meet and network with some amazing ladies from the Broad Universe group. I am really looking forward to getting more involved in the organization and promoting more women writers of SF&F.

If you follow me on Google Plus (my social network of choice), you know that I've been sharing and resharing posts about helping a fellow plusser and creative person (writer and artist) who is under imminent threat of home foreclosure. I figured I'd offer some of my ceramics as a perk for folks to donate to Tressa Green's gofundme campaign. What I never counted on was that the hashtag #KeepTressaHome would take off like wildfire on G+ and that tons of other plussers would also offer perks for donations.

I'm so proud of my community and their generosity and caring!! You can read more about the campaign and all the amazing perks being offered here: https://plus.google.com/113113447782383069533/posts/LMxQkwniUcV

So check out the link for your chance to have one of these (or something else that I make) as your very own, or one of many, many unique perks donated by others.

"dragon belly" mugs

It's cool stuff for an important cause. Please consider a donation, or at least spread the word. Thank you!


Sunday, July 06, 2014

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood


After Friday's nearly 24 hour deluge, the sun came out yesterday and today and these may be the finest days we've had this summer.

We spent a very quiet (literally and figuratively) 4th of July. Hubby was on call, so we made no plans, and because of the storm, our town cancelled its fireworks display. So the past few days have been gentle and relaxed. This morning I got up before the rest of the household. Both college-aged spawn have been staying up like the nocturnal creatures they are and sleeping in late into the morning, and hubby spent the night in the operating room in an emergency case, so I had the morning to myself.

I slipped out of the house and went to visit a dear friend who lives a few towns over. We had a lovely breakfast and then went for a walk around her neighborhood, enjoying the sun, the blue sky, and the birdsong.

The daylillies, what I like to think of as the fireworks of summer flowers, are bursting new blossoms open each morning and we found wild raspberries just starting to ripen. There are turtles and koi in the pond on the property where she lives.

Just a quiet walk with an old and dear friend and it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

How easy it is to forget.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? by Fred Rogers

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

I've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So, let's make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we're together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Won't you please,
Won't you please?
Please won't you be my neighbor?

Enjoy your day, neighbor! And thank you for being part of my neighborhood.