Marijuana: Paying attention and having new experiences

Paying attention and having new experiences is key to writing.  Whether it is travel, fiction, technical documents, or writing copy for a company website, the command of the English language is really secondary to just keeping your eyes and ears open.

Last summer, my aunt came to town.  In Washington where she lives–and Colorado, where I live–marijuana is legal.  She uses it instead of opioids to manage the pain several surgeries throughout her life, from scoliosis as a child to joint repair and replacement.  I got the recommendation of a local dispensary from a friend who manages her pain similarly and has been opioid free for years now.

I won’t get on my soapbox about how there are people rotting in jail right now who were caught with a bag of weed, while soccer moms careen through neighborhoods in 3 ton minivans while doped up to the gills on Vicodin–but there you have it.  Maybe that is for another discussion.

Anyway, my first trip to the dispensary was informative.  The “Budtender” as they are called, knew everything about the products, from marijuana leaf varieties to resins, edibles, drinkables, gummies, their effects, their dosage, administering them, etc.  Unlike the giggling stoner of the last century, or the really scary guy with the long hair and jean jacket, the workers at the dispensary were accommodating, friendly, and  made us feel comfortable the whole time.  My aunt got her hook up and I got to check another thing off my list of new experiences.

The idea of a marijuana dispensary is still the subject of controversy throughout our country.  Even when doctors prescribe a lot worse every day.  Maybe my next article should be how school kids are hooked on Ritalin from the second grade onward.

Just last week, I took my mom to the same dispensary.  We were on the search for a cream that would help my dad with pain in his feet.  After having our ID’s checked three times, the Budtender quickly suggested a product with CBD and THC components for topical pain.

My dad used it.  Said it worked great.  And no, he didn’t get high or have the munchies afterwards.  He’s about as straight laced as they come, and it’s good to know that there are ways he can control his pain without having to be high all the time.

The cool thing is recently I wrote a few articles for an online cannabis dispensary site and from just two experiences, I have sold two articles for them already.  Just from keeping my eyes and ears open.  The writing is secondary to that, since you have to find a voice and hone your skills with language.  But anybody can write something, and sometimes people who can’t write well, equipped with the right research and information, can compensate for that little detail when it comes to having something good to write badly about.

Or at least something interesting other people will pay for.

And how about that title?  Did it get your attention?  😉   –C

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Getting into the “Zone”

In conversations with other writers, this topic comes up a lot.  What is the “zone” anyway?  I think it’s that sweetspot of productivity, to where your efforts, even if they are garbage, just seem to cut through time.  You almost sit outside of yourself as you write and everything just comes together.

How do I get into the zone?

Eliminate all distractions.

This is accomplished at home usually over a period of several hours.  Say I decide to spend the day writing and it is 9a.m. I might not actually put my butt in the chair until 1 or 2pm.  I’m working on shortening the time of this ritual, but right now, it’s a system.  Not saying it’s a very good system, but it is a system.

At home, my distractions are generally things like house chores.  Dishes.  Laundry.  Even tedious things I wouldn’t do unless someone put a gun to my head like reorganizing the spice cabinet or cleaning the drip pans on the stovetop.

A few weekends ago, I cleaned the house, reorganized my cabinets, and did a ton of laundry.  Once all of those distractions had been eliminated, I was not only sick of doing them, but during the time I was folding clothes or scrubbing the tub, I had time to think about the story.

In my opinion, thinking about the story is writing, and whether it is sitting with my butt firmly planted in the chair in front of the keyboard, or up to my elbows in Comet, scrubbing grout, I’m working on the story in my head.

Stop Facebooking

Staying off social media is so important.  I cannot begin to express how important this is.  If you need to check Facebook or Instagram, limit your time in doing so to about 20 mintues, otherwise, you will just find you are creating more distractions and perpetuating the act.

Pro-tip.  Limit time on Facebook to when you are using the bathroom.  Let your friends know that if they see you on Facebook, you are probably sitting on the toilet, checking your feed with your phone.  Letting them know you do this will shame you into staying off social media, because your friends don’t want to talk to someone while they are dropping a deuce.

Don’t be afraid to take mental breaks.

I sometimes stop while I’m ahead and grab my notebook and go for a walk.  Or I will take a nap.  Make a snack.  Watch a couple episodes of TV or just stop for the day.  I cannot shift gears yet and work on fiction and then take a break working on paid blogs and other work just yet.

Sometimes I write for about 20 minutes until I hit a break point and then I put on some music for background sound.  That usually buys me another 30 minutes or so.  Sometimes building playlists can inspire me.  Sometimes they are a terrible distraction.

Once in a while, I will actually take the time to bake bread or make a nice dinner.  This might also let the mind wander and pick up new ideas in the process.

No FOMO

Don’t worry about missing out.  It’s the Fear of Missing Out that really gets me.  If I think other people are off having fun, or I shouldn’t be neglecting people, I have to remind myself that they also have the ability to contact me.  If they want me around, they know how to find me.  In the meantime, I am doing something that very few people understand, which is sitting there, dreaming up stories and attempting to put them on paper.  Most people would rather…not do this.

 

Writing post: Characters. Bad characters.

Writing has been going well lately.  I have been able to work consistently on the book and am making some slow progress through the most recent of chapters.  The only bummer is that it’s not exactly what I want it to do or say, but for now, I’m going to trust that as some First Draft work and just move on through it, rather than grind to a halt.

It has given me some thought about writing certain kinds of characters.  Everyone who has written stories knows about character arcs.  Or at least they should.  Usually this pertains to the hero, who undergoes a journey and their character overcomes conflict and winds up changed at the end.  But what about villains?  The bad guys of your story.

I have one particular bad guy I have been working on recently, who is truly just awful.  They are more of an elemental evil than anything.  But this recent chapter I have been working through involves their past, and for whatever reason, I decided to make the character more of an amalgam.  The character in those days had the seed of being awful, but in adding more depth to this person, I have made them more sympathetic.  In adding some traits of people I have genuinely admired, I think this will give the villain of this story some depth, and if I am successful, it will make their fall just that more devastating.  It might even show the main protag in an entirely different light.  It’s weird to sorta muddy up some very good memories in real life with such a terrible character.  But not everyone is all bad.  That’s how you get past static, one dimensional characters.

I have also scrapped some ideas that I had been working with, specifically a Jekyll/Hyde type character that pushed the boundaries of the steampunkery of the story.  I just didn’t like how it played out.  It was superfluous.

The story continues to grow and evolve.  Particularly around the characters.  They seem to be driving the plot more than anything.  The original plot that I had was pretty contrived.  So, for this story, I’m going to have a world, throw these characters into it, and see what they do with it all.  At least this way, the story feels more organic.  Lived in.  Not just a predetermined mess that ends only one way without any consideration for the characters living in that world.

In reading news, I finished Steven Pressfield’s book “Turning Pro.”  I didn’t like it as much as “The War of Art” mostly because so many of the concepts were already covered in the latter.  Not only were they covered, but they were investigated deeper.  This seemed like a repeat, almost like a workbook to accompany the textbook, along with some anectdotes from Roseanne Cash’s book, and for whatever reason most chapters were only a page.  At most.  It read almost like a list-type article from some clickbait you would find online.  For $9.99 on Kindle, I wasn’t impressed.  This was the third Pressfield book, and probably the last I will buy.  I liked the concepts he pushes into the light of the creative mind, but the whole book can be summed up with one sentence.  “Turning Pro means changing your attitude from that of a amateur, to someone who works with consistency and dedication until they get it right.”

There.  Saved you ten bucks.

The thing about the concept of Turning Pro that bothers me is the emphasis on sacrificing your friends, your family, everything you know to chase an obsession and find fulfillment in your creativity.  Am I the only one who read Faust in college?  At the end of you life, sure, you might have achieved all of your professional goals, but what is the point if you are alone?  If you gave up new experiences? All for the sole purpose of being a “Pro” at one thing?

Writing isn’t everything.  It isn’t even close to being the only thing.  Sometimes it’s just something we do because we like doing it.  Some writers hate writing.  They find it is painful.  To them, I say why torture yourself over something like this?  It shouldn’t hurt.  Honestly, as much as I love writing, I wouldn’t mind selling out for a giant check to a Hollywood producer and using that money to buy a really cool house, afford trips to anywhere I wanted to go in the world, or make sure I could live comfortably the rest of my days.  Writing will always be with me.  Whether it is sketching out a poem when I watch leaves fall from the trees, or if it is a story about witches and gunfighters.  I carry it with me wherever I go, but it isn’t my entire identity.  I think there could be something to be said about anyone letting a passion consume their identity.  Kinda like a superfan who paints their house in the colors of their favorite team.  Or someone who drives only one kind of car because of brand loyalty.  I like to do a lot of other things more than writing.  Like living.