Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made Of

I read once that everyone has somewhere near to ten dreams every night, but most are lucky to remember one. If that is the case I am very lucky indeed because I almost always remember two or three dreams. There is, of course, an explanation for this. I have sleep apnea which forces me awake several times every night. Because I wake suddenly, and usually completely, I remember the dream I was having at the time. Because it’s the middle of the night and there is pretty much nothing else to do, I think about whatever dream I was having and, in so doing, handily move that dream from my subconscious to my conscious thoughts. So, lucky me. I remember my dreams.

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The Day I Decided to Write

It’s what I am, so why isn’t it what I do?

I consider myself to be many things. I am a person, a woman, a friend, a sister, a colleague, a shower singer, a geek, a slob, a lover of art, a reader, a cat fancier, a poet at heart, a believer, a skeptic, an optimist, a depressive, a disorganized mess (at times), an intuitive thinker, a closet romantic. Really, the list can go on and on.

There are two things, however, that I have always considered myself to be, always, a teacher and a writer.

I am a teacher. It is what I am. It’s what I do and what I’ve done every day of my working life. I could never stop teaching even if I tried, and really, I can’t imagine ever trying. When people ask what I do, I hold my head up proudly and I say without any shadow of doubt, and with more than a little pride, I teach.

Sometimes when people ask me what I do, you know, when I’m not teaching, I say, “I am a writer.” But something strange always happens when I do that. My head that was held so high bends down a bit, and my voice that was so confident in my career gives way to a bit of a stutter, and suddenly the pride gets pushed out by guilt and self-doubt. I’m not lying, I tell myself. I am a writer. I write all the time, every minute of every day. The problem is the words never seem to make it from my head to my fingers.

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Well, shut my mouth.

I woke up this morning after going to bed earlier this morning. Needless to say, I was a bit tired.

My normal Sunday begins in an almost ritualistic manner.  I shlup to the kitchen in my jammies and big soft slippers, get out my french roast pot, my extra-large coffee mug, fill one with coffee and the other with expensive pretend sugar and creamer. Then, as the water bowls, I try to wake up. I’m not always successful.

This morning, when the kettle clicked off, I lifted it from the heater and poured the contents into the pot. Or at least I thought I did. When I looked down, I realized I had poured it into the mug and had ruined the extensive sweet mix.

I did the only thing I could do. I shouted “ShitFart!”

Then I laughed.

I have no idea where the hell that word came from. Now mind you, I can swear with the best of them and because I’m a preschool teacher I have a lot of imaginative, yet harmless, swears including Holy Cats, Cheesy Peesy, and my favorite, Well, Bummer! At home, however, I can make a sailor blush.

Never once have I shouted, “ShitFart!” before today. Normally, “f” word is THE “f” word and as we all know shit floats alone.

Perhaps I’m just easily amused, but I made myself laugh this morning and I now have a new expletive for some character to use.

America’s Love Affair with All Things Zombie

America seems to be obsessed with zombies. If you Google the word, zombie, you will get 141 million hits. Googling zombie games will get you 16,800,000 hits. On the Barnes and Nobles site, BN.com, searching the word zombie will bring up 1905 matches. And all of that is just the very tip of the grave stone.

Everywhere you look there are zombies. They are on the television, at the movies, in video games and in books… lots and lots of books.

I had managed to miss this trend entirely until my well-meaning friend and total zombie geek, Kevin, introduced me to the movie Shawn of the Dead. If you have never seen this movie, you really should. It manages to be scary and hilarious all at the same time. It’s basically the story of an average guy living an average life until the world around him starts going all zombie, and some how that works out pretty well for him.

I was surprised by how much I liked that movie. I had expected to be either grossed out, bored or both bored and grossed out. I had not expected to be entertained, but, since I was, I decided to go out and explore life with the undead.

My next foray into the world of the living dead was the book, World War Z by Max Brooks, the son of actor/director/all around funny guy Mel Brooks. This is a history, ala Stud Terkelesque interviews, of the zombie wars that have, at the future time of this book, decimated the world, but not destroyed humanity. It starts from a patient zero and follows the wars through to their aftermaths in a frightening plausible way.

After reading this book, I was officially hooked. I had to find more.

I have now read at least ten anthologies of zombie short stories, watched several movies about zombies, am contemplating buying a zombie game, and am writing a novel in which one of the major characters is, in fact, a zombie. It all leaves me with one undying question. Why?

Why are we so obsessed with zombies. My guess is that the idea is just so primal. A zombie is an unthinking, uncaring and almost completely unstoppable force that we cannot hope, in the end, to control or defeat. It is, I think, much like our own basic urges.  We all feel rage, love, hunger, lust and we all worry that we will not be able to control those most basic of human motivations; that, in the end they will defeat us.

Through portrayals of zombies we can live out our fears in a non-threatening way. We can control them, even stop them, or we can let them run amok and discover what happens, all in the confines of our favorite easy chair. The world is safe from us and we from it. We can live to die another day.

Or… maybe, these stories are just plain fun.

I Need a Distraction!

All I need is a little noise and a lot of caffeine.

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to find the perfect place to write. Most of the experts say you should have a spot. It doesn’t have to be a great spot or anything, but it should be THE spot. That spot, they advise, is the place for writing, not for eating or relaxing or chatting or playing video games or reading or the million and one things we can find to do when we are supposed to be writing. When you are in that spot you write and that’s that.

It makes sense, right?  If you have a place that is just for writing, when you are in that place you will write.

Thing is, this doesn’t work for me.

Maybe it’s because until recently I had no place to write. I lived in a small, very small, two-bedroom house with a roommate, a cat, a dog and two televisions. Don’t get me wrong. I loved them all, even the televisions, maybe especially the televisions, but they didn’t make for productive writing. So I did what many a space-deprived writer has done. I went to Starbucks.

High on caffeine and distracted by the people I watched pretty damned shamelessly, I wrote. I wrote a lot. And all the time I kept saying to myself, if only I had my own workspace, imagine how much I’d get done. By the way, if you are going to say things to yourself, do it INSIDE your head. I had to change Starbucks twice before I learned that rule.

Then I inherited a three-bedroom condo. Finally, I had the work space I’d always dreamed of. I had a den. My den had a beautiful, old fashion desk with room to spread out. It had shelves on which to put my books. It had a comfy chair in which to sit and read manuscripts that I was revising. It even had drawers full of pens, pencils and paper.

At last there was nothing to stop me. I would spend every minute that I was not at my day job, writing. I would produce novels, short stories, plays and the occasional greeting card.  I would finally work to my true potential.

Thing is, it just didn’t work for me.

I found myself writing less than I ever had and not liking much of what I was writing. I’ve figured it out though. I need distraction. I grew up with noise. I work with noise. I’ve lived in noise almost all my life. When there is no noise, the quiet is overwhelming and I will do anything to make it stop; hang pictures, play games, sing old Beatles tunes. When, however, I am surrounded by noise, I can just ignore it like I’ve always done, and get on with things.

I no longer try to write in my den, which is now just that nice room upstairs with the great desk. I now write on a tv tray in my living room, usually with a cat draped across my arms and often with the television on. I’m getting so much done.

How about you?  What does it take for you to sit down and write?  Do you prefer to be in a quiet space or to have distractions to actively ignore.  Where do write and when?