Books

Life in the Neutral Zone - An Opportunity to Create

Haneberg_StiffLizard_Ebook smallI've not blogged much the last two weeks because I'm channeling my writing energy into FINALLY finishing my 4th mystery, STIFF LIZARD. It was supposed to come out earlier this year. Here's the cover.

 - I delayed the book because I was going to have to have surgery.

 - Then my surgery was delayed by the covid pandemic.

 - And then I fell into a covid-fear-haze and didn't feel like writing.

 - And then I had surgery.

 - And now I'm back to finishing the book (while straddling the continued covid-fear-haze).

It's a quirky mystery set on Galveston Island, TX. The pub date 2021 Stiff Lizard will be a different book than the pub date 2020 one would've been. I've added a few things, subtracted a few things, and amped up the plot and quirk. I'm a different person, and my story will reflect this.

The 2021 version will have the benefit of my neutral zone creativity. The neutral zone (from Bridge's Transition Model) is that fuzzy in-between time when the new reality is emerging but not yet understood. Ambiguity shows up in many ways. Along with being draining and frustrating, the neutral zone is a great place from which to create.

Why? Think about what KEEPS us from creating. Our automatic and rutted routines act like a magnetic tractor pull that can prevent us from coloring outside the lines or conceiving of something new. But when we're living in the neutral zone, we're delightfully lacking in routine and comfortableness. 

So while I am fatigued and frustrated and afraid of every living person I encounter (Are you going to kill me with your breath?), I'm also feeling a bit more adventurous and open.

Being in transition is enabling me to write a better story because I'm less sure and secure. Funny how that works. I've promised my editor the book by Dec. 14th, so I'll not be blogging as much until I've turned in the manuscript.

And then, LOOK OUT. Hehehe.


A fruitful mindset for #NaNoWriMo

November 1st is almost here, and I've thought about the mindset that will serve writers well as they launch into #NaNoWriMo. The mindset has a few elements that are reinforced by recent blog posts (linked):

#1: Time is precious; choose wisely. I blogged about my Decision Filter here. I'm still reviewing this filter daily and it's helping me make better decisions about how I spend time. 

#2: Be a winner and you'll win. Put the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy to work for you. Think and act like a highly productive writer and you'll be one. 

#3: Believe that you're in the middle of doing something great. It's easy to give up or give in when we're in the messy middle of things and to doubt that we're on the right track. But here's the thing. Being in the middle of an epoch success can feel the same way. So don't give up. Believe you're in the process of an achievement.

4: Make unreasonable requests that aren't. We might be THIS close to our daily or weekly goals but have a substantial barrier. And while we probably can't manifest a million dollars into our bank accounts so we can rent a villa for the month, we can engage the people who love and admire us in an assist. Making unreasonable requests is a regular part of my regimen and has helped me generate breakthroughs.

I hope you have the BEST NaNoWriMo ever!


Invite a Narrative Dare #amwriting

I was watching a video where the owner of Murder By the Book in Houston interviewed authors Jasper Fforde and Matt Haig about their new books. Watch the video here. Something that Jasper said struck a chord with me and I've thought about it several times since seeing the video. He said he "sets a narrative dare" when drafting book plots. In other words, he challenges himself with a specific but not narrow concept. "Rabbits live amongst us. How?" was the example he shared that helped him get going on his newest book, "The Constant Rabbit."

The idea, Jasper said, is to set the narrative dare and then write our way out of it. 

I love the idea of challenging ourselves such that we live a more creative life. And if you're a writer, the narrative dare might be something worth trying. Dares that offer some specificity but allow wide-ranging creative freedom work best. 

The narrative dare for my current project could go something like this: Iguanas invade Galveston Island. How? The narrative dare for my first novel could've been: an octopus is charged with murder. How? And while I'd not heard of the narrative dare when I wrote "Toxic Octopus," that central idea fueled my interest in and commitment to fleshing out the story.

Here are a few narrative dares I just brainstormed:

  • The end of lying. What happened?
  • The planet is going to explode in one year. Explain.
  • A pill melts fat away in one week. How?
  • Placebos become the real thing. Why?
  • Cell and Internet service is shut down by aliens. 
  • Existentialism sweeps the nation. How?
  • Poisonous plants from all over the world meet and organize. Explain.

Might a narrative dare, or some other type of dare, help you create?


The Human Body is a System

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I had few health challenges until I was 35. Then the chaos-theory-reverberation-making-proverbial-shit-hit-the-fan. But this is not a woe is me post. It's a reflection on the circuitous path we have to walk/run/dance/jump when trying to investigate what ails us.

Wait, Lisa. Isn't that what doctors are for?

If I could hire a private investigator with a medical degree, sure. But our healthcare delivery system is fragmented and focused. And my primary care physician - theoretically the overseer of my care - is so overburdened that she is forced to farm out anything requiring more than ten minutes to resolve to specialists. 

I have a lot of "ologists" on my medical team. They're super smart about a few things. They've studied a small number of health problems in depth so they can get really good at treating them.

The problem with this is everything is connected. Human bodies are chaotic systems. Interesting fact: It was in the context of the body that Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, the Father of Systems Thinking, fathered systems thinking

"As long as we single out individual phenomena, we do not discover any fundamental difference between the living and the non-living." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Problems of Life: An evolution of modern biological thought

"In order to understand an organized whole, we must know both the parts and the relations between them." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, The History and Status of General Systems Theory

Having specialists looking at their assigned piece of me is helpful but insufficient. My oncologist doesn't know about diet or metabolism. My endocrinologist doesn't know about cancer or the heart. My cardiologist doesn't know about the digestive tract. My neurologist doesn't know about arthritis or strength. My personal trainer (not an ologist, but on the team) doesn't know about medications and blood test results. But my cancer affects my digestion. And the oral chemo I take affects my heart. And my metabolism affects my thinking and movement. And my diet affects everything. 

My job is to discover how things are connected, make meaning, and fill in gaps. To do this, I listen to my ologists and do a lot of research using reliable sources. Maybe I go back to my ologists with my findings. Sometimes I'm on my own.

It's a lot of work and my most important job. And when I figure something out, it's sweet like cherry pie.


Intracranial Misadventure

I watched a book launch video discussion from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore featuring Carl Hiassen as interviewed by author John Sanford. The topic was Hiassen's latest book, Squeeze Me. The two men go way back, and it was a very interesting discussion. You can find that FB video here.

One of the more entertaining parts of this interview focused on how authors select names and when getting the name right is critical. Hiassen said that for important characters, he wants the name to be striking so the reader remembers it the first time they read it. The name John marveled about was Fay Alex Riptoad, one of Hiassen's important side characters.

It is with this inspiration that I decided to brainstorm awesome names for characters. And that doing so would be a terrific use of my time and tick off the "Joy," "Strengths," and "Progress" aspects of my new Decision Filter. Heck, this might even make a "contribution" to society. 

Here we go.

Great Names for Characters (that I might use one day - no stealing, OK?)

In no particular order

Jeptha Rule                    Wady Wayne Wright

Baby-face Kreed            Convira

Asa Butterfield               Rasmus Monk

Spag Bolle                       Drucilla

The Tooth                       Consequence (Conee for short)

Snipe                               Lobster Butterworth

Two-time                        Cross-eyed Tommy

Talulla Moola                 Lilith Rothworm III

Fern Green                     Griselda Feldman

Zaynab Ditt                    Euphrasia Rothschild

Lennox Turtleman        Fizzy Joe

Rip Torn - oh wait, that one was already used by a real person (RIP Rip)

Pretty cool list, if I do say so myself. Can you imagine the weird and wonderful back stories for these characters? I wonder what it would be like to write a book STARTING with a set of character names? Could be fun! 

What's your favorite?


Mini-Misadventure - Fun with Words

Here's the opening to a story I'm working on. What do you think? Hint: It's related to yesterday's post...

Spaz Romano’s Sugar Shack

I was loading my identical-twin Pomeranians BeeBop (Bee and Bop) into my car when my neighbor, Jimena, a police captain, flagged me down and rushed to my car.

She touched my wrist with her lime-green painted fingernails and gazed up at me. Her cheeks were flushed and pink. “Thank you.”

I’d seen this expression before on others. “They must’ve worked.”

“Don’t understand how or why, but yes. I’ve not felt this good in years.”

I tapped the window to quiet BeeBop, who were jumping up and down in my driver’s seat. “They love the Arboretum.”

Jimena flipped her long, tussled hair.  “I won’t keep you. Just wanted to tell you how grateful we are, especially after I ransacked your office, put a gun to your head, and hauled you down to the station.” She giggled. “I owe you one, Spaz.”

“No problem," I said. "It ended up being a fun afternoon. Never been suspected of manslaughter before.” I waived to Jimena’s husband, who was watching us from the window.

I leaned into her and winked. “Let me know when you need a refill.”


Further on the Topic of Intrinsic Exercise

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As a follow up to yesterday's post, if you're interested in learning more about the concept of intrinsic exercise, here's an article with a good tee up that was published in Psychology Today. "Learn to Love Exercise," by Jay Kimiecik. And here's a post from the Mind-Body Medicine blog

I'll be talking to a potential virtual personal trainer today and one thing I'll mention is my desire to discover the best way to tap into and ignite intrinsic motivation for exercising. I know part of this is to find the activities that I enjoy or that provide some satisfaction.

Intrinsic motivation means that I'd engage in the activity for its own sake. 

Or as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called it, FLOW. That state when we lose track of time and are totally into what we're doing. I want more of this!

Given my love (obsession) for adventure, I know that there needs to be an element of adventure and misadventure to the activities I select. Or HOW I do them. For example: I loved riding my bike to school when I was in the 5th grade. This offered me an element of danger (the school was across town), independence, and fun. I bought the road bike myself from selling toys at a garage sale, and I loved it.

It was lime green, I know you were wondering. 

But is every bike ride going to jazz up my motivational juices? No. The situation and manner matter.

What might adventurous exercise look like in the time of covid-19? Don't mistake adventure for risk - I am risk-averse relative to the pandemic because I care about others and am at high-risk for a poor outcome if infected.

All good stuff to think about.


Help: Stuck in Head

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This blog is new and few people are reading it, so I feel a certain freedom to LET IT RIP and write whatever I want. I feel no pressure to do market research on the reading preferences of my ten blog subscribers.

Hey, you're talking about us!

True. I'm taking a risk with this line of thinking, but I believe that all ten of you are here because you're curious, extraordinary people. You're adventurers who embrace original ideas. You're special, in other words.

That's more like it. You were saying?

Right. I was just saying that because my readers are amazing, I'm free to offer up whatever pops into my mind.

Mind. MIND. MIND.

I was looking for a book that I bought many years ago. Didn't find it, but I was amused by a few other titles on my bookshelf:

On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers

The Social Construction of Reality by Berger and Luckmann

How to Be an Existentialist by Gary Cox

Notice a theme? Stuck-inside-my-head type philosophy. Is there another kind? Maybe not.

Why do I own these books and WHY have they remained in my collection through at least a dozen pre-move book reduction exercises? Some extreme reduction attempts that slashed my collection by half or more? And why did the book I was hoping to find, The Intrinsic Exerciser by Jay Kimiecik, not make the cut? 

I'm quite bothered by this because I cannot remember when I discarded this book or my state of mind, but worry that this could be an ominous sign for future attempts at increasing exercise. This book, which is about revving up your inner drive to exercise, is what I need right now. 

Instead...

Reality is socially constructed. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. Exercise is fun, I can't wait to exercise. 

Get real, Lisa. Be authentic or go home. You're a slob

You must be open to learning to become and athletic person. 

Hehehe...just having a little fun with philosophy.

Ironically, the fun I wanted to have involved exploring my deeply hidden intrinsic motivation for exercise such that I give it new life and priority. Not in an extrinsically designed carrot-and-stick way, of course, that would create bad motivational juju.

Well, that's it. Here I am, totally inside my head instead of outside doing burpees, whatever those are. It sounds dreadful and I suppose that's why my books are what they are. 


UNDOing so I Have More Time and Space for Adventure.

It doesn't seem possible, but after a full week of aggressively unsubscribing and unfollowing, there's still so much more I can do. Today I unsubscribed from another dozen e-newsletters. And I'm unfollowing on FB and IG - at least 10 per day.
 
It's AWESOME.
 
Twitter is another matter, would love to unfollow 1/2 or more of the 4,000 I follow, but it seems like a lot of work to find the ones I'd let go. Ideas or hacks welcome. I know, I could just shut Twitter off. Might do...I keep Twitter primarily to support others, I get no real joy or value from it.
 
Related but different - I'm also discarding and/or donating items. Silly stuff, like a garbage bag full of shipping peanuts. Why was I keeping these wormy magnetic things? And I have stupid stuff - like cases for phones and keyboards I no longer own. 
 
I'll tackle the books another time and tell you about it. That could be super painful but needs to happen. It's like staring at hundreds of balls of yarn that you know you'll never turn into scarves. I have some yarn, too. 
 
I'm not becoming a minimalist. I'm a less-crap-in-my-way-ist. How will I concoct new misadventures if I'm checking my email every twelve seconds? I'd be a piss-poor attempt if I did.

When We're Relentless

Hell bent. Obsessed. Dedicated. Driven2. Fullsizeoutput_85d

I admire those who simply MUST do X (and X is a good or decent thing) and ensure they do X even when barriers make doing X hard or near impossible. Case in point. David Sedaris' commitment (obsession) with racking up huge numbers of steps  on his Fitbit.

And by huge, I've learned that Sedaris routinely gets thirty thousand, forthy thousand, even sixty thousand steps in a day. He's even walked 20 miles in one day. And he loves beating the total daily step numbers of his Fibit pals. 

I first heard about his walking habit a few years ago in a New Yorker story. Then Bill and I saw Sedaris perform and he talked about it there. While getting him to sign a book, I told him I also used a Fitbit. He signed it accordingly (see pic).

That was when Sedaris could walk through his neighborhood in Normandy (or wherever he was). Then the covid crisis occurred. This recent story from the NYT shares how David got his steps in while being home-bound and restricted in NYC. At first, he walked around his apartment for hours each day. Then, when it was allowed, he started walking the New York City streets while wearing a mask.

That's dedication! That's grit! It might be a few other things, but I admire his resolve.

But this isn't a story about steps; it's about discovering something that is important enough that we become unstoppable. What would you put in that category and how might you like the targets of your grit and determination to change?

If you made one small change in the right direction, I bet it would make a big difference. Like the Butterfly Effect. 

For me, I need to get a more assertive hold on my various health issues. I have an appointment with my oncologist in a few hours and it's time to be decisive. I've been dinking around the corners and welcoming delays and inaction (some of it covid related, sure). But this is something that is keeping me zoned out and inactive. Barriers be damned. I'm ready to get this surgery over with and re-health back up to whatever my new normal can be. I've got some projects waiting for my focus and concentration (which is low right now).

Is there something that you could recommit to that would help put things on a clearer track forward