The Earth Speaks Not In Flowers, But In Squeaks And Pings!

Last Friday I mentioned that one of my favourite composers, Kerry Muzzey, had composed a track including the sounds of the Earth as ‘heard’ from space. It’s seriously amazing, so of course I had to share ūüôā (And OHMYGOSH when I went to find the video for today’s post, I realised THERE’S A VERSION WITH DANCE FROM THE LXD, who, as you’ll know from last week, is one of my favourite dance troupes! I either missed this a few years ago when I first found the track, or had totally forgotten, and OHMYGOSH SQUEE THIS IS SO MUCH AWESOME YAY).

So, uh, yeah. Ahem. Here’s the blurb from YouTube, explaining the ‘sounds of Earth’ bit:

In October 2012, NASA satellites recorded mysterious radio waves emanating from Earth. These radio waves known as “Chorus,” were given an audio rendering. This is what they heard. For the very first time, we could hear the Earth speak. So we decided to speak back.

See? How cool is it?! (Or is it just me, happily geeking out over here? :D) Leave a comment and let me know what you thought, and if you’d heard of the idea of the Earth making sounds before!

Here Is My Body, Broken For You

A woman’s body is broken for her children in a way a man’s can never be. We carry our children for nine months — and then an other nine months, and another, until they are simply too big to carry, and then we can only hold. Our bodies are changed forever: stretch marks and scars, feet perhaps a different size or shape, hips wider than before, breasts perhaps larger, suffering the lingering after-affects of gestational diabetes or loose joints or back pain, RSI in wrists and elbows – not Tennis Elbow, but Mother’s Elbow, holding them when you are just so physically sore that you can’t possibly hold them any longer, our bodies are broken down again and again and again.

I can carry two giant bags of dog food by myself, thanks Mr Pet Store Man: I have mother’s arms.

Can you please carry the baby upstairs for me, husband? My wrists are broken and I can’t face one more stair climb.

Our bodies are broken, and rebuilt; we are weakness, we are strength.

Christ said it best: Here is my body, child, broken for you.

Slow Down (Repost)

In a similar vein to the last repost, and again, applicable to a lot more than just writing……..

I was originally going to title this post ‘A New Cure For Writers’ Block’. But really, it’s not a new cure, for either the world in general, or myself. You’ve heard me talk about it before; the cure is simple: listen to your characters.

But it occurs to me that the principle involved has so many more applications, and can be summed up in just one word: listen.

Most of us are not so crash hot at the concept of listening. The fact that it’s a primary skill taught in relationship seminars speaks to this point. Sure, we¬†hear¬†other people talking, and we can repeat back a rough idea of what they’ve said, and we can even respond appropriately, but how often do we actually¬†listen?

Listening is hard. It requires focussing completely on the speaker, clearing your mind of everything but what they’re trying to convey. No wandering off onto tangents of your own, no pondering what you’re going to say next as soon as they finish speaking; just listening.

One of the primary reasons we’re so bad at listening is the kind of world we live in, where minute-long soundbites are six times too long and an article nearing a thousand words is more like an essay. We’re used to doing ten things at once – we call it ‘multi-tasking’, and we’re proud of it.

As I type, I’m also half-watching The Flintstones on tv, I’m chatting to my baby sister via gtalk, I’m discussing puppy care with my husband, looking up a timetable on the school intranet, and uploading photos to my webalbums. I also have my email inbox open, a short story I’m editing, the spreadsheet that reminds me I need to weigh the puppies, and a host of writing related articles to read. Oh yeah, and Twitter.

Is it any wonder, then, that we struggle to really listen?

I mean, seriously. I’m a writer. I know I need to listen to my characters. I know my characters should have personalities that are well-rounded and unique and individual, and that motivate all of their actions. I¬†know¬†this. I¬†know¬†that this requires listening to them, letting them be.

So why am I so bad at doing it? Why, every time I butt my head against another wall in my story, does it take me forever to remember to stop, breathe, relax, listen?

I think there’s a clue in what I said about the kind of society we live in. Our lives are so fast paced, we’re conditioned to believe that everything can happen at the click of a button or the speed of thought. I sit down to write, and I expect that the words will be there, waiting for me – and if they’re not, I get restless, dissatisfied, think I’m doing something wrong.

I procrastinate, because I know it will take me fifteen minutes or so of concentrating on writing for things to start flowing each day, and fifteen minutes seems like a Really Long Time.

But here’s the thing: Creativity takes time.

It takes time for ideas to filter through our mind, for connections to be made, ideas to be formed. It takes time for these things to consolidate, to shape themselves into more than ephemerality, to live.

It takes time.

So I need to remember to¬†give¬†it time. I need to slow down. In the scheme of things, fifteen minutes isn’t that long; and it’s certainly less time than the hours I can fritter away through procrastination otherwise.

Turning off the distractions doesn’t help; if I’m not committed to sitting down and pushing through those fifteen minutes, I’ll find other things to keep me occupied – dishes, dinner, tidying, puppies…

As writers, it’s so tempting to look around and see how much progress other writers are making, and to let that get us down. I need to work faster, I need to work harder……

Well, maybe. But that’s only going to happen if first, I slow down.

On the floor, being still

First of all, go and watch Maggie’s characteristically awesome list of the top ten things that inspire her.

I want to talk about number 5: lying on the floor. Because, you see, last night I had a perfect moment. No, better make that a Perfect Moment, because it was. It was late at night. SmallBoy was asleep in his cot in his room. Husband was watching TV. Most of the lights in the house were off. I’d just had a shower – blastingly hot, because my shoulder had been hurting me off and on all afternoon – and emerged pink-steamed and damp to discover – alack – yes, in fact, a lack – an entire lack of clean clothes awaiting me.

My own fault, of course; I’m not the kind of person who has a maid to lay out clothes for me when I shower ūüėõ

But. I toddled down to the spare room (aka Place Where Laundry Goes to Languish) half-dressed to retrieve the other half of my dressings – down the warm, dim hall, soft carpet squishing under my feet, the murmur of the TV a faint, comforting soundtrack to the adventure. I switched on the light, rummaged for pajamas, and caught a glimpse of my bookshelves. (Because the Room of Laundry Languishment is also the Room of All Books, though not a library, because that is too grand and single-purposed.)

So I stopped. I lay down on the floor, mostly, yes, on the clean piles of washing. I snagged a stuffed polar bear for my pillow, and dragged a handy SmallBoy-blanket from the clean washing to cover me.

And #5: I lay on the floor. And it was brilliant.

And then it was Perfect: Husbical switched off the TV. Scouted for me in the bedroom. Realising my absence, followed the trail of light to the spare room. Stared in bemusement at me sprawled carefree in the clean washing, staring at nothing but shelves full of books.

“Come join me,” I asked him.

He declined, but I insisted, and he – because he is wonderful – relented.

And so I told him. I told him what I was doing there, and why I love my physical books so much.

“I’m looking at photo albums,” I told him. “Only it’s better, because instead of just a photo, you get a whole story.”

He seemed confused.

“I can tell you where I was when I bought nearly every single book on my shelves. I can tell you where I was when I was reading them, and I have whole swags of memories attached to each because of when I read it, where I read it, who I shared it with. It’s just like looking at a photo album, only it’s even better, because instead of a photo that you can really only look at for a minute, you get an entire story that you can read for hours.”

And I wrapped my arm around him, and I showed him. These are the books Mum and Dad bought when I was seven. They wrapped each one individually and it felt like magic. Those ones are high school with my best friend. That series is my middle sister, those books my baby sister. That’s my trip to America to visit the Twinny One. These ones are countless hours of lining up in bookstores, waiting for them to be released. That one’s getting to meet and interview the author at a signing. Those are the first time a friend gifted me a book for helping her with her website; these here the first books my parents bought me as an adult. That one I got as a thank you at school.

So this is me, telling you why I love my books, and why lying on the floor is totally inspiring: my bookshelf is my photo album. And last night, I had a Perfect Moment.

Often, being still with someone you love is all you need to create one.