Monday, July 28, 2014

Moday Writer's Bloc

After a year of adding absolutely nothing to my fiction writing projects, I felt the nudge to get my creativity flowing again this weekend and actually scheduled writing time as if it were an appointment.  With three chapters of one novel already drafted, and the main arc and end scene of another piece already developed, I have good reason to keep going and flesh them out, see where they take me.

Even if they stink.  Yes, even if they amount to nothing.  We owe it to ourselves as creative beings to see our projects through, even if they don't bring us notoriety or income.

The catalyst for this awakening?  Seeing a graph of "life" charted out by weeks and graphing how quickly each milestone appears on the chart.  If we live to the age of 90 (which few of us, even in this age, can truly count on), we have more than 4,000 weeks available to us.  Take out the weeks spent during our years of learning, and the weeks that will inevitably be unproductive due to illness or incapacity, and that leaves a smaller number.  Our creative years, our "best" years, have a finite number attached to them.

We have the choice of spending those weeks as we wish.  For me, I would regret not having completed my writing projects if I filled those weeks entirely with other priorities.  Others might bemoan the time they lost not getting sewing projects done, or never having learned a foreign language, or never having been bold enough to take up scuba diving. Others may find they're content spending those weeks devoted completely to helping others rather than honing a personal attribute. Writing something that entertains and informs people in some way, something that I also enjoy myself, bridges those two schools of thought.  Writing is a selfish activity, and it attracts a lot of perfectionists.  But it is also brave and social in that it is by its very nature meant to be shared with people, to serve them in some way.

So, as I bridge the season from late summer into early Fall - when I typically see my creativity return before the snow falls again to dampen my imagination - I plan to spend at least one of my evenings in each of my precious remaining 2,700 weeks developing my craft.  Introducing myself to the characters and settings that find their way into my daydreaming.  Imagining possibilities.

If you're reading this, what is your week best spent on?  What would you regret not doing - or doing?


Monday, July 14, 2014

Tea at Convergence 2014

Tea and wine appreciation were on the menu at this year's Convergence, and I was pleasantly surprised to have a few interesting things to share this time.  It's not every day that you meet other tea geeks, but it seems to be taking off among the 20-something crowd, much like the resurgence of knitting a few years ago.  No longer just about your grandmother's cucumber sammies, or the domain of the middle-aged enthusiasts like myself, tea can find it's way into just about any context.

My place setting at the Who tea - iced Moroccan Mint tea, genuine apricot scones, finger sandwiches, savory cheese fingers, and a Tardis and Weeping Angel biscuit assortment

What would Sherlock Drink?  This question was answered at the Geek Tea Tasting panel. 
A nice Lapsang Souchong, but I suspect Holmes would have also been a fan of Darjeeling

A simple, but ingenious Tardis-themed table setting for the Victorian Lady Doctors Who-Themed tea

The Lady Doctors' event was fun for all ages - the costumes were as intriguing as the Who-themed baked goods

Included in the price of admission to the overall convention was as-much-as-you-can-drink tea and coffee (the latte line is always crowded) at the F2E2 room.  Volunteers sling hot water and you have your choice of all kinds of loose-leaf and bagged tea varieties.  It's truly one of the things that make this convention unique - regular attendees go through a bit of a withdrawal after returning home and not having tea and coffee "on demand" at any hour of the day.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Art Imitating Life - Bento Box Stationery Set

I won this at auction last weekend.  I'm not quite sure what possessed me to bid on it, as its retail value is nil compared to what it's worth to a bento enthusiast as a novelty item, but the auction itself was for a good cause that I wanted to support, so it was win-win regardless.

This is a gently-used Crayola Pop Art Pixies Naomi Stationery Box.  Made for the hip, modern, global-minded child who wants to learn about....well...I'm not sure.  The marketing I reviewed online made this box sound like a learning tool for the middle-school sophisticate.  But people don't use Bento boxes per se to hold stationery, and parents were writing with complaints of the sticker personalization options being difficult to find or use.  So it explained why I may have found this example donated for auction.

Confusing marketing fails aside - this box is a bit of a gem.  It lacks nothing in kawaii-ness.  The chopsticks are gel pens that actually work, one was never used because it still had the plastic stopper cap on the nib.

Inside is a star stamp in the form of a pile of wasabi paste (were it brown instead of green, it could be confused for something else).  There are multiple small compartments that stow an ink pad for the wasabi stamp, a small note pad, and a pad of super-small post-it notes where the previous owner had left a "hello" written in red ink for the next owner.

It is ideal for storing the post-it notes and stickers that I use with my journaling and when I get around to building a presentation box for my real bento collection, it will be fun conversation piece.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Convergence 2014 - Midsummer Night's Squee

It would take ages to describe the different things I enjoyed at my second Convergence convention this past holiday weekend.  Rather than soliloquize, I'll let my pictures speak for themselves.  With a Globe-Theatre-Sized "Thank You" to the people and orgs who help make the event run smoothly and worth the trip each year.

Saw more than a few large-head costumes

A Geek Tea Tasting panel was offered
What Would Sherlock Drink?  Lapsang Souchong, my dear Watson

And of course, the free food, coffee, and swag being offered again was amazing

This year, I went to traditional panels and places I didn't get to see last time
One of many trippy black light scenes in Connie's Space Lounge

My niece, who hand-constructed her Dark Link outfit 
She was one of many who brought home a fruit basket of badge ribbons

Sunday's highlight was the Victorian Lady Doctors tea in the Garden Court
Only thing missing was some music - maybe a string quartet playing the Dr Who theme next year while people queue up to the banquet tables?

But there was music.  Yes, this is a Theremin and it is amazingly versatile.

Pugil stick jousting was a crowd favorite.  Many stepped up, many were sent away.

This year I branched out into some silent auction bidding.
This Crayola Bento Box Stationery Kit was an interesting find at the GPS auction.

It all went too fast this time, yet I still managed to attend a long list of writing panels, put in some volunteer work, and run into old friends I hadn't seen since high school.  Convergence is hard to define for people who've never been there.  But once they pull you in, you're hooked.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Night Filofax Review - Convention Edition

Alternate title:  How to De-Clutter Conference and Vacation Information with a Filofax and Digital Apps

There's nothing quite as exciting and emotionally deflating as the Sunday evening after a long vacation spent at a "Con."  Whether there for the fandom, the workshops, or just to hand over your wallet to the t-shirt printing deities, there's always something new to implement, plan, or celebrate.  Facing the prospect of slipping back into a metro-boulot-dodo routine (commute, work, sleep) can curb the enthusiasm to put new information and contacts into action.  Sometimes it can take a week to go through the pile of fliers, scribbled notes, and receipts, if they get reviewed at all.

Having spent a whirlwind eight weeks where I had a convention scheduled nearly every weekend, I knew I needed to have a better "action plan" in place for the end of this week's Convergence.  I put my Filofax Chameleon through its paces.  There won't be a ninth week spent re-reading and sorting through the piles of information this time, and all I have to do this year is to put new upcoming events on my calendar in my regular Sunday evening planning session.

How it worked:

1.  I had tabs pre-set with blank pages set up to take notes at different panels and for brainstorming between sessions.   I knew ahead of time what kind of information I'd be taking in because it wasn't the first time I had been to this convention.


 I like to write about and experience different teas and tea-tasting culture, so I had a tab just for "Tea" where I could write down anything related to the subject, and where I could later place any paper or business cards with tea events and contacts.

2.  Anything that was offered in a digital format, I used my phone to capture.

Professional organizations are becoming more savvy at offering QRL to share links to documents and web sites.  It presupposes that you have a smartphone, but most people at a geek convention have a smart phone glued to their hand these days, if not a tablet that can also scan these codes.

Anything I want to keep, I bookmark on the spot.  No need to clutter my planner with handwriting.  You can find free apps if you do a quick search under the vendor that supplies your phone format.

3.  Any photos I took in real time were uploaded to my preferred social media app in real time and my phone's digital gallery was reviewed each night before I turned in at that hotel.  Anything that was blurred, forgettable, or something I wouldn't be referencing a month from now was deleted from the phone.  Why go through the effort of labeling and storing pictures you don't need?

4.  Any fliers, business cards, or receipts that had information worth keeping were tucked into the back of the planner until I had a free moment to look at them.  No judgment, just put into the agenda as they were handed to me or called to me from an information table.

When that "free moment" arrived (usually Sunday morning after I'm checked out of the hotel but still hanging around to enjoy the last few hours of grown-up childishness), I took the pieces out of the planner, I make sure there's still battery power in my phone, and I do a small triage:

- Is it important?  Will I attend, or do I want to learn more?  No over-thinking!  Instant yes/no.   If no, it's tossed there.  If yes, see next.

- Is the info something I can just jot down, like an address or someone's fantastic Cosplay blog url? If yes, I write it down in my address section and toss the paper.  If there's more to it, see next.

- Is it pretty? Do I want to hang onto it because of someone's nice artwork or because it contains description items that I might need to reference in future?  If yes, I use Quick Scan, an app to create a PDF on my phone and toss the paper.  This is the category where most of my souvenir receipts fall.  I have an instant digital "vacation budget guide" to reference when planning for next year's return.

- If the paper is a registration form, something I need to physically turn in, or if there's artwork that might work as a divider for the planner or a different project, I hang on to it, putting it in an appropriate file on my home desk.

The last question I ask myself is if there are any action items.  Such as:  is this group having a meeting or an event I want to attend?  Do I need to call someone to ask a question?  Is there a deadline for buying a ticket?  Any of those dates and details get put in my Chameleon's week-on-a-page calendar RIGHT NOW - so these events don't become forgotten when other things pop up later in the year.  Because the Chameleon is my "fun project" planner - I then take a second to transfer those calendar events to the other planners that organize the larger picture of what is ma vie.  But the details stay in the Chameleon.

And the result?  I arrive home Sunday evening with my new project information in place, and no more piles of paper and cards to keep moving from surface-to-surface as I put off reviewing them in the coming days.  I can unpack the new t-shirts, put my toothbrush back on the sink, and go to bed dreaming of the better cup of coffee I'll be drinking to make my commute tolerable the next morning as I get back to grown-up reality.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Evening Filofax Review

It just seems to fit with the natural flow of life:  Sunday is laundry, prepping for the week ahead, and hoping to get all of that done before the 9 p.m. tv favorites are shown.

This week is a bit of a planning milestone, as it's roughly the middle of the year.  First six months are behind me, and it's nice to review goals and reflect on progress.  There are still six months ahead, a nerdy vacation to plan, new financial goals, new "life" goals, and new blog and writing goals ahead of me.

I upgraded to a 3-Filofax system recently.  My A5 Original Patent in Pink is my desk planner.  It's the planner that stays home and serves as my "big doodler."   The larger household and life goals get planned out on its larger pages, and documents I need to  hang onto stay in it from year-to-year.  It's my singleton's equivalent of the mom's "Family Journal."

My raspberry Finsbury is my daily mule - it's my wallet, my financial tracking system, and my note-taker while I'm out and about.  Receipts get tucked in, contacts, lists, recipes - anything that's current and needing to be worked on is found in there and it never leaves my side.

But it's my brown Chameleon that's reserved for the fun stuff.  It's the most recent acquisition and I'll be putting it to use this week at Convergence to take notes at the different writing and Sci-Fi panels.  It's unique in that I'm not using it as a "plan my whole life" type of agenda, rather, I'm using it to organize the different ideas and thoughts that pop up as I go to different events.  It's a one-stop-shop for all of my creative information without crowding out my daily necessities in my Finsbury.

Chameleon: My "Sci Fi/Convention" Note Space - business cards for different events serve as my page markers

I keep a section for my tea and coffee notes, my bento recipe and picture ideas, as well as sections to take notes on different Convention panels that I attend, to jot down potential panel ideas for the following year.  I also keep track of my different crafting projects that are in progress - what stitches I still need to learn, a new pattern or online store.  The options are limitless.

The Chameleon is also designed to function as a wallet, so it comes in handy for storing different store loyalty cards and related business cards that I might pick up as I chat with folks at artist's tables.  There's a large back pocket that is the entire length of the notebook, which is handy for storing receipts and how-to documents, or maps of whatever location I'm at.

It could easily serve as a take-along travel guide for that next big trip, just add a section with the pre-planned research and maps, reservation info, and you're set. 

Top view:  The back "full pocket" is ideal for storing receipts and maps

I never have to worry if I run out of paper, or if my smart phone has enough battery power to take notes if I'm at a lecture or away from home when inspiration strikes.  It's right there.  Doesn't take up much space, and fits in a small bag or even a pants pocket.  It can't get much easier than that!