Unexpected flow state

I had a pretty great day at work today, unexpectedly.

I arrived in the office completely exhausted and with a major overhaul needed on my UI designs before I go on holiday in two days. As I sat there, barely able to keep my eyes open, and having a hard time understanding the contents of my emails, it seemed unlikely I was going to make it through the day without either falling asleep under my desk or running screaming from the building. (Neither of which has happened to date, but there’s always a first time…)

When I realised I hadn’t yet taken my meds, I figured I’d better do that at least. They haven’t seemed to be helping a lot lately, but on a morning like this morning I need all the edge I can get. I grabbed a coffee, took my medicine like a good little girl, and sat down at my desk with a plan to take it one step at a time and see how much I could get through.

HappyAnd it worked! It never works, and yet I keep trying. (It’s a sign of insanity, apparently.) But today I had that beautiful, blissful experience of settling down to work, and then lifting my head a few hours later to realise that not only is it lunchtime already, but I have a bunch of stuff written down that didn’t exist a little while ago.  (Not fiction writing, which would have been even nicer, but specs and designs, which contextually was more important.)

So I went and had lunch, and chatted with a friend, and headed back early because even though I had been very productive in the morning, there was still a whole bunch to do.

It happened again!

I don’t know if it was the meds, or the coffee, or the impending holiday, or just because it was a lovely sunny day outside, but I got a ton of stuff done, and I might actually get everything prepared before I go away so that it doesn’t all explode while I’m away.

I would like more days like that, please.

(And I wonder if excessive parenthetical asides is also a sign of insanity?)

© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit Michael R Perry 2013


Fanning the flames of Fan Fiction

I’ve never really understood fan fiction.

I’ve known a couple of people who were really into it and who had written vast stories by building on a fictional world that they loved.  If I understand them correctly, a large part of the appeal is to keep a story alive after the author has finished it, to be able to stay a bit longer in that world which they enjoyed so much.Woman_Reading

I understand the desire; believe me, I do.  I’m the escapist type of reader – I want to be taken away from my day-to-day live to a place where the people are different and the rules are different, and life is just… different.  I have felt the deep sense of loss when a story, or a book, or worst of all a series finishes, and I’m dropped rudely back into my own world.  I have felt the anguish when a character I loved dies and I’m sitting there with only a stack of pages to console me.

I understand the desire for the world or the character to continue so that I could spend a little bit longer with them.  But what I can’t get on board with is the solution that fan fiction represents.  Quite the opposite – I find it rather disturbing, particularly the idea of using the same main characters; I can’t shake the macabre image of taking the original characters, scooping out their insides, and tying strings to their hollowed out corpses to use them as puppets.  Sure, they may appear to move around, but the mind that originally animated them is gone.

IndianPuppetsThe same discomfort, to a lesser extent, also follows to the idea of writing in someone else’s world.  Even suppose you have a new main character, and the originals are only sidelines or cameos, I get the uneasy feeling like you couldn’t quite trust them.  After all, you’re an impostor in their world, who knows what they’re really thinking?  Or you end up in a sort of creepy stalker role; you’ve been watching the most intimate details of their lives, and you feel as though you consider them friends, but from their point of view you’ve just pushed in and started acting all chummy even though they’ve never met you before.

Most likely, this is all a symptom of my extreme willingness to suspend disbelief and sink deeply into a fictional world.  It’s just too real for me to imagine that it’s nothing more than a story.


© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photos from Wikimedia Commons – Chinese Fan, Woman Reading and Indian Puppets

How to learn?

I was always a bright student, not a good one.

I learned by incorporating new information into the existing web of what I knew, so that once I understood something I was unlikely to forget it again.  Hence I was able to mask my undiagnosed ADHD and my complete lack of study skills successfully enough by piecing together the parts of lessons I had been paying attention to, and making educated guesses.  I didn’t get brilliant marks, but I didn’t fail either.

I never had any particular strength of will, but I could fake it by putting myself into a situation where it was easier to follow through than to give in.  I can also draw on my reserves of stubbornness and bloody-mindedness at a pinch; they can look like willpower and perseverance if you don’t know what’s going on under the surface.

I seem to have missed many of the ‘meta’ lessons which I should have learned at school – I have no strategies for dealing with the frustration of not understanding something, or for persevering when things become difficult and it would be easier to lie down and quit.  I never learned to ask for help in a gracious way; by the time I have to admit to myself that I need to lean on someone else, I’m pretty much going to be a prickly and messy ball of nerves.

I would very much like to retrofit a ‘good character’ on to myself.

Clearly my failure to learn these techniques means that I am a bad person.  This is continually being driven home to me by the sort of writing exercises which attribute strength of will, determination, perseverance, self control and the like to the hero, whereas the villain, or even worse, the comic relief is vacillating and racked with self-doubt.

So the question remains – how to learn?


© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit Michael Anderson 2013


Proprioception is a great word.  It literally translates as ‘sense of self’, but it’s not some kind of abstract ‘self’ as an individual.  It is a fundamental physical sense, just like one of the five we’re taught about as children.  It’s the sense that tells you where the parts of your body are even when you can’t see them, so that, for example, you can reach behind you for something out of sight.

I saw an amazing documentary when I was younger that had a huge impact on me.  It’s called ‘The man who lost his body’, and it’s about someone who lost his sense of proprioception, and learned to work around it through pure determination.

The ability to overcome obstacles through sheer strength of will has been a fascination of mine for a long time.  Thinking back, I wonder if watching this documentary was where that fascination started.  It’s something I envy – I don’t posess that kind of determination myself, although I’ve been known to make a working replica using a mixture of motivational techniques and bloodymindedness.

Which brings me back to a different ‘sense of self’ – the sort of self that goes with self-image, self-esteem, and self-determination.  Does a high level of motivation require a strong personal identity?  It seems plausible; after all if you’re not even sure who you really are, how can you be certain what you really want?  How can you be so certain that you are willing to sacrifice less important wants and needs in the pursuit of a single goal?


(With thanks to A Writer’s Path, who reminded me about proprioception.)



Hopping mad

I have a small problem today. I really want to take part in the StoryTime Blog Hop, and link submissions are due tomorrow.


The rules say the story has to be PG rated, which is fine except that A – I don’t have a story ready yet to submit, and B – telling my muse no graphic violence or sex is like telling her not to think about a pink elephant.  She wants to be helpful, but I’m not sure if she’ll actually co-operate enough to produce a story in time.  The ideas I have on the backburner are kind of borderline.  They’re probably just on the safe side of being not too unsuitable in terms of actual content, but I’m not sure the concepts are something I’d be comfortable deliberately putting in front of kids.

The correct thing is probably to throw my name into the hat, and get some good practice at writing to a spec and a deadline.  The right thing to do is probably to avoid committing to something I’m uncertain about delivering on and letting my friends down.

*boing boing*

Black lace and promises

Right.  Powered entirely by my own iron will, and having nothing to do with a guilt trip from Duolingo, I have finished the story “The Girl in the Black Lace Dress.”  I will sit on it for a while and then come back to confirm it’s not too racy and not too rambling before I share it.  But it will be released sooner or later.  I promise.


(Entirely co-incidental, I swear!)


The trouble with muses

I did some writing today, on “The Girl in the Black Lace Dress”, otherwise known as the flash-fiction-that’s-not-so-flash-any-more and is actually about 3,350 words and not quite done yet, although the ending is looming.

It would have been finished by now, but it my muse decided to wander into racy territory today.  There was always going to be a certain amount of that, just because of what the story is about, but apparently I wasn’t going to get away with lip service.  (No pun intended 😀 )  Cue me, on my tiny tablet and fold-up Bluetooth keyboard, trying to write this steamy scene in the café at work, while my co-workers milled around.

And then, just as we were getting into it, my muse got spooked and ran off, leaving me sitting there slightly dazed and hoping no-one had been reading over my shoulder.

I have a feeling tomorrow will be the day I finish that story.

Not much of a clue what I’m going to do with it then; I couldn’t quite say even what genre it belongs to.  It’s probably a bit steamy for straight-up modern fantasy, but I would imagine it’s too tame for the dedicated erotica markets, and it’s clearly far too long for any kind of flash fiction at this stage.  I’ll have to muse on that some more.


I can’t words today

The day job is really getting to me at the moment.  It’s starting to feel thin and unreal compared to what’s going on inside my head, and dredging up the energy to do productive things and make progress on a project which frankly doesn’t excite me any more is wearing me out.

When I’m this tired I start to lose words.  Not exactly non-verbal, but maybe deverbalised.  Which is not a good frame of mind for writing in.

Luckily, I wordsed a bit yesterday, so I will share this for your amusement and delectification.

The Musician

He was a large man, and it was a small guitar. It would have looked like a child’s toy in anyone’s hands, but as he hunched over it and began to move his fingers softly across the strings, it looked as though it had been created in that moment, just for him.

The notes were low at first, melancholy, but with a touch of mischief. They sang their longing to the waiting room, and promised to satisfy that longing. The musician became more animated, and the sound grew in volume. Larger and larger it grew, filling that tiny space until it pressed in on our ears and squeezed our chests. Almost unbearably, the pitch climbed higher and dragged us helplessly along with it. Then before we could catch out breaths, it dropped away and left us suspended in mid air, grasping at the fading chords, not wanting to come back to earth.

Beginnings and Endings

It can be pretty intimidating starting something new.  Whether you’ve got it all basically planned out, or you’re just jumping in with both feet to see what happens, chances are unexpected things will happen along the way and you’ll find yourself scrambling to deal with them.

This applies to most things in life, but the two that spring to my mind as particularly topical for me are writing a story, and moving house.

I’m in the middle of writing a story that I love.  It’s lots of fun, it’s easy to write, I enjoy the character, and I’m looking forward to the twist.  Sounds like there’s nothing in my way, right?

I’m also in the middle of buying a house.  It’s got pretty much everything we’re looking for in a property; lots of space around it for all our stuff, some interesting and quirky features, and work that needs doing which will let us put our own stamp on it.  So, life is pretty good, eh?

There’s a thing about beginnings.  Either you’ve begun or you haven’t.  Jumping in with both feet may be a scary thing, but once it’s done, you are definitely on the next stage in the process.  The actual beginning itself is over pretty quickly.

Then there’s the middle.  I’ve already said I’m not a fan of filling in the gaps, and that’s right there in middle territory.  But hopefully you have your keyframes, or main scenes, or milestones to follow, and you muddle along and you hit them one way or another.

And then you come to the end.  Some people have trouble with endings because it means you have to declare something ‘done’.  It needs to stand on its own merits and go out into the world where other people can judge you.  Yep, that’s a pretty intimidating thing alright.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t scare me.  But today, the part that’s really getting to me, that’s clinging around my ankles and dragging after me like a dead weight, is the knowledge that after each end comes a new beginning.

Once this story is done, I’ll need to start the next story, which might not be as pleasant and accommodating as this one.  That nasty voice at the back of my mind whispers, “What if that’s all there is?”

Once the house is bought, we’ll be in brand new territory.  Quite literally – it’s in a part of the country we’ve never lived in before – and figuratively, as my husband and I become property owners with all the excitement and uncertainty that entails.

So far my plan is to keep doing what got me this far.  Take it one step at a time, and if they’re only baby steps, well hey – at least I’m still moving in the right direction.




Woke up this morning with a bad case of the Fear.  It comes on from time to time; more frequently than usual these days with all the upheaval that’s going on.  Signs include biting my fingernails until they bleed, lethargy, flitting between browser tabs looking for the one thing to read that will make me feel better, and a low-down feeling in my gut that there are a million other things I should be doing right now.

The Fear is not conducive to actually doing anything.  When absolutely necessary, I can power through, but that leads to a splitting headache and exhaustion.

Definitely not the right frame of mind for writing, but I did no words yesterday for NaNoWriMo so I really feel like I need to catch up.  There’s no point in being a writer unless I’m going to put words on paper on a regular basis.  And I know myself too well; if I start to slip, a day or two off will quickly turn into “that thing I used to do”.